Finding a Language Partner in Your Community

knoxville english spanish accent reduction

In my last post, I talked about using Language Exchange Websites to find a language partner to practice with. While these sites are great for finding language partners, you are unlikely to find someone in your area to practice with unless you live in a large metropolitan area. Video chatting online is great, but limited, and many people prefer face-to-face interactions. Let’s talk about some ways to find people to practice with in your own community. For the purpose of this post, we’ll assume you’re in the US and the dominant language in your community is English.

Community Language Partners – is a website dedicated to groups of people who want to meet regularly “in real life.” There are groups dedicated to all kinds of topics, including language. If you speak English, you’ll want to find a group dedicated to the language you’re learning. This works best in bigger cities, and for more common languages. If you are trying to learn English, just about any meetup group will do! These groups usually meet at restaurants, cafes, libraries or other public places. Not all groups are created equal – some are better managed than others, some are free while others require a very small (usually less than $20/year) membership dues.

Community Language Partners – Community Organizations

knoxville english spanish accent reduction

Casa Azafran in Nashville.

You can look to language and ethnic identity organizations in your community for possible practice opportunities. For example, if you have a Hispanic community center, or an Asian Chamber of Commerce, you may contact them to see if they are aware of any language exchange groups that meet regularly, or if they are aware of an individual who would be a good language partner fit for you.

Community Language Partners – Religious Organizations

Religious organizations are great because they often serve as a bond for ethnic communities. If you speak English and are looking to learn a language like Arabic, Vietnamese, Russian, or many other languages, you can search for a Mosque, Buddhist temple, or Orthodox church where services are offered in the language you are studying. Chances are, there will be a member there who wants to practice their English as well. If you are trying to learn English, you could contact these organizations to see if they are aware of any language classes and clubs. Many religious organizations prioritize volunteering and serving their community and so may offer services to those who are trying to learn English.

Community Language Partners – Schools

 Knoxville english spanish accent reduction

Last, if you speak English and are looking to learn another language, you may contact your local elementary, middle or high school, specifically the English Language Learning department. Explain that you want to volunteer to help parents who speak Spanish (or your target language) to learn English, in exchange for their help to you, and see if you can leave your personal information with the teacher. Many teachers would be very happy for their students’ parents to have an opportunity to improve their English.

Connecting with a fluent speaker is key to succeeding in language learning. If you’re working on English, Spanish or Portuguese, contact Confidence Learning Services at 1-865-226-9477 for a free language consultation, face-to-face with a certified teacher.

Finding a language partner via an exchange website

No matter what language you’re studying, practicing with a real live person is essential. If you’re living abroad, or taking classes from a fluent speaker like we offer at Confidence Learning Services, this shouldn’t be too difficult. However, you may want to supplement your practice, or keep up your language after returning to your home country. Using online software, books and CDs are great, but will only get you so far. Speaking with another human being is key, so let’s take a look at how to find a language partner via Language Exchange Websites.

Language Exchange Websites

Several websites purport to connect speakers of different languages, in order to set up a mutually beneficial language partnership. You go on the website as a native Spanish speaker seeking help with Japanese, and hopefully find a native Japanese speaker seeking to learn Spanish. And you practice via e-mail, video chat, or in person. However, not all websites are created equal, so let’s take a look at some of these.

My personal favorite, this website is also set up to allow you to offer lessons in exchange for pay, or pay for lessons. The concept is brilliant but a little more complicated. However, with a free membership you can search for and contact members based on their native language and what language they’re learning. Searching by city also works best on this site. For example, if you’re from the Knoxville area, you have to choose the city of Knoxville from a drop-down menu when enrolling, as opposed to listing a suburb of or neighborhood in Knoxville, or possibly misspelling the city. This makes searching by city much easier.

This site really presents itself more as language instruction, rather than just a language exchange site. The actual instructional content is limited, but there is a great feature on the site, once you sign up for a free membership, that allows you to contact native speakers of your target language, and be contacted by people wanting to learn your language. Searching for someone by their native and target language is a little more difficult, and the language options are more limited than on the traditional language exchange websites. However, especially for native English speakers, it’s easy to find others who speak your target language and who want to learn English. Paying a website fee allows you to “learn” multiple languages and access more site features, but isn’t necessary to search for language partners. I find this site to be the fastest at getting me talking with someone who speaks my target language.

Dedicated to helping people find “penpals”, this website isn’t solely focused on language exchange, although that exists as an option. Because of this, searching is more difficult, as you can search for someone based on their native language, but not what language they are learning. You can search by countries, but not by cities. There is a forum feature which looks to be the most promising when it comes to getting visibility in searching for a language partner. The site is totally free.

Possibly the most popular language exchange, this site is a little easier to search than interpals, but searching by city is difficult, because you can type in anything for your city, meaning if you were in Knoxville you could type in Knoxvile, K-Town, Tennessee, TN, Knox, or any number of other combinations. Although a basic membership is free, it doesn’t allow you to contact members, but only allows you to be contacted by others. Membership that allows you to contact others is only $6 a month. I personally had a poor experience with this site, experiencing no problems as a free member, but after paying my 1 month membership fee, my account was deactivated and the webmaster has refused to refund or reactivate my account. I certainly wouldn’t advise paying more than one month at a time, as you are taking a risk here.

I highly recommend you get started on some of these sites, check out their features, and see which option works best for you. I would love to hear your opinion of the above sites, or recommendations for any other sites that I’ve missed.

A word of caution: Many people seem to use these sites to find a “romantic” connection, despite the fact that there are plenty of sites out there dedicated to that purpose. Within a few minutes of joining Interpals, I had half a dozen messages from men telling me how beautiful I was, and I have found a similar phenomenon on other sites as well. Be advised that you may need to adjust privacy settings, be conscious of profile pictures you upload, and make it clear up front if that is not the type of connection you want. As always, be cautious when talking with strangers.

If you’d like to get started learning English, Portuguese or Spanish with a highly qualified and certified instructor, contact Confidence Learning Services today at 1-865-226-9477. We’ll set you up with a free consultation, face-to-face with a fluent speaker of your target language.

Top 5 Reasons why learning Spanish Online with a live speaker is best

Your best option for learning Spanish online? A real person.

These days there are so many options when it comes to online language learning. Online software, website registrations, apps, e-books, audiobooks, games, you name it! And while most of those things can be helpful, ultimately the very best way to learn a language online is with a real live speaker via Skype.

Learning Spanish Online with a live speaker means you can ask questions

English Spanish Accent Reduction

Your neat app or online bilingual dictionary might be great, until you run into trouble. Maybe you try to use the words you’ve learned and something goes wrong, or you’re just confused. Want to ask a question? Then your best bet is to learn with a live, fluent speaker who can answer those questions. At Confidence Learning Services, we tailor all of our instruction – and our answers – to you.

Learning Spanish online with a live speaker – just like you learned your first language

Can you imagine if your parents had set you in front of an app, instead of ever talking with you, teaching you the alphabet, and listening to you say your first words in your native language?

Okay, things are a little different now, and hopefully you no longer need to be spoon-fed and burped either. We can’t do that over the internet. But the point is, we learned our first language with live speakers, and that’s how we are most successful learning our second language. And thanks to modern technology, we can learn Spanish online with a live speaker, not just a machine.

Learning Spanish online with a live speaker means you get corrective feedback.

Sometimes, we make mistakes. We’re all human, after all. I’m sure you’ve heard someone make a mistake when trying to speak your native language. Unfortunately, you can’t correct a problem that you don’t realize you have. If you’re still making mistakes in Spanish after studying with an audiobook or website program – and chances are that you are – the only way to correct those is to have someone help you fix your mistakes.

Learning Spanish online with a live speaker is more fun!

Yes, we all get addicted to online games, and there are plenty of those that are designed to help you practice Spanish. But when you interact with a live speaker online, you get to exchange stories, communicate and get to know each other, and discover new places to visit to practice your language right in your hometown. And ultimately, that’s why you started learning Spanish in the first place – to communicate with others.

Are you ready to learn Spanish face-to-face with a live instructor? We can connect with you anywhere in the world via Skype, and help you make the most of your Spanish learning experience wherever you are!

Get started today with a free Spanish online consultation. Contact us at 1-865-226-9477.

English, Spanish, Accent Reduction/Pronunciation training – Referral Bonus!

Spanish English Accent Reduction Knoxville

Help your friends and earn $25!

Do you know someone who always says that they want to learn Spanish? Or maybe you have a friend or family member who could benefit from clearer English pronunciation? Could you use some extra spending money? Well, you’re in the right place.

Confidence Learning Services offers a referral bonus to anyone who recommends our services to a client who enrolls in one of our classes. You don’t even have to be a client or former client of ours, our referral program is open to anyone.

Here’s How It Works:

Simply share our information with your friend, family member or acquaintance who could use one of our services. When they enroll in one of our Spanish, English, or Accent Reduction courses and mention you as a reference, we’ll send you a $25 Visa Gift Card.

Spanish English Accent Reduction Knoxville

It’s that simple. Your friend gets to prepare for their upcoming trip to Peru, your coworker can brush up their English grammar in their e-mails, or your professor can speak more confidently with an American accent when she lectures. And you get some extra spending money.

Because we provide services worldwide via Skype, it doesn’t matter where your friends or family live. Whether they are in Singapore, India, or Knoxville, TN, we can set up a personalized course for anyone, anywhere. And since our courses are personalized, you can recommend our services to anyone, no matter their language background, experiences, or current abilities.

There is no limit on how many gift cards you can earn. So go ahead, share our information with your co-workers, classmates, professors, friends, aunts and uncles – anyone who wants to improve their Spanish or English, or speak with a clearer American Accent. And start thinking about how you would spend those $25 Visa gift cards – a trip to your favorite restaurant, online shopping spree, or movie tickets, it’s up to you!

Get sharing! Follow us on twitter, like us on facebook, add us on Google +, bookmark our website, or write down our phone number (1-865-226-9477), and then pass our information along!

Top 10 Reasons to Learn Spanish in 2015

learn english in Knoxville

Top 10 reasons to start learning Spanish in 2015

Is learning another language one of your New Year’s resolutions? Having a tough time deciding between Spanish, French, or Mandarin? Check out Confidence Learning’s top 10 reasons to start learning Spanish in 2015.

1. Connect with Spanish speakers in your community.

In the US, it is possible to maintain almost daily contact with native Spanish speakers in many cities or even in rural areas. This is certainly the case in the many states bordering Mexico, or such states as Florida and New York where many immigrants of Cuban ancestry reside. Even if your home state is not located in one of these areas, there is still a great likelihood of finding Spanish-speakers close to where you live.There are 40 million Spanish speakers in the US, including 80,000 in Nashville and 17,000 in Knoxville.

learn english in Knoxville

2. Communicate with 350 million native Spanish speakers worldwide.

Spanish is spoken by at least an estimated 350 to 400 million people around the world and is currently the 4th most commonly spoken language worldwide. Geographically, a large number of countries have Spanish as a dominant language: Spain, the United States, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Knowing Spanish opens the door for you to communicate with 1/3 of a billion speakers worldwide!

3. Learn Spanish to enhance your travel experiences.

Planning to take a trip in 2015? Going on a missions trip or a vacation in Latin America or Spain? Wherever you decide to go, be it to Central America, or to Spain, the mother-country of the Spanish language, knowing the language and culture of the land you visit will give you insights into the people and culture that a non-Spanish speaker would never have access to.

Knowing even a little Spanish ahead of time helps travelers communicate more successfully, especially considering that a great number of Spanish speakers do not know English. Whether giving an address in a taxi, making reservations in a hotel, ordering food or drinks in a restaurant, or meeting the locals at the main hang-out, your travel experience will be smoother, more enjoyable, and more personal when you can communicate.

4. Learn Spanish to improve your knowledge of your own language.

Spanish is from the Romance language family of languages, its roots coming primarily from Latin, the language spoken by the Romans. As you might know, English, too has many words of Latin origin. Because of this, knowing Spanish helps speakers of English (as well as some other European languages) broaden their vocabulary in their native language. Often times, these same Latin roots are at the base of many sophisticated words in English, so Spanish learners can also become more proficient in English.

5. Use Spanish to boost your career.

Know a second language? Great, you’re hired! If you have proven yourself to be a capable employee with just the right job skills AND you speak a foreign language such as Spanish, you are much more likely to land that job of your dreams than if you are monolingual. In fact, many jobs today require a minimum of basic proficiency in another language.

business rates for spanish courses in Knoxville

6. Learn Spanish to prepare for study abroad opportunities.

Various high schools, colleges, and universities offer study abroad opportunities, with different types of programs are available to choose from, varying in time from as little as a week of study to one semester, or even a whole year. Often, as little as one semester or one year of prior language study is all that is needed to qualify to participate in an exchange program.

What could be better than living, breathing, and using your newly acquired language skills than actually putting them to use in one of the many Spanish-speaking countries from around the world? Not only does an exchange program give you the opportunity to use the Spanish you know, but also the opportunity to improve your language abilities on a daily basis. Constant exposure the language and culture of the city in which you study is believed to be the key to true language mastery and helps pave the way to literacy and native speaker like fluency.

7. Get to know – and appreciate – Spanish-speaking cultures.

Not only will Spanish open up access to areas of “high” culture such as art, literature, and history, a knowledge of Spanish can help you understand and appreciate day-to-day culture in the Spanish-speaking world. The ability to read and understand authentic Spanish — whether that be in the newspaper, on television, in magazines, in letters from friends or pen pals, or on the street — truly gives an “insider” view into the language and all of its different shades of meaning.

Learning the Spanish language and culture go hand-in-hand. It may not be impossible to learn Spanish never having experienced the culture first hand, but direct exposure to the culture will give language learners insights into the language that would otherwise not be possible.

8. Build relationships with Spanish.

Language and communication are two sides of the same coin, but what many people don’t realize is that learning a foreign language, although intimidating at times, opens many doors to meeting new and exciting people that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Getting to know somebody by communicating with them in their own language is a great way to really get to know that person on a much deeper level than only through communicating with gestures or body language. Language study, practice, and exposure to the language are vital to effective and successful communication.

Becoming proficient in Spanish might take a lot of effort, dedication, and time on the part of the learner,but  the rewards can be great. Imagine all of the friends it is possible to make while on vacation, during study abroad, through having a common interest in music, or even while at work. Having lifelong international friends not only opens future travel opportunities but makes you a cultural ambassador both at home and abroad.

remote learning spanish

9. Gain access to Spanish art, music, literature and film.

Ever wonder what it would be like to view a film in its original language instead of watching it in a dubbed version? Are you tired of being distracted from enjoying a film by the need to read the film’s subtitles? Have you wondered if the translation of the film is accurate or if you are missing out on the details in the film? Becoming proficient in Spanish would greatly enhance your enjoyment of such Oscar-winning films as Belle epoque (1993), All About My Mother (1999), and The Sea Inside (2004).

Spanish doesn’t just help you enjoy more films, but also gives you a glimpse into the minds and times of the people responsible for some of the greatest literature in the Spanish-speaking world. Who hasn’t heard of Miguel de Cervantes, whose novel, Don Quixote was not only groundbreaking in the 16th century when first published, but continues to fascinate and inspire current audiences?

What about Spanish music and art? Most people would recognize musicians like Gloria Estefan, Shakira, and Pitbull, and Spanish cubist painter Pablo Picasso is known worldwide for his modern-style of art that has influenced the artistic community around the globe. In recent years, film stars from Spain and Latin America such as Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, and Salma Hayak have become recognized not just at home, but in Hollywood as well.

10. Learning Spanish makes acquiring the next foreign language easier.

Studies show that after learning a second language, adding a third language is even easier. Start with Spanish, a relatively easy language to learn for English speakers, before you move on to something like Arabic or Russian. Learning a foreign language develops a whole set of mental, social, and cultural skills and this newfound awareness carries over to other languages when learned. Once Spanish has been learned to a proficient level, when the grammar concepts, vocabulary, and other facets of the language have become fairly automatic, picking up a new language comes almost effortlessly. If you decide to study another Romance language (French, Italian, Portuguese) after adding Spanish, you’ll find it even easier.

Ready to get started? Enroll in a Skype based Spanish course today, and by this time next year you could be chatting with your friends you made on your summer rafting trip to Costa Rica. Contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 to get your completely free, no-commitment Spanish consultation.



Improving your English as a Native Spanish Speaker

Is Spanish Your First Language? Common Pronunciation Problems You Might Face

When working to improve your English as a native Spanish speaker, one of the most challenging aspects is becoming comfortable using English pronunciation.

accent reduction in knoxville

Words and sentences in Spanish are approached differently than in English, requiring speakers to learn a new set of pronunciation rules in order to properly communicate using connecting sounds, intonation, and stress. Even if you have spoken English for decades, pronunciation can still be difficult.

When learning English, it’s important to focus on using correct English pronunciation in order to avoid forming a habit of pronouncing words and sentences incorrectly. By overviewing the top three pronunciation problems native Spanish speakers face when learning English, you can evaluate your own English pronunciation and see how well you speak with an American accent.

Pronouncing the “th” sounds /ð/ /θ/

The fact that the English letter combination can be pronounced two ways, voiced (with vibration in the throat and vocal chords) and unvoiced (with no vocal chord vibration) doesn’t help that it is an already difficult sound.

Both of these sounds involve the tongue coming out between the teeth and making a continuous sound that can be held out for several seconds if necessary. The air should not be completely stopped, but there should be constant friction between the tongue and the teeth.

Because this is an awkward sound to make (sticking the tongue out of the mouth feels a little weird!), Spanish speakers often substitute /t/ for the unvoiced “th” /θ/ sound and a /d/ for the voiced “th” /ð/ sound. Thus, the English words “that” and “other” are often pronounced as “dat” and “oder” and the English words “three” and “thing” are pronounced as “tree” and “ting.

To see if you’re pronouncing the English “th” sound correctly, it’s best to look at yourself in the mirror as you pronounce words like “that” “other” “three” and “thing”. If you can see the tongue coming out between the teeth, you know you are probably pronouncing those sounds correctly. Additionally, you should feel some friction, vibration, or tingling in the tongue as you say these sounds.

It’s not enough to say these sounds correctly in front of a mirror by yourself. Your correct pronunciation must be used in your speech. Try saying the sentence, “Get those other three things, please.” Focus on using correct pronunciation as you pronounce this sentence. Then, you can focus on pronouncing this sound clearly in your regular speech.

S-blend Pronunciation

In English, we often pronounce many consonants together at once, which is different from Spanish pronunciation. As a result, Spanish speakers tend to insert extra vowel sounds in their words. This is especially problematic for words that begin with “s” followed by another consonant (sp-, sl-, st-, sk-, sp-, etc.).

As a result, Spanish speakers usually pronounce words like “spit” as “espit” or “slide” as “eslide.”

English pronunciation

To see if you’re pronouncing these words correctly, try saying the word “stop.” Place your hand on your neck, and pay close attention to the vibration that you feel, repeating the word several times. If you feel vibration at the beginning of the word, or if you feel your vibration turning off and on again within the word, you know that you are not pronouncing the word correctly. You should not feel any vibration in the neck until you say the “o” sound.

To practice this sound in context, practice saying the sentence, “Please speak to your son about screaming and slapping the other students.”

Pronunciation of Final Consonant Blends

Similarly, English combines many consonants at the end of words, and this can be difficult as well.

Thus, words like “tired” may be pronounced “tire”, “hold” is pronounced “hole” and “last” is pronounced “last.”

To see if you’re pronouncing these sounds clearly, record yourself saying the following sentence combinations:

“I watched a lot of TV/ I watch a lot of TV”

“I cleaned the house/I clean the house”

“You added an extra sound/You add an extra sound.”

Can you hear a clear difference between the first sentence and second sentence in each pair? If not, you’re not pronouncing those consonant blends correctly.

To practice these sounds, try saying two words together, like “feel down”, and then gradually eliminate more and more of the word “down” so you are saying “field”, still retaining a clear /d/ sound.

Due to the varying pronunciation problems that exist when learning English as a Spanish speaker, and the small differences that differentiate letters, working with an online Accent coach is one of the easiest ways to ensure you learn English pronunciation correctly. Participating in an online educational setting, native Spanish speakers can work one-on-one with a certified instructor to receive a personalized accent assessment and pinpoint specific pronunciation areas that need improvement.

You can improve your American English pronunciation and fluency between 50-80% in just 12-weeks! Sign up today for a free evaluation to see how Confidence Accent Reduction can work for you. 

How to raise bilingual children

Children Spanish classes

In our last post about the benefits of raising bilingual children, I mentioned that I would write about exactly how to raise bilingual children. Let’s take a look at what’s involved.

Do I have to be bilingual to raise bilingual children?

The short answer here is no, you don’t. The evidence is all around you, even here in Knoxville, Tennessee. Walk into almost any ethnic community space in the U.S. – a Chinese grocery store, a Cuban restaurant, a Kurdish shop – and you will notice something they all have in common. The children and teenagers present are translating for the older generations. The children are bilingual in English and their heritage language, their parents are not. These parents have raised bilingual children without being bilingual themselves.

We can also see that the opposite is true. Many of those bilingual children will grow up and have children of their own, who only speak English. You will find this story in more established, older ethnic communities throughout the US as well. Visit a school with a high Hispanic population, and the teachers will probably lament that they have several students who speak only English, despite their grandparents speaking only Spanish. Being bilingual yourself does not guarantee that your children will be bilingual.

So, how do you raise your children to be bilingual, whether or not you yourself are bilingual?

Mostly, it comes down to one rule:

If you want your children to be bilingual, whatever they do in their first language, they must also do in their second language.

That’s it. Pretty simple, right? Let’s look at specifics.

For the sake of this example, I’ll assume you are an English speaker living in the US, raising your children to be English/Spanish bilingual. However, the same principles hold true for any two languages. 

1. Raising Bilingual Children – Community Exposure

Think about all the things that you and your children do within your community. Here in Knoxville, I go to the grocery store, go to the doctor’s office, go to worship services, beauty salons, look for a new house, dine out, and a hundred other things. Each one of these can be done in English and Spanish.

bilingual children Knoxville

It’s more delicious in Spanish, though.

If you speak Spanish, you can visit an English speaking doctor and walk your children through the appointment in Spanish. If you don’t speak Spanish, consider finding a bilingual doctor who will speak to your children in Spanish. At the very least, visit a health fair targeting a Spanish-language audience.

If you dine out at English dominant restaurants, try visiting a location where Spanish will be the dominant language. Options abound even in Knoxville. Depending on your location, this may be Cuban food, Mexican food, South American food, or if you’re in the Southwestern US, McDonald’s.

If you attend worship services regularly in English, find a Spanish language service to visit or attend regularly.

While these activities might be a little uncomfortable for you if you are monolingual, keep in mind that you are engaging in something that will be a lifelong benefit to your children. And you might just improve your second language along the way.

2. Raising Bilingual Children – Media Exposure

Do your children enjoy listening to music in the car? Start listening to music in Spanish. Don’t worry if you’re afraid you might not like Spanish music.There’s a lot more to it than Mariachi, Ranchera and Reggeaton. Start by checking out some Putumayo CD’s from your local library, and then go from there. Create some new Pandora stations and have fun.Bilingual Children Knoxville

Children’s TV is available in Spanish as well. If you don’t have Spanish channels, talk to your provider about adding them, or opt to watch Spanish Language Children’s TV shows on which has a great Latino section.

Thanks to modern technology, many children’s DVDs come with a Spanish dub option. Disney movies usually have a very high quality recording. If you start when your children are very young they’re likely to enjoy “Una Aventura Congelada” just as much as they enjoy “Frozen”, and you might enjoy mixing up “Let It Go” with “Libre Soy” every once in awhile.

3. Raising Bilingual Children – Educational Materials

bilingual children Knoxville

If you have the luxury of enrolling your child in a bilingual school, they should learn about the same topics (alphabets, reading, writing, math, science, history) in both languages.

If you do not have a bilingual school in your community, you can still be successful in this area, but it takes a little more effort from you. Watch episodes of “Plaza Sesamo” (Sesame Street) together, go to your local library to check out books with accompanying CDs. Visit websites that teach your kids the basics of the alphabet, numbers, colors, etc., like the BBC’s Spanish Site. Sign your kids up for Spanish class, or hire a bilingual tutor. If you live in a larger city, you may be able to find a bilingual storytimes, or other Spanish language educational activities.

These are just some general guidelines, but they will make an important difference in your child’s journey to becoming bilingual.

Do you have any advice or tips for parents who are trying to raise bilingual children? What are some things that have worked for you? Share them with us here, or on one of our social media sites. And remember, if your children need a jump start to becoming bilingual, you can sign them up for one of our Spanish language courses today by calling 1-865-226-9477.

Benefits of Raising Bilingual Children in Tennessee

learning english in knoxville

Tennessee children deserve the bilingual advantage

At Confidence Learning Services, we always talk about the advantages for children of being bilingual, but it seems that many Tennessee parents are more concerned about dance lessons, soccer practice, scouts, or any number of other activities. And why shouldn’t they be? All of those activities have great advantages as well, so what are the specific advantages to childhood bilingualism?

Children Spanish classes

Not only is being bilingual more likely to be useful in your child’s future career than being able to pirouette or knowing off sides rules, it gives them plenty of other advantages as well. Here are just a few:

 1.     Bilingual Children in Tennessee can focus better.

Bilingual children have better focus and disregard distractions in the environment. The part of the brain called the executive function, used for planning, judgment, working memory, problem solving and staying focused on what’s relevant is stronger in bilinguals. Every time you speak, both languages are actually active, and the brain has to work to suppress one language while the other is being used. That mechanism employs the executive function of the brain more regularly in bilinguals and therefore it becomes more efficient. This ability starts very young in bilingual babies.


2.     Multitasking is better if you’re bilingual.

Turns out, bilingual kids can switch from one activity to another faster and are better at multitasking than monolinguals. Again, that’s related to the executive function of the brain, which gives bilinguals better cognitive control over information that allows them to switch tasks.


3.    Bilingual children in Tennessee are more flexible and creative.

Studies show that bilinguals have increased mental flexibility and creativity. When you learn there is more than one word for an object, it stretches the mind in new ways and gives children greater mental flexibility and creativity as they have two windows through which they view the world. Russian psychologist Vygotsky stated that “bilingualism frees the mind from the prison of concrete language and phenomena” (Hakuta, 1985).


4.     What about tests in English? Bilingual children score better.

bilingual children

Bilingual children in dual-immersion schools have been shown in one study to score higher on both verbal and math standardized tests conducted in English.

One study in Florida on students from 16 elementary schools showed that bilingual students scored significantly higher in both the math and verbal sections of the Florida standardized test than monolinguals, an average of 23-34 points higher than their monolingual classmates.


5.    Tennessee parents, ever wish your kids were more logical?

Bilingual children display stronger logic skills and are better equipped than monolinguals at solving certain mental puzzles.

In a 2004 study , bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares into two bins on their computer, one with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle. Children were first asked to sort by color, placing blue circles in the bin for blue squares and red squares in the bin for red circles. Both groups performed this task equally well. But when the children were asked to sort by shape, not color, the bilinguals performed the task with greater ease than monolinguals. It’s executive function once again – bilingual children can more easily suppress learning an old rule in favor of a new one.

bilingual kid

When they’re not studying loopholes in your rules, that is.

6.  Just bilingual? Not for long.

Scientific research, demonstrates that after conquering two languages, adding a third, fourth, and fifth language aren’t nearly as difficult. Just ask any language teacher who has taught Tennessee students who are already bilingual a third language, vs. their monolingual peers.


7.  Catch you later, Alzheimer’s.

The advantages of being bilingual carry over throughout your life, whether you stay in Tennessee or move to another state or country. That’s because bilingualism alters your brain chemistry, which has been linked to staving off the onset of alzheimer’s.


Of course, these benefits only come with true bilingualism. Exposing your child to a second language by watching TV shows and movies in another language or going to class for 30 minutes a week won’t result in your child being bilingual without lots of support on your part. But it can be done! I’ll discuss raising bilingual children – including a guide for monolingual parents – in my next blog.

Are you ready to give your children the bilingual advantage? We have years of experience working with children of all ages and backgrounds, and we can’t wait to help your child learn too. Contact Confidence Learning Services today for a free consultation. 1-865-226-9477

“Me llamo es…” How to really introduce yourself and others in Spanish.

Spanish Introductions

Most of us learn quickly in Spanish class to say “Me llamo…”, sometimes followed by a Spanish name we were instructed to pick at random and call ourselves from then on. For the especially gifted Spanish student, it’s easy to make the jump from “Me llamo” to “Me llamo es”. After all, you want to say “My name is…”, right?

Spanish Introductions

Me llamo…

“Me llamo” (pronounced “may yahm-oh”) literally means “I call myself.” So when I say, “Me llamo Laura” I am literally saying “I call myself Laura.” Under no circumstances would I ever want to say “I call myself is Laura.” If you’ve already established the bad habit of saying, “Me llamo es…” try to break that habit by repeating the correct form dozens of times throughout the day, or perhaps, choose one of the other options, like…


Literally “Soy” means “I am.” So you could easily say, “Soy enfermera” I am a nurse, “Soy la dueña de Confidence Learning Services” I am the owner of Confidence Learning Services, just as you could say, “Soy Rebecca,”  I’m Rebecca.

Mi nombre es…

But wait! I thought we weren’t supposed to use “es.” Well, it turns out this phrase translates literally to the English. “Mi nombre es…” My name is…

So why don’t we learn this in Spanish class day one? Well, frequently, when you use the word “nombre” it sounds a little formal, and your listeners will often be expecting your full name, which in Spanish might be pretty long. If you were meeting the King of Spain, he could say, “Mi nombre es Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias.”

Spanish Introductions

You might fall asleep before you hear his whole name.

Introducing Others

When introducing others you can use the following phrases:

Phrase Translation Formality
Le presento … I present to you… Formal
Se llama… She/He is called… Casual
Mi amiga/hermana/vecina…. My friend/sister/neighbor… Casual
Este es… This is… Casual


Typically we will introduce someone by stating their title or relationship to us. Normally we wouldn’t just say in English, “Her name is Julie” without first saying, “This is my doctor, her name is Julie.” It’s the same in Spanish, we are much more likely to say “Esta es mi doctora, se llama Julia.” Or just a short, “Mi doctora, Julia.

When asking for other’s names:

Phrase Translation Formality
¿Cuál es su nombre? What is your name? Formal
¿Cómo se llama? How are you (formal) called? Semi-formal
¿Cómo te llamas? How are you (inf) called? Casual
Y ¿su nombre? And your name is? Semi-formal


What about that Spanish name you picked in class?

You might have been in a Spanish class in which you picked from a list of 10-12 traditional sounding Spanish names, like Rigoberto or Magdalena. It’s always fun to pretend to assume different identities of course, but everyone knows there aren’t many Guillermo Jacksons out there. (Okay, Facebook tells me there are a few, sorry Guillermo.)

The point is, your name is part of who you are, so don’t feel obliged to hide your identity, even if you feel Spanish speakers might have trouble pronouncing it. You could go for an easy Spanish variant of your name – for example, Thomas – Tomás. Or you could just stick with Thomas, it’s mostly about what you are comfortable being called.

Sometimes a phonetic spelling (using Spanish phonetics) might help. If your name is Kevin and you don’t want to be called “Kev-een”, you may consider showing Spanish speakers “Keven” which will still sound a little different but a lot closer to the English pronunciation of Kevin.

And of course a few names are difficult to communicate cross culturally. The name Cameron, for instance, looks a lot like “Camaron” which is the word for shrimp. “Ching” comes very close to a Spanish obscenity. “Linda” is the Spanish word for pretty or cute, “Deja” means “leave”. If you have a name that falls into this category, it’s up to you again to decide how you want to handle it. You may choose to go by a different name entirely, or you may just deal with a few uncomfortable laughs each time you introduce yourself, knowing you probably won’t be easily forgotten.

 Want to learn some more Spanish phrases and start having conversations in Spanish with real speakers? Contact Confidence Learning Services at 1-865-226-9477 for a free Spanish consultation via Skype. We’ll give you some free recommendations and set up some smart goals to help you on your Spanish learning journey. 

What’s the best way to learn Spanish for someone from Knoxville?

Best way to learn spanish

I’d like to talk about a topic I’m often asked about, the “best way to learn Spanish”, or, as I often hear it, “So what do you think of Rosetta Stone?” So let’s take a look at the top five best ways to learn Spanish – and you might be surprised, but Confidence Learning Services isn’t number one!

best way to learn spanish

#5 – The Best Way to Learn Spanish? Free apps and online resources aren’t bad.

Many websites dedicated to the study of Spanish have emerged in the past few years, and the best part about using these sites is that they provide mucha instrucción for nada. These sites offer a dynamic learning environment, and they can be especially effective for people who already enjoy learning new things online, or playing online games like Candy Crush. A few popular online resources are:

  • Busuu.comThe actual instructional materials on Busuu aren’t all that impressive. However, it has a feature that allows you to chat with native speakers of your target language, making it an exceptionally effective practice opportunity that otherwise might cost you a lot.
  • Duolingo is a social learning platform that emphasizes co-learning and motivates students with badges, points and awards for completing milestones. The platform is free, and the app is especially loved by my clients.
  • Livemocha.comLivemocha takes a unique approach to learning languages, in which you can exchange help teaching others English, for help learning Spanish.
  • Local library resources – most libraries have access to some type of language learning software. The quality varies greatly by library, with larger cities offering better programs like Transparent Language or Rosetta Stone, and smaller cities offering programs with less features like Mango or PowerSpeak, which is available in Knoxville. Contact your library to see what online resource you have access to from your home via your library card.

Of course, these resources are often limited in scope, and aren’t very helpful past a beginner stage.

#4 The Best Way to Learn Spanish: “Repita Después De Mi” Audio CDs

Could that old-school, Audio CD (or MP3 in this day and age) really work?  Will you be speaking Spanish in just the amount of time it takes to drive from home to work every day? There are pros and cons.

  • Cost effective, most available for less than $40 from websites like Amazon, which can then be resold when you have finished the course. Many local libraries, like the Knoxville Public Library, offer these programs for rent.
  • Time effective. The average American commute time is 25 minutes, about the length of many of these audio lessons.
  • Great for pronunciation, not for reading and writing. Audio CDs don’t focus on literacy, (unless you’re getting a textbook/CD combo) which can have pros and cons. Many English learners of Spanish get distracted by the alphabet, which looks the same as the English alphabet, but isn’t. Removing that distraction can do wonders for your pronunciation and listening skills, but won’t help you read or write.
  • Quality counts. Some programs do a great job contextualizing useful information, others are mere vocabulary lists. Stick to trusted brands like Pimsleur and Berlitz.

Your investment is important as well. I consider these programs a very effective use of commute time, and have used them in the past to study another language. However, you have to be able to pay attention, and speak aloud, so they’re not ideal for the subway, and unless your carpool buddies are fellow students, you might want to save it for home. But then, if you’re at home already, why not use….

Best way to learn spanish

#3 So, is Rosetta Stone the best way to learn Spanish?

Rosetta Stone, and other online language programs, can be an effective way to learn.

These programs (either software installed on your computer or hosted online and accessed via subscription) boast Interactivity, large peer communities, and relatively low cost – but you still want to pay attention to the price tag. These programs usually offer:

  • Interactive Lessons: Interactivity increases engagement with the lesson and keeps students interested in the process. Some programs incorporate games, puzzles and stories. However, as we all know, there is a limit to a computer’s interactivity.
  • Self-Paced Learning: Lessons can be stopped, paused and repeated until you are comfortable.
  • Support Communities: Many programs have support communities accessible, which boosts the interactivity of the program, but still doesn’t have face time with a native speaker.
  • Mobile Apps: Many software programs are also available on mobile and smartphones as dedicated apps, which is convenient, but again has limitations.

#2 The Best Way to Learn Spanish: Personal Lessons

I promised we wouldn’t be #1! It’s important to recognize the value of interpersonal interaction, which none of the previous methods offer. Private lessons from an actual native speakers ensures that you not only understand the rules governing the language, but also the many inflections and variations present in it.

Personal lessons are often a more expensive way to learn Spanish, although it can be comparable to some of the more costly software programs. It is definitely one of the most effective methods. Advantages include:

  • One-to-one Interaction: Having a coach who can correct mistakes, improve pronunciation and relate cultural contexts is crucial to complete mastery of a language.
  • Group Interaction: Group lessons are particularly beneficial as you can learn from others who will more or less share your proficiency. Interacting within the group will help you practice Spanish in a ‘living’ environment. The peer group can also be a great source of motivation and competition.
  • Immediate Feedback: Mistakes are pointed out immediately in a private lesson, and questions can be answered to your satisfaction, something that also isn’t available in many software programs. Feedback is especially important for learning pronunciation and intricate grammar rules.

Personal lessons can cost anywhere from $20 to $125+ per hour depending on the location and expertise offered. Be careful about the quality of service you can expect. Hiring a tutor, who essentially expects to help you review Spanish homework and go over vocabulary lists, can be very different from hiring a language professional with experience planning individualized curriculum and courses for students that feature various interactive opportunities, like Confidence Learning Services Provides. You should look for an instructor that will listen to your goals, design a course to help you achieve them, and get you interacting with other speakers in the community.

Group lessons are a cheaper, but equally effective alternative to individual lessons that still provide that great human interaction.

#1 – The best way to learn Spanish: Get out of Knoxville

Immersion Spanish

Travel abroad for an immersion experience. Or Miami, pictured here.

No offense to Knoxville of course, but the best way to learn Spanish is to go live in a Spanish speaking environment. Spend a few months in Monterrey, Mexico, or a summer in Barcelona. There you can volunteer in Spanish, take a photography course in Spanish, attend worship services, doctor’s appointments, social events, all in Spanish. Grocery shopping, searching for a new apartment, or getting on the subway are suddenly all learning opportunities.

You can be sure with an immersion experience that you won’t miss out anything. Every topic is covered and more. You’ll also get great cultural experience.

  • Consider your destination carefully. The largest Spanish speaking country is Mexico, not Spain, and you are much more likely to encounter Mexican speakers when you get back to Knoxville than you are to encounter speakers from Spain. Each country has its nuances, but in general, Latin American Spanish will serve you well and often offers more cost effective opportunities. Unless you have a specific reason to study in Madrid, consider whether or not a few months in Costa Rica would be more effective.
  • Plan before you go. Spending a few months preparing with methods 1-4 will drastically improve your actual immersion experience.
  • Alternatives to foreign travel do exist: Consider spending time in Miami, Los Angeles, or San Antonio, where you can do all of the activities mentioned above in Spanish as well. Or visit Puerto Rico, no passport required. In addition to the activities of foreign travel, these locations require no visa, and a few months working and living in a Spanish speaking environment will do wonders for you even in the US.

Ready to get started? Contact Confidence Learning Services today and we’ll set you up with a free 20 minute consultation to help you consider your language learning options. There’s no obligation to pay for our services if you choose something else. Call us today. 1-865-226-9477