The Last Day of School

Today was our last language lesson in Buenos Aires. Although we’ve only been taking them for two weeks, those two weeks have proved to be exhausting. Just sitting there for two hours every day trying to think in nothing but Spanish was mentally taxing, but we also had homework every night which was to read three articles in the newspaper, underline and identify the verbs, and then write summaries for each one. I am pleased to report, though, that even for such a short amount of time, my speaking has improved tremendously. At first I was very self-conscious, but then I read something that made me feel so much better. These are the instructions on the box containing a hairdryer that was made in China:

  1. Use please not to defend the electricity blowy into place with a draught with place with a draught, will lead otherwise with the result that burn or machine damage.

  2. To insure power supply for using electric voltage blow with this electricity the breeze the mark calls that the electric voltage agrees with to match.

  3. Do not want to will blow the breeze used for blowing the hair with whole hair excluding of use.

After reading these instructions I came to two conclusions. The first is that the guy this company hired to translate the instructions on their products clearly lied on his resume. The second is that no matter how bad I think my Spanish is, it will never be that incomprehensible. I will always be able to communicate something meaningful. I may not conjugate the verb correctly. I may get the syntax wrong. I may tell someone that there is someone in my eye rather than something. But I can understand people and they can understand me and that is why I came here. Mind you I’m not quitting now, I have a lot of work to do, but I’m feeling like I have actually accomplished something.

Even so, the accent is still lacking. After two straight weeks I have still not been able to pronounce the words “aceite” or “Europa” to our tutor’s satisfaction. “No no no no no no no!” she would say. “Escucha. A-cei-te.”

“But that’s how I am saying it,” my brain would whine. To sidestep this defect of mine I decided to avoid conversations about where I purchased my olive oil.

Also, I still hate the subjunctive tense. The subjunctive tense has 775 different uses and rather than working on committing them to memory, I have spent my time thinking of alternative ways to say things that may or may not require the subjunctive. This sometimes leads to painful thought contortions and probably more work than just learning the damn subjunctive.

But I am delighted that I have made serious gains in understanding the Argentine accent. When we first got here it sounded like everyone was speaking in a made-up language reminiscent of Italian. But I think I have a pretty good handle on it now. *Warning: linguicentric remark* But I still think that the only thing crazier than a double “l” making a “y” sound is a double “l” making a “sh” sound.

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