Practicing your spanish


Mar 18, 2009
I coming to BA to practice my Spanish and enjoy the culture. I was a very strong Spanish student in college but I am not fluent. How do you guys carry on conversations with people who are fluent in Spanish? Do you whip out a dictionary mid conversation when you do not know a word? What if you don't know a word someone else is saying that doesn't speak english? I am kind of apphrensive about finally working on my spanish with native speakers and not a spanish class.
It seems to me that the average porteño speaks more english than the average non-native speaks spanish, and most will jump at the opportunity to practice their english when given the chance. So, the difficult part I find is having what often ends up being a two way conversation, and getting them to speak spanish so you can work on comprehension etc.

I've found most locals to be pretty forthcoming about correcting your grammatical mistakes (for example when you utter a verb but let it hang in the air, unsure what ending to use) if they know or feel like you're cool with being corrected. I find myself peppering "se dice?"'s here and there in the conversations I've had, which is probably a bit of a crutch but helpful in learning what is right/wrong and working towards a point where everything is more automatic. On their end, if you say "no entiendes" when you don't understand something they'll likely restate it in simpler terms.

As for the dictionary, I can't say that I've seen a single person with one since I've been here, though that doesn't mean they're not used or useful. The time involved in looking up a word seems a bit impractical mid-conversation, though it surely wouldn't hurt keeping one around. Good luck!
Usually I find that if I'm stuck on a word, I can get around it by trying to describe what I mean to say in another way. If I'm thinking of an object, I try to describe its characteristics or uses. Or I point. Most are very quick to pick up on it.

I'm in pretty much the same boat as you. I've studied Spanish more than I've used it. My advice to you is not to get too frustrated, because you are going to make mistakes. Lots of mistakes, over and over again. But it's the only way to learn. The more often you use it and hear it, the quicker you'll reach that point where you start thinking in Spanish. So just keep talking, even if it doesn't always make sense.