One of the main reasons for learning Spanish is to see people's lives changed for all eternity. Knowing Spanish enables us to communicate much better with Spanish speakers than if we didn’t know the language. Learning a foreign language also stimulates the brain, broadens and deepens perspectives, and develops patience, perseverance and good study skills.
How does knowing a foreign language help people’s lives be changed for all eternity?
By our sharing how Jesus paid for sins and gave us eternal life, others can also receive that eternal life. Our prayer and hope is that many with whom we share this news will receive forgiveness and everlasting life, and that we will one day rejoice with them in Heaven. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14
How do we share the Good News?
We share by forming relationships with native Spanish speakers, and introducing them personally to Jesus Christ. This might happen the first time we meet someone, such as when sharing “The Handful of Hope” with them, or over the course of a long-standing friendship.
Isn’t technology going to replace the need to learn languages?
There are many ways technology can never replace the need to learn languages, but as far as communicating truths about God are concerned, technology can never replace the heart-felt warmth of human friendships. No matter how advanced translation technology might become in the future, it will never compare to emulating the bond that can be felt between real human beings. God asks us to communicate the truth in love. And, although machines might be able to communicate unvarnished truth, only people can communicate with love and care. As such, it will always be beneficial in God’s Kingdom for people to learn foreign languages, just like the Apostle Paul did: “Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I speak to you?” He replied, “Can you speak Greek?”… “Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people…And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.” (Acts 21:37,40; 22:2,) Paul spoke Greek, Hebrew and in tongues, and maybe more languages, as well, and we are told to imitate him (1 Cor. 11:1), so we ought to be learning new languages, just as Paul did, so that those who hear us might listen all the more. And, so that we might learn all the more from them, as well.
Why Use Rosetta Stone or Other Curriculum Instead of Living Waters Spanish?
Real, Usable Spanish Skills
Living Waters Spanish students are able to use their Spanish skills in real-life situations. Most homeschool parents, themselves, might have had trouble communicating after taking high school foreign language classes. Sadly, this is still the case today with many foreign language programs: Students may learn about a language, such as how the grammar works, but they do not gain the ability to listen, read, speak and write Spanish well about common everyday topics. So, if your goal is to learn about Spanish, but not to actually acquire the language, Living Waters Spanish is definitely not for you!
Here’s what Brooke had to say about her Spanish skills after taking two years of Spanish with Sr. Riegg: “Thank you so much for teaching me Spanish and being patient with me and the rest of the class as we learn. Right now I am in Mexico (yes, again. Haha!) with my youth group and we built a house in 4 days for a single mom and 3 girls. They are so poor. But during the trip I was able to use my Spanish and talk to the girls! There were times when my friends would come up to me and ask me how to say a word in Spanish or what does a word mean. Thank you for teaching me in a way where I am able to have conversations with people. Many of my friends already took Spanish and can only go up to "Hola." Thank you for teaching me the best way possible! This mission trip that I'm on right now is so much fun! And one way it is fun is that I can talk in Spanish! Thank you, God Bless! –Brooke”
Cutting Edge Tools and the Bible are the Curriculum
As far as we know, Living Waters Spanish is the only Spanish curriculum in the world that uses the Bible for many assignments. The benefits are enormous: Students grow spiritually and not just intellectually. God speaks directly to their hearts in ways that no human teacher ever could. Students learn Spanish with the Bible, and the Bible with Spanish. Plus, Sr. Riegg uses the most advanced language instructional tools anywhere, so you learn as quickly and deeply as possible. It’s a win-win model. But, if you would rather avoid using the best instructional tools or reading the Bible, Living Waters Spanish is definitely not for you!
Growth in the Lord is one of the goals of Living Waters Spanish. Students are mentored along the way, not just in how to speak Spanish, but in biblical principles for life. Sr. Riegg encourages students to see what the Bible says for themselves, and to listen for God’s voice illuminating the meaning of the text. Students share with one another what God shows them on a regular basis. When difficult questions arise, he encourages students to speak with their parents or pastor about them. So, if you do not want to grow in Christ then Living Waters Spanish is not for you! Other Differences
We take mission trips to orphanages in Mexico and South America. These trips are life-changing for nearly everyone and all grow in important ways.
Nearly all Living Waters Spanish classes begin with prayer and worship – all in Spanish. Students learn how to communicate in everyday conversation, as well as share the Gospel.
Students also participate in an exciting, world-wide foreign language competition with hundreds of thousands of students.
The Case for Learning Spanish, first, over other Languages
Which foreign language should be learned first, and why?
Spanish is Huge
Did you know that more people in the world speak Spanish as their first language (410 million) than English (340 million)? Spanish is also the first language of more countries (21) than any other language, even including one in Africa: Equatorial Guinea. Sheer popularity of Spanish is one good reason to learn it, whether for ministry, business, or pleasure, opportunities abound.
Living People Speak Spanish
You can actually speak with real people in many parts of the world using Spanish. This is important, because you can share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with these people, which makes an eternal difference. Furthermore, a dead language, such as Latin, has zero native speakers, so you are quite unlikely to be sharing the Gospel in Latin with a non-believer any time soon.
Spanish is Easy
Furthermore, Spanish is probably the easiest language to master, which also makes it the best foreign language to learn. Although there are many Mandarin speakers in the world, for example, Mandarin is one of the most difficult languages to master. Spanish, on the other hand, is:
similar to English (both have Latin roots),
a phonetic language – what you hear is how you spell it, unlike French which has many words pronounced differently than they’re written,
consistent grammatically, breaking relatively few rules.
Spanish Speakers are Local
Not only is Spanish relatively quite easy, many students can even practice their Spanish in local neighborhoods with native Spanish speakers. Over 40 million Americans speak Spanish as their first language, and many more speak it as a second language. The next most common second languages have far fewer speakers. In fact, there are even more Spanish speakers in the US than in Spain.
Latin Does Not Make You Smarter Some have argued that by studying a dead language, such as Latin, you will exercise your brain more and thus become a better student than if you learn an easy language, like Spanish. This is nonsense, though. You do not become a better student by studying harder subjects; you become a better student by studying harder - whatever academic subject you are learning. It’s not the subject you study that makes you a better student; it’s the way you study it. Think of a sports analogy: Do you become a better athlete by participating in a difficult sport, such as bull riding, instead of an easier sport, like bicycle racing? Not necessarily. You could be a top athlete or a poor athlete in either sport; what makes the difference is not the choice of sport; it’s how you play it. You can be an outstanding or poor student in either Latin or Spanish.
Some school subjects, like Spanish, can present problems for homeschoolers: How does a mom teach something she, herself, does not know well? How does one master a language, instead of just learning a few basic words and phrases? How do you keep Christ at the center of your learning, when nearly all curricula keep God out, or barely touch on biblical truths?
As it is for so many students, foreign language was not a happy experience for Sr. Riegg. Though he is now a fluent Spanish speaker, Sr. Riegg started by learning dull grammar rules and memorizing dry, lifeless dialogues, promptly forgetting them after reciting them. He learned very little this way.
His Spanish ability only began to develop in an entirely different way: by being immersed in the language as an exchange student in Argentina. Every day he was flooded with Spanish that was written or spoken in a meaningful context; and every day his Spanish knowledge and skills grew incrementally. Later, he attained fluency by living in Madrid, Spain for a year.
When Sr. Riegg began his teaching career, he used the same, unsuccessful methods with which he was 'taught' many years prior. And, of course, it mostly failed. Students learned very little and were not able to use the language much.
So, he went on a search for teaching methods that actually worked. He experimented with just about every Spanish curriculum in existence. After several years, he found the first method that actually got students both excited about learning Spanish and able to communicate well. What he found for his students was what he calls “understandable immersion”, which is using only Spanish – almost zero English – in the classroom and for homework, but in a way that is almost entirely comprehensible to the students.
Having taught this way now for about twenty years, what has become clear to Sr. Riegg, and is obvious to many people who have become fluent in a foreign language, is that we learn languages by using them, and we learn fastest by using them in situations where we understand what’s going on. This is true for first languages as well as second languages. Fluency does not come from studying grammar or memorizing lists of words; it comes from practicing the language in a way where you understand what’s happening.
Of course, living in a Spanish-speaking country is a wonderful way to master Spanish, but the immersion approach Sr. Riegg uses speeds up the immersion type process because in the classroom students understand the new words they are learning, and are not overwhelmed by too many unknown words and phrases.
Understandable immersion works so well, in fact, that every one of Sr. Riegg’s students who has taken the CLEP test has passed, despite being told that it’s very hard for non-native speakers to pass the test. And, by passing it, they have all earned college credit, some as young as 13 years old. Others have passed the Spanish AP exam with the highest possible score of ‘5’.
Perhaps best of all, the understandable immersion material Sr. Riegg’s students use most often is from the Bible. Every day students are immersed in God’s Word, growing both linguistically and spiritually. Class times are often full of meaningful insights about how good and magnificent God is, and we leave class with thankful hearts. In addition, many students have gained deep friendships with native Spanish speakers found through Sr. Riegg's classes, and some of them have gotten saved for all eternity. To God be the glory!
Our dynamic courses equip you to communicate effectively with native speakers in the fastest way possible, both about everyday matters and the Gospel message. Thirty years of research show that the most effective way to learn Spanish is through hearing and reading lots of Spanish in a meaningful context that you understand. While it is relatively easy to learn to say many sentences by rote memory, the key to becoming fluent is being able to understand and respond to the myriad statements that a native speaker might say. Living Waters Spanish students learn to become fluent in the language.
What Living Waters Spanish classes are Not: Foreign language coursework is difficult to transfer from one type of curriculum to another. For example, students who have had several years of studying with Rosetta Stone, HSLDA, Bob Jones or Abeka might need to begin in Level 1 of Living Waters Spanish.
Living Waters Spanish courses are so much more than just learning Spanish. Students read and listen through books of the Bible, share their observations from their readings and worship the Lord Jesus Christ together in class. We grow not only in head knowledge, but in heart knowledge and truth, as well, by God's grace.
Courses are taught both in classrooms in the Portland/Vancouver area and on-line. Classes meet one day per week for 90 minutes and include about two hours of weekly homework.
We are available to answer any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org (Note: It's "waters" with an 's' at the end) or 503-715-7227. Classes are open to students from 10 years old to adult. If you would like to join a class, please complete an enrollment form.
Sr. Riegg has an online grade book that is available to parents and students to view at any time during the school year.
While earning good grades in school is important, the greater purpose in learning Spanish is to glorify God, enjoy His creation, and extend His Kingdom on Earth. Grades, in themselves, should merely reflect what has been learned, and not be one’s primary motivation for studying.
At the end of the course, students receive a final grade report for the year. Parents can also write their own grade report, based on their own expectations for their child. For example, pre-teen students might deserve a higher grade, because they are taking a high school level course.
In determining the grade that students earn, missing work receives zero credit until it is made up. Make-up work, including missed assignments and low grades, needs to be completed within one month of its due date.
Does Learning Grammar Help?
Sr. Riegg used to methodically teach verb conjugating and grammar rules, but found that such memorizing helps students very, very little to communicate in Spanish. In fact, spending time memorizing verb conjugation charts may actually hinder more than help a student to become proficient in Spanish, if that time could otherwise be spent in actually using the language, that is, in hearing, speaking reading and writing Spanish. This is backed up by dozens, if not hundreds, of research studies. (Here are some videos about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0yGdNEWdn0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1RRbupCxi0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WLHr1_EVtQ )
Think about how we learned English: Did we memorize a lot of grammar charts that we then put into real communication? Or, did we learn English by hearing, speaking and later reading and writing it? God designed us to pick up languages by directly using them, in much the same way we learn to play a sport or musical instrument: Mainly, we practice them, under a coach or teacher.
Now, this is not to say that memorizing verb charts does nothing for you - knowing the charts can help somewhat, but only after you are already fairly proficient in the language. However, even then you are probably better off just spending that same time you would have spent on memorizing a chart instead on talking with someone in Spanish or reading a Spanish book. Plus, you would probably enjoy it a whole lot more!
Here is what one mom-teacher had to say in reply to the above comments: "Dear Sr. Riegg, While I don't speak Spanish, I did teach English and reading to special needs kids at all grade levels for many years. I wholly agree with you. It was my experience that having students spend time reading, increased their ability to read exponentially. It was not worksheets, or laborious drills, it was immersion in literature, discussions, reading aloud together, and reading silently, and making the reading a shared, enjoyable experience which enhanced the comprehension and reading level of each student. At the end of the year, when test scores come in, people wanted to know what we had 'done' to get such dramatic results. Many said the results were 'unheard of' especially for this population of students. The answer was pretty simple - we read! - and enjoyed, it I might add. Many students who have challenges never make it through a book. The first year we read interesting books totaling 2,500 pages - books like C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia for 5th and 6th graders along with a handful of other wonderful books. No wonder their reading improved. Previously most of the students had not read one complete book. Most educators would encourage the reading but not have the courage to step away from worksheets etc. I wholly concur with your approach. It can seem a bit risky to go against the current 'methods', but it's precisely why we drive an hour to bring both our girls to your Spanish class. They have learned a great deal, they always enjoy the time in class, and feel very proud of themselves for tackling something difficult and succeeding. You are a great teacher, and we are blessed to have you serve our family by teaching Spanish. Serving the home school community should give you lots of freedom to be creative in approach and program. The fact that you use the Bible as your text is an added bonus. I have heard the girls say they are beginning to think in Spanish, they can read simple words and signs they see in airports and businesses and get quite excited that the language is unfolding for them. Thanks for all you do. Be encouraged. Sincerely, Jane"