Sunday, March 23, 2008

Aprendiendo Español

Learning Spanish has been a challenge. For the most part, I have felt like I don't understand much and can't say much. The teachers, however, have been excellent. They speak almost entirely in Spanish during class. They use English words only when they can't explain the meaning of a word or concept in Spanish, either because the students are being slow or because there's no similar word in both languages to help the students make the connection.

There is also some conversation that goes on between students during class if one student knows the word and can help communicate it to the others. On occasion, the teacher isn't able to relay the idea and the students aren't following, so out comes the dictionary. I recall one specific instance when the teacher wrote the word for blackboard on the board, and we were trying to figure out if it actually meant blackboard or whiteboard. Another of the students said "What's the word for dry erase board?" We all cracked up. I was laughing pretty hard.

Although the teachers tend to enunciate clearly and speak a bit slowly for the sake of the students, most people on the street don't and I usually start out a conversation with a blank look on my face. Sometimes, I end up being able to converse some. My teeny, tiny vocabulary doesn't help matters any. So, I bought a few packs of fichas—flash cards—and am compiling a big list of vocab and expressions. We've also gone over pronouns, some past tenses, and a variety of expressions and common sentence structures.

Although I feel like I still completely suck at Spanish (because I do), I suspect I will just slowly improve until I'm chatting away with the natives. It sure is frustrating and humiliating, though. There's no doubt I could use a good dose of humility (any of my friends reading this will be nodding their heads), so this is all probably for the best. By the time I get to Nicaragua, my good friends the Mingos can give me their analysis of my newly gained languages skills. Muchas gracias to my teachers here in Buenos Aires for their skill and patience.

My time in COINED is done (I'm adding this last paragraph on Sunday morning), but I will be starting private lessons outside the school tomorrow. I'll be traveling to the apartment of the teacher each day for the duration of the week and will have those lessons for a couple hours a day. I also just moved out of the "host family's home" this morning and am now sitting on my bed in Avenue Hostel typing and posting a few blog entries. I will be here for one week—then onward and westward.


Anonymous said...

RE: "Humility"

Have you ever talked to a shrink and have them tell you that recognizing the problem is half the battle?

What they never bother to explain is that it's the small half (about 35%), which leaves one with the job of getting over the problem (65%) without offending someone in an unsolveable manner.

I'd blather on, but the well of common knowledge always overflows and I forgot my mop and bucket...

BTW, where is Patagonia?!? I assume that it's somewhere around Tierra del Fuego, but I lost my Whirled Atlas and can't find it.

Buenos Dias!

Roger from DPR said...

Cant wait to see the shots from patagonia!

Jay said...


Patagonia is pretty much the entire southern half of Argentina. It's a pretty big piece of real estate. Should be a good trip.

I never did figure becoming humble would be easy, but thanks for the encouragement...65%, eh?