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Monday, April 16, 2012

Spanish School, My First Day!

Well, like the title says, I finished my first day of Spanish School!

I  attended a week long Intensive language course at a Spanish Language Institute called La Herradura. I had promised you readers in another post that I would be giving you several updates on my progress (or lack of it) in this school. After attending my first day of class I'm happy to say, there is hope for me yet in learning Spanish!

My school day began as I walked out my front door at 6:30 in the morning in order to walk to a bus stop and catch a 7 o'clock bus on the main highway (or Ruta in Spanish). My good friend Carolina informed me that I should catch a bus that said Directo (direct) on it's windshield Marquee. The local bus #709 comes with and without this distinction so I had to be careful and watch for the Directo #709 bus and take that one into Montevideo where the school is located. The school is on a street called, Dr. Joaquin Salterain and the cross street is Guaná.

In looking at a city map, the school is somewhat in the area near the shopping mall/bus terminal called "Tres cruces" (or 3 crosses). There is a giant cross erected across the street from this mall, marking where 3 streets come together. When I first came here I kept looking for the other 2 crosses thinking that the words "tres cruces" meant 3 literal crosses, but no, there is only the one located at this juncture.

The bus ride (from my town Marindía), in the past, has usually taken only an hour to get to the city capital, Montevideo but I forgot that I would be riding the bus during the morning's rush-hour. That's why taking a direct bus which means it doesn't stop at every bus stop along the way was so important time wise. My classes start at 9:00am. each morning. I thought that allowing myself 2 hours for the journey would be enough. I didn't count on the traffic or the fact that there was a fender bender (an accident) which caused my bus to take a detour. I now know what the other side of Roosevelt Park looks like. Well, the bus arrived at Tres Cruces after a one and a half hour bus ride. I went into the mall to quickly use the baño (bathroom) is this too much information??? Then I walked to the school some 9 blocks from this mall. I didn't want to get lost on my first day so I took the main blvd. General Artigas (which runs next to the mall) to the school's street. I ended up being 10 minutes late to class! Rats, on my first day late too, I hate that. Okay, I'm holding it in next time!

I met my fellow classmates. I can really use the word "fellow" classmates as I was the only female present this day. One married couple was suppose to attend this week, which would have meant two females present in class but unfortunately they first visited Argentina and they were robbed in Buenos Aires. This incident apparently "soured" them so much that they canceled their trip and never did bother to come to Uruguay. It's a shame that another country's experience kept them from attending this school and visiting this country. So just a warning, whenever traveling be circumspect and mind your belongings and who is near you.

Normally, the language classes have 6 people assigned to them (to keep them manageable), with the absence of the "robbed couple" my class ended up having only the 4 of us beginners attending, myself and the 3 gentlemen. One of my classmates is a Texan (from the USA state of Texas). He is a lawyer and has just retired. He is shopping around, so to speak, for a country to consider retiring in permanently so he is visiting Uruguay. Another student has been living in Canada, He speaks English. He is of German decent and as a child was sent to a German school so he knows some German. He is writing for a professional website about Uruguay. My third classmate is a German man from Berlin he and his wife actually teach German but he is looking to improve his Spanish. All of them declined to have their pictures taken. I respected that so I have also left out their names. You realize, that there are millions of Texans, Germans and Canadians so their anonymity is still safe.  Still,  I wanted to show you the type of people who attend these classes.

My classes are 4 hours long each day, with a 20 minute break in-between. My first teacher is from Spain. She is a woman, so I was not really the only woman in the room. The first 2 hours of the class are spent on learning verbs but not necessarily on conjugating them but rather on learning the principals to guide you in knowing how and when to use each one. Most Spanish students come across such confusing concepts as the 4 different verb words meaning to be ,Ser, EstarHay (there is/are) and Tener (to have). Tener is kind of tricky as it means, "to have" but in many Spanish phrases it is used as (we would say in English) "to be". For instance, In Spanish you would hear "I have cold" but in English we would translate that as "I am cold". So in some instances Tener can mean "to have" and in other cases is used as "to be". We practiced and learned how to chose between these many forms concentrating on the differences between Ser and Estar. We also made up sentences using them. All in Spanish. We were given a homework assignment  or Deberes.

My class is conducted only in Spanish, on purpose! It's an "Intensive course". This way you are "forced" to communicate. It's the way a child would learn his native tongue. The mother starts speaking her language to the child and when he or she doesn't understand a concept or a word, she explains it by using illustrations, hand and facial gestures, other words and other sentences until the child "gets it". The teachers were very patient with me when I asked them to repeat (Repetir) again and again something that I wasn't "getting". Finally I understood what I was supposed to. Yeah!

In my next post, I'll introduce you to my afternoon class's teacher. He is a native Uruguayan and he added some real insider language tips on how Uruguayans say things versus people from Spain. Since I am living here in Uruguay and not Spain I really appreciate those kinds of tidbits that one cannot find in the formal Spanish language books. I like the Rioplatense sounding Spanish and I am glad to finally have some of the great mysteries of this language explained to me.


Anonymous said...

Dear Denise
Good for you!! taking Spanish lessons is a good thing, not only for acquiring proficiency but also because shall allow you to keep an alert mind to new knowledge and meet other people and a different neighborhood
Let me explain you Thee Crosses and the big cross is nothing but a coincidence
Tres Cruces is a historical reference about an important meeting that was held in that place many years ago called Tres Cruces in that time.
The big cross you saw was recently built ( an after quite a discussion) to commemorate late Pope visits
let us follow your progress!
old retired lady from marindia

Denise said...

Thank you!
I always love the added bit of wisdom you readers bring to this blog. I did see a bronze statue of a Pope standing below the cross mentioning his visit to Uruguay. Did you see the Uruguayan movie "El baño de Papa?" It's about a small town preparing for his visit. As I said before it was funny when I first came here and looked for and couldn't find 2 other crosses in the tres cruces area because they didn't exist!!!

Anonymous said...

The man of the statue is the pope Juan Pablo II (in spanish, so you learn a bit more). The cross was erected for an open air Mass celebrated by this good Pope in his first visit to Uruguay. The statue was in a nice little church located in a corner of the mall you visited in a hurry; when the pope Juan Pablo II died the city decided to put the statue where it is now.
Saludos, suerte con las clases!!!

Seamus said...

Denise, your cityscape camera work has gotten really good. That last shot with the buildings on the left and the trees on the right is so inviting. It looks like a place that would be nice for a walk.

Denise said...

Thanks Seamus!
My new goal for this year's blog is to include larger sized photos to make the scenes and subjects easier to see, hence more enjoyable. Thanks for noticing!

intensive spanish courses said...

That's great! Patience is very important when learning a new language! I'm sure you'll improve a lot!

Un saludo!