Advice for landscape professionals interested in learning Spanish

speaking-spanishReaders of Total Landscape Care understand the importance of learning Spanish. Without question, learning even just a little bit of Spanish can have major benefits for landscaping professionals.

Being able to speak some Spanish can help avoid misunderstandings and their associated expenses, while improving employee satisfaction and creating a greater sense of community.

However, I’m not here to convince you that learning Spanish would make your life easier. You already know that. But you’re busy, you don’t feel like you’re good at languages, and where would you begin anyway?

I made lots of mistakes when I learned Spanish and it took me way longer than it should have – years despite living in various Latin American countries. Since then, I’ve learned from my mistakes and applied them to learning Mandarin Chinese.

So, I want to use that experience and give some advice for those that would like to learn some Spanish but aren’t sure how to go about doing so.

However, it’s hard, perhaps impossible, to give good generalized advice regarding how to learn Spanish. Learning a second language is a very personal experience. What’s good advice to one person wouldn’t work for another. We all have different motivations, goals, free time, and so on which are unique to our own situations.guest-post-attribution-box

So, to make it a little simpler, I’ll give advice to three people, all of whom are working in the landscaping industry and want to improve their Spanish but for different reasons and to different levels – Jennifer, Mike, and Heather.

Jennifer wants to learn landscaping specific words and phrases.

Jennifer is intimidated by the thought of learning Spanish. She knows that it will take a lot of time and she simply is too busy. However, the language barrier has caused quite a few misunderstandings and has led to wasted time and money.

She is most interested in learning some important words and phrases that will help her give instructions to and understand questions from her employees. The advice I would give her is quite a bit different than the advice I would give to those looking to learn Spanish to fluency.

The topics that are stressed in most Spanish courses simply aren’t relevant to her. She doesn’t need to know how to ask for directions to go to the movie theater or order food at a restaurant. Instead, she needs to be able to explain how to keep rabbits out of the yard.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any courses or much material at all available to those looking to learn landscaping Spanish. The closest resource I could find is this phrasebook on Amazon. However, I’m not sure how suitable that would be for Jennifer’s situation.

Instead, I’d recommend that every time she thinks of something she’d like to be able to say in Spanish that she writes it down in a notebook – the more the better. After letting this list grow for a few weeks, she should look for help translating these important words and phrases.

The easiest way to do so would likely be paying a bilingual employee to help her out. Alternatively, she could find a freelancer from a site like Upwork to do the translations for her. I’d also suggest asking whoever does the translations to record themselves saying the word or phrase. Because words in Spanish and English are pronounced quite differently, people likely wouldn’t understand if she read the Spanish words using English pronunciation.

One final piece to the puzzle is to use spaced repetition software to ensure she never forgets the words she’s learning. For this, I’d recommend Anki. Anki is essentially a highly customizable flashcard system. The more often a card is remembered correctly, the less often it’ll show up. This makes studying very efficient and ensures that time isn’t being wasted on words she’s already learned.

It can be somewhat tedious to add the words, phrases, and recordings to her flashcard deck, so it might make sense for her to hire someone to do it for her. All of this may sound like a lot of effort, and I wish there was an easier way, but there’s, unfortunately, a lack of material devoted to learning landscaping Spanish.

However, the hardest part comes at the beginning where you need to prepare your study materials. Once that’s over, she wouldn’t need to spend more than 5-10 minutes per day reviewing her flashcards. In no time at all, she’ll find that she couldn’t forget these words and phrases even if she wanted to.

Mike wants to be able to better communicate with his employees and show that he cares about their well-being.

Mike wants to take his Spanish skills a step further than Jennifer. He still wants to learn all the important work-related vocabulary, but also wants to be able to have simple conversations with his workers. After all, recruiting can be one of the biggest challenges in the landscaping business. Showing that he cares about his employees, by having meaningful, even if somewhat basic conversations, can help reduce turnover and lead to more referrals from current workers. Plus, he’s a genuinely good guy and wants to know more about the people he spends his days with.

That said, like Jennifer, Mike is always busy. He doesn’t have time to enroll in classes and the time needed to become fluent in Spanish is more than he has. However, he could squeeze in 20-30 minutes of study every other day over the course of a few months.

He’s not concerned with having perfect grammar or being able to read and write. He just wants to be able to talk with his employees and get to know them better. The nice thing about Mike’s situation is that there are quite a few resources available to him – although choosing which one to use can be overwhelming.

For Mike, I’d recommend a course called Pimsleur. It’s audio-focused and requires users to participate in the conversation by speaking along with the lessons. Because of this, it trains listening and speaking skills and gets learners speaking more quickly than other courses would. For someone like Mike, who wants to learn Spanish to communicate with his employees, it’s as close to a perfect fit as he’ll find.

Of course, Mike’s not going to get all the landscaping specific vocabulary from any course, so it’d be recommended to also follow the advice I gave to Jennifer.

Heather has the goal of becoming a fluent Spanish speaker.

Heather is a recent college graduate and planning to begin working in her family’s landscaping business in the spring. She would love to become a fluent Spanish speaker and wants to not only talk about landscaping specific topics, and hold basic conversations, but to be able to discuss any topic in great depth.

And fortunately for her, she has quite a bit of free time at the moment. As such, a resource called Baselang could be ideal for her. They offer unlimited one-on-one Spanish lessons online. So, for someone like Heather who has plenty of free time, she could reach a conversational level in only a month or two and become a fluent speaker in not much longer.

Alternatively, she could look for a one-on-one teacher and schedule lessons as they fit her schedule. Maybe her family’s company has a few bilingual employees that wouldn’t mind teaching for a little extra money. This could work great as they’ll be familiar with all the landscaping specific vocabulary she’ll want to learn.

If that’s not an option, she could check out itaki. It’s a platform where one-on-one lessons can be booked directly from over a thousand different Spanish teachers. With a quick search, I found one teacher studying her master’s degree in Landscape Architecture that offers classes for under $10 per hour.

How to learn Spanish? It depends…

I wish I could give one quick and easy answer of how to go about learning Spanish. The truth is that it truly depends and for each person, the answer will be a bit different. Someone looking to learn specific phrases relating to landscaping would need to take a much different path than someone wanting to communicate with employees about non-work related topics.

Regardless, you don’t need to become a fluent Spanish speaker to reap the benefits. Knowing even a little Spanish can lower costs, improve employee morale, and help create a deeper connection to those people you spend much of your time with.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Nick Dahlhoff. Dahlhoff has a website, All Language Resources, where he’s tested and written about hundreds of language learning resources.

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