Exercising the Grey Matter: Spanish Class

Learning A New Language {New Faculty}


I challenged myself this fall to do something new. I enrolled in Spanish class. My university is gracious enough to offer free language courses to faculty one day per week in a variety of languages: Spanish, French, Chinese, German, etc… over lunch time. I wanted to beef up last year but missed the deadline so I was determined to make it work this year. I was lucky to enroll quickly, buy the book, and earn a spot.

These classes are surprisingly popular and filled very quickly. I have colleagues who were too late and will hopefully get in next year.

Why take a class when a schedule is already full? The grey matter between my ears matters! There are endless days of writing, grading, course prep, and service. But, there’s no time for “fun” stuff. My brain really hurts after 50 minutes of a foreign language and I love it. It’s pushing me to think differently, force my brain to process new verbs, words, and sentence structures. It turned itself into a headache after week one, but after week two I felt more confident, and week three was even better. I want to practice, I find myself opening up the book in between classes, and completing the assignments the instructor requests.

Learning a new language evens the playing field. The course has tenured faculty, administrators, and new faculty just like me who are all stumbling to learn. Admittedly, I know quite a few Spanish language phrases from my days working on the large dairy farms, but none of them are at all useful if I were to travel. I also took four years of French years ago and the two languages are similar. Since the nature of my work continues to globalize, I wanted to view this as a professional development opportunity and as one to keep myself fresh.

If you can and you have the time, space, and permission, I encourage you to seek whatever you can fit in. Free talks on campus, a pottery class at the local shop, good books that aren’t work related, or a splurge on that activity that you know you’ll love, find the way to fit it in. Diversifying my personal arsenal has kept me happy from the inside out. Living and working on a college campus affords us with a lot of great opportunities that are often to the public and free of charge. If you’re reading this and you don’t work for a university, get plugged in and on some email lists. You may find yourself questioning what you know and wanting to know more. I have been lucky to attend seminars on a variety of topics, free concerts and other arts related events, and a host of other free or affordable events.

They keep me thinking, they keep me on my toes, and they keep the “grey matter” growing (or staying grey at least). While we’re halfway through a semester and all feeling fatigued, why not take an hour and do something you want to do that interests your brain?

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