Expat Argentina

You Don’t Know Spanish Till You Get Here


[Guest post by Spencer Omuemu who arrived 3 weeks ago in Buenos Aires]

When I boarded my flight for Argentina I thought I knew how to speak Spanish. By the time I arrived in Chile for my layover and was sitting in the airport waiting for the flight to Argentina I knew I didn’t know how to speak Spanish. Sitting in the airport and listening to everyone around me speak in Spanish was intimidating to say the least. Little did I know that I hadn’t even seen the worst of it yet. This was the one aspect of Buenos Aires tourism that you would only understand if you actually came.

When I stepped off the plane and entered the airport terminal everything was in Spanish. Everything from the bathroom signs to the direction signs were all in Spanish. Nevertheless, I could still read them so I was ok. After leaving the airport I got into a conversation with the taxi cab driver named Ernesto and that is when I realized I was in trouble. When he began speaking I could only pull out one or two words and I couldn’t formulate responses. I finally realized what it felt like to be international. One thing I did understand is when I asked him “How do you think my Spanish is?” and he replied it is ok but here you will improve a lot. After that I realized I didn’t have to understand everything right away and it was not the end of the world if I could barely articulate myself to local argentines for now.

So for the past few weeks, while working at a Buenos Aires wine tasting company, I have been trying to practice speaking in Spanish whenever possible. Whether it is going to the grocery store and looking for Malbec wines or taking to every taxi cab driver I run into whenever I am able to I have tried to speak with a local argentine. I hope when I leave I will eventually sound like one.