Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Intercambio de Slang

I'm currently studying Spanish in a charming school in San Telmo. I have classes 5 days a week for 2 hours per day. Since I don't speak much Spanish outside school nor have any practice other than my homework, I thought it would be a good idea to find some language exchange buddies!

I searched Craigslist for some partners in crime, some local Portenos who want to improve their English and in return help me improve my Castellano (Argentine Spanish). I found 2 adds and contacted them immediately. Both of the people responded to my inquiry and now I have two buddies--Francisco and Guillermo--with whom I meet about once per week and practice practice practice.

What I like about my language exchange buddies that they are NOT weird. I was a little skeptical about meeting up with strangers and going to a bar/cafe to chat, but since we were meeting in public places and I ALWAYS had an option to make an excuse to leave, I felt pretty safe. I also like the fact that both of my exchange buddies are very interesting and in very different ways. I genuinely enjoy chatting with both of them and learning about their lives and hobbies.

As much as we all talk about our hobbies, jobs and studies, sooner or later the conversations lead to the same subject--SLANG. And I'm a queen of slang! I love it, I use it and I love love love to teach/explain/translate it. I not only teach and explain slang to Guillermo and Francisco, but also to my roommate Diana and my Spanish teacher Alejandra.

I put a lot of effort to ensure that my "students" understand the meaning of each and every slang word that I use. I provide them with detailed definitions, real life examples, explain how the slang term is used and even the location of where the slang word is predominantly used.

Guillermo is in his early twenties and is a student at a local university. He loves loves loves literature and we spend a lot of time talking about Franz Kafka, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe and Nicolai Gogol. What I find shocking is the fact that he actually knows, has read, and loves Nicolai Gogol who is one of the most famous Ukrainian writers. I haven't run across too many Americans who even recognize the name. Guillermo and his friends recently created a book of their favorite Fitzgerald stories and he brought it to our latest chat to get my opinion. Outside his love for literature, he also likes photography, independent cinema and indie music, so we have a lot to chat about...

Guillermo wants to improve his English because he's going to North California for about 4 months to hang out with his cousin who lives in San Francisco. Since I'm from North California, often times we talk about San Francisco and all the different things he should do. We talk about weather, we talk about culture, we talk about food, we talk about art, and most importantly we talk about slang!

I thought it would be important for Guillermo to understand and correctly use the word "Hella". If you are from North Cali, you probably say hella a million times a day, but nobody in South California really says it. If you go to South California and say "wow, that party was hella dope," everybody will know you are from North California. I explained to Guillermo that hella is used as an emphasizer of an item or an event, I guess in Spanish, it would translate to a word "muy." After providing Guillermo with multiple definitions and usage examples, I now feel confident that he is well-equiped to interact with the Bay Area natives.

In case you are curious, the link has definitions and exaples of how "hella" is used http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hella

My second exchange buddy is Francisco. He's in his late twenties and works in the financial sector while simultaneously studying toward his masters in Econometrics. Since my background is also in finance, we spend a lot of time talking about economic developments of other countries. I also found out that Francisco has made the national team for Japanese Fencing also known as Kendo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_fencing). Prior to meeting Francisco, i had no idea what Kendo even was...

One of my favorite slang terms which came up in a conversation with Francisco is "Cougar." We were hanging out at a tea house in China Town (yes, there's a China Town in Buenos Aires) and while chatting over green tea, I confided in Francisco that because I look young for my age, I tend to attract young men (or boys I should say...). I've had 21 year old youngsters hitting on me... Francisco asked me if I have a problem dating younger men to which my response was, "well, I don't want people to think I'm a cougar!" His face lit up and of course he wanted to know what I meant....

I took out my Spanish/English dictionary and looked up the word cougar which translated to puma in Spanish. I then proceeded to explain that a cougar is a woman who likes to date much younger men. I expanded on my definition by using examples of Demi More and Ashton Kutcher as well as Sharon Stone. My mission was accomplished, Francisco had a full understanding of what a cougar is!

Teaching slang makes me feel like I'm teaching my Argentinian friends something super important and useful! It's my way of giving back to them, and thanking them for helping me with my Spanish.


  1. I can't wait to meet Guillermo and hear his Hella Hella Hella.


    Be sure to teach them Old Slang too. It's important from an educational stand point. Like New Jack City. Hella Flossie. Nerd. Totally Tubular.

  2. I'm dating a cougar because Ashton Kutcher is my hero.

  3. Le Meems: G will be well equiped to take on any conversation once he lands in SF

    Rob: Keep it classy....