In some parts of Colombia, people use “vos”, instead of “usted” or “tú”, when addressing others. In a guest post, Avalon from the Colombia Immersion language school explains how, when, where and why this happens.
There’s no better way to practice Spanish than by interacting with the language in real-life situations. Envigado, a municipality just south of Medellín, is the perfect place to do just that — as Avalon from the Colombia Immersion Spanish school reports in this guest post.
Becoming fluent in Spanish, as we all know, requires more than just hitting the books. You have to get out there and start having proper conversations with real live people. Even in a country where locals are as friendly as Colombia, getting into lengthy chats to practice your Spanish can be a difficult business, especially in the early stages of learning.
When I first started learning Spanish, way back when in 2007, the tools and materials at a student’s disposal were limited. To pick up another language you had to go to class or simply work your way through a physical textbook (and audio accompaniment, if you were feeling fancy). Nowadays, of course, you can also make use of any one of an expanding number of online platforms, courses and apps to boost your linguistic skills.
Latin America’s friendliest inhabitants – the Colombians – have long claimed that theirs is the most ‘neutral’ Spanish on the planet. Ah, if only that were so. Chat to the locals during your stay and you’ll quick find that this beautiful sounding version of the language contains as many funny linguistic quirks as it does bits of local slang.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’ve been told that by moving to a Spanish speaking country, you’ll “just pick up” the language, then you’ve been lied to. Unless you’re below the age of about 12, there is nothing passive about learning a foreign language. Much as we might wish it were so, having daily contact with these alien words and expressions does not mean that they will effortlessly seep into your brain.
Speaking natural-sounding Spanish is all about learning how to use the exact same words that locals do, in the exact same contexts. Your teacher or textbook might tell you the correct way to speak, but on the streets of Bogota or Cali, many of these phrases just won’t cut it. Rather than obsessing over how to say things in a technically perfect way, my advice would be to embrace the local variations and imitate them as far as possible.
We’ve all seen those language courses which guarantee that you’ll be speaking “fluent Spanish in 60 days”. Sound great don’t they? Yet — in common with ‘get rich quick’ schemes or ‘effortless’ weight loss programmes — these courses, more often than not, promise much, but deliver little. To obtain real fluency in another language there is, regrettably, little substitute for hard graft.