Monday, December 08, 2008

spanish class at La UBA

in the spring I took Level 5 Spanish at La Universidad de Buenos Aires, more commonly known as La UBA. Level 4 was nice because they had some classes at a branch office in Palermo, much closer to my neighborhood! For Level 5 I had to go all the way downtown to the Centro, the oldest part of the city, to take my class. This part of the University is located in a beautiful, decrepit old building which apparently was once a hotel! here's some not-very-descriptive pictures of the grand central staircase:
la UBA languages building la UBA languages building



La UBA is free to residents of Argentina (not free for foreigners like me!!) and the state of disrepair of the buildings is honestly a little shocking. There are windows boarded over and parts of the building that are blocked off with piles of rubble! Also there is no toilet paper in the bathrooms, you have to bring your own. And sometimes it gets really hard to concentrate when it's 106 degrees and there's no air-conditioning in the cramped classrooms. Anyway, despite the physical appearance, I believe La UBA is academically the most well-respected university in the country? They say the professors aren't paid very well there, but it's an honor to work there, and it means that you are serious about your area of study, and allows you to be in contact with other leading minds. I've heard this from both my spanish teachers and a few Graphic Design professors that I've run into around town. It makes sense in that a university is supposed to be about ideas and community and academic experience, not flashy stupid expensive buildings. But sometimes it's a bummer when I have to pee after class and I forgot to bring my own toilet paper, again.

So anyway, level 5 was mostly Subjunctive. "No creo que vaya mañana" = "I don't think she's going tomorrow" ... or "Es insoportable que haya tanto ruido en la mañana!" = "It's unbearable the noise they make in the morning!" In English we don't really have a separate tense to express doubt/uncertainty/unlikeliness/possibility/opinion/etc but in Spanish we do, and it's called Subjunctive. We also learned how construct ideas such as "If I had a million dollars I would buy thousands of umbrellas" = "Si tuviera un palo verde, compraría miles de paraguas" and say things like "He told me that when you spoke last week you told him that you hated pizza so I didn't make you a pizza today" which is just a combination of estilo indirecto and a few different past tenses and subjunctives, and I've already forgotten how you're supposed to do that.

At a certain point we crossed into some territory that is, like, grammar that you need to know if you want to submit a formal academic paper and you live in Spain, but it's grammar that nobody on the street in Buenos Aires would ever use for any reason, and if you did they would probably laugh. So I feel like I might've reached the end of the line (for now, anyway) as far as my grammar studies. I still make a LOT of mistakes with past tenses and subjunctives and basically everything I've already learned - I definitely need lots of practice and review, I want to keep learning more vocabulary, but I don't think I will tackle any more advanced grammar for the time being. They do offer a spanish-language film appreciation course for advanced students of Spanish as a foreign language, and I'd like to take that one if I ever have time and money! For now my plan is to read novels in Spanish, listen to the radio in Spanish, turn on the TV news in Spanish, read the newspaper in Spanish, and go out and talk to Argentine friends in Spanish!

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