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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Castellano Lessons

One of our combined goals while moving down here was to learn Spanish. I have to say that I was secretly excited because learning Spanish was one of those items on my "if I ever have time" to-do list. Well, I have quit my job and moved to a place where I know very few people and a country where everyone speaks Spanish, so now seems like a good time to cross this item off of the list. A note on Spanish, according to wikipedia, the language is called Spanish or Castilian in English, español or castellano in Spanish. According to everyone here, Castellano is the spoken language and in BsAs it's pronounced "cast-a-jaan-o".

One of the enormous benefits to being an expat is that we have the benefit of a company that helps get us settled in this new country. (Side note: I have a new found appreciation for anyone who voluntarily moves abroad and gets everything done on their own. This is a challenge like I can not imagine, my hat is off to you.) Exxon works with a company called S.E.I.P.E. that has a fleet of tutors that the coordinator/owner chooses from to pair with each student. I'm not sure the exact selection process criteria but I would imagine that it includes desired hours per week, location of lessons, and personality style. Jon and I work with different tutors. Jon's tutor works with him two times a week for 1.5 hours per session. He divides it by having one morning session at work and one evening session at our house. I wouldn't say that Jon looks forward to his lessons each week, but he's definitely improving so they are well worth the time.

I work with Irene Samowerskyj (no, that extra "j" is not a typo) three times a week for three hours each. We meet at my apartment, which I was nervous about at first (do I serve food, what if the phone rings, do I want to be with a stranger in my dining room 9 hours a week?!) but she is comfortable, casual and extremely nice. She is a great teacher, and insanely good at languages. She is from Ukraine and speaks Ukrainian, but she also speaks perfect English and she has lived in Argentina for almost her entire life so her daily language is Castellano. Aside from being a great teacher, Irene works as a "host" for tourists that need help translating during their site-seeing. She goes with people shopping or on tours to help them get the most out of their time in the city and ease the language barrier during their stay. She has helped me with muchas mas cosas (many more things - see, I'm getting better!) than a tutor would normally do. Some examples - Dr appointments, retrieving voice mail messages from my Spanish-speaking cellphone, explaining the grocery store checkout line, arranging for newspaper delivery like our new weekly paper, Clarin.

I think it's safe to say that we are both pleased with our lessons, teachers and progress so far. I still get insanely frustrated when I am not able to communicate something, which is a lot of the time, but I'm learning to deal. And we've gotten really good at sign language. If nothing else, it has created something in my and Jon's relationship that we haven't ever experienced before. It's a constant struggle, but you feel each others pain. I mean, what's more bonding than looking stupid in front of each other, then being able to laugh about it later?

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