Tag Archives: Spanish

Barcelona Summer Programs

What could be better than spending a summer in Barcelona? How about spending a summer in Barcelona learning Spanish? Yes most people, determined to have the time of their lives in Spain for one long sunny season are forced to take jobs handing out flyers for bars, working in over-crowded Irish pubs, or looking after someone’s screaming brat with a job in childcare! Clearly not the smart option.

This year I’ve been feeling an increasing amount of envy for those lucky language students who manage to wangle a whole summer’s of Spanish lessons as part of their University/College degree and who, not only leave Barcelona better at Spanish than I am, but also have a great time doing it. If you do decide to study abroad in Barcelona then there are no shortage of great summer programs to choose from offering intensive Spanish classes, plush student accommodation and all manner of extra-curricular activities – day trips, cultural tours, nights out etc! Oh, what I wouldn’t do to be 21 and have rich parents!

If that sounds like you then I suggest you have a read around the Study Abroad in Barcelona website, where you can find out more about their initiative and what’s included on their comprehensive cultural and language program.

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.


Being as butch as a particularly butch butcher called Butch, star of his own zany comedy/Ultimate fighting show The Mighty Butch, I very rarely find myself being treated like a doormat by femmes fatales who see me ‘just as a friend’. You know the sappy type of guy who picks up all a girl’s bar bills and comes round to wipe away their tears the moment that stubbly surfer dude of a boyfriend does the dirty on them (again). Ok just occasionally it might have happened. In my young naive days, when I assumed that if I hung around a girl long enough surely she’d end up sleeping with me by accident, probably after a late night session on the Diamond White. Those embarrassingly lame moments of my youth, which I’d all but forgotten about, were brought back with crystal clarity by a muy divertido film my housemate brought back from Monkey Business Video Club (thankfully with English subtitles) last night called Pagafantas.

A Spanish yoofism, ‘pagafantas’ is a hybrid word made out of pagar (to pay) and Fanta, as in the soft drink. It is used to denote the kind of guy who lapdoggishly follows cute girls around, buying them sodas in the hope that one day their sexless relationship will develop into something more… except, as we all know, it never does (well, there was this one time in Russia, but that’s another story…). The film, Pagafantas, unsurprisingly is about one such guy called Chema, who having recently broken up with a girlfriend he’s just not that into, is desperate to work his way into the sack with any chica that will have him. Unfortunately Chema has definitely not read The Game. He hasn’t even had one IOI when he lunges in for the kill with a girl at a nightclub, prompting a defensive move, described in the film as ‘The Cobra’, followed by a hefty slap. When, still looking for love a week later, he chances upon a pretty Argentinean hairdresser called Claudia (who he unearths in a dustbin…) the scene is set for ‘a romantic comedy – without the romance’.

As our amorous hero, under the tuition of the arguably even more chumpish Uncle Jaime (who is hopelessly in love with Chema’s mother… he is not Chema’s real uncle, in case you thought this was getting incestuous), does everything to worm his way further into Claudia’s affection he succeeds only in paying for her drinks, acting as a model for her horrific hair highlighting experiments and even marrying her to prevent her from being deported. Needless to say her macho Argentine ex-boyfriend, who she is giving another chance, is there to take over consummation duties once the paperwork has been done!

The movie is well-produced, with great performances and excellent editing, and unlike most Hollywood movies of the same ilk the film never drags. Overall the joy of Pagafantas is the painful hometruths it holds up to the audience, best summed up by Chema’s mother, who brutally encapsulates the moral of the tale when she says: “As a woman, there are some men you see in a sexual way, and there are others… you don’t.” It was a bit more punchy in Spanish, and anyway I can’t be bothered to find the exact quote on the DVD, but you get the point.

SPOILER ALERT. Best of all the ending finishes on a clever dual note, with cautious cause for hope trumped by Chema’s hopelessly cautious cause. Whereas Chema’s mother seems to finally be melting under the warmth of Uncle Jaime’s affections (Christ, at her age I wouldn’t have been so fussy! No homo.), Chema proves resolutely pathetic until the end. Just as he looks like he’s going to reveal his true feelings and read Claudia her final ultimatum, he caves to her impression of him as a loyal and sexless sidekick. Waking up on board a plane to Buenos Aires, Claudia gushes to Chema that she no longer sees him as a best friend – but as a brother, and she hugs him platonically patting him on the back. The film ends there, leaving all the pagafantas of the world to contemplate their utter, and irreversible, ineptitude.

Watch a trailer of Pagafantas (in Spanish only) here.