Monthly Archives: January 2010

Learning The Lingo

There are two types of ex-pats. Those that learn the language of their adopted country, interact with the locals, appreciate the customs and culture and generally make the most of their time abroad, and those that don’t – or ‘scum’ as I prefer to call them. The latter are invariably British, Irish or American expats who have somehow got undeservedly rich by some exploitative capitalist pursuit and spend their whole time complaining about how you can’t get a decent fried breakfast, pint of ale, or spicy curry ‘in this fucking country’ as they rake in the euros, most of which they then spend on sex workers – the only time they interact with the locals.

Suffice to say, I’d rather be part of group A. Which is why I consider learning Spanish a very important part of my new life in Barcelona and signed up for some lessons last November. After passing one module (pre-intermediate), I have got back into the swing of things after Chrimbo. I must confess, I love the idea of speaking foreign languages much more than the process of learning them… in fact, despite 7 years of learning French at school, 1 learning German, 10 years learning Latin, 3 Ancient Greek and 3.5 years of on/off learning Polish (mainly off) I have yet to master a foreign tongue! Am I incredibly thick, I hear you ask? Well naturally that doesn’t help, but – sad to say – I am also guilty of those most terrible English-speakers’ trait… knowing that I can (almost) always get away with English. No matter how hard I try to force myself to speak Spanish the minute I can’t express myself (normally about 5 secs after ‘hola’) a flick in my brain says ‘this is fucking ridiculous, just switch to English will you and spare us all!!!’ Which is what I do!

Anyhow, despite my poor efforts I have made a bit of progress… and maybe being tortured by Gran Hermano (Big Brother) and other ‘telebasura’ every night isn’t all bad as I seem to be able to understand a little bit these days. Sadly Spanish isn’t quite as easy as everyone tells you…. ok, it’s no Ancient Greek or Polish, but there’s a confusing number of past tenses to grapple with, plus a subjunctive mood (so unnecessary!) that irrrrrritating rolled ‘r’ which you seem to need in every language I pick up and I am physically incapable of reproducing, and lots of words/letters that – to the linguistically challenged – just sound the same. There are some good points I suppose. A large number of Latin-based nouns are virtually the same in Spanish as in English… posicion/position etc etc and there’s little trouble learning new vocabulary in general… which I suppose is 80% of learning a language!

And despite my grumblings, the actual process of learning is rewarding in as much as it gets me out of the house and into my language school. When you spend 90% in front of your computer at home you can’t overestimate the importance of getting out and doing something which involves talking to other people… even if it is in a language you speak like a retarded hobgoblin.

I picked the language school that was nearest to my flat in Barcelona, but if you fancy doing a bit more research then click here for a list of Spanish language schools in Barcelona.

For some handy phrases check out this blogger’s guide to twenty essential Spanish expressions.

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Back in BCN…. What did I miss?

It feels like a while since the last post, and things are a bit hectic these days, so I’ll take the opportunity – not to tell you anything that might actually inform or entertain you – but to let you know that I’m still alive and back in Barna…

Yep after what turned out to be a very hardcore trip to Poland (is there any other type?), during which, apart from the inevitable drinking, flirting and eating pierogi, my computer broke, plus I had to run around the city like crazy in minus 15 conditions trying to get a tonne of work done, I finally made it to the UK for Christmas – despite a two day delay due to a light smattering of snow at Gatwick (which is f@cking ridiculous because it was full-on artic conditions in Krakow and everything was working fine). Was nice to be back home for a bit I must confess, but after a couple of weeks of mum’s cooking I was finally ready to leave the pristine cleanliness of the parental nest for the grimy hovel I call home in Barcelona… there’s nothing like a stay chez mamma and pappa to make you realise just how crappy your own digs are. When I got back to Casanova Street (I’m not making up the name), there was the usual pile of washing up blocking both sinks (it’s kinda like a game of Jenga – you keep building higher and the person who knocks it down has to wash it all up) plus a bathroom which my housemates clearly hadn’t cleaned once, despite the fact I’d been gone for the best part of a month! Oh, and there was a cluster of flies hovering over a fruit bowl full of molding onions… nice. And my bedroom hasn’t got any bigger, lighter or better decorated since I left either…

Still, despite a bit of a shock on the ‘living conditions’ front it’s damn nice to be back in BCN… for one thing it’s not freezing cold like the UK/Poland, for two things I’m beginning to get that nice ‘home’ sensation when walking around the city, and thirdly (or ‘for three things’ if you like) I didn’t realise how much I was going to miss fuet sausages. Ooh, I’ve got one in the fridge now… Que rico! (Come to think of it I also miss numerous Spanish phrases starting with ‘que’).

Other than that it’s back to the usual round of work, work, football, work, work, spanish lessons, work, work, cervezas, work… I’ve got some nice ideas for some posts though and I’ll do my best to tinkle my keyboard with my dextrous digits a little more frequently in 2010. Keep it fr3ky people!