My Spanish Immersion Experience in Buenos Aires Argentina
After finishing university in England earlier this year, I knew I wanted to do something a bit more challenging than following the usual route of finding a job in London. Above all, I wanted to put myself out of my comfort zone and explore a new country. I have always wanted to learn another language and after being told numerous times that the best possible way to learn a language is by immersing yourself in the culture and actually going to the country. The next thing I knew I was booking my flight to Argentina.
Having never studied Spanish before and not being able to speak one word, I knew from the beginning that this was not going to be a walk in the park. The most common response I got when telling friends and family what I had decided to do (moving to a new city for a year without being able to speak the language), was how exciting it sounded but also how scary. Nervous and excited are the two words I feel best described my thoughts on coming to Buenos Aires. So far, after a month of having been here now, I can confirm that both these feelings are still very much present (excitement more so than nerves). Even though I could have learnt Spanish in Spain, a country much nearer to home, it was the endless praise that I had heard about Buenos Aires regarding its amazing food, restaurants, bars, café culture, nightlife and parks, just to name a few, that made my decision a pretty easy one. And I can most definitely say I have not been disappointed so far! Check this Incredible Time Laps from Buenos Aires
I arrived on a Saturday morning at the beginning of September, which is the start of Spring in Argentina. Although it hasn’t been as warm as I thought so far, I have been assured that the heat is on its way (I can´t wait). I was nervous and exhausted but so excited to be somewhere I had never been before. It didn’t take long for the language barrier to be a problem however; I have found myself and the taxi driver not being able to communicate a single word. My first experiences in any shops were more of a game consisting of me pointing at what I wanted to buy and unable to actually say what I wanted. It was then that I knew the best thing to do was to actually sit down and learn Spanish if I was going to get anywhere on my adventure!
As an university graduate not being able to communicate with other adults is definitely a unique experience for me; going back to the very basics when you learn as a child, pointing and using your hands to express how you feel! Something seemingly as simple as asking for directions becomes hugely difficult. I am sure anyone who has visited a new country without speaking the language can relate to these feelings. While it can be extremely frustrating at times, there is nothing more rewarding than when you begin to understand what someone is saying to you. Whether it be as simple as being able to reply when someone asks “¿Cómo estás?” (How are you?), to recognising words in shops and restaurants, it was such a satisfying feeling. Also, I am sure many people who choose to go to a language school also share the same view that the idea of going “back to school” is initially quite daunting. However, you soon realize that for the very first time (for me, anyway), you are in lessons because you actually want to be there. And you truly want to learn. I can honestly say I have never felt such a desire to learn and understand something that right now seems so alien to me.
As geography has never been my forte, Buenos Aires’ grid system has made finding my way around that bit easier. Don’t get me wrong, I was constantly feeling lost when I first arrived but once you get to grips with the blocks, as we called them ‘cuadras’ here, it’s actually very straightforward. As I am starting to adjust to living in a new city, I also often find myself in situations that I did not plan to get into, again probably due to the language barrier I am constantly faced with. Just last week whilst exploring the city, I briefly popped my head into a museum just to have a quick browse but before I knew it I was suddenly on a private guided tour with a tour guide and a translator (who couldn’t really speak English) so my five minute detour turned into an hour and a half history lesson on Argentina. I definitely had not intended for this to be the outcome but was very appreciative of how friendly they were. This is one of the aspects that I have loved about my visit so far, every day offers something new and different, there are never two days the same.
Not long after this experience my Spanish (or lack of) failed me a second time when I thought I was ordering a mere slice of, as the waitress put it in English for me, “a cake sent to earth from God”, only to find that I had in fact agreed to buy much more than that – a whole 5lb cake full of dulce de leche, chocolate, cream, oreo cookies and merengue! Thankfully, I am living with 6 other people in a shared house so I knew if I took it home it would not last long at all, and I was sure the others would be extremely grateful of this decadent treat.
It’s been one extremely quick month since my arrival. I am just getting started to appreciate Buenos Aires city for its true beauty and the many incredible experiences it has to offer. I cannot wait to continue discovering its hidden gems over the next year and really pick up the Argentine Spanish language along the way.