While packing to leave for Buenos Aires, Argentina I was thinking of all the places I would visit and not be able to talk with the local people, order meals or ask for directions, because I did not know a single word of Spanish. With a quick trip to my neighborhood bookstore, I found the last Spanish phrasebook on the shelf and quickly purchased the book for reading on the plane.
After, arriving in Buenos Aires and finding a taxi at the airport, I proceeded to give the taxi driver a piece of paper with the address of my hotel. I started feeling awkward when the driver began conversing in Spanish and I could not reply. After a while he understood I did not speak the language, as I was frantically thumbing through the phrasebook looking for right words to reply with.
At the hotel I was able to pay the taxi driver the exact amount on the meter and to quickly add in a small tip. Upon exiting the taxi I managed to find gracias in the phrase book to thank the driver, I even detected a bit of a smile as he drove away.
Settling into my room, I started thinking this would be a great time to go exploring. I proceeded to wander the streets looking for the ideal restaurant to try my new language. Upon entering the restaurant I was shown to a table in the corner and presented with a menu in Spanish, hesitantly I open the menu looking at the entrees to see if there was anything that looked familiar. I was on the verge of panic realizing the phrasebook was still in my hotel room.
When the meal arrived I was very surprised I did so well, however what I received was not what I had expected. Throughout the meal I scan the menu the waiter had left on the table. Beginning with the entree I ordered, I started making notes of the items on my plate and words in the menu, so next time I could order something different. Over the next few weeks dinner was becoming more adventurous, I was asking for the menu, saying thank you, and requesting the check in Spanish, along with wishing the waiter a good night upon leaving the restaurant.
Breakfast turned out to be daring; along with a coffee and pastry I started asking for a local newspaper. Though my Spanish was not good enough to read the newspaper, but with the pictures and captions below I was able to piece together what was taking place in the article. If I had a few spare minutes I would skim the local news, business, and cartoons looking for new words to use. By the end of my trip I was comfortable ordering meals, asking directions, along with using a few pleasantries. I thought I was well on the way to using Spanish and planned to continue using my new language when I returned home.