Learning Spanish #1

You want to learn Spanish and you have questions in mind? Learning Spanish has been a long and sometimes painful journey for me. After I started to get along with the language, I decided to write about it. This is the first blog post I’m writing which will mainly be about the characteristics of the Spanish language. I also mentioned the Spanish courses in Argentina. I hope you enjoy the post!

Spanish Language

General information regarding the Spanish Language:

  • Spanish is the third most widely used language in the world.
  • In some regions, it is also called “Castellano”. (pronounced casteyano/castejano)
  • Spanish is the official language of 21 countries. It is the most declared official language in the world. These countries are Spain, Argentina, Cuba, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
  • Spain is the only Spanish speaking country in Europe. The other 20 countries are located in Central and South America.
  • Although the mother tongue of all these 21 countries is the same, there are dialectic differences.
  • Among all these countries, Argentina and Uruguay are the countries that speak the most different dialect. This specific dialect is called “Castellano Rioplatense”. (This is just the terminology. Nobody says “I speak Castellano Rioplatanse”. They basically say  “I speak Spanish”.)

Is learning Spanish advantageous?

Learning Spanish can be very advantageous since it is one of the most spoken languages in the world. Especially in some countries in South America, the rate of learning a second foreign language such as English is quite low. Therefore learning Spanish becomes more valuable.

Is it difficult to learn Spanish?

This is a tough one since the experience of learning a language is quite personal. Different people with different characteristics learn differently. Also, different backgrounds change the experience a lot too. For example, learning Spanish may be much easier for a Brazilian than for a Chinese. Or if one is learning a foreign language for the first time it may be harder than learning a second foreign language.

Here are some characteristics of the Spanish language that differs it from others.

1) Spanish verbs are conjugated for every personal pronoun. Moreover, unlike some languages like English or German, you do not need to use the personal pronoun since the conjugation already gives the meaning.

Example:

(Yo) voy.        = I am going. (it is not necessary to use the personal pronoun “yo”, because meaning can be deducted from the verb).

2) Spanish has two different verbs for “to be”: “ser” and “estar”. These two verbs are used in different situations.

Example:

Soy Carmen. = I am Carmen. (Conjugation for the verb “ser”.)

Estoy aqui.    = I am here. (Conjugation for the verb “estar”.)

3) The use of accents can completely change the meaning of the word. Especially in verbs, both person and time change can be done with an accent.

Example:

Yo como         = I’m eating.      (First person singular,  simple present tense)

El comò          = He ate.            (Third person singular, past tense)

Yo tomo          = I’m taking it. (First person singular, simple present tense)

El tomò           = He took it.     (Third person singular, past tense)

Language differences between Spain and Latin America

Let’s talk about the dialect differences a little. As I mentioned before, the Spanish used in Spain and Latin America have quite a bit of difference. There are also differences in language use among countries in Latin America, but we can say that these are minor differences. Even if there is no change in the grammar, it is very natural to encounter different expressions and words.

The most obvious difference between Spain and Latin America is about pronouns of “you”.

Second-person singular pronoun

The most obvious difference between the two geographies is the use of the second-person singular pronoun. In Spain, the second-person singular pronoun is “tù” whereas in many places in Latin America it is “vos”. Though I should specify that some countries in Latin America use the pronoun “tù”. (such as Chile)

Second-person plural pronoun

One of the most obvious differences is the second-person plural. In Spain, the word for the second-person plural pronoun is “vosotros”. However, there is no corresponding word in Latin American dialects. There is only “ustedes” which is the formal version of the second-person plural pronoun.

Verb conjugations

Depending on these pronoun differences, the conjugation of the verbs also change. The difference is the conjugation of irregular verbs.

Sample:

Querer (want) -> tù quieres = you want

Querer (want) -> vos queres = you want

Pensar (think) -> tù piensas = you think

Pensar (think) -> vos pensas = you think

Explanation: Querer (to want) and pensar (to think) are irregular verbs. While the conjugation for the pronoun“tù”, the verb is irregular, the conjugation for“vos” does not apply the irregularity.

How can I learn Spanish?

There are many ways you can use in order to learn Spanish.

  • First of all, you should research what kind of opportunities you have in your city. Most places have language schools which provide Spanish courses.
  • Second and the best option is to go to a Spanish speaking country and learn the language in its hometown. However, this is also the hardest option to realize.
  • On the other hand, there are many online tools you can take advantage of now, which are both cheap (if not free!) and easy to get. You can see my list of self-studying tools for learning Spanish here.

Can I learn Spanish in Argentina?

Yes, you can. There are many Spanish language courses for foreigners in Argentina, especially in Buenos Aires. During June-July there are many students/tourists who come to Argentina (or to surrounding countries) to learn Spanish during their summer vacation. Though you should keep in mind that if you go to a course in Argentina, you will learn Argentine Spanish.

There are hundreds of  Spanish courses in Buenos Aires but the most known ones are the following:

  • UBA -Español para Extranjeros (University of Buenos Aires)
  • Vamos Spanish
  • CASA Spanish
  • VOS Buenos Aires
  • Academia Buenos Aires
  • Mente Argentina
  • EA Languages Services & Solutions

UBA

When I moved to Argentina, I couldn’t speak Spanish at all. Not a word. So I started to go to the Spanish for Foreigners classes at the University of Buenos Aires. I’m not sure if I like UBA or not, it has many pros and cons. Lets go over them one by one.

Positive sides:

(+) UBA is a public university which makes their courses the most affordable one on the market.

(+) It is widely preferred by foreigners who are living in Argentina since they have extra discount for those who hold an Argentine residence permit.

(+) Because it is a public entity, all of their teachers have to have a teaching certificate. UBA is the only place which has such a requirement for their teachers.

(+) In general, they arrange different group classes for those who are from Brazil or Italy and for those who are from other countries. This is a great practice because Brazilian or Italian students tend to learn much faster than others.

Negative sides:

(-) There was one particular reason I stopped going to UBA. During the summer vacations, they start an intensive course during that period they stop segregating students. So, I stopped going to UBA after taking that intensive course in a class of 20 people, half of them Brazilians…

(-) The physical conditions of UBA is very bad because it hasn’t been properly maintained for a long time. As I said, it’s a public school.

(-) Even though the teachers are required to have a certificate, I can’t say that they are all very good teachers. At UBA every class is given by two teachers. I took classes from 6 different teachers in 5 months. I thought one of them was very good, one of them was very poor and the rest were just meh. Of course, this a subjective opinion. However, there is this issue that stands out in UBA; since it is a publıc entity, the salaries of the teachers are much less than the teachers working at private courses. Which affects the motivation of the teachers and I think it is realized by the students as well.

(-)  Lastly, UBA has one feature that is extremely stupid: you cannot find it on Google when you search for it in English. They improved the website a lot in the last year but still, it is kind of difficult to find it on Google. That’s why I’ll leave the link here: UBA Idiomas.

EA Languages Services & Solutions

EALSS is the course I’m attending right now. (July 2019) In my opinion, it’s better than UBA but, my courses are covered by my employer. So, I don’t know how much the classes cost EALSS. I assume it’s not cheap though. The managers of EALSS are very professional and helpful.

In summary, UBA has its pros and cons. It’s definitely not bad but also it’s not the best. I have many friends who liked Vamos Spanish, but I’ve never gone there. I suggest you prefer courses that have smaller groups or private classes. If you have any questions or if there is anything you would like to share, please leave comments.


About this post:

Original publishing date: 23 March 2018

Last update date: 14 July 2019