The Capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, celebrates all cultures. First and foremost, its very own Porteño [Port] culture. And with a competitive standing, United States Culture. Trivia Night served to exemplify this sentiment. One of the most rewarding aspects of my experience with Vamos Spanish has been the events that we organize each week. Generally, you can look forward to three events a week that will immerse you in the Argentine culture, and leave you feeling like you want to stay longer. This was certainly true this Monday with my experience at the Mate Club.
An excellent way to become immersed in the Porteño culture is to speak to as many of the locals as possible during your travel. One of the best tools for this is to engage in the popular intercambios [language exchanges], such as the Mate Club de Conversación [Mate Conversation Club]. Residents will hold intercambios to give the locals the chance to speak English, and foreigners the opportunity to speak castellano [Spanish Language]. Mate club also has a 20% discount for students of Vamos Spanish, so I Strongly recommend you try them out!
Mate Club’s latest special event is hosting Trivia Nights in an intercambio setting. This means questions asked in both Spanish and English, and questions revolving around global history, science, Argentinian and United States cultures. The coordination and diversity of the types of questions kept the audience captivated in participation. There were moments where Casa Malta (Guatemala 4570) erupted with loud cheers of the participants as the answers to questions were revealed, such as “What is the other profession of the Captain for the English team in the 2018 World Cup?” As it turns out, that very talented man is also a practicing dentist!
When I entered the bar, the coordinator for Mate Club greeted me and united me with my team. Speaking Spanish at a decent level, I was placed with four Porteños and had the chance to introduce myself. After a light-hearted and pleasant salutation, we came up with the team name Brigada Cola [Tail Brigade], a very popular TV show from Buenos Aires in the 90’s. Before the games started, I offered my first bit of trivia to the group by asking them if they knew one of the actors from the show, Hector Echavarria. They recognized that I shared the same name as the actor in question, one responded by asking if my parents had named me after him. To which I conceded ‘In some ways.” The reality is that my father is that actor! They were elated and greeted me with open arms, and so we adopted the name Brigada Cola
As the night went on we talked about culture, history, and about what makes Buenos Aires so great- the people. The Trivia night was a great way to make friends and learn a lot about Buenos Aires and Argentine culture, while also being able to proudly wear my American Stripes. While they introduced me to artists from Buenos Aires like Gustavo Cerati as I was able to share about English music through David Bowie’s Let’s Dance. The film section covered some American classics such as Fargo and introduced me to El Secreto de Sus Ojos [The Secret in Their Eyes], an Oscar-winning film from here in Argentina.
The Mystery Beer portion of the games included a Four-Round Flight to guess which beer was which!
As the game wound down we couldn’t help but just chatted the night away. I was able to get incredible practice Spanish by bonding with amazing individuals and learn some amazing things about Buenos Aires during my time at the intercambio. I strongly recommend this as a great way to practice your Spanish in a very authentic setting during your time in Argentina.
There are many sociable language exchange opportunities here in Buenos Aires with Mate Club de Conversacion being just one of them. They meet three times a week and drink mate [the classic Argentine tea] which will give you a healthy boost of energy to keep the conversation going. Another popular option is Mundo Lingo. This is a multinational language exchange that has meetups all around the world. The one that takes place in the City of Buenos Aires meets up to four times a week. I strongly recommend this option especially if you have more languages under your belt and want to exercise them.
Lastly, there is Spanglish Exchange. They adopt the ‘speed-dating’ format where you’ll be paired up with conversational partners and cycled through different people as the event goes on. You’re asked to speak Spanish for five minutes, go to English for five more, then back to Spanish and so on… This way, both types of natives get to practice their fair share. If you tend to be shy and need a little nudge when schmoozing with strangers, this could be a good place to start. Wherever you go, just to make sure you feel comfortable and enjoy yourself. After all, that’s when the best learning takes place!
The intercambios have been one of my favorite ways to practice my Spanish outside of the Vamos Spanish classrooms. There are many other places to learn, such as Tango classes, or bars, but the common theme in learning is a willingness to reach out and share about yourself while learning about others.
Written by Hector Echavarria, currently taking Spanish lessons, organizing social events for the Vamos Spanish community, and embracing Buenos Aires lifestyle.