Top 4 Reasons Why You Should Learn Spanish if you live in Knoxville

Learn Spanish Fast Tacos

Spanish makes life in Knoxville even better.

There are several great reasons to learn Spanish, ranging from mental benefits to employment opportunities. But you might be tempted to think that Spanish is great for someone living in California or Miami, but not for someone living in Knoxville, TN. After all, how useful can Spanish possibly be in East Tennessee?

Since Confidence Learning Services is based in Knoxville, TN, we can give you a few reasons why Spanish is actually very useful for local residents.

#4. Learn Spanish in Knoxville for the food.

Do you like steak? Sub sandwiches? Ice-cold mango drink?

Learn Spanish Fast Tacos

If you enjoy delicious food, and you would prefer to keep lunch under $10, then your next stop ought to be a local taqueria. Knoxville has dozens of taquerias, and if you’re worried about the discomfort and bloating that comes from the ground meat and cheese-product served at many East TN “Mexican” restaurants, worry no more. Taquerias offer traditional food that’s usually made with real ingredients, like teak, roasted chicken, or pork, and vegetables like nopales (cactus), mild poblano peppers and avocado. In these establishments, Spanish is the dominant language, and most food isn’t spicy, unless you want it to be. Unlike some of the overly processed Mexican food you may be used to, you’re sure to feel a lot better after eating a roasted chicken taco on fresh soft tortillas, sprinkled with cilantro, diced onion and lime.

Check out this list of local taquerias and plan your next meal.

#3. Learn Spanish to get to know the community in Knoxville.

Knoxville East Tennessee TN

East Tennessee is a great place to live, work and raise a family, and part of what makes it great is our community. But did you know that there is a thriving Hispanic community right here in Knoxville? The center of that community is Centro Hispano, a local community organization that does things like offer GED, ESL and Spanish literacy classes help members of the community get connected to local resources, and sponsor events like the Knoxville Latino Awards. Stop by to see what’s going on and get to know your neighbors.

#2. In Knoxville, Spanish = Fiesta.

Knoxville Spanish

Once a year, Knoxville turns out to celebrate all things Latin at the annual Hola! Festival. Here you can view artifacts and learn about the history of various Latin American countries, sample foods from different Spanish speaking cultures, and enjoy music, dancing and more. Everything is much more fun when you can speak Spanish.

#1. Boost your business and career.

Knoxville, TN is home to over 17,000 Spanish speakers and a thriving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Many businesses are just now beginning to recognize the economic implications of a strong Spanish-speaking community right here in East Tennessee, and are starting to look for bilingual job candidates or seek out professional Spanish-language training. Although there are some top-notch translation agencies in Knoxville, being able to communicate with clients directly allows you to establish a personal connection.

There’s no doubt that Spanish is a useful language to understand anywhere in the U.S., and it’s especially beneficial right here in Tennessee.

Are you ready to take advantage of the opportunities that are open to Spanish-speakers? Start your journey towards becoming a Spanish speaker today. Contact Confidence Learning Services at 1-865-226-9477 for your free Spanish language consultation session via Skype.

Spanish for Missions Trips

Spanish for Missions trip

Are you ready for your missions trip to a Spanish speaking country?

You’ve booked your flight, made a packing list, raised support, and studied pictures of a country you’ve never been to. Or maybe you’re reminiscing about your trip last year as you plan to see familiar faces this year. Either way, if you’re planning on taking a missions trip with your church, school, or non-profit organization, here are some basics you’ll want to keep in mind.

Most missions trips that Americans take are to Spanish speaking countries.

Spanish for Missions trip

After all, we share a border with Mexico, and we’re in the same hemisphere as the majority of Spanish speaking countries. It only makes sense that we would travel to, and volunteer in, countries that we can reach via a quick plane ride and relatively little jet lag.

Yet many missions trip participants don’t try to learn Spanish.

Perhaps they are scarred from high school Spanish experiences, just intimidated by language learning in general, or maybe they don’t understand the importance of language learning. In any case, many people who plan to take a short term missions trip fail to plan in this area.

Speaking Spanish makes the difference in experience and relationships on your missions trip.

For churches planning to take missions trips, it’s helpful to remember the words of the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14, “but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.” That’s it. Without studying and practicing the language, we’re simply “foreigners.” Not friends, not brothers or sisters, just “foreigners.”

That doesn’t sound very positive, but think about it. How many people have you developed a meaningful relationship with here in the U.S. that have made no effort to learn English? Chances are, that number is low. So take control of your trip experience, and dive into language learning. 

You can learn Spanish more than you think – in just a few weeks

At Confidence Learning Services, our Spanish for Missions Course offers a 6-week training specifically designed for people who are planning to take a trip to a Spanish speaking country. Alongside other resources and materials customized for your particular trip, our curriculum is based on, “Spanish with a Mission” by Mirna Deborah Balyeat. This book is designed with a focus on the unique phrases and vocabulary necessary for missions work.

Spanish for Missions TripsSpanish for missions trips

You don’t have to be an expert.

You may not be able to learn everything there is to know in Spanish before you go, but you can learn something. It just takes a little practice each day to develop the skills necessary to start a casual conversation in Spanish, share a favorite song (like this one) or Bible verse, or tell a story about yourself. You don’t need to be able to give a sermon or political campaign speech, and there aren’t any grammar quizzes or essay questions on your trip. In the 6-weeks leading up to your trip, you’ll learn enough to be more comfortable and confident. But if you don’t study before you go, you may find yourself regretting the opportunity you missed to be more prepared for your trip.

We encourage you to study anywhere, any way you can.

If you’re interested in one of our Spanish for missions courses, contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 to set up a free, 1-hour Spanish for missions seminar for your church, school or non-profit organization. We’ll teach you some of the basics that you’ll need on your trip, and give you an idea of what you can learn in one of our 6 week courses.

Become fluent fast – 10 tips to help you become fluent

accent reduction in knoxville

How can you achieve fluency as quickly as possible?

At Confidence Learning Services, we often meet people who want to become fluent in the language they are learning. Here are 10 tips to help you in that process, no matter what language you are studying!

1. Fluent fast – Immerse yourself

It’s almost impossible to learn a new language, or at least to learn it rapidly, unless you begin thinking in that language. But how do you think in a new language you can’t yet speak?

Ingratiate yourself with the community and you’re halfway there!

The answer is to simply immerse yourself in it. Traveling in a foreign country allows you to continuously hear the sounds, rhythms, and inflections of a new language–spoken on the streets, in buses, on television, etc. Your brain will already start to process and interpret a new language.

Even better than simply traveling is being forced to “operate” in a new language by participating in a volunteer program, or working abroad. Best of all is being completely immersed with locals (such as living with a host family) and completely isolated from other native speakers of your language.

Immerse yourself with the locals, their music, culture, media, politics, sports, family, etc. Ingratiate yourself with the community and you’re halfway there!

2. Fluent fast – Forget translating: think like a baby!

How do babies learn language? Through imitation, repetition of sounds, and above all, by not being shy or self-conscious.

So what if your pronunciation is a little off, or you can’t remember the proper conjugation? Just start talking, even if it seems like babbling. Resisting the urge to translate everything into your native language can be the single fastest shortcut to fluency.

Rather than walking up to the restaurant or giving your host family a pre-memorized phrase for what you’re going to order, simply listen to how the locals order their food, and then imitate them as best you can. The same goes for greetings, small talk, etc. Watch their facial expressions as they say the words; study how they move their mouths.

Copy these expressions and sounds just like a baby would. Whether you understand what they mean exactly or not, eventually you will begin simply calling upon these sounds / phrases / words in appropriate situations. They’ll appear, as if by magic. This is the gateway to thinking in a new language.

3. How do you say?

Besides common greetings, the one phrase you should memorize and always have at the ready is the phrase is “How do you say that / what is that called?”

By being an inquisitive traveler, one who is always asking questions, you befriend the local people. You’ll find that over time they’ll open up to you, making it easier to initiate conversations. These daily interactions with the locals are your best teachers: set a daily goal for yourself of having X number of conversations each day–asking people about things you’re interested in, but don’t know the words for. Even if you can’t finish the conversation, you’re on the way.

4. Fluent fast – Write it down

After having conversations, jot down the things you remembered hearing but didn’t quite understand.

Then go back and use an online dictionary so that you can learn the meaning and the pronunciation. Look up the words, piece the conversation back together in your mind. Then, next time you have a conversation, use what you learned.

5. Fluent fast – Use cognates and draw links

Have you noticed that some words appear exactly the same across various languages? These are called “cognates.” Unlocking the usage of cognates instantly gives you several hundred more words to your vocabulary. For example, most words ending in “ion” in the Latin languages are the same in English.

For example: information / información, donation / donación

Similarly, words across different languages often share the same root word, so drawing on what you already know will make it easier (e.g.: cheese is fromage in French and fromaggio in Italian). Studies have also shown that when you have mastered a second language, your brain becomes becomes better wired to learn subsequent new languages.

Next Five Tips >>

Adentro or dentro? Abajo or debajo? Learn these tricky Spanish word pairs

Learn Spanish

Learning the difference between two words that seem the same.

If you want to learn Spanish, you will soon encounter some words that are very similar to each other, but it’s important to know the difference. At Confidence Learning Services, we help people communicate clearly in Spanish, and we’ve noticed some problem words that pop up with many learners. Let’s take a look.

Learn Spanish

Learn Spanish – Adentro vs Dentro

“Adentro” means “inside” and is typically used as an adverb relating to motion that is going towards the inside of something.

Iremos adentro en unos minutos.

Vete adentro, luego voy yo. 

“Dentro” can also mean “inside” or “within”, and is usually used to describe the location of something that is not related to movement.

El regalo está dentro de la caja. 

Lo encontré dentro de la cubeta.

El caucho de repuesto está dentro de la maletera de mi carro. 


Learn Spanish – Abajo vs Debajo

“Abajo” can indicate motion towards a lower position, but also a position that it is relatively lower to any other reference.

La canoa iba rio abajo empujada por la corriente. 

Echaron la casa abajo. 

Se tendió. boca abajo.

“Debajo”  formed with de- plus bajo, indicates a position that it is immediately below another. In most cases, it is followed by “de” to indicate below which thing or person we are referring to (eg. debajo de la mesa).

Encontraron sus regalos debajo del arbol de Navidad. 

Ese vecino vive debajo. 


Learn Spanish – Afuera vs Fuera

“Afuera” (again, our adverb beginning with “a-“) means “outside”, and refers primarily to motion going towards the exterior, although it can also mean “outside” in general.

Vamos afuera a tomar el aire. 

Hay mucha gente afuera.

“Fuera” also means “outside”, and although “afuera” and “fuera” can sometimes be used interchangeably, typically “fuera” refers to something not in motion.

Sal fuera un momento, por favor.

Has dejado la leche fuera de la nevera.

So, do you have any questions about Spanish vocabulary? Schedule your free Spanish consultation today, and get one-on-one time with a highly-qualified instructor, and ask any question you want! Contact us today at 1-865-226-9477.

The top 5 Spanish speaking countries


Which countries are included may surprise you

When discussing the Spanish language, many people think of Spain, images of Don Quixote, flamenco dancers and Spanish wines popping up in their minds. It is true that the language that we call Spanish today did originate in Spain, but it’s also important to keep in mind which countries have the highest Spanish speaking populations today, so let’s take a look.

#5 – Spain


Number of Speakers: 34 million

Other languages spoken include: Catalan, Basque, Galician

Cultural Contributions: The movies of Pedro Almodovar, Enrique and Julio Iglesias, the literature of Miguel de Cervantes, the art of Pablo Picasso.

#4 – United States of America


Number of Speakers: 40 million

Other languages spoken include: English, Chinese, Tagalog

Cultural Contributions: Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Cisneros, the cultural activism of Cesar Chavez, as well as playing host to many Hispanic celebrities who left their home countries, like Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan.

#3 – Argentina


Number of Speakers: 42 million

Other languages spoken include: English, Italian, Arabic

Cultural Contributions: Jorge Luis Borges, Che Guevara, Tango music, Soccer players Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, Pope Francis.

#2 – Colombia


Number of Speakers: 46 million

Other languages spoken include: Several indigenous languages including Chibchan, Tucanoan, Bora-witoto

Cultural Contributions: Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Shakira, Juanes.

#1 – Mexico


Number of Speakers: 111 million

Other languages spoken include: Nahuatl, Yukatek Maya, Mixtec, Zapotec

Cultural Contributions: Artists Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Mariachi music, poet Octavio Paz, comedian Chespirito.

Were you surprised by any of these rankings? Is there anything else you would like us to include? Let us know in the comments below!

If you’re ready to improve your Spanish, contact Confidence Learning Services today at 1-865-226-9477.

How to learn Spanish with Confidence Learning Services

how to learn spanish

How to learn Spanish successfully with a fluent speaker

Between CDs, DVDs, textbooks, and the ever-popular Rosetta Stone and similar computer programs, your options when it comes to how to learn Spanish can be overwhelming! At Confidence Learning Services, we freely admit that the best way to learn Spanish is to spend time in a Spanish-speaking country. So if you can, go ahead and schedule your trip to the Dominican Republic or Mexico. But, if you’re like many of us, you may not have the freedom to pack up and head to a Spanish speaking country. That’s where Confidence Learning Services comes in as the next best thing – learning Spanish with one-on-one interaction with a fluent speaker, either in-person or via Skype. But how exactly is that going to work?

How to learn Spanish – Understand your purpose and set your goals

Every Spanish course we offer starts with a discussion of your personal goals. If you want to know how to learn Spanish, we have to start by asking why you want to learn Spanish. To communicate with extended family or an adopted child? To grow your business or boost your resume or college application? Then we will talk about what you want to accomplish by the end of a 6 or 12 week course. Do you want to perfect your interview skills, or just be able to order food in a restaurant? Setting realistic goals helps you to focus on your language learning and better understand your achievements.

How to learn Spanish – Identify your learning style and resources

Because all Confidence Learning Services are personalized, we prioritize your learning style. You don’t just want to know how to learn Spanish – you want to know how to learn Spanish in the best possible way for you. If you’re an avid reader, we may do a book study. A movie buff? It’s time to check out some Almodovar films. If you’re religious, we can find some Spanish language services in your area. Everyone is unique, and your Spanish learning experience should be too.

How to learn Spanish – Dive in

After we identify your purpose, goals, and learning style and assess your current language level, we will recommend several resources you can begin using right away. The key here is to dive in. Switch as many possible weekly activities into Spanish – watch TV, Movies, and YouTube videos in Spanish. Listen to Spanish radio in the car. Read recipes in Spanish, switch your GPS to Spanish, do your shopping and eating out at Spanish language establishments. You’ll also need to practice with websites, books, and hopefully, some conversation partners.

How to learn Spanish – Have fun

As you continue to learn Spanish, the key is to find out what activities you enjoy and learn from the most. This is how to learn Spanish successfully – don’t force yourself to watch a TV show that you hate, find something that you love doing and keep doing it. As you do, your Confidence Spanish Language coach will guide you into new language-learning experiences and opportunities, give you the keys to unlocking the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation you need and help clarify any confusion or misunderstandings you have as you continue in the language learning process.

So now you have a better idea of how to learn Spanish with Confidence Learning Services.

Don’t wait, schedule your free Spanish consultation today. You’ll get 45 minutes one-on-one time with a live, fluent instructor who will give you 3 personalized recommendations for your language learning – with no obligation or payment information required. Contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 to sign up!

7 Errors that English Speakers make Spanish

English Spanish Errors

Are you making these common Spanish errors?

There’s a lot more to Spanish than saying “Hola” and “Gracias por la cerveza” with perfect pronunciation. Just like Spanish speakers make some regular pronunciation mistakes in English, at Confidence Learning Services we also see English speakers make some regular mistakes in Spanish, both when it comes to pronunciation and usage of particular words. Here’s a set of seven words that seem similar, or are even derived from the same word root, but have different meaning and are often used incorrectly by Native English Speakers.

Spanish Error #1: “El Cuento” is actually “A story / tale”

Don’t mix this word up with the word for “account” or “bill” – when using this word as a noun, it usually means a story or a tale. Some examples:

Ricardo lee un cuento de pirata. Los cuentos son casi tan antiguos como la vida misma.

Ricardo reads a pirate story. Stories are almost as old as life itself.

English Spanish Errors

Spanish Error #2: Contar (una historia) is actually “To tell a story/to recount something”

Be especially careful with this word and “cantar” which is “to sing.” English is not always as particular about vowel usage, so sometimes we can get a little lazy with our vowels in English and it will not affect our meaning. Spanish, however, places a lot of emphasis on vowel usage, so it’s important to get it right. If you say you’re going to “cantar” and then proceed to tell a story, everyone will be very confused.

This verb gets even more confusing thanks to its stem-changing nature.

Contar (Present Indicative)

Yo Cuento Nosotros Contamos
Cuentas Vosotros Contáis
Él/Ella/Ud. Cuenta Ellos/Ustedes Cuentan

That’s right, “yo cuento” has a different meaning than “el cuento”, and “él cuenta” has a different meaning than “la cuenta” (coming up).

Let’s look at some examples.

Su padre les cuenta un cuento antes de dormir.

Los testigos cuentan los hechos a la policia.

Te cuento todo.

Their father tells them a story before they sleep. 

The witnesses relate the facts to the police.

I’ll tell you everything. 

Spanish Error #3: “Contar” (el dinero) is actually “to count”

English speakers learning Spanish may struggle with the multiple meanings of this already difficult verb, although many English words also have multiple meanings. While the same word can mean “to tell a story”, it can also mean “to count,” and this time the meaning is entirely dependent on context. The verb conjugations remain entirely the same.

La niña sabe contar hasta veinte.

Contamos el dinero cuando vamos de compras.

The girl knows how to count to twenty.

We count money when we go shopping. 

Last, we can use the phrase “contar con” to mean “to count on.”

Cuentan con la tecnología.

They count on technology.

Spanish Error #4: “La cuenta” (bancaria) is actually “An account”

English Spanish Errors

This word is used to represent an account, like a bank account or a customer account.

La compañía acaba de adquirir dos cuentas nuevas.

El saldo en la cuenta del banco está $4000.

The company just acquired two new accounts. 

The balance in the bank account is $4000.

Spanish Error #5: “La Cuenta” (cálculo) is actually “A sum”

Yet another meaning for this tricky noun! “La cuenta” can also mean the sum or result of a calculation.

El alumno debe realizar una cuenta de dividir y una de multiplicar.

The student should calculate the result of division and multiplication. 

Spanish Error #6: “La Cuenta” (restaurante) is actually “The bill/check”

Did you think we were done with “la cuenta”? Yes, another meaning for this word is “bill” or “check”, when referring to a bill in a restaurant or hotel. Otherwise, a bill is typically “una factura” while a check from a checkbook is typically “un cheque.”

El mesero nos traiga la cuenta.

The waiter brings us the bill.

 English Spanish Errors

Spanish Error #7: “Cantar” (canción) is actually “To sing”

Finally, as mentioned before,”cantar” means “To sing” as in “to sing a song.”

Las mujeres cantan canciones lindas.

The women sing beautiful songs. 

latino don't speak spanish

Are these words and phrases clear to you now? We hope so. Want to learn more Spanish, or just get some personal advice about what to study next?

Contact Confidence Learning Services today at 1-865-226-9477 to set up your free Spanish consultation with a certified instructor. We’ll help you identify some goals and resources you can use to achieve them, all at no cost to you.

11 English Words that Spanish-speakers Mispronounce

Spanish Speakers Mispronounce

Which words are most difficult for Spanish Speakers to pronounce?

At Confidence Learning Services, we freely admit that English is a difficult language to pronounce. That’s why we offer advanced English Pronunciation courses and offer tips and videos on Accent Reduction. While our English Pronunciation courses are personalized (meaning we plan our lessons based on an in-depth, one-on-one evaluation with you), there are some aspects of English pronunciation that are difficult for almost all Spanish language speakers.

Spanish has 5 pure vowels and 5 diphthongs. Vowel length is not significant in distinguishing between words. However, English,  has 12 pure vowel sounds and 8 diphthongs. The length of the vowel sound plays an important role. It is not surprising, therefore, that Spanish background learners may have great difficulty in producing or even perceiving the various English vowel sounds.

Let’s take a closer look at the Top 11 English words that Spanish-speakers mispronounce when trying to learn English.

11. Breakfast/Brefas

A simple word (for native English speakers) like ‘breakfast’ is tough for Spanish-speakers, who struggle with consonant clusters. Spanish-speakers will often pronounce it ‘brefas’ and omit the ‘k’ and the final ‘t’ because they are attached to another consonant.

10. Teeth/Teet

Some people have trouble mastering the “th” sound on words like “teeth.” (For fun, try speaking “teeth” without  the “th” sound. Oops, You might not want to try that out loud!)

Knoxville English Spanish Accent Reduction

9. Ship/Sheep

Another one of these English words where the relaxed “i” /I/ tends to get replaced with a tense “e” /i/, making it “sheep”. Spanish-speakers often make vowel sounds tense, or “long,” and confuse pairs of “short” and “long” English vowel sounds like “ship” and “sheep” both in comprehension and speaking.

knoxville spanish accent

Just imagine how this works for “sheet” and …

8. Joke/Yolk or Jess/Yes

In most Spanish dialects, the sounds for English letter “J” /dʒ/ and English letter “Y” /j/ are allophones, meaning that they can subsitute for one another. So the Spanish word “ella” can be pronounced with either sound. Thus, it can be difficult for Spanish-speakers to learn to differentiate between the two sounds. Many people who speak Spanish pronounce the letter J like the letter Y, or pronounce the letter Y like the letter J.

So, if you tell someone: “That is a funny joke”,  and if you mispronounce the “J”, “joke” will sound like “yolk” (meaning the yellow part of an egg), which is difficult to understand. Likewise, if you pronounce the “Y” as “J” and say “Yes I do”, then “Yes” sounds like “Jess” and someone may think you are speaking to someone named Jess.

Spanish Speakers Mispronounce

7. Focus/F***us

In English, our letter “O” is actually a diphthong, /oʊ/. The key to saying this correctly is remembering to make the “o” a long one, with the lips closing down throughout the sound. Many however replace the long “o” with “uh”, making it “fuhcus”. Look at that word again. “Ladies and gentlemen, if there’s one thing I want you to do today, it’s “f***us!” You may get in trouble for that one!

6. Kitchen/Chicken

This is a common mispronunciation for many English learners and not just Spanish-speakers. While learning English, some speakers say “chicken” instead of “kitchen”. To make it clear, we usually prepare chicken in a kitchen.

5. Ask/Aks/Axe

Spanish-speakers while learning English often mispronounce “ask” as “axe.” So, if you say : ‘You don’t have to axe me why’, it certainly doesn’t mean what you want to say!

Spanish Speakers Can't Pronounce

What were you thinking of?


4. Fifth/Fiss

Particularly when it comes to final consonant clusters in English, Spanish-speakers can suffer both from adding extra syllables (e.g. three syllables for “advanced” with the final “e” pronounced) and swallowing sounds to make it match the desired number of syllables (e.g. “fifths” sounding like “fiss”). With words that are similar in Spanish and English, they can also often try to make the English word match the Spanish number of syllables.

3. Comma/Coma

Spanish Speakers Mispronounce

Perhaps more importantly, they can also have problems with the two closest sounds to an “o” sound in “not” , making “comma” and “coma” difficult to distinguish.

2. Pull/Pool

Most Spanish-speakers have difficulty distinguishing between /uː/ and /ʊ/. While /uː/ is very similar to the Spanish letter “u“, it is actually long, or “tense”. /ʊ/ is considered “short” or “lax,” without the tightly-rounded lips.  It’s important to note that pull and pool are not homophones.

1. Stop/Estop

Spanish Speakers Mispronounce

Yes, there are accent differences, but there are also a few common pronunciation mistakes Spanish learners of English can make. Some tend to want to add an “e” to the beginning of words that start with ‘s’ followed by a consonant, making the word stop sound like “estop”.

So, have you heard any of these before? Are you guilty of any of these? Spanish-speakers can learn to speak English fluently, and master the American Accent, by starting with a free consultation or assessment! Contact us at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule your free session with a language instructor today.

Hispanic or Latino, but don’t speak Spanish? You’re not alone.

latino don't speak spanish

So you don’t speak Spanish.

As any brief internet search will tell you, there are many people in the US who identify as Hispanic or Latino and don’t speak Spanish. This article  from gives a run-down of the typical issues people in this situation face, including explaining their life stories to justify their language situation. This CNN article describes the trend of declining Spanish use among Hispanics, and rising use of Spanish among non-Hispanics, and of course there are plenty of opinion pieces voicing perspectives on Latinos who don’t speak the language. It’s a situation that draws mixed, emotional responses – often from total strangers!

As a Latino who doesn’t speak Spanish, you’re not alone.

The percentage of Hispanics who speak Spanish is projected to fall from about 75% now, to about 66% in 2020. That means that of the 54 million Hispanics in the US, over 13 million do not speak Spanish. And 13 million is a lot.

It’s not your fault that you are a Latino and don’t speak Spanish.

More than likely, your lack of Spanish speaking ability is not your fault. You didn’t choose your race, or what language was spoken around you during early childhood, and like the rest of us, you were probably more focused on superheroes or Disney princesses than nouns and verbs. Perhaps your parents believed that speaking only English at home was the path to academic success, or they didn’t feel confident in their own Spanish language skills, or felt threatened by the community – whatever the reason, the language you spoke as a child wasn’t your choice.

And it’s fine.

Yes, there are a ton of benefits to being bilingual, but most of the US is monolingual. If you were lucky enough to learn English as a first language, the most commonly learned second language around the world, with an incredibly difficult, non-phonetic alphabet system and tough pronunciation, then be proud of that fact. You can communicate with almost a billion people.

Hispanic don't speak spanish

But you may be considering wading into the language-learning experience, as a “heritage language learner.” More and more people are making the decision to study their heritage language, but the prospect of doing so might be overwhelming.

It doesn’t have to be scary to be a Latino learning Spanish.

There are a ton of resources available to facilitate Spanish language learning, and there is a lot in common with English. Conversational Spanish can be mastered in about a year, so you can look forward to chatting with others in Spanish in a relatively short time.

Being up front about learning Spanish with Latino family and friends may help.

If you have friends and family who regularly speak Spanish, but prefer to speak English with you, then you will probably want to be up front with them and let them know that you are planning to speak Spanish and would like their support. How this conversation goes will depend a lot on your family dynamic or friendships, but you can hope to find more support from loved ones by tackling the issue up front.

Language learning is messy – for everyone.

Many heritage language learners experience a lot of shame at being unable to roll an r or conjugate a verb appropriately the first time. You may feel uniquely embarrassed by shortcomings in your family language. Don’t be. Being Latino doesn’t give you magical language learning powers that allow you to skip over mistakes. Making mistakes is part of the language learning process, and it’s embarrassing for everyone – Mexican Americans who struggle to pronounce proper names correctly, or English background “gringos” struggling to find the right word to express themselves. Language learning is necessarily messy and embarrassing. Embrace the fact that you will make mistakes (and learn from them!). You may even encounter people who ridicule your language learning attempts, because there are jerks in every language. However, just as you probably wouldn’t disparage someone attempting to learn English, most people will likely welcome your attempts to learn Spanish.

Use it to your advantage.

If you’ve always been frustrated that people approach you speaking Spanish, expecting you to understand, now is your time to shine. You may not catch every word they say, but you have that many more opportunities to hear Spanish that others would die for. Others who would love to practice their Spanish with native speakers are often met by native Spanish speakers who want to practice or show off their English.

latino don't speak spanish

Shakira, Celia, or Selena – who looked the most like a Spanish speaker?

Alternatively, depending on your own flavor of Latino and your current community, you may have been frustrated at the many times you have had to explain that yes, you are really Latino. If that’s the case for you, chances are, you can simply explain that you are learning Spanish and want to practice the language to a native speaker without having to worry about the baggage of being a Latino who doesn’t speak Spanish.

Learning Spanish is hard work, but rewarding, no matter what your racial, ethnic, or language background. If you do want to jump into the language learning process, why not start with a free consultation from Confidence Learning Services? We’ve helped other heritage language learners, and we’d be happy to help you achieve your goals.

Contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 to get started.


Who learns languages best?

learn portuguese

What type of person makes the best language learner?

Recently, one of my clients in Knoxville, Tennessee asked me what traits our most successful clients at Confidence Learning Services had in common. I thought this was a fantastic question, so I figured I would share my observations. I’m not here to tell you whether men or women, Americans or Chinese, or doctors or engineers make the best students, but I hope the following observations will help you

5. People who learn languages best communicate with native speakers regularly.

This might be great news for you if you want to improve your accent, and you are the only one at work who is not a native English speaker. However, it might be difficult news for you if you are practicing English in a town in which not even the teachers are native speakers, or if you are in Knoxville, Tennessee trying to learn a language like Romanian. This principle holds true even if you are living in an English speaking country, but most of your interactions (with coworkers, family and friends) are with non-native English speakers, even if you usually communicate in English. The good news is, native speakers are just a computer screen away with many websites devoted to finding language partners. Additionally, if you really make an effort, you may be surprised at what you find in your own town. For example, even in Knoxville, Tennessee, there is a Romanian church that would probably provide great opportunities for language practice if you decided to get involved. But speaking with native speakers usually requires you to be…

4. People who learn languages best are outgoing.

That may seem harsh, if you are an introvert, and it’s actually a bit deceiving. You see, people who are outgoing will produce more language output. That means they will produce more correct output, and more errors, than introverts. However, errors are some of our best learning opportunities, and if you refuse to take a chance on what you think might be the word you need to use, you will never know if you were right or wrong. If you are outgoing, you will make a mistake and learn right away. So force yourself to come out of your shell a little bit, (yes, research shows a little alcohol helps). Say hi to people in the community. After all, you are learning a language so that you can communicate with others, right?

spanish class in knoxville tn

3. People who learn languages best take advantage of every opportunity.

That means they go above and beyond their assigned practice. Sure, these students complete their pronunciation practice to learn the difficult English “th” sounds, but then they listen for that sound when they are speaking with friends. They watch for that sound while watching TV at night, and they repeat words with that sound when they hear them on the radio. If you are studying Spanish, you might start reading the Spanish list of ingredients on your food packages, or paying closer attention to signs that you see on the street in Spanish, or turn on the Spanish radio (yes, there are Spanish radio stations in most US cities, even one in Knoxville). Everything is a lesson to be learned.

2. People who learn languages best practice – a lot.

Yes, it sounds obvious, and while the majority of students do practice, you might be surprised at how many clients I have had who sign up for an Accent Reduction, English, or Spanish course but then do not complete the assigned practice. Some clients truly did not have the time in their schedule to make the commitment when taking into account work and other demands in their lives. Others simply chose not to practice, or to practice something else that they deemed more beneficial or interesting, rather than follow the prescribed practice. I usually recommend an hour of practice each day. Without fail, my clients who have demonstrated the most improvement have practiced more than an hour a day.

bilingual kid

And you’re never too young to get those practice hours in.


1. People who learn languages best know that attitude is everything.

The common attitudes I see among successful language learners are, “If others can learn this language, so can I.” and “What’s left to learn?” It’s important to remember that it is possible to learn English, Spanish, improve your Accent, or whatever your goal may be. After all, thousands of people have already done so, why can’t you?

It’s also important to remember that there is always more to learn, even in our native languages. We can always improve and grow, and as long as you keep this in mind, you aren’t likely to hit a road-block in your language learning experience.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a successful language learner? Contact Confidence Learning Services today to try out a free, one-on-one consultation in English, Spanish or Accent Reduction.