¡Coffee Break Español!


I have made a decision recently.

In college, I majored in Romance Languages and Literatures. Those are plurals, but, in fact, I only studied one romance language – French. In high school there were really only two languages offered: French and Spanish. There were two different classes for Spanish and only one for French. Spanish was very popular amongst the students who didn’t want to take any language at all. French was appealing because the students were more interested and because at the time (in my head) French was associated with old Europe and Spanish was associated with Mexico. I was more interested in Europe, and I liked the sound of the French more, so that’s what I studied.

When I got to college I continued studying the language (again, it was a requirement and I already had a head start), and I even studied abroad in Paris. Upon return, I planned to declare my major to be history, but when I discovered I would no longer be able to take French courses, I became so disappointed that I decided to major in French instead. Since graduating I have used my French to teach kindergardeners basic phrases (which hardly counts as using French) and on two trips to Québec (where I was understood but could understand little of Canadian French). Outside of these experiences I might be able to understand parts of a French film, but the language is really quite useless and hard to keep up.

In contrast, Spanish is a live language all over the United States, and all over the city of Chicago. Perhaps knowing French might help me get some very few teaching positions requiring such, but speaking Spanish fluently would open a world of opportunities in the teaching field (as well as every other field). It appears that the Hispanic immigration is quite different from most other recent immigration trends – in its numbers and diversity, as well as the proximity of numerous hispanic countries. I have decided to learn Spanish, even if it costs me fluency in French.

In the past I have tried teaching myself Haitian Creole and Korean. I believe I failed in both of these because I was teaching myself, because my motivation was not great enough, and because both languages suffer the same (or slightly better) situation in Chicago and the US as French – small population that is mostly inaccessible to me.

I don’t know yet if I will succeed in learning Spanish. My motivation is greater than when I tried learning Korean, though it is not as specific as when I tried learning Creole. At this point I am teaching myself, though that may change. The most important difference, by far, is the accessibility factor – it is everywhere. At one time I thought French would be cooler because everyone else was choosing Spanish. It appears I got what I wanted; these days I’m a bit more practically-minded.

So far, my resources have been this website: Study Spanish, and a Podcast called Coffee Break Español.


I don’t have a lot of native Spanish speaker contacts right now – I have one student and there are a couple of colleagues at work. I haven’t spent any money yet, and I don’t want to spend lots of money on a software program or book set with contents that I could find elsewhere for free (such as the above two resources). I am, however, open to your suggestions. I’ve already learned pronouns, conjugations, memorized verbs with flash cards, etc. If you know of really good (but cheap) resources or have a method suggestion for me, please share it.

I’m also happy that Elizabeth has expressed interest in learning the language as well. She has background in French, but she had dropped it during college, and as I stated above, there is no way to keep it up around here unless one is quite motivated to do so or a genuine francophile.

Finally, I’ve always liked Spanish language music much more than French language music, and Elizabeth and I can’t get the Coffee Break Español jingle out of our heads!
(they do French and German, too, if you’re interesed)


(updated: I forgot to mention, I neither drink coffee nor get coffee breaks)


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2 Responses to “¡Coffee Break Español!”

  1. ya-ya brooke Says:

    HA! I told you so, eric! Nice to see Lizzy upright!!

  2. vagueperson Says:

    Maybe you have some good Spanish language helps you can bring up from Kansas, eh?

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