APU Careers & Learning Online Learning Original

Learning Spanish by Immersion Doesn’t Always Require Travel

By Dr. Karolina Kopczyński
Faculty Member, School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

When you’re learning Spanish or another foreign language, immersion is the best way to learn that language. However, traveling is not always a viable option for some people, due to current public health bans and the ability to afford living in another country.

Going for a week or two for vacation is not the same as staying in your country of choice. Ideally, someone learning a foreign language should stay for at least three months or more to truly be part of a foreign culture and become immersed in that country’s traditions and daily routines.

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going. – Rita Mae Brown, American writer

Many US States Offer Spanish Immersion Opportunities

However, the United States has certain areas where the number of people speaking Spanish is very high. In fact, Statista notes that the U.S. is the fifth country in the world with the highest number of Spanish speakers. Also, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2050, the United States will have 138 million Spanish speakers.

Related link: The Benefits of Using Podcasts to Improve Your Spanish

With the high number of native Spanish speakers in the U.S., learning Spanish by immersion can take place without the need to travel. There are three states where 55% of the residents speak Spanish: California, Texas and Florida.

According to Statista, there are many other states with many Spanish speakers:

  • New York
  • Arizona
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington
  • Nevada
  • Massachusetts
  • Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Connecticut 

All of these states have Spanish-speaking communities where students learning Spanish can experience local traditions and the daily routines of having a morning coffee and eating chilaquiles or pan dulce for breakfast. They can learn about Hispanic or Latino cuisine, music, slang, colloquialisms, and celebrations; have a conversation at a bodega; or make friends when going out to dance salsa or bachata.

Many local universities and colleges offer classes for learning Spanish and hold celebrations that honor traditions. They commonly offer authentic food, dance, film, guest speakers, and a feeling of inclusiveness. Every state provides traditional celebrations that are passed from generation to generation.

Language is not a genetic gift; it is a social gift. Learning a new language is becoming a member of the club – the community of speakers of that language. – Canadian psycholinguist Frank Smith

Examples of Different Spanish-Themed Celebrations throughout the US

Many U.S. states host different events that celebrate Hispanic and Latino culture and provide a learning opportunity for students of Spanish. In Los Angeles, California, for instance, local residents hold the “Fiesta de la Candelaria” on February 2. On the last Sunday of April, “Fiesta Broadway” is celebrated, and it is one of the most significant Cinco de Mayo events. In June, the Mariachi Festival features the best mariachi bands from Mexico. In September, the “Taste of Mexico” food festival celebrates Mexican cuisine.

The city of Dallas, Texas, holds Hispanic Heritage Month in September. The festivities include food, dance and various activities.

Similarly, Austin’s Mexic-Arte Museum provides many different exhibitions all year round. San Antonio offers events such as “Fiestas Patrias” and “Tableau in Frida Kahlo’s Oasis.”

In September, El Paso hosts the Fiesta de Las Luces. This festival offers mariachi music, folk dances, food, and other activities.

Florida offers many celebrations to provide immersion opportunities, such as January’s Gasparilla Pirate Fest, February’s Fiesta Day and March’s Cuban Sandwich Festival. In April, the Puerto Rican Festival and Parade are celebrated with music and dancing that feature salsa, merengue, hip-hop, and reggaeton artists. 

In New York, the Puerto Rican Day Parade is celebrated on June 12. It is a well-attended celebration with 100,000 people marching and over three million people attend it. The celebration offers many opportunities to practice your Spanish, dance, listen to music, eat, participate in many activities and have a lot of fun!

Language shapes the way we think and determines what we can think about. – Benjamin Lee Whorf, American linguist

There are endless opportunities in the United States to immerse oneself in Spanish culture, values and traditions. For foreign language students, there are many opportunities for learning Spanish, trying traditional dishes, listening to music, and learning about history, art, and literature.

Related link: 5 Reasons Why It’s Good for You to Learn a Foreign Language

About the Author

Dr. Karolina Kopczyński is a native of Poland, and her passion is learning foreign languages and their cultures. She completed her study abroad program in Oviedo, Spain, and she also lived and studied in Russia, Mexico, and Greece. After learning nine languages, she is now learning Arabic.

Dr. Kopczyński obtained her M.A.T. in Spanish and ESOL from the School for International Training, VT. She also completed M.A. from the University of Jaén in Spain and the University Iberoamericana in Puerto Rico in Applied Linguistics in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language and Formation of Professors of Spanish as a Foreign Language. Furthermore, Dr. Kopczyński earned a M.A. in Psychology, and she is currently working on her M.Ed. in Learning and Technology. Dr. Kopczyński completed her Ed.D. from the University of Phoenix in Curriculum and Instruction. Recently, she received the 2021 Undergraduate Excellence in Teaching Award from the University. She is also a co-advisor of the Spanish Club.

Dr. Kopczyński presented at the Teaching Excellence Summit on the Implementation of Technology in Spanish Online Classes to increase participation. She has also presented at Northeast OER Summit about Interactive Tools to Engage Participation and MaFla about Podcasts for Presentational Communication and Communicative Tools for Interpretative Communication in Online Spanish Classes.

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