Practicing Spanish in Colombia, writing about it in English and using (abusing?) of span-glish et voilà! Here’s that identity crisis again. Probably due to the fact I barely spoke my own language for months… When other expats stick to their roots, I just decided to loose mine.
Oh believe me, I swore in French on occasions! But living with an american girl for some time then a Czech guy who perfectly spoke the language of Shakespeare, I couldn’t help but swearing in English more and more, like an old and grumpy mariner. Though I can have a proper conversation in Spanish, don’t ask me to explain how semiconductor physics is working then I won’t have to lie to you.
Speaking of that guy I lived with for a few months, I should make a statement: Czech people never ceased to amaze me with their language skills. The first time we met, even though I knew he was from Czech Republic, he looked like he was Argentinian or something with a perfect manner of speaking, using Colombian slang and making jokes with an off-putting ability. Then, as I tried to explain something with my broken Spanish, he just switched into English in a blink of an eye. That, my friends, is bad news for us French who already are (and I think I’m not far from the reality, ouch it hurts again) the WORST language learners in all Europe. Prenons-en de la graine mes chers concitoyens.
Of course I thought about taking a Spanish course when I was in Bogotá but as every foreigner who looks for a job and has to live, I had to be careful with my pesos, as classes can leave you broken for some time. So plan B was on: I decided to attend “special” local classes, here’s how to do it:
- Leave your phone (and your mp3 player) at home. Or just turn it off. You can do it. It’s going to be all right I promise. It even has a switch off button! Are you really going to update your Facebook status when you can have a new and exciting day off wandering in a new town full of mysteries? If your hands and arms become itchy, you could always find an internet cafe somewhere;
- Jump on a bus and listen to the locals around you. That could easily turn into a good one-hour and a half class if your bus is stuck in the Septima (7th avenue) during rush hour. But it’ll cost you only 1450/1500 pesos and you might make new friends in the end. Or at least know what “bacano” or “que mamera/que pereza” means)
- Have coffee/lunch by yourself and again, pay attention to what’s happening around you; You won’t get kidnapped because you are sitting alone sipping your coffee and smoking a cigarette, but you can get hit on by Colombians, yes. It happens. A lot more than in Paris.
- Socialize. Colombians are so far, the most welcoming people I’ve evermet and they will be more than happy to talk to you and introduce you to the wonders of their countries (you will likely be introduced to their family too, which is a big deal there and can be quite surprising for us, Europeans).
There’s also a great community of CouchSurfers in Colombia and particularly in Bogotá. If you think those guys are new species of sea surfers, then check my previous post about it: Socializing 101 (and avoiding compatriots). Another good option if you want to learn the language is going on Tuesday nights at la Villa, (a nice bar in the Zona T, cra 14A#83-56) to attend the weekly Gringo Tuesdays: from 6 to 10 pm, there’s a language exchange where expats, travelers and Colombians from all over the country meet around a beer for a nice chat before the place turns into a nightclub caliente until 3am. It’s usually quite crowded but in a nice and chilled atmosphere before 10pm… then it gets crazy. Give it a shot then decide! Here’s a video to show you what a proper Gringo Tuesday is:
Or, you could even learn with those guys!