The view from my classroom window.
My Spanish language school, La Herradura is located in the Capital city of Uruguay, Montevideo. I live in a little coastal town (Marindía) some 40 kilometers away from the capital. It takes me 1 and 1/2 hours to get to my school by bus.
Well, I decided to take advantage of my bus-ride into Montevideo and use the time to do my homework, assigned to me on the prior day. Yeah, that means that I didn't do it at home, my bad. However, the upside of my preparing it on the bus was that I got a lot of help from my fellow passengers! I guess I was feeling a little self-conscious and didn't want to look like an illiterate adult while doing my homework so I mentioned to the total stranger sitting next to me that I was doing homework for a school teaching me to speak Spanish. I showed her my question and answer assignment and soon several people around me were explaining and providing answers, oops I mean help (smile). It was great! After all, the reason I'm attending classes is to be able to have conversations with the Spanish speaking people of Uruguay!
After finally arriving in Montevideo and at the school's door, I awaited to be buzzed in, as is the case with most buildings in the city. I had time to admired the ornate doorknob on the school's front door and take it's picture. Unlike the day before, this time I was early! Allen one of the students attending this week let me in. He has taken advantage of the school's program to live onsite while attending classes which means he's never late to school due to traffic. I asked him, what's it like living at the school, he is staying for an entire month of classes. He said, "well, it's not like staying at a fine hotel (said somewhat sarcastically) but in comparison to a hotel it is very reasonable".
There is a kitchen at the school that you can cook your meals in and a salon with a large table you and others can eat at. There's a TV in this dinning salon that has a stack of DVD movies in Spanish next to it, to watch after school hours. There's a computer station you can use and more importantly there are people to help you arrange activities outside of class to help you fully immerse in the Spanish experience. Allen is taking the Spanish/Tennis combination course. Margo, the school's proprietor has a husband who is more than willing to be your tennis partner. The tennis courts are close to the school.
My classes are held in the morning from 9:00 am to 1:20pm. We have a 20 minute break between the first 2 hour, verb class and the second, two hour conversation class. This 20 minute break allows us to rest our brains, to snack and more importantly to wait for Juan our second Spanish teacher to arrive. He's worth the wait!
Juan is from Uruguay and he is teaching us, all of the insider Spanish tips that regular Spanish books just don't reveal. Particularly, he is sharing the Rioplatense type of Spanish spoken here in Uruguay and in Argentina. Juan is very charming, funny and patient with us. He is very smart and has attended a German language school, so in addition to his native Spanish, he speaks excellent English and surprisingly good German, so say, the two German speaking students attending my class, they were impressed . Juan learned to speak German because there are so many Germans living here in Uruguay.
Juan told us how people in Spain or Mexico would say something in Spanish and how people in Uruguay would say something. Apparently, they never use/say, carro (car), here in Uruguay, that's what they would say in Mexico! We say auto or coche here. In restaurants you might like to know that Churrasco is the word used here to say steak (it's thicker than a fillet).
I got help in understanding the word "sos" from Juan. Sos; while those three letters may look like the Morse Code symbol for HELP (. . . _ _ _ . . . ), it's also a word, used in "Rioplatense" Spanish to mean "you are" or in a question form "are you"?(from the verb, ser, "to be"). You can spend hours trying to find that word in your verb books but to no avail. Instead, under the verb heading Ser you will see listed,"eres"in the present tense. Eres, is used for the informal you/tú form of "to be". However, if you are friends with a native Uruguayan or are taught Rioplatense Spanish by a Uruguayan teacher like Juan, this word will not be a mystery to you. Here in Uruguay, you will see that word (sos) used in all kinds of advertisements and you'll hear that word used a lot down here. Sos and never eres, is what your friends will say to you. So instead of saying, "Where are you from?"/"De dónde eres?" People in Uruguay will say, "Where are you from?"/ "De dónde sos?" Here in Uruguay, they also use the word Vos in place of the pronoun Tú (familiar you form). For emphasize, you might hear "sos and vos used together. So one might say, "De dónde sos vos?" (Where are you from?) So, I enjoyed learning that today!
Because of Juan, I can finally understand the meaning of a local billboard that is used to advertise a popular grocery store here. The Tienda Inglesa store's sign, posted on the highway, uses the phrase "Lo qué querés". I already knew that lo qué means what but I could never figure out on the drive to the store (as I passed the sign) what Querés was. I sort of knew, it must be from the verb querer to mean to want but in none of the 14 tenses in my verb book under "to want" was that word listed! Querés is the Rioplatense use of the familiar you/tú form quieres (you want). No friend of yours who speaks Rioplatense Spanish would ever use the word "quieres" (you want) to you even-though that's the only word your verb book shows. Instead they would say, querés. For instance, they might ask you, "Querés irte" meaning, "you want to leave?"but not "Quieres irte?" like a verb book would have you believe! In the case of the giant highway sign, the store, Tienda Inglesa has,"what you want!"(lo qué querés) and it's written that way in giant letters in Rioplatense Spanish. An expat friend of ours has a teenage son and because his son has friends who are Uruguayan, and who come over to his house a lot, he learned of this word. However, as a foreigner you would have to have a good ear to pick out that word difference and then have it explained to you.
Because we are still learning verbs, Juan also includes them and their forms in his conversation lessons. This helps us form sentences. As beginners you have to constantly learn new words in Spanish to add to your vocabulary and it was fun learning new food words and meal terms. We learned how to order items at a restaurant in our pretend dialogs, Use the word "Quisiera", when ordering in a restaurant, it's a special form or way of saying, "I would like..."(it's not conditional). It's politer than just using Quiero "I want...".
Wally has been delighted with what I've been learning as I share with him each night a new tidbit. It's been a good experience so far. I'll make one last post on the school, when I have finished out my week's course. Let's hope for the best! Stay tuned for my last installment!