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Get your Spanish on at Museo de las Americas tonight

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When I was a Spanish minor in college, I realized toward the middle of my degree that there was only one way to learn -- to really learn -- a foreign language: to speak it. As much grammar as I knew (and I got really into the grammar -- I'm a nerd like that), as many books as I read, the best thing remained speaking and listening -- but if you're like me, you know that, even in the American west, where there's no shortage of native Spanish-speakers, finding the opportunity to do that is harder than it might seem. Tonight, Museo de las Americas offers you just that chance with Spanish Happy Hour -- and you don't even have to know Spanish to get in on it. Also, there's free booze.

"We want people to come who have never spoken Spanish before all the way up to native speakers," says the Museo's Tessa Harvey. Because although the night is centered around conversing in Spanish, the goal is to make it a learning experience. "People can kind of sense how much you speak -- there's generally a little back and forth with English and Spanish."

Which, I can attest from personal experience, is really an ideal atmosphere for conversing -- where bilingual native speakers will normally switch to English if they sense their English is better than your Spanish; in an environment like this, they know you're trying to learn, so they'll be a little more accommodating. And at this night, even if all you know is "Buenos días," you can count on people being there who will want to help you along.

If that's not enough, then consider that the $5 admission price ($3 for students) includes booze. Each Spanish Happy Hour night centers around a cocktail from the LatinmAmerican world, and tonight's topic is cachaza, a Brazilian liqueur distilled from sugar cane. For those interested, there'll be a short presentation on its origins and uses. "If people want to come over and learn about it, they can," says Harvey. "Or they can just drink it."

Spanish Happy Hour goes down on the third Friday of every month, but this month marks a particularly fine reason to go -- after all, it's the Mexican Bicentennial. The event doesn't really have anything specifically to do with that, and the bicentennial happened yesterday -- but whatever. How much reason do you need to party in Spanish? The fiesta goes from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Museo, 861 Santa Fe Drive.

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