South America

Thoughts on language skills after two months in Buenos Aires

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So this week marks two months right on the dot(60 days or so) and I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s post to what has helped my Spanish language skills and what I need to work on.

What has helped

Meeting people before coming here and meeting more people through the internet

Before I came here, I knew more or less 10 people. Those are the people who I’ve been able to practice my Spanish with and who I’ve learned the most from. It’s seems easier to meet people on the internet or at an event than at the university(opposite of what I expected).

Watching movies, TV shows, and listening to the radio in Spanish

Even after practicing with an Argentinian for eight months before arriving here, I still have had trouble in these first two months with listening and understanding everyone that speaks to me. However, I’ve watched a few Argentine movies and a few episodes of a TV show called Solamente Vos, which have both helped A LOT. I also try and listen to the radio every day and either listen to music or talk shows. Both also have helped a lot.

Dedicating one day a week to English

I think before I came here I was expecting everything to immediately translate/change into Spanish. Obviously, that’s not the case! My parents and friends still speak to me in English, my Facebook feed is still mostly English, etc. etc. But, I’ve empirically learned that if I dedicate one day to English-phone calls to friends and family, writing on my blog, reading in English-it’s easier for me to focus on and think in Spanish.

Living with a host family as oppose to by myself

I hadn’t thought much about this before hand but I’m really glad I found a family to rent a room from off Craigslist. I am forced to speak Spanish whenever I’m at home which has had positive effects on my speaking skills.

Trying to only speak in Spanish with my American friends

This has been a challenge since I’ve been here. It’s hard because when I’m with a group of Americans, the majority of the time I’m speaking English. What has helped though is speaking to any Americans I meet in Spanish and giving off the vibe that, “Hey, I only want to speak in Spanish.” Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t but at least trying to do it has helped me improve my language skills.

What I need to work on

A system for learning new words and phrases

I’m still trying to find a system that will serve me best to learn new words and phrases. Everyday, there is a word that I don’t know in Spanish but need during a conversation. The one idea I came up with just recently is to write down the words that I want to know in Spanish in my journal before  I go to bed and then look them up the next night and study them before I write my next journal entry. I don’t know if it will work but I’m willing to give it a shot.

Speaking more with locals

Like I mentioned above, it’s easiest to meet Argentinians on the internet for me. I’ve been searching for more events such as concerts or festivals and meetups to meet more people but I have yet to actually go. I need more practice with natives because it’s the best way to improve my speaking skills.

Reading and pronunciation

I should be reading a little bit everyday because it’s a great exercise for learning new vocabulary and phrases and recognizing grammar structures. I also need to work on my pronunciation because I still have difficulty with some sounds in particular.

Of course there are other aspects I need to work on regarding my Spanish but these are the ones I believe I should focus on to achieve fluency the fastest. If you have any tips or thoughts, feel free to share them! 🙂

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P.S.- For fun and to see my progress with the language, I’ve recorded videos of me speaking in Spanish and plan to record more throughout the remainder of my study abroad.

20 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/9WXYFaCdgHc

8 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/uGHpFKGajVk

5 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/CVHvfydx5CA

8 weeks in Buenos Aires: Americans are overly polite

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Wow! The time really flies here. I can’t believe it’s been eight weeks. Here are a few new things I’ve noticed since I’ve been here. Hope you enjoy! 🙂 Free free to share any thoughts below!

Buying groceries means 3 trips instead of just one

Back home in Arizona, I’m used to making only one trip for all my groceries. However, here in Buenos Aires, I make three! Obliviously, not everyone does this but I find it to be more cost-effective to purchase meat from the butcher shop, bread from the bakery, and the rest of my groceries at the supermarket.

Americans are overly polite

Not everyone has said this but a few people I’ve met here have said that the Americans they know are overly polite and always saying “thank you” and apologizing too often. I think the difference may be that Americans tend to be more courtesy in their words and Argentinians with their actions. I am not saying this applies to everyone but this is my hypothesis for now.

Washing dishes by hands

I almost completely forgot that dishwashers exist til I thought about this the other day! In my homestay, and other Argentine homes I’ve visited here, you wash the dishes by hand and then dry them. I think it keeps the kitchen cleaner than having a dishwasher because you simply wash each dish after you use it(for me at least).

Bus lines are run by private companies?

I researched this on a superficial level and couldn’t find much  but I believe private companies operate the bus lines. If you look closely on the inside of the bus, usually you’ll see the name of a company such as Empresa Tandilense S.A., which owns and operates line 152. However, the government subsidizes the fares.

3 weeks in Buenos Aires: more observations

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Today marks my 3rd week here in this metropolis called Buenos Aires. This will be the second post(read the first one here) I have written regarding my observations and things that have caught my attention while living here.  Just a fore-warning, this one is longer than the last one but should be just as interesting!

The custom for introducing yourself is a kiss on the cheek

The most common way to introduce yourself to a person(male or female) is to kiss them on the check(or kiss the air next to their cheek). I remember learning about this in a class during my first semester in college but I completely forgot and made a fool more than once during the first week.

It’s uncommon to walk barefoot in your house 

At my host family’s house, everyone walks around with shoes on. Now I don’t know how widely practiced this custom is but I do know that it’s practiced in other host family houses, according to a few other students.

When you go out for the night, you probably get home til 7am

Before I came to Argentina, my friend Nico told me that when you go out at night here, you stay out until the sun comes up. I told him that wasn’t going to be me. As it so happens, he was right. Usually, you leave your house around 11 or 12, go drink at a bar until 2 or 3 and then afterwards, go to a boliche, or club to dance.

The traffic light shines yellow light before a red light AND before a green light

I have no idea if this happens in other parts of the United States or even world but before the traffic light shines green, it shines yellow. I don’t if this has positive or negative side effects but I noticed this while riding in a taxi home one day.

You have to weigh your fruit/vegetables/meat/etc. before you checkout at the grocery stores

Instead of weighing your fruits and vegetables at the checkout, you have to wait inline near the produce section and have a clerk weigh your items and stick the price tag on them before you pay-not a big deal. It was more something that I didn’t realize would be different.

Professors don’t use Powerpoint presentations in class: they only lecture

Wow! This was totally unexpected. Since the classes are taught in Spanish, it’s especially hard to take notes AND listen to the professor lecture at the same time. I know I’ll get used to it after we move more along into the semester(this is the second week of the semester).

Everyone cleans their driveway/storefront

I don’t believe this is common in larger cities but I wouldn’t have enough experience/knowledge to say if this is common or not. Basically, in the morning you’ll see store owners or janitors cleaning the sidewalk in front of their complex or property. Where I come from, it would be very unusual to see someone scrubbing their driveway.

Cigarette smoke is UBIQUITOUS

It would be realistically impossible to go a day without breathing secondhand-smoke. Everyone smokes here and there is no escape. Even at the university! People smoke near the single, university building and sometimes the tall, wide doors open just enough to “click” and stay open to allow the unpleasant cigarette smoke to linger all the way to the eleventh floor.

That’s the end of my observations for this blog! Next week, I plan to write about the gastronomy of Buenos Aires that I will have encountered thus far. If you have any comments or thoughts, feel free to share them below 🙂

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