Tips for Students

Why study Spanish in Argentina?


Beyond the practical benefits of studying the local language (despite Argentina's thriving tourist industry one cannot always find an English speaker), taking Spanish classes yields a deeper understanding of its rich culture and the natives' unique way of thinking. Even at the most basic level, a traveler can enjoy deeper insight. I had taken a few Spanish classes before coming to Buenos Aires, and will never forget the first thing I learned about the language: "to be" does not translate directly. Spanish speakers distinguish between being in a permanent sense (ser) and being for a limited time of under mutable conditions (estar). This discovery absolutely fascinated me because no native English speaker I know (or speakers of other languages without that distinction, such as French) thinks to differentiate between the two: to us, a thing simply is or it is not. After all, Shakespeare's famous line is "To be or not to be" and not "To ser or to Estar". 

In addition to providing a better understanding of the ways of the locals, taking the time to familiarize oneself with or brush up on Spanish can impart an appreciation for the manifestation of history in speech: for instance, the sonorous sound made to pronounce the letter "jota" reflects Spain's long, intertwined history with the Arabic world, whose people occupied the Iberian Peninsula for over seven hundred years. With regard to more recent history, despite being a former Spanish colony, Argentina has the world's greatest number of Italian immigrants. In fact, 60-70% of the population has Italian ancestry, and many of those descendants have Italian passports. It takes only one class to recognize with the Italian lilt to the porteño (Buenos Aires) accent and appreciate the linguistic influence of the millions of Italians who left their homes to make new lives for themselves in Argentina decades ago. 

Lunfardo (porteño slang that originates from "Lombardo" in Italy) aside, arguably the most significant advantage of studying Spanish is the connections one makes as a result. Even without fluency, simply saying "Hola, ¿cómo estás?" with a foreign accent indicates the effort made to understand the locals' language. 

Due to Argentina's wealth of culture and natural beauty, its citizens are accustomed to tourists entering and leaving the country without bothering to pick up any Spanish, so a small attempt to learn just some of the vocabulary serves to reduce cultural boundaries and set you apart  from other travelers. Please learn from my mistakes: when eating out, you will get far better results asking where to find "asado" from a "parrilla" than barbecue at a grill.