Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Profesores Particulares: formal and informal (Ken)

While I continued with the next level of classes at Universidad de Buenos Aires, Helen began studying with a private tutor--una profesora particular. Now that my UBA classes are over, I decided to do the same.

Helen and I brought our textbooks from the USA that are used at my college for Spanish 101, 102, 201, and 202 classes. Our tutor, Nieves, is using these materials as well as her own materials to teach us.

Helen has come up with a pretty good way of setting up her lessons. She writes narrations using present and past tense about what she has been doing or what she did the day before. Nieves then reads them and teaches the finer points of the language and usage. Helen is now branching out and writing in different verb tenses--what she would like to do, plans to do. She hopes to work up to the very tricky verb construction of "what she would have done."

I am currently reviewing preterit and imperfect verbs. I took a few weeks off to let them sink in, and they seem to be making sense to me now. I am able to remember and use them better.

The young people at the café continue to be our tutors as well. We have coffee there later in the morning when the place is empty. Often, we are the only customers and they talk with us for what seems like a really long time.

We talked about the differences in Easter/Pascuas customs. Rather than an Easter basket, in Argentina, they get a large, hollow, chocolate Easter egg--huevo de Pascuas chocolate--that is filled with candy. They also don't have the hide-the-eggs tradition here. No ham and potatoes au gratin here, Melissa had pasta for Easter dinner.

We also had a lengthy discussion about women's underware yesterday--Helen can give you the details on that one. Some days, a relaxing cup of coffee is anything but. It becomes an on-your-toes conversation with on-the-spot mental translation.

Another of our informal tutors is Laura. She works in the fiambiaria on the corner. We met here way back with the "jamón común" episode. She is very nice and takes an interest in our Castillano progress.

Then there are the guys in our building--José Luis, the portero; and Miguel, the engargado. They meet and greet us whenever we enter or leave the building. Aside from the social-courtesy exchanges (Hola, que tal? Como andan? Todo bien?) they ask us where we are off to and what we have been doing. That makes us use past and future verb tenses.

So that is where we are in our studies now. Our informal teachers are sometimes more valuable than our formal teachers.

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