I have been in Argentina for almost five weeks. I now feel right at home and see something new every day. Several weeks ago we started our intensive month of Spanish courses at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba. Our class schedule is usually Monday through Thursday 9:30-3:30, but lucky for us, or unlucky for the achievers, there have been two feriados, national holidays, already during our short time in Córdoba. Between not having class on Fridays and holidays in the middle of the week it has been a little hard for me to tell where the work week ends and the weekend starts, but by no means is this a negative aspect of my study abroad.
My professor for this month, Daniela Nigra, is an amazing teacher; I may say this partly due to her enthusiasm to teach our small class from a very “street-smarts” view, pointing out when certain words or phrases that are grammatically and technically correct have a different connotation with the locals. I want to preface the rest of what I write by saying that I am a very intermediate Spanish-speaker, and by no means do I speak from a standpoint of a fluent speaker. It’s quite the contrary. However, in my thirty-some days in Argentina I have seen rapid and consistent progress in my Spanish-speaking ability. Verbs and nouns that I could never seem to make myself memorize now seem much more accessible.
Something interesting that I have noticed is that as a native English speaker I use so many idioms and colloquial phrases in my conversation. Now in Argentina I have to pay so much more attention to what it is that I literally am trying to say. Nevertheless, so far in Spanish I can understand directions and explanations, pay a bill quickly and politely, and convey my destination to a taxi driver without confusion. However, these things do not happen without asking or mentioning that I do not speak native castellano, Argentinian Spanish.
The people of Córdoba, in my opinion, have a very beautiful articulation; they speak rapidly but softly and are never too stubborn to slow down for a student. Their r’s are more slurred than trilled. Also, in Argentina they use the informal “vos” instead of “tú”, something that I find easier to remember once I’ve already used the wrong tense. “Vos” uses a slightly different conjugation, which thus far hasn’t been too troubling to add into my small bank of Spanish knowledge. It’s been very exciting for me to finally practice what I’ve been studying in classrooms in the states, and the noticeable progress doesn’t hurt at all either. By the end of the day I am tired; learning a language is a very stimulating process, and it does take energy to translate a steady stream of written and spoken information being presented to you. I am very interested to see what I will be capable of doing by July — hopefully dreaming sweet Spanish-speaking dreams.