What's in your vocab? 2 words for a smarter vocabulary.

December 12, 2012


1.  Twitter
2.  Gangnam Style
3.  Like
4.  Gronkowski
5.  Angry Birds
6.  Linsanity
7.  Kardashian
8.  Middleton
9.  50 Shades
10. RG III
Odds are 18 months ago the items on this list didn’t mean much of anything to you. Now you probably recognize the pop cultural aspects of most of them. 
(At the bottom of this post I’ll provide context to the Top 10 list.) 
These were either new things you’d never heard of before… or they were recognizable things that now had new meanings attached.
In short – you learned new stuff.
At Red Angle we help English-speakers learn Construction Spanish and Spanish-speakers learn Construction English to improve Safety and Productivity on the jobsite.
One common obstacle we discuss with Clients is fear. New language learners feel they are too old to learn.
“I’d love to learn Spanish, but I’m old. I’m 52, you know?” 
“After you turn 6, it’s impossible to learn a language, right?”
“I’m maxed out… No room for new words.”
When this comes up, I question if they lack the capacity to learn anything new – or just a language?
This usually elicits a chuckle. It’s an absurd question – of course we can always learn – but it’s a question that needs to be asked. Rarely does anyone verbalize their incapacity to ever learn anything new. With good reason….
If you can learn Kardashian, there is no reason you can’t learn Cuidado (kwee-DAH-doh) which means Careful in Spanish. Learning a language is simply constructing a series of words. No more, no less. If you can learn any new words, you can learn a language.
Let’s say the Spanish language has about 100,000 words – which is about half as many words as the English language. To be perceived as conversationally fluent in Spanish, you need to know roughly 2,500 words.
Yep – just 2.5%.
What will 1,000 words get you?
1,000 conversational words in Spanish will allow you to communicate reasonably well. Now what about Construction Spanish?
If you speak 100 key Construction Spanish terms, you will be shocked and amazed at how much easier your life is on the jobsite.
Want to see for yourself?
Say “yes.”
Try these 3 words on for size.
¿Qué tal?
(kay TAHL)
How’s it going?
Use these for the next week and you will start to experience your jobsite differently.
¿Qué tal? is helpful because everyone likes to know their existence is recognized by others. Because of the language barrier (real or imagined), Hispanics are often completely ignored day after day.
Cuidado will increase safety awareness on the job. Hispanics are nearly 2x as likely to be injured or killed on the job largely due to communication barriers. Alerting Spanish-speakers to jobsite risks is never going to hurt.
In the coming months as you are pummeled by the global assault to inform you of the pending birth of some royal British baby… force yourself to learn one new Construction Spanish term each week.
And then tweet me about your success.
Top Ten List
2. Gangnam Style: Song, dance, nearly one billion Youtube hits.
3.  Like: new meaning to an old term via Facebook
4.  Gronkowski: All-world tight end for the New England Patriots
5.  Angry Birds: addictive app where slingshotted birds kill pigs.
6.  Linsanity: Last year’s NBA breakout superstar Jeremy Lin
7.  Kardashian: They are everywhere.
8.  Middleton: Kate Middleton, Prince William’s wife
9.  50 Shades: just Google it.
10. RG III: Robert Griffin III, QB of the Redskins
El Presidente

Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente of Red Angle, a Spanish language training firm focused exclusively on the construcción industry. Hartmann has been successful improving Safety, Productivity and Profitability by speaking Spanish on the jobsite. Hartmann lived in Guadalajara, México, during his undergraduate studies and later earned his MBA. Hartmann also teaches Construction Spanish at Purdue University’s Building Construction Management Program. He has authored two books: Spanish Twins: Start Speaking Spanish on the Construction Site with Words You Already Know and Safety Spanish: Simple Spanish Skills for Solving Safety Problems. Hartmann would love to hear your thoughts digitally at bradley@redanglespanish.com or at 630.234.7321.