On arrival in Buenos Aires one thing to get used to is the language. Even if you learned Spanish as they speak in Europe, the porteños will have a few surprises to throw your way and send you off track.
On the other hand, if you’re a Spanish beginner and just need to learn a few quick phrases to help you get around and do the important things – eating in restaurants, ordering drinks in bars, shopping, asking for assistance – then help is at hand.
The established Expanish language school has recently started a new course aimed at helping both groups – the Spanish Crash Course. It focuses on practical Spanish and aims to provide the tools to get by in Argentina, in short, sharp, energetic lessons.
Courses are scheduled in the afternoon from 4pm until 6pm, so fit in with the timetable of students taking morning group lessons. Indeed, the four other students taking the ‘Eat, Drink and Practice your Spanish’ module with me one Monday took these as additional classes to their two weeks of morning group lessons, and in preparation for two weeks of volunteering at a local school.
The crash courses started in May this year and have proven popular. There is no need to take all lessons in any one week, and it is possible to sign up and pay the $80 per lesson just minutes before 4pm. Limited to a maximum of 15 students per group, we were luckily enough to be just five. The teacher, Clara, started off talking with us about food in Argentina, asking our preferences and guiding us through the types of food (in Spanish), the customs, and the reasons behind them.
For example, when taking us through the various cuts of bife, we were told the reasons behind the name matambre. It is the part of the cow that is easily accessible and cooks quickly. It is eaten by gauchos while they wait for other parts to cook on the open fire. The word itself is a mixture of mata (dead) and hambre (hungry) – matambre.
This followed with a role play situated in a restaurant. All were given parts to play and a script in English, and given time to prepare our lines in Spanish before acting out a typical restaurant scenario. A great and fun way to learn, especially from both your own and others’ mistakes, and in a lively environment. The only way we could learn more about Argentine food would be if the bife de chorizo and vino tinto I ordered physically appeared.
The modules cover a different area each day, ranging from eating in restaurants, shopping, travelling, everyday fundamentals and socialising. Its a fun and flexible way to get to grips with the basics of castellano without taking formal lessons where the focus is more on grammar and long term learning. And for those wanting to spend more time studying each topic, the hand-outs contain enough vocabulary and further information to keep them busy for hours.