Learning another language is very hard. Even though I have studied Spanish in high school, college, studied abroad in Spain and had lived in Argentina for the past year, my Spanish still wasn’t where I would have liked it to be. The main problem I had was that, although I could speak quickly and understand almost everything that was said to me, I developed numerous bad habits and misused a number of verbs and phrases that resulted in my Spanish sounding very “rough”. Fortunately, given the fact that I worked for a Spanish language institute, I had access to some excellent Spanish teachers who could help me break these habits and teach me how to speak more fluidly.
On my first day of class, it was kind of weird getting used to “learning” again as it had been about 3 years since I had stepped foot into a classroom and the idea of doing Spanish exercises and working on pronunciation was a bit foreign. The one thing that jumped out at me right away was how hard it was for me to talk about things and describe situations that I usually didn’t discuss with my friends, work collegues or during my day-to-day routine. Like I said, I was stuck in a certain pattern of Spanish where I relied on my “surefire” verbs and vocabulary to communicate myself so to step out of this comfort zone was challenging to say the least.
The one thing that definitely helped me was my teacher’s approach to teaching; she immediately made me feel comfortable and told me to not be embarrassed or upset if I made an error, as this is the number one thing that holds people back from really improving their language skills. Another thing that really assisted in my learning was trying different types of exercises. From reading texts and doing a critical analysis on said text to writing essays to watching a movie in Spanish and describing what happened, these were things that I never would have done on my own but that paid immediate dividends as I (as well as my friends and colleagues) noticed that my Spanish really improved within a short amount of time. Towards the end of my time taking classes (I took 2 months of individual lessons in total) I found myself completely committed to doing my homework, thinking about questions I had about Spanish that I could ask my professor and overall looking forward to each Tuesday when I got to meet with my teacher to improve my Spanish.
After having taken classes in Buenos Aires, I guess one piece of advice I have for those who are planning on taking classes during your time here is that you should really center your trip around your Spanish learning during your stay. That isn’t to say that you should be studying day and night during your entire stay in Buenos Aires but rather you should take advantage of the fact that you are in a Spanish speaking country where your learning doesn’t have to end once you step out of the classroom. Pay attention to what people say on the street and never hesitate to ask someone the meaning of a word that you don’t understand as most people are more than willing to correct your Spanish (and even teach you some lunfardo slang). This way, you not only will have a blast living in a South American city and meeting awesome people but will also improve your Spanish skills; something that could benefit you both professionally and personally down the road.