Sunday, August 09, 2009

Favourite Buenos Aires Activity #8: Learn Spanish

Learning Spanish was one of our top reasons for choosing Buenos Aires as a place to live. The week we arrived we started classes at Íbero Spanish School in the center of Buenos Aires. It was a good place to start: We had a great teacher (Alejandro), the school organized activities like movies and dinners, and probably most importantly, it was a great way to meet other travelers. In fact, that's where we met Frenchy and Dutchy (a.k.a. Audrey and Eric), with whom we're going to rendez-vous next week in Rio.

Anyway, after a few weeks of commuting to downtown Buenos Aires, which is not entirely unlike midtown NY (read: stressful and smelly), we discovered through the power of the interwebs our current and most-beloved profesora, Sofía. Sofía is part of a Spanish "school" called Ñ. There are 5 or 6 core teachers, and they don't have a school, per se, but teach privately (or in very small groups), either at peoples' apartments or in a cafe or restaurant. Our lessons with Ñ have really been tailored to our skill level and interests, and apparently we've learned something, because on Friday evening we had dinner with Alejandro and his partner, and during the entire meal we spoke only in Spanish. And I think they even understood most of what we said!

In addition to classes, we tried to immerse ourselves in the language with language exchanges, telenovelas, podcasts, and books, newspapers and magazines. At times it wore us out (I still marvel at how drained I feel after a 2-hour class), but not only are everyday interactions exponentially easier now, I'm even starting to feel like I can express myself in Spanish (which in turn makes me feel like less of a dud in social situations).

Links you'll like:

Schools
Íbero Spanish School
Ñ de Español

Language Exchanges
Spanglish BA ~ kind of like speed-dating for language: You're assigned a table with 2-3 other people, and you spend 5 minutes speaking English, then 5 speaking Spanish. Then half the table rotates, and you have a new group with which to chat. The fee is nominal and usually includes a drink.
Conversation Exchange ~ a free conversation exchange that you can do by email or chat, or live and in person! Ken & I both met people using this site and it was a great way to practice our conversation skillz. You don't even have to live in BA to use it.

Podcasts
Spanishpod
News in Slow Spanish
Show Time Spanish

Newspapers & Magazines
Clarin ~ major Argentine newspaper
El Mundo ~ kind of like the NY Times in Spanish
OHLALÁ ~ well-designed and well-written women's magazine
Planeta Joy ~ lots of lists of bests in Buenos Aires (I suspect I will take advantage of their chocotortas list before we leave)

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