(Kingston, Ontario, Canada)
After a very long trip from Buenos Aires to Kingston (via Santiago and Toronto), we finally made it back home. Despite some challenges, we had a great time and have an entirely new appreciation of two large and distant countries. We will certainly return to South America some day!
You may remember my post about taking a “Duolingo” crash course in Spanish just before departure. We actually kept on taking the courses while we traveled, as this gave us an opportunity to apply what we were learning. In terms of vocabulary, the app was a great way to learn a lot of words in a very short period of time. We felt very comfortable in restaurants; it was also possible to figure out the essence of newspaper articles. As for non-food conversations…this was a lot more challenging.
Duolingo was teaching us “Castilian” Spanish: the Spanish spoken in the Castile region of Spain. This was fine for reading. However, there are some very dramatic differences in jargon and pronunciation between Castilian and Chilean or Argentinian Spanish. To name just one: the “LL” combination, which is pronounced like the English letter “Y” in Spain or Chile, is pronounced as “SH” in Argentina. Not even close!
Making things even more difficult was the speed of the language. A large proportion of Argentinians have at least some Italian ancestry, so it was not too surprising that the pace and rhythm of the Spanish here sounded almost like Italian. We also found that Duolingo was not as effective in learning grammar. We learned the basics but the subtleties of tenses, etc., are not well suited to a mobile app.
Still, we are really glad that we made the effort to learn some Spanish. It ensured that we ate well…and, perhaps more importantly, gave us a push to resume our language studies in French and German. We have a stronger grammatical foundation in those languages, so the Duolingo emphasis on vocabulary makes it a useful way of achieving fluency. As a result, nearly 6 weeks after returning home, we are still using Duolingo for French and German! We have not continued our Spanish studies…but will be well-positioned to pick it up quickly the next time we need it.
And now, it is time to look into the future. I have been creating blog posts on at least a weekly basis since February of 2014. While I do have at least one major trip planned for this winter, I am going to be decreasing the frequency of posts for the next little while.
I hope you’ll keep reading the blog. I encourage you to use its handy search function: with well over 200 posts to date, I’m sure you’ll find something of interest! There will be travel flashbacks and other travel-related posts from time to time…and rest assured that I will resume frequent posting during periods of travel. There is some exciting and unusual stuff in the works!