Weird isn't it? We arrive AT airports, bus stations, restaurants, banks, someone's house, etc. But we arrive IN cities, towns, countries.
It makes sense though if you imagine these places on a map. You could put a pin in the map to show the location of an airport, or a restaurant, or someone's house, so we essentially abstract those locations to a single point, whereas for a country or city, you don't usually do that.
I don't agree. 'They are going to arrive at Rome' seems perfectly OK to me. A Google search for 'arrived at London' gives 35.5 million hits, as against 41.5 million hits for 'arrived in London'. Also, an exact word search on Google for the sentence 'They arrived at Paris' produces over half a million hits.
When I did a Google search for "arrived at London" I got 777,000 hits and "arrived in London" was 8,900,000 hits.
Did you use quotation marks when you searched for the phrases? You must use them or you will get hits which have some of the keys words you're looking for, but not necessarily the exact phrase.
Also, if you look at the "arrived at London" hits you will see that most of them name a specific place like an airport or train station. If they don't, they are just bad grammar...just because you can find millions of hits for something on Google doesn't mean they are correct.
For example "its going to" (without the apostrophe in "it's") is just wrong but there are 183 million hits. (vs. 921,000,000 hits for "it's going to") but that isn't my point. I'm sure I could even find instances where something that is incorrect gets more hits than something correct.
Everyday prepositions like this are "chocante" for English speakers. In this instance, llegar+a is just a more common expression than "llegar en". But notice how the preposition changes with the verb associated with it: "Ellas estarán EN Roma." Here, "They will be in Rome" is a similar expression, but with the change of the verb (estar), the preposition changes as well (en). Generally, the act of "going" somewhere in Spanish is associated with the preposition "a" (to), whereas "en" is more linked to being a fixed place. Similarly to English, Spanish verb and preposition generally come in pairs, and learning them just comes with exposure.
Trey, that is what I have been saying. The only way to become fluent is through becoming utterly familiar with the new language. And that can only occur through massive exposure. Just like you said.
I saw recently how there was a couple of guys who finished the tree at a level of only 14. And they were both completely proud of their extra low score. One boasted he had achieved his success in only three weeks. Whooee! What a lack of exposure those two fools do have! But short term nemory is a powerful thing. It works great for remembering where one parked the car at the mall, But for a learning a language it is no goid at all. For it's like you say, exposure is the key to the hope chest of becoming fluent.
This use of preposition "to" or "at" was bugging me for a while and I finally digged out an old copy of "Cambridge grammar in use". According to the worthies who compiled the book we say "go/come/travel...etc" TO a place or event (does not matter to London or to the party). BUT we say "arrive in London or arrive in Spain" (for towns an countries). For all other places, like buildings or events we say arrive at the party/ at the airport/ at the hotel.
I get the comments about in for cities. It especially makes sense if that arrival is by plane because you come down in the city. Train stops are also in the city. If I arrive by car however I would still insist that 'at' works, because the moment you arrive at the outskirts of London you are there but are not necessarily in it. Picky? Maybe. : )