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Monday, April 9, 2012

The Language Test!

I was tested today, it was a literal test. Let me explain!

In choosing to retire to Uruguay you would think that I would have prepared for the move by learning Spanish but no! Wally never gave me a heads up that we would retire to a Spanish speaking country, so I never had a chance to learn Spanish before moving here. Instead, true to our nature, we sold our cars, goods and house (3 times, since 2 of the house sales fell through) all in about 6 months time. Ending one life and starting another in such a short time span left me little time to study. To my credit, I did get the "Rosetta Stone" CD course to introduce me to the language. Nevertheless, I know that other expats have prepared for years before coming here by taking Spanish courses. Many expats, after arriving here (in Uruguay), continue this language challenge by obtaining tutors and taking private lessons.

Now, I am not the sort of person who thinks that the whole world has to adapt to them. Rather, I know that I have to adapt to Uruguay. I have always intended to speak the language. For instance, I never go into a store and ask if someone speaks English and can they come and help me. Instead, I apologize beforehand that I don't speak Spanish very well and then I just launch into what I'm trying to say, in Spanish. It has worked so far. People often ask me how long I've been here. It was great in the beginning when I could say 1 month or 3. It was even kind of cute, my trying to speak back then, when I was so fresh and new here. Then 1 year passed, then another. At 3 years I knew I had better take a dictionary in hand, verb books and even "Spanish for Dummies" (hey, I'm not proud) and start in earnest to learn. Last week, I got a rude awakening when Wally mentioned that it will soon be 4 years since our arriving in Uruguay. Okay, that did it, full on depression set in. I need help! Not psychiatric help but Spanish Language help!

That's why I have decided to take on an experiment and you readers can experience it too. I'm going to take an "Intensive Language course". It's only for 1 week but it's a full immersion course at a "real" language institute. The school is located in Montevideo, it is called "La Herradura". Click on the school's name to view the website of the official representatives of this school for the USA and for Canada (Lingua Service Worldwide, Ltd.) , their contact phone number is 1 800 394 5327 (for the US and Canada). What's interesting about this link is that they offer language courses in various countries around the world, like learning to "speak French in France, Italian in Italy, Japanese in Japan, etc..." They can also arrange for accommodations to stay at the various worldwide language schools they represent or with a "host family" in the country you chose to study in. They offer Spanish learning schools in both Spain and Uruguay! What makes that so interesting, is that the Spanish spoken here is slightly different than that spoken in Spain. That's because they speak what's known here as Rioplatense or Spanish accented with the sounds from the Rio de la Plata region. Argentina speakers have this same "flavor" to their speech. The language when heard by other people has a lot of "shh" sounds to it because both the double ll and the are spoken here with a "shh" sound instead of a "y" sound. So yo,  (meaning I) sounds like shho here. They also use the informal word "vos" (meaning you) here which is not in widespread use in Spain. So I will learn to speak Spanish with a Rio de la Plata Uruguayan accent!

The classes, I'll be taking at La Herradura will be 4 hours a day! Monday through Friday, with back to back lessons. They will be divided between grammar and conversation classes with 6 to 8 students attending the class. Only 6 people attend the grammar portion and 8 people join the conversation group. Solely Spanish is allowed to be spoken in class. That's one of the reasons it can be called a full immersion class. They also have courses for children. The course I'm taking (intensive), costs US$185 for the full week (4 hours per day). The next level up was called a "Super-intensive" course. That one is held for 6 hours a day, a group class, it costs, US$275, for the week. That sounded too scary to me and was more expensive than my choice but no doubt is very much worth it. I'm going in at the bottom level which should make this all the more interesting to post about and perhaps might encourage others in my same financial circumstances to check out such a language school. For others more daring, this school also offers Spanish courses in connection with activities. A Spanish and Tennis combination course, or Spanish and golf and most interestingly, a Spanish and horse training internship with a gaucho! (near Atlántida) These are some of the unusual combo language courses offered!!!

During the week that I attend classes, I will make several posts about my classes, taking and posting pictures. I will describe the various days and their activities. That way if any of you have ever wondered or hesitated about what such a course and institute is like you can "peek" inside via my postings!  

Since Wally doesn't have as hard a time learning Spanish as I do, he has agreed to stay home and send me solo to this school during the week's course. He came with me to the school this time in order to check it out and take a tour while I took a "placement" Spanish test. By my taking a test the professors can tell what level to start me at. I said that I was a beginner but after that test they will probably have to put me in a "special" person's category (if you know what I mean) because I know for a fact that I got at least a quarter of the answers wrong.  I had a blank moment. I made the test harder than it was by using the future verb tense rather than the present tenseThe word,  indicative or indicativo in Spanish as they called it was on the test. I wished the test had just used the word, "present tense" instead of using the word "indicative". Apparently I have to relearn English grammar terms again. I thought that word meant "future" so I answered all of those questions using the future verb forms. Yet, I do know the present tense forms. I guess it was just test freeze. I was trying to be too smart for my own britches. So with those results I really will be in a Beginner class.  You can take the placement test online! I should have peeked at the test ahead of time and just relaxed and figured it out without any of my self imposed pressures. So if you want to look at the placement test just click on this live link. Test!

To say that I am both nervous and excited to be going to a school to improve my Spanish is an understatement. I know that it's only for 1 week which helps to keep the course from being too scary for me.

So, stay tuned and let's go back to school together! 


Anonymous said...

Hey, good luck with it! I'll be eager to follow your progress.

I had the same mistaken assumption when we first got here, that 'vos' had something to do with 'vosotros.' In fact, 'vos' is a substitute for 'tu' (second person singular, not plural), with its own conjunction.

Those current Tienda Inglesa billboards provide an example: 'Lo que querés' - 'what you (vos) want' - you can see that form is not part of the 'real' conjugation of querer.

I encounter this all the time with my son's friends:

Hola! (Mandatory kiss on cheek.)

¿Como estás?

Bien, ¿y vos?

To me, it just adds more fun (more ways to be wrong = more fun ;-).

~ Doc

TV said...

Well you should be at the end of your course about now. Please tell us how it went!