Spanish 101

Spanish 101

Contributed by
Frederick Ford Beckley

I’ve always wanted to learn another language. When my office, Family Bridges, talked about year-long journeys, I knew immediately it was the perfect opportunity to become fluent in Spanish. There’s more to this journey, however, than my own personal gain. Language is about communicating. At the end of this year, if my journey can help or motivate people like you to learn a new language, then that means it’s possible for more people to communicate. That to me is a wonderful thing.
Now, even though true fluency takes years of constant use to attain, I am sure that by the end of the year, I will be able to speak, read, understand, and be understood in Spanish, wherever I go. To that end, here are the things I have done so far to become fluent in Spanish:


This has been a very big help, but since I was in high school from 2002-2005, a lot of my knowledge has faded over time. I have a lot of work yet to do. I am refraining from signing up for immersion classes, for now, but I may have to soon if I want to progress. We shall see.


I have a Spanish desk calendar so that everyday I can learn a new word or phrase in Spanish. I’ve also bought dictionaries and phrasebooks to read in my down time.


I’m a big fan of Duolingo, the free language learning app. But now that I have conquered my duolingo tree, I have to get off of my phone and into the real world.

When I make social media posts about #freddiesjourney I make sure to translate them into Spanish. When I first write them in English, I do not limit my thoughts to what I know I can already say in Spanish. l do use Google Translate to prevent major mistakes, but I do not allow myself to use it beforehand, so that I can wean myself off of this crutch.

My co-workers are kind enough to surprise me with quizzes from time to time. So far I have had to translate text messages, teach a Spanish yoga class, and compete in a lip-sync karaoke challenge (Olvidame y Pega la Vuelta). I wonder what will be next …


First I tried watching TV shows I knew very well, like Arrested Development, in Spanish, but because of the accents of the actors and how quickly they were speaking, the show was too advanced for me. The simplest thing to do, it seemed to me, was start with a children’s show. I began watching episodes of Jim Henson’s Word Party (Fabuloso Vocabulario) on repeat. Now that I can understand everything being said in these episodes, intended for age 0-3, I have moved on to Blue’s Clues (Las Pistas de Blue), or if I’m really feeling bold, The Magic School Bus (El Autous Magico).

No matter what language you’re trying to learn, you can find out which shows Netflix has dubbed and/or subtitled in foreign languages here:

This is the most helpful and most frustrating thing I’ve been doing to improve my language skills. Almost all of my co-workers speak Spanish, so I have many opportunities to sit and listen. But if I really want to speak Spanish, I have to start talking too. Just today my co-workers made a rule that they will only speak to me in Spanish. I’ll be saying, “I don’t understand you” and “Can you slow down and repeat that please” a lot, but I anticipate this will help me most of all.

And that’s about it. I hope this has been helpful. If you’re bilingual, you can go ahead and read my translation below. I will be accepting corrections by email at, since I know it will not be perfect. Otherwise I will do my best to entertain and, hopefully, teach all my followers a thing or two over social media as I continue my journey to fluency!

Siempre he querido aprender una otra idioma. Cuando mi oficina, Lazos de Familia, habló de las jornadas que duran un año, supe inmediatamente que era la oportunidad perfecta a hacerme fluido en español. Sin embargo, hay más en este jornada que mi propio beneficio personal. La idioma es de la comunicación. Al final de esta año, si mi viaje puede ayudar o motivar la gente, como ustedes, a aprender una nueva idioma, entonces eso significa que es posible por más personas a communicarse. Eso para mí es una cosa maravillosa.

Ahora, aunque tener la verdadera fluidez requiere años de constante uso, estoy seguro que en el final del año, podré hablar, leer, entender, y ser entendido en español, donde quiera que vaya. Para ello, aquí están las cosas que he hecho hasta ahora a hacerme fluido en español:

Esto ha sido una ayuda muy grande, pero porque estaba en la escuela secundaria desde 2002-2005, mucho de mi saber se ha desvanecido sobre el tiempo. Ya tengo mucho trabajo a hacer. Me abstento de inscribirme en las clases de inmersión, por ahora, pero es posible que voy a tener que hacer esto si quero progresar. Vamos a ver.

Tengo un calendario español de escritorio para que todos los días puedo aprender una nueva palabra o frase en español. También he comprador los diccionarios y libros de los frases a leer en mi tiempo de inactividad.

Soy un gran partidario de Duolingo, la aplicación gratuita para aprender las idiomas. Pero ahora que he conquistado mi árbol de duolingo, tengo que bajar de mi teléfono y entrar el mundo real.

Until then,


Follow my journey on social media @familybridges with #FreddiesJourney #journeys #jornadas.