Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Where Were You a Month Ago?

Class 7 delved into the world of food, Argentina-style. It covered the Argentine staples of maté and alfajores, and illustrated how to order in a restaurant. I have been waiting for the restaurant unit as going out to eat is the major interaction I have with Spanish-speaking folks. Two days ago I was at a restaurant/take-out place across the street from my apartment getting empanadas for lunch. I placed my order and was standing at the counter waiting for my empanadas to be warmed. Then, another one of the waiters came up and asked me if I needed anything. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had never learned the word for "order" (or at least couldn't remember learning it). I couldn't tell the guy that I had already ordered my food and was waiting for it. I pieced together a series of nervous smiles, hand signals, and simple phrases to get my point across. It ended up working but was very uncomfortable. If only I had watched class 7 earlier I would have quickly answered "ya pedí" (I think).

There were also a lot of vocabulary words for food that you will see on menus, and the words are often unique to Argentina. For instance, here they call bacon "panceta" not "tocino" as I learned it in high school Spanish and as my Spanish-English dictionary has it. This brings up a bigger point of the importance of learning the type of Spanish the people speak in the place where you will be traveling or living. Often times a routine Spanish-English dictionary is insufficient - you would think that although they may have different words for certain things they would still understand the common dictionary translations. Well, you'd be wrong. My wife and I have run into problems trying to order bacon, fix the toilet, buy ginger all by looking at our dictionary and using words they don't use here. As I have said before, one of the strongest qualities of Bueno, entonces... Learn Spanish is the fact that it teaches real-life Argentine Spanish - something I wish I new more about before I arrived here and something I definitely did not get in 6 weeks of using Rosetta Stone.

Another major thing I learned in this class was that people here will often speak about the past in the presents tense and use context clues to tell the listener the event happened previously. Switching between the tenses is a major hurdle for me and it was nice to hear that I could use the present tense to explain the past and still be understood.

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