Step 1: Get to South America, Step 2: Learn some Spanish, Step 3: Speak Spanish…easy right?
We hoped this trip would provide increased language skills that could connect us with the Spanish-speaking world. Carmen and I both studied Spanish in high school. Carmen even did a year at Cal. The end result was that I knew a lot of grammar, but could not speak and Carmen was pretty good, but needed some practice.
We decided to start our South American journey in Buenos Aires, which has become a destination for Spanish language schools to setup shop.
We attended this amazing school called Vamos Spanish Academy in the trendy neighborhood of Palermo. A week before the class started we took an online exam to test our grammar and verb conjugation skills. On the first day one of the teachers pulled us aside and talked to us in Spanish to really calibrate our level.
What made the school great was the focus on speaking. For 20 hours a week we were in a classroom speaking, reading, listening and most of all learning the language. The class sizes are small (6 students max) which is essential. My teacher was really phenomenal- she was encouraging and skillful in tuning my pronunciation and building my vocabulary. We got along well – by the end of my classes I was known as the chupa media (literally sock licker, but translates to teacher’s pet).
In the classroom the teacher works a set curriculum established by a series of worksheets, language exercises, discussions and games. The amount of written worksheets is a little excessive and I had wished that there was more time just speaking, and more worksheets done as homework. Nevertheless, the curriculum of worksheets they have created is really amazing and definitely helped me improve my understanding of the nuances of the language.
The classrooms are tucked into a pretty two-story building. They are small, but well-lit each with whiteboards and a shared large table. The staff puts on several workshops and events throughout the week. We attended workshops on spotting fake money and theft scams as well as the lumfardo (slang)that we could listen for, and use, in Buenos
One of the absolute best parts of Vamos is the community of people. On the first day of class we were instantly immersed into a friendship with Argentine natives and foreign travelers with short-term and permanent plans for Buenos Aires. Everyone we met was eager to explore South America and we all shared a passion for travel. It was nice to know we weren’t the only ones who left everything behind just to see the world.
The end result of the language school was all positive. It was a wonderful experience all around. We learned. I think most of all it assisted in getting our tongues moving with conversation. Leaning Spanish is a slow process. Carmen and I both dealt with days of intense frustration; a clogging of the mind where it is so difficult to get out what we really want to say. The effort to talk becomes exhausting, but each time you actually communicate is exhilarating. There is a burst of adrenaline with every moment where we get our questions answered by a waiter or have a little conversation on the bus or a chat with a new Argentine friend. Learning to speak a language is hard, and day-by-day we improve.
Hasta la vista!