In high school and college for the most part, one is required to take a language. There are many choices from which to choose such as French, Italian, German, or even Russian. I debated in my mind which language to choose. I decided that since Spanish was the most used in my country, I would choose it.
I had no prior exposure to Spanish and was completely clueless. I did remember "Sesame Street" broadcasting the numbers in Spanish and certain words such as
"peligro" which means "danger." It is no surprise then to say that I was scared out of my wits when my high school teacher started speaking in Spanish to the students as the class began. We looked at each other nervously. Was the entire class going to be in Spanish completely for the whole year? Luckily, he laughed as he explained that he had wanted to expose us to the language it was spoken, and he was going to speak English.
The teacher was very proficient and made the class fun and challenging for us. Our fear of learning Spanish was replaced by motivation. We had text books and workbooks, and we learned the language academically. Over time, we practiced speaking it in class. I remember entering a poetry recitation contest in Spanish where we would showcase our new found skills.
College Spanish was more advanced. I decided to continue my love for Spanish. I had to write papers in Spanish. At first, it was difficult, but I got the hang of it. I also enjoyed reading plays and novels in Spanish. It was fun discussing them in class. At the advanced level, some professors spoke entirely in Spanish. By then, I was used to hearing Spanish.
I was fortunate enough to take Spanish classes in school so I could learn it better. Those of you who are not in school or are wondering about taking classes, I would recommend taking them at a community college or as continuing education. For people that haven't any exposure to Spanish, it is a great way of meeting others in class and practicing with them. The teachers are usually very experienced and make learning the language fun and exciting.
Learning Spanish academically isn't for everyone, but it does give you the exposure and experience in learning it when you are going solo. You can take the experience and apply it by immersing yourself in your community and practicing it with people you meet.
I wouldn't give up the years I took Spanish in school for anything. If you get a chance, enroll in a class or two today. If you're in school, I would recommend taking Spanish as your choice of a language. It is useful and builds bridges between you and a whole new community out there.