What's the most important rule of general conversation? When all else fails just talk about the weather. Given my lack of knowledge of conversational Spanish my conversations often have long periods of silence, however, before Class 17 I didn't necessarily have the ability to invoke the time-honored conversational crutch - discussing the weather. In Buenos Aires, people seem to be quite preoccupied by the weather. We're always told to bundle our kids up more because it's soooo cold, or "you won't believe how hot and humid it gets in the summer." They don't understand that we came from Boston where you just assume that it will be cloudy, cold, and dreary everyday, and if it happens to be nice out, well, that's a win for you. In addition, when we arrived we were told there are two things we shouldn't trust here: taxi drivers and weathermen. Judging from the beautiful day today when rain was forecast, that seems to be pretty much spot-on. My biggest fear before coming here was finding myself at a dinner party having to make conversation. Learning weather vocabulary has helped put this at ease. Now I just need to know how to respond to the inevitable, "psst doc, could you take a look at this rash of mine?"
Much to my excitement, class 17 also began to unravel the secrets of the elusive and mysterious subjunctive tense. I can't figure out for the life of me how to use it. Bueno, entonces... Learn Spanish used useful Spanish phrases such as "I hope it's warm tomorrow" and "I hope it doesn't rain" as a jumping off point for this discussion. The teaching point was to think of the subjunctive tense like you are giving orders to the weather (conjugated the same as the imperative tense) - quite helpful, and a tip I am not likely to forget.
I like the program's ability to seamlessly transition into teaching new concepts without setting of sirens and flashing lights to say "hey, this is a new concept...pay attention!" Normal conversation is not compartmentalized into fifteen minutes of present tense followed my fifteen minutes of past tense, and so on. It is a mixture of all the tenses thrown together easily by native speakers, however, quite arduous for those new to the language. Therefore, a language learning software that mimics how verbs are used in normal conversation is worlds more useful. For instance, Rosetta Stone spends the whole first unit on the present tense, followed by past tense in unit two, and future tense in unit three. This may be a fine method for those who are going to complete the full course before ever using their Spanish, but the structure of Bueno, entonces... Learn Spanish gives you the tools to have realistic conversations entirely in Spanish after having only watched a handful of classes.
There was also a part of the class that was near and dear to my heart. David had a lot of trouble pronouncing the word "veterinaria (veterinarian)" which I struggle with on a daily basis when telling people what I'm doing for work here in Buenos Aires (I currently am teaching private medical English classes to a veterinarian).
Other helpful things from this class were diphthongs (vowels written together and pronounced as a single syllable) which go against the general rule of all letters in Spanish being pronounced separately. We also learned about "dependent prepositions" - ones that are always paired with certain verbs, and are often times not direct translations from English (very difficult for the non-native speaker).