Speaking English in Buenos Aires

Last night I found myself in a classroom of students, two months into their English course. My friend Carlos is one of the students, and his teacher invited me to visit and talk English with them all. What a wonderful experience it was! We arrived last. I was greeted by a chorus of ‘Hello.’ and then, as they practiced what they’d learned, ‘Pleased to meet you!’. I was smiling from the start. It was enchanting. They took turns to ask me questions in English, which I answered in English. At first they stuck to the list in their text and the teacher struggled to get them to say anything. They felt awkward and afraid to make mistakes, but we quickly moved on the more personal and things changed:

‘Are you married?’ – a huge round of applause at my answer, ‘Well, I have been, twice.’

‘Are you and Carlos just friends?’ – much laughter all round as you can imagine, as I tried to answer diplomatically and truthfully.

‘Why do you like tango?’ – even more laughter at my answer, ‘I think tango is like sex but without taking your clothes off.’

By this time we were getting on like a house on fire. Then it was my turn. I had to ask them questions in castellano, which they answered in castellano. This was incredible for me because I realised how much I have learned. Soon we were discussing Europe, how the English and French view each other, their love lives, the countries they originally came from. One girl was delighted to discover that I had visited her country, Peru. We talked about the differences between dancing tango in England and in Buenos Aires, and the relative costs of living in the two countries. I told them about the book I have started to write. I amazed myself. I think I amazed them with the level of my conversation after only two and a half months. By the end of the session we had agreed that we would dance tango together at La Glorieta in the future, and I had an invitation to return to speak with the other English class in a couple of weeks. As they left there were hugs and kisses all round and I felt that I had made many friends.

After the class, the teacher showed me around the whole school. It is a fascinating place and I gained a fresh insight into the workings of this country. The building is owned and managed by one of the unions here, SUTERH. A range of practical training courses are available to residents at extremely low cost, $15 pesos a month. I visited classes of trainee plumbers, electricians, locksmiths and chefs. Every teacher welcomed me warmly and answered my questions. I had a full tour of the locksmith’s store cupboard and now understand the intricacies of the different locks available here… The smells in the immaculate and industrial kitchen were fantastic and I wished I could attend myself to learn how to make medialunas de grase, which are perhaps my favourite snack of all time.

One floor of the building is funded by the city government to enable the teaching of English. Courses are cheap and run frequently to allow access to as many students as possible. It was an honour to spend a few hours here and meet so many lovely Buenos Aires residents. Carlos was truly the proud friend and I was happy to make him proud. I felt like an ambassador for my country. That I could offer a tiny service to the people who have been so kind to me in this new country, gave me great joy. The teacher ended by asking me how I had felt in the class. She was very concerned that I had enjoyed it as much as they. I had. By now I know the Argentines a little, so I was not surprised when she promised to give Carlos her contact information in case I need anything while I am here, or in case I need any advice about visas in the future because she has a friend…

I love these people.

Today is a big national holiday here. The 25th May commemorates La Revolution de Mayo. The traffic was terrible last night as I headed over, by taxi, to meet with Carlos at the building his company is currently renovating. It took nearly an hour to get there and the taxi cost me $20 pesos – unheard of. However, the building and the area was worth seeing. It’s in a part of Belgrano where there are many individually designed houses. I kept wanting to stop the cab to take pictures. I will have to return on foot and do just that. In Carlos’ building, the windows fascinated me. The sun was setting and I took a few photographs of the windows and the light. I love windows. You never know what you will see through them. New experiences are like that. Last night I approached mine with an open heart, and I was rewarded ten times over because the view was perfect. 

Learn more about La Revolution de Mayo


2 Responses

  1. What a delightful treat and honor to be invited and welcomed to I’m sure is rare for outsiders to see.

    You truly are a “portena ahora”. *warm smile *

    I hope you write more about stories like these. They are very touching indeed. 🙂

  2. “told them about the book I have started to write.”

    After having had your blog pointed out to me by a friend, I’ve read right right through from the beginning to May, and it’s completely fascinating – I think any book you write will surely be a wonderful read!

    Truly an inspiring story, and I know I am risking sounding a bit cheesey, but I have been sitting here for two and a half hours reading, so please forgive my ladling on the superlatives… both moved and tired!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: