05 July 2010
An account by Ranshid Katmanda...
...The second part of the learning experience was the immersion element. Ingredients were a good small portable dictionary (preferable with some often used phrases) and the impetus & endeavour to speak with locals despite ever present possibilities that your counterpart will not hear what your saying, reply with a question that you don't understand or have no comprehension and pull the globally accepted face of 50% confusion, 25% futility and 25% idiocy. But this is vital as it will increase your fluency and vocabulary. Armed with my first full day of Spanish I attempted to put this theory practice. Heading out for dinner in San Telmo, I figured what I'd need to say to get a table for 3, even had a by the window phrase should I wish to use it but what confronted me was a blurbed reply which after 5 minutes of gesticulating and dictionary references I realised that they had closed for table service but could give me food for take away(replies will never be simple yes or no but will always have 2-3 options of which you understand 0 options). I was directed to another restaurant, back on the street again I figured out how to say I needed a table for 3, also worked out how to say the previous restaurant had directed me here. Strode into the restaurant and was happy that I was completely understood... so much so that I then told them of my tale to reach their establishment. This produced an odd reaction and more blurbed replies, a few more dictionary references and I realised that the owner, to whom I was no speaking, was telling me that the other restaurant was open and to go back and try them! Back on the street I decided that my Spanish would have to live to fight another day and I opted for a 3rd venue without Spanish and back to finger pointing.
The teaching methodology was structured with verbs tenses all planned, but the most enjoyable element was encouragement to the teacher to ask question and spread the question among the group. This helped as inevitably someone would ask a question that everyone was thinking. The teacher was keen on getting us to learn Spanish and used as little English as possible. Taking breaks when they felt the energy of the class lag and not to a schedule. My next significant immersion event may have been a bit ambitious, heading to Palermo Hippodrome for the Gran Premio Nacional (Argentina's Kentucky Derby or Arc d'Triomphe). Once again practicing what I to say I rolled up to the counter and said I wanted to put $30 on a horse called Fresh Spring, the lady then leaned over the counter turned the speaker on and said ‘what'. Repeating my phrase I was hit with another blurb with without the aid of my dictionary I worked to mean 1 or 3, quick piece of deduction and she was asking whether I wanted to my $30 to win or to place, now with dictionary aid I managed to ask for the bet to be placed... and for all that effort Fresh Spring rode in a respectable but costly 5th.
Towards then end of the week we did more creative writing that allowed us to explore more interesting vocab and a try to say things which would then be corrected. All in all it was a great time to learn Spanish and I was fortunate to find a group that worked well together along with a teacher passionate about people learning Spanish. My final effort in speaking local Spanish came at the weekend following my classes. I went to the El Super Classico, River Plate vs Boca Juniors. On wandering around the stadium and finding seats you could not help but become plunged in the colours of the fans around you. And soon began the chants, which ranged from the simple ‘Vamos River‘ to more complex spontaneous chanels of abuse. I decided to use my Spanish find out what the chant were, after several attempts to engage a fan but being drowned out by the crowd I managed to ask what they were chanting, for the first time I got a slow but passionate response with every syllable pronounced. Getting a meaning proved a tougher task and although required further dictionary aid made chanting with the other fans all the more rewarding.
Even though you can never make 100% sure that you are going to have a good experience it does pay to do some research, and the best advice I can give, is definitely say something to the school or teacher if you feel that your not getting the quality of teaching that you had expected.
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