Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A word about the language

I'm back from Argentina as of this morning. I'm jet lagged, and I chose not to save too much water when showering today. I'm gradually starting to work my way through everything that has accumulated in my absence: laundry, mail, unmowed grass, and just shy of two thousand photos. I promise I will get to blogging about the trip itself, and putting up more photos very soon. (Those more interested in photos should keep an eye on the flickr link on the right side of the screen.)

There are many stories to tell of a trip such as this, people, places, reactions. For now, I would like to provide just a bit of background and context regarding my command (or lack thereof) of Spanish, because that aspect has colored the entire trip.

I know Spanish, at least sort of. To say that one knows a second language is always a relative thing. I think I can safely say that I know considerably more Spanish than most American high school student, since I started as an American high school student. I got good grades, which reflected more an ability to do grammar exercises than anything like confidence or command of the language.

I got a variety of reactions and results speaking Spanish (or trying to) with people in Argentina. If I can sit down with someone one-on-one in a fairly quiet place, I can carry on an understandable if not necessarily eloquent conversation. At the same time, Argentinian Spanish is rather different than the mainly-Mexican Spanish I usually hear on the radio at home in California, and when a waiter or shopkeeper mumbles some unfamiliar, short phrase nothing whatever goes in. Thus, I ate entire meals in Spanish, but at the same time convinced a number of waiters that it was time to attempt some English. Slang, especially anything regional to that part, is pretty much hopeless.

Mostly, though, the people I encountered were very encouraging, slowing down when I asked them to, and quite a few sort of "adopting" me, ranging from other visitors to folks on the street to hotel staff. One subway official detected that I was hopelessly turned around and handed me a map, then followed me down the wrong ramp and saw to it that I started down the right one. Just about everyone of whom I asked an earnest question (however awkward my Spanish) took the time to point me in the right direction, advise, or support my journey, in large and small ways. I think that, even more than scenery, was what made the trip so much fun.


Anonymous Juan Ignacio Iglesias said...

Hey, I met you here in Argentina, we talked about an alternative firmware for your camera.

Did you get my mail?

17 September, 2009 10:53  
Blogger Dvortygirl said...

I did, and it filtered to the bottom of my inbox. It looks very cool, though, and I will take a look.

Thanks for checking in.

17 September, 2009 15:05  

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