I didn’t study Spanish first, but actually Latin in high school. After learning the complexities of Latin, Spanish was a breeze. It was also more fun, because we moved to West Texas were people atually speak the language.
I talk to people all the time that took a language in high-school, but they still graduate without being able to speak the language. Often, a person can read and write the language, but cannot teach it. Our teacher emphasized conversation and actually speaking the language.
I worked at a Dairy Queen and a janitorial company in high school. In both jobs, I had plenty of opportunities to work with Latinos. I even picked quite a colorful vocabulary.
Our high school Spanish Club sponsored an annual trip to Mexico city each summer. At the end of my junior year, my parents and I went, and it was another boost to learning Spanish. From a nearby Junior College, I even got three hours college credit for the trip.
I also discovered CLEP (College Level Examination Program) tests, and took the Spanish exams. My university awared me 14 hours of credit just for my Spanish! I went to college already having 17 credits (plus even more for math and science exams).
In college, I didn’t major in Spanish, but almost got a minor. If I remember correctly, I had one class in conversational Spanish, and two classes in Spanish literature. I was also involved with Spanish Clubs and Honor Society on campus.
After college, I was curious about other languages, so I delved into French, Portuguese, and Hebrew. Later I even tried a sampling of Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and Greek, but I can’t really claim to speak those languages. Before the internet existed, it was hard to find courses, and of course they were all on audio tapes back then in the 1980s.
In 1995, I was a consultant and got a job offer in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Being single and living by yourself is not the optimal way to learn more Spanish. But on the job, I was able to put a lot of Spanish to use, even though it wasn’t a requirement.
So after trying dozens and dozens of language books, courses, tapes, CD, and software programs, I became sort of an expert at what works and what doesn’t. I created a software program to teach the Hebrew alphabet, and now I’m focusing again on Spanish. We have just created an online Spanish learning center, have brought in some great talent to build lessons and answer questions in the forums.