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The Scoop on Intercambios – A Guide to Language Exchanges here in Buenos Aires

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One of the great things about learning Spanish here in Buenos Aires is that you are able to be immersed in the language.  It is one thing to simply take Spanish classes in your native language in your home country.  It is quite a different experience to step out of the classroom here in Argentina’s capital city and constantly be engaged with native Spanish speakers, whether at the pharmacy, grocery store, bar, or subway.

A unique experience for the Expanish student is the chance to take part in intercambios, usually a staple of the weekly activities at the school.  An intercambio is a group of interested speakers of different languages that want to learn from native speakers of languages not normally found in this cosmopolitan city.  Porteños and foreigners alike flock to these events, which offer a chance to practice your speaking skills and make some new friends as well.

This past week, I had the chance to attend one such intercambio, hosted by Mundo Lingo.  Ariel Eiberman, a native porteño, and his partner Benji Moreira, a British expat, decided to start Mundo Lingo two years ago.  “Benji and I realized that there were not enough venues and opportunities for expats to mingle with local Argentines who wanted to work on their language skills,” said Ariel.  “Here at Mundo Lingo, we are trying to create language communities that continue to interact beyond the multiple meetings we have each week.  We have had some success creating such communities for Italian, German, Chinese, Spanish, and English speakers and we hope to keep adding more each month!”  These communities are led by an ambassador which organizes cultural activities such as cooking classes, shows, and movies.

At the heart of the organization’s mission, however, are the intercambios.  Mundo Lingo is dedicated to providing a relaxed atmosphere in which people of all nationalities can dialogue with each other.  All of their events are completely free to attend and they organize drink specials for intercambio participants at the various bars where the intercambios are held.

I arrived at Soria Bar in Palermo last Wednesday at around 9pm with a group of friends from school.  We were able to quickly enter the bar and headed towards the registration table.  The Mundo Lingo staff greeted us and orientated us with the intercambio process.

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soriaWe all received stickers with flags representing languages which we were able to converse in.  Participants place the sticker representing their native language on the top of a row of stickers indicating all languages that they are able to speak.  For myself, I took stickers for the United States and Argentina.

We then moved to a small, tree covered courtyard in the middle of the bar, and that’s when the fun really began.  I had a chance to converse with a bunch of new people in both English and Spanish.  The native Spanish speakers were very encouraging of my attempts to improve my speaking and to rid myself of the last vestiges of my gringo accent (a very difficult feat I must admit).  I also thoroughly enjoyed helping porteños bring their English up to scratch.

Over three hours flew by before we made our way out of the bar.  I had made a bunch of new friends from a host of different countries.  I think I will definitely be heading back for more Mundo Lingo and other language exchange events held around the city.

As a reminder to all Expanish students, don’t forget to ask for your Expanish sticker to put next to your language flags!

Here is a list of the weekly events that Mundo Lingo holds as well as the corresponding venues:

Tuesdays: 9pm at Temple Bar, Marcelo T de Alvear 945

Wednesdays: 9pm at Soria Bar, Gorriti 5151

Fridays: 9pm at Bar Duarte, Godoy Cruz 1725

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