Survival Spanish for Social Workers, Counselors, and MHPs

Course Outline

The nation’s Hispanic population increased 1.4 million to reach 45.5 million on July 1, 2007, or 15.1 percent of the estimated total U.S. population of 301.6 million, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanics remained the largest minority group, with blacks (single race or multiracial) second at 40.7 million in 2007. With a 3.3 percent increase between July 1, 2006, and July 1, 2007, Hispanics were the fastest-growing minority group.

Being Hispanic means a connection to the Spanish language, although in Latin America there is also a multiplicity of other languages spoken by various groups, e.g., the indigenous peoples. Each Latino group coming to the U.S. spoke Spanish, but each country has its particular way of speaking Spanish. The way the language is spoken varies according to class, regional, ethnic and racial differences within each country.

In working with Hispanic clients language can be such an obvious barrier, challenge, and point of identity that it can sometimes obscure other critical, more subtle aspects of cross-cultural understanding. There are certain cultural nuances or unwritten rules that govern social interactions. These unstated rules can impact the way in which individuals perceive, seek, and receive services. These essential cultural aspects can involve interactions as simple conversational gambits and spatial (physical space) relationships, along with larger institutional issues such as family visiting hours, patient education, and measuring individual responses to pain. Being aware of and understanding the cultural context for these interactions can be a tremendous asset to you as a mental health practitioner, and in your ability to deliver effective care.


  • If you’re a younger provider, even though you will be awarded respect as an authority figure, you should be more formal in your interactions with older Hispanic clients. Formality should not be taken to mean coldness or distance, but rather politeness. It is polite to address Hispanic adults as Señor (Mr.), Don (Sir), Señora (Mrs.), or Doña (Madam)
  • Even if you do not speak Spanish, greeting a person with “Buenos dias” (good morning) or “Buenas tardes” (good afternoon) suggests that you have respect for the Spanish language. These few words become an important cue to people about your positive attitudes towards them as too often Hispanics sense hostility and disdain for their limited use or lack of English. If you speak some Spanish, it is important to remember to always use the formal usted (you) until such time as the client explicitly suggests the use of the informal  (you).
  • Encourage the asking of questions. Out of a sense of respeto (respect) many Hispanic clients tend to avoid disagreeing or expressing doubts to outsiders. They may even be reluctant to ask questions or admit they are confused about the purpose of the meeting. Associated with this is a cultural taboo against expressing negative feelings directly. This taboo may manifest itself in a client’s withholding information, not following instructions, or terminating direct contact.


Learning Objectives

  1. Converse in introductory Spanish with your clients.
  2. Become familiar with unique aspects of Spanish culture.
  3. Interview victims of child abuse.
  4. Distinguish between leading and non-leading questions.
  5. Interview victims of domestic violence.
  6. Discuss with a victim of domestic violence various forms of abuse, such as physical, sexual, psychological, economic, etc.

Course Contents

  1. Introduction to Spanish
    • Spanish Alphabet
    • Spanish Pronunciation and Syllable Division
    • The Number 1 to 21
    • Ordinal Numbers
    • Days of the Week
    • Months of the Week
    • Seasons of the Year
    • The Family (La Familia)
    • Adjectives
    • Grammar Notes
    • Important Expressions (Expresiones Importantes)
    • Greetings
    • Expression of Time
    • Hygiene Supplies
    • Antonyms
    • Body Parts – Partes Del Cuerpo
  2. Numbers
    • Numeros – Numbers From 0 to 99
    • Numbers From 100 to 1999
    • Cien, Ciento
    • Arithmetical Expressions
  3. Days, Months, Dates, Seasons
    • Los Meses del Año
    • La Fecha
    • Las Estaciones del Año
  4. Clock Time
    • Hora del Reloj
    • “A Quarter Past” and “Half Past”
    • Expressing Minutes After the Hour
    • Expressing Time Past the Half-Hour
    • Expressing “A.M.”and “P.M.” in Spanish
    • “At” + Time of Day
    • Other Time Expressions
  5. Adjectives
    • Agreement of Adjectives
    • Adjectives That Follow the Noun
    • Adjectives That Generally Precede the Noun
    • Adjectives That Precede the Noun
    • Adjectives That May Precede or Follow the Noun
  6. Estar, Ser
    • Estar
    • Estar, Ser
    • Ser
  7. Important Expressions
    • Expresiones Importantes
  8. Hispanic Culture
    • Hispanization
    • Religious Diversity
    • Population Information
    • Names
    • Family Structures
    • Communication and Social Interaction
    • Time Orientation
    • Health Beliefs and Practices
    • Health Promotion, Prevention, and Treatment
    • Health Status
    • Behavioral Health Risk Factors
    • Health Screening
    • Maternal and Child Health
    • Diet and Food Practices
    • The Hispanic Family
    • Summary
  9. Interviewing Victims of Child Abuse
    • Protocol for Interviewing Victims Child Abuse by Video Tape
    • Leading and Nonleading Questions
    • Continuum of Questions from Open Ended to Close Ended
  10. Child Sexual Abuse Interview: More Questions
    • The Interview Process
      • Focused Questions
      • Multiple-Choice Questions
      • Yes-No Questions
      • Strategic Use of Questions
  11. Strategies For Interviewing Domestic Violence Clients
    • Interview Process
    • Discussing Abuse
      • Physical Abuse
      • Sexual Abuse
      • Psychological Abuse
      • Economic Abuse
      • Other Issues
      • Interviewing the Child