Castellano, a veces

The language: So most of you probably heard me talk about how I would completely immerse myself in Spanish here by eschewing any and every situation in which I would be speaking English. Unfortunately, I have encountered a conundrum: if I don’t speak English, I can’t make friends. And friends are essential for: exploring the city, finding out about cool things to do, being happy, exercising one’s vocal chords on a regular basis, aaand of course going out at night. Sooo I caved. I’m still improving, but I speak English to my housemates and classmates. It will probably be worse when I move into the Roadhouse next week (they don’t even eat dinner with a native speaker like I do now), but I’m hoping I can still continue to improve by making some porteño friends…

My teacher this week (who is from Peru) speaks a lot faster than my teacher last week (who was from Costa Rica), which much better for practice. I’m learning lots of fun phrases as well:

  • Onda = a good vibe. So you say that someone “tiene buena onda” to be like “yeah, they’re chill.” They use this all the time, and to describe just about anything. Not completely sure, but I think the empanada guy (I’m now a regular so we’re buds) used it to describe the weather today. So with the band “Onda Vaga,” vaga is like a vagabond or floater, so the name is sort of like “we have a really great hippie vibe.”
  • Hacé la tuya = do your thang/whatever floats your boat…
  • ¡Que bárbaro! = how super/fantastic/grand! Kind of disappointed with this, since Arkansas girl initially told me that it was “bearded” in Central America and therefore similar to “Merlin’s beard!” I’m crossing my fingers that this sounds similarly goofy, though, and plan on using it as much as possible.
  • ¡Mira vos! = Well look atchu! (To be used fairly sassily.)

One kind of problematic thing is that Argentina uses a lot of words that are quite different from Mexican words, which are the ones I use. For instance, a bus is not an “autobus” but a “colectivo,” and you better say you are going to take it with “tomar” and not “coger,” because otherwise you have made a really crude sexual comment. A friend of mine from Panama told me that no one uses “¿En serio?” (seriously?) and that it’s outdated, but here they use it all the time. It’s a big no-no to say “español” here, because they’re a little snooty and don’t want to imply that they speak impure Spanish (like an indigenous dialect). Instead, one must refer to the language as “castellano,” the more specific term. Often in class, I say something that I know is perfect grammar/vocab/etc., my teacher stares at me for a full 5-10 seconds while I feel really dumb, and then she goes, “Oh, ok I understand! That’s so Mexican/Central American of you to say!” And then tells me how to say it like an Argentine.

We’ve been doing some pretty interesting grammar stuff the last couple of days — even the Arkansas girl about to be a Spanish teacher says she’s never studied some of the unique uses of tenses that we’re covering right now. For instance, learned today how to relay information that people have told us, but in a different tense. For example:

  • A: I would go to the store tomorrow, but I have already gone.
  • B to C: He said he would have gone to the store, but he has already been.

But it’s a little harder in Spanish. But really useful. Then we’re also learning how they do this weird thing here where they use the future tense when they’re hypothesizing about something that is occurring in the present. So I think I’m improving. And the Brazilian man who’s no longer in our class told me today that my Spanish sounded better than last week, though that’s probably just because I say simpler things outside of class than in class… but I’ll take it.

ESL: So I’ve been going to this high school classroom to help out with English classes, which is just a thrilling experience for everyone involved. The students love talking to me and asking me about the US, and it’s fascinating to watch people trying to learn English since it’s pretty frustrating in its complexity/inconsistency. They also asked me if I knew anyone famous in the US. Since they’d just been talking about Taylor Swift, I told them that her best friend goes to the University of Kansas and (stretching the truth a liiiitle bit) that some of my friends there probably knew the friend. So two degrees of separation. They were très impressed.

Fútbol: The Copa América is happening right now, and I’ve found that watching fútbol with Carmen’s son (who is house-sitting right now since Carmen went to Peru) is a great way to learn creative Spanish swear words. Tonight was Argentina vs. Bolivia, and it was quite an upset because Bolivia tied Argentina, whereas they should have lost big time. I have learned that making light of the situation (i.e. commenting on the flamboyant tie of the Argentine coach) is inappropriate behavior and will be ignored. More appropriate behavior is taking a drink/slamming one’s fist against the wall every time Argentina fails to score a goal.

Spanglish: In our first outing as a house (super cute), my two housemates and I went to this event called “Spanglish,” which is every night at a different bar and is set up sort of like speed dating, but intended to help people learn English or Spanish. You’re paired with a Spanish-speaker and have to speak for 5 mins in Spanish and 5 mins in English, then move on. It’s actually really fun, and we ended up staying for like an hour after it was over just hanging out with all the people.

But that’s not all:

  • La Bomba del Tiempo: super cool drum circle performance I went to.
  • “Los Secretos de Sus Ojos”: Everyone should seriously see this movie. Argentina doesn’t put out a ton of its own movies, but this one is great and won an Oscar! It’s pretty dark, though.
  • Food: Weirdest thing, but I’ve somehow stopped being hungry in the 1:00-9:00 gap between lunch and dinner. Last night, some people at Spanglish gave me some free pizza, so after dinner at home I experienced the fairly foreign feeling of being over-full. I realized that I’m never very full here, which is funny because I remember that the sensation of being just a little too full was one I felt after every single meal in Texas this summer. American eating vs. Argentine eating: portion control.
  • I have to text in Spanish because of my phone’s T9, which is unexpected but helpful practice! I made one (!!) amigo porteño who has texted me in castellano, and it is VER exciting/educational.

On the agenda:

  • This weekend, my two friends from class and my girl housemate are both out of town, so my Irish housemate will continue to be my source for social events. Unless my new porteño friend decides to invite me to a sweet fiesta.
  • I’m moving into the program’s student residence on Sunday, which will be fun but probsably not great for my castellano. I’m kind of bummed because I really like my housemates and the food I get every night. Three weeks of cereal, pasta and sandwiches commences in two days. Meh.
  • All-day 4th of July celebration at Sugar, the other Alamo-type place in town (this one is owned by a Floridian). I COULD not be more excited. Actually. I’m going straight after class and intend to darty, drinner, and return for the nighttime celebration.
P.S. : A. Guz wins for most dedicated blog-follower. Majorrr kudos.
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