First off, let me say that I love Cornell College in all its tininess, coziness, brick-iness, Midwestern-ness, and varying states of construction/destruction. But the University of Belgrano is pretty cool too, even though it’s pretty much the exact opposite—huge (our building has something like seventeen floors), not cozy or bricky (everything is smooth, modern, and marble), cosmopolitan, and not in the middle of any kind of renovation. There are even elevators! And handy little card readers where you scan your ID card to check into class rather than having to sit through ten minutes of roll call! (Neither of which will be necessary for me, because my classroom is only on the third floor and there are exactly seven of us in this class. But still. Kinda neat.)
Like I said, there are only seven of us in this class (Spanish As A Foreign Language – Intermediate 2), which helps alleviate any public-speaking fears for oral presentations and also makes for a more relaxed atmosphere. My classes at Cornell have always been small, no bigger than 25, so it will be nice to keep that more intimate classroom setting. The single textbook we have, a workbook that the professors put together, was only 50 pesos (about US $13)—way cheaper than I was expecting! The first few sections look like mostly review, but some of the later stuff gets into how to talk about hypothetical situations, which involves all kinds of sticky verb tenses (conditional, imperfect, past perfect subjunctive) and is something I’ve done before but really need to practice. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it, but that’s because I’m a grammar geek—of course you already knew that 😉
That brings me to what we talked about in class today: irregularities in the Spanish spoken here in this region of South America. It’s called español rioplatense—so named for the Río de la Plata (River Plate, as it’s known sometimes in English), on the shore of which Buenos Aires sits. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful high school Spanish teacher, as well as a professor or two, who studied in Argentina, so the Argentine accent and some of the vocabulary are already familiar to me. One way that Rioplatense Spanish differs from the Spanish spoken in the rest of the world is its use of the vos rather than the more common tú, both of which are forms of the second-person informal singular pronoun “you”. Lots of students don’t learn this in the classroom, but it’s really easy to pick up on the fly—the conjugation is very similar to that of the tú form. For example: using the regular verb comprar, we can make (tú) compras and (vos) comprás. All that changes is the emphasis of the syllables (COMpras versus comPRAS). For verbs that change in the stem, like tener, the vos form doesn’t change like the rest of the conjugations do: (tú) tienes and (vos) tenés. No stem change, and the emphasis of the syllables is still reversed (TIENes versus tenES). I’ve learned to recognize it in books and speech, but I’ve never actually used it in conversation, so I’m excited to try it out!
Anyway… After class, a housemate and I went out for lunch at a cute little café and a long chat about Wilco and our favorite books, and I managed to catch a bus home by myself for the first time. So it’s been a good day! I keep meaning to take more pictures, but my camera battery is low and I’m not exactly sure what combination of adapters/transformers I need to charge it again. Tomorrow night all the students in our program are meeting up for a movie night and some Argentine food (empanadas, maté, and alfajores…I’m already excited). All for now!