This month I’ve found a few ways to finally practice my Spanish! A friend and I have started going to a coffee shop to do homework, and it turns out to be a great way to meet people. The manager found out that we were exchange students trying to learn Spanish, and now every time we’re there he comes over and practices with us. He tries to teach us colloquial words and phrases, which is a big help. For me, one of the most challenging parts of understanding Mexican Spanish is the slang. I thought that my vocabulary was alright before I came here, but I quickly realized that “classroom Spanish” isn’t very useful day-to-day. I find that I can communicate perfectly well in my classes, but outside of school I’m at a loss.
The coffee shop manager, who introduced himself as Sammy, sometimes even sits down with us for our “lessons.” It can be hard to keep up, but I try to write things down so I can look them up later. Here’s a few interesting Mexican vocab words:
- Fresa: Fresa directly translates to strawberry, but that’s rarely what it actually means! It refers to someone who is wealthy and a bit stuck-up. In the US, a fresa would be considered “preppy.”
- Mande: This one is important! Before Sammy told me about manda, I had always asked people to repeat themselves by asking “Cómo?” In Mexico, to ask someone what they just said, it is common to say “Mande?” Some Americans make the mistake of using “qué” because it directly translates to “what,” but this is actually considered demanding and rude!
- A poco: “¡A poco!” means “No way!” I heard this one a few times before I asked Sammy about it. A similar word is “neta,” which pretty much means “really?”
Sammy also informed us that the owner of the coffee shop runs a gym down the street. I had been looking for a gym in Puebla—I love to jog, but during the day it’s too hot and at night it can be dangerous. We joined the gym (appropriately called “Workout”) and found that it’s another great place to practice Spanish! The man who works at the front desk is really considerate of my limitations in Spanish—he speaks especially slowly and clearly so that I can understand. And he gives a discount to UPAEP students! I usually go at night (after getting some homework done at the coffee shop), and always see the same people at the gym. I’ve talked to a few of them, but I’d like to get better at starting conversations. I just get so nervous that no one will understand me! Hopefully I’ll get over that in the next few months. It’s hard to believe that the program is already halfway through—it feels like I just got here!