If I could go back to school again I’d scrap the subjects I chose to study and switch to languages.
The history I learned, the novels I read, the economics I memorised… all gone. My mind decided long ago it wasn’t interested in filing this stuff once all the exams had been passed and it popped the information into the bin.
And let’s face it, if I could remember all of Henry VIII’s wives or which president came after Andrew Jackson would it really be of any use?
Probably not. But a language?
Now that would be wonderful. Especially, I think, in South America. As those of you who, like me, occasionally use Google translate will know different languages are not simply the same words translated. There are words and phrases that appear in one language but not in others and unless you speak it, you’ll never truly understand.
The Greeks have four words for love for example, (agápe, eros, philia, storge) we just have one. Which means that linguistically speaking I feel the same way about my parents, my boyfriend, all dogs and steak.
Does that seem right to you? It doesn’t seem right to the Greeks.
South America, and in particular Argentina because I will be headed there later this year, is a passionate place full of expressive, passionate people. To see them speak is to see them come alive and I wish I knew what they were saying. I wish I knew how to ask them questions and understand their replies because with my terrible Spanish we’re not going to get much further than “hello, how are you?”
In particular I’m concerned about not being able to communicate properly with the gauchos. I don’t want to get too 50 Shades of Grey on you but gauchos have long been an, erm, interest of mine.
Essentially they are cowboys, living on large estancias herding cattle and hunting; living a life impossible to comprehend as a lifelong city liver. Their relationship with their horse is so loving (could do with one of those alternative Greek love words here really) that it makes you want to be a horse. And never mind speaking another human language these guys seem to be able to talk horse.
Why do they live in this romantic old fashioned way despite all the temptations modern life holds? What is important to them? What do they care about and what are their hopes, dreams and ambitions? I wish I could ask them in their language but I can’t.
So this trip is stage one of learning Spanish. If you’re in London ever you might see me sat on the bus or tube with headphones on repeating odd phrases in Spanish. Do say hi.
Because for me travel is partly about discovering other cultures (partly about laying around doing very little of course). But we place too much importance on historical sites, art and relics when really, the people are the true conduit to immersing oneself in a place.
When I check in at CasaSur Art Hotel in Buenos Aires it’s the people I’ll be looking to make my trip memorable. With small, family owned hotels like this (just 36 rooms) there’s always a more personal relationship to be had and with the help of the patient staff, my terrible Spanish, and their excellent English I shall truly see Argentina, not just visit it.
I’ll find the best place to watch tango, the best places to eat the food that makes these people tick, the best vineyards to visit to sample Argentinian wine and most importantly the closest place to the city to find the local cowboys and ride into the sunset with them.
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