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https://www.duolingo.com/JamesBarlow

My Duolingo Spanish actually worked in Madrid last week!!

I've been learning Spanish for around 4 months recently using Duo as my teacher, nothing else, from a total beginner. It became a great daily challenge for a while to try and get to 50 phrases a day, so I was making progress...

Then I kinda gave up one day, I don't know why, I think I had a lot of other stuff on and it just slipped away from my routine - 2 months ago.

Last week I was sent to Madrid to do a live event - I'm a sound engineer - and I found myself in several situations with a Spanish truck driver, a parking attendant, a waiter in the hotel and actually with Spanish police too, where I found I could grasp enough of what I heard to understand and reply well enough to get things done.

I was amazed I had gained enough over a few months to make a difference in Spain talking with locals. I was extremely happy to have managed this all on my own with no Spanish speaking or overseas immersion - just your fantastic app.

I'm pleased to say I'm back learning again now, cheers!

3 years ago

20 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/DanD_8
DanD_8
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I'd love to know if there was any grammar that you feel like Duolingo didn't cover enough (specific to Spain). I know I've only seen vosotros once in an exercise so far, but I imagine it would be easy to recognize in conversation.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wynrich
wynrichPlus
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I recently returned from a 6 week trip to Spain. It was so much fun to speak Spanish there even though most of my study and practice has been with Latin American Spanish. Not being well-skilled with vosotros wasn't a problem because I rarely needed to address more than one person at at time. But, it might be different for someone like James who was working over there. One thing I never felt comfortable about was when to use "usted" and when to use "tu". The Spanish seem to be a lot more informal. I didn't want to offend anyone by using "tu" inappropriately so mostly stuck to "usted" but they may have thought I was being a little too formal. (I'd love to hear what other people do about this.)

After a while I found myself pronouncing thank you as "graTHias" instead of "graSias". :) Saying "patata" instead of "papa". Saying "zumo de naranja" instead of "jugo de naranja". Using "coger" without worrying about it. (Can't do that in Mexico.) I never got clear about all their different ways to say "beans" and none of them was "frijoles".

But I think there is almost as much variety among the Latin American countries.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RAMOSRAUL

There could be a lot said about how the formal addressing ought to be used and why it is not.

I wrote a short post long ago, but I guess most of those posts are buried forever, just taking space in servers. I tend to think that bringing the topic means that someday the information on these pages will be organized in a way that can actually be used.

Enough of ranting.

So, you are supposed to use usted when you do not have a close relation with the person you're addressing to. General, uh? it is quite vague indeed. It also denotes respect and distance (because you do not know this person after all) and, in the particular Spanish culture has lead to "asymmetries", that is when somebody uses the respectful form and you do not get it back, as in a disrespectful way.

Now, that is not that nice, is it? In some situation it was and used to put distance and to stress servilism. In order to avoid this uncomfortable feeling some people (many too many as turns out) just stopped using it altogether.

In a way, it is quite a regional thing as well. If you live in a small village/town, people tend to know each other and to address each other informally. In a big city like Madrid, there is less of a "often" relationship and often usted is used.

In work environments and other formal social areas, it is much more used. In Universities professors use(d) it, especially when addressing the whole class, for instance. When meeting with another company would also happen until you've met a few times...

What may actually happen is that you walk into a shop and ask something using usted and the person behind the counter looks you with an evil eye, thinking you're actually demoting them. This actually happened to me a few times.

The general rule is that if you are addressed in the formal way, you reply in the formal way, shall different happen, just have an eye whether the person is implicitly telling you that it's all right to use the informal or that he expect that formality goes one way.

that above is in a nutshell what makes people wary and uncomfortable. Germans have developed a much better approach. They stick to the formal until somebody gives up and say to use the informal or, in some cases, asking up front at the first chance

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wynrich
wynrichPlus
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Raul, thanks for all this! Is your experience in Spain or Latin America or both? I've read and experienced that Spain tends to be a lot less formal than Latin America. A few times I noticed someone would use "tu" with me right away, and I'm not young. :) This was all in travel situations in very small towns as well as Madrid, not living or working there.

It's all so mystifying. I have a good friend from Mexico and we get together to practice with each other (her English, me Spanish). She's the youngest of 10 children. I asked her how she addresses her parents and brothers and sisters. She had to think about it a bit -- I guess it is all very unconscious. She finally said she used "tu" with all her brothers and sisters except for her oldest brother where she uses "usted". (I can't remember what she said about her parents.)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RAMOSRAUL

It is indeed mystifying! My experience is mostly Spanish, but I have encountered people from Latin America often enough, from different places.

It goes a lot with education. My father will address his mother in law as "usted" even she could not care less, but I never addressed him as "usted" or "padre". An acquaintance used usted with another mate's father, when in University and the man almost chocked with laughter.

Also in University, a female student from Iran asked me if she could use my first name, because in her country he would have never done such thing.

But it goes both ways. As I said, Germans are generally very polite and the other day I got a call from the UK. The chap at the other end, knowing about that, was very very uncomfortable during the first part of the conversation. At one point I simply told him to use my first name and I could actually hear him sighing with relief at the other end...

I guess one has to learn to have it come naturally, otherwise it is easy to be uncomfortable and that is very visible... this never helps in a conversation!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Hucklebeary

See, my language exchange partner (Madrid) basically said don't use usted on anyone that doesn't look like they could be retired. It used to be "if you know them vs. if you don't know them" but he said that's pretty much 'old school' and not really how it's done anymore. Basically nowadays it's saved for old folks and authority figures. He's only forty and said he would feel bad as if he was just insulted if a younger dude were to use usted to address him because that says "I am using the respectful form of 'you' so that means I think you are very old" lol .

And he said definitely don't address a woman under 60 or so with usted lol. So yeah, when I go to Spain it's for my pronouns unless I have to deal with the police or speak to someone that could be my parents age.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wynrich
wynrichPlus
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Thank you, Hucklebeary, sure wish I'd read this BEFORE recent trip to Spain. Sure hope I didn't offend too many people!

What you said reminds me of growing up in the 60s saying "sir" and "maam". It was ingrained in us. (I grew up in SE New Mexico which is very much like Texas/southern culture.) I continued to do it till I got out of college and moved to New Jersey and, in a job interview, the man asked me "why do you keep calling me 'sir'?" And I soon learned that women were very insulted if you called them "maam".

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/feyMorgaina
feyMorgaina
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"Ma'am" -> That's because it's associated with older women. I think, however, you could get away with "Miss" most of the time. It'd be polite to the younger women and a compliment to the older women. ;-)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wynrich
wynrichPlus
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When I was growing up in the south, "Ma'am" was for anyone old enough to be married and have kids, not just older women. But, I think you may be right that that has changed since then. Although I wouldn't be surprised if children in the south still call their teacher "ma'am", even if their teacher is young. (Not sure though.)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/feyMorgaina
feyMorgaina
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"Although I wouldn't be surprised if children in the south still call their teacher "ma'am", even if their teacher is young. (Not sure though.)"

Some still use "ma'am" even where I am. :-)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aaallison22

I gave you six lingots! Give me one please!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TrioLinguist

Nice story, good luck!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ute.lynghjem

Hi, I have started with spanish in September an work with Duolino a little bit every week. I have just finished with my først 10 skills. I can not yet speak much nor understand. But i will continue for a while and try to get better.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/lastrtelusnet

And my wife and I are planning a vacation to Spain (Barcalone) to visit some new found Spanish speaking friends in Oct of next year. I am working each day to be able to converse well enough without having both feet in my mouth at the same time.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sherdogg

Yeah man. I built my vocB from this then took regular spanish speaking clAsses.....def was helpful!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MaeeSafaee
MaeeSafaee
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Hooooooray! ^_^

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aaallison22

You better learn more spanish sucker! JK! I wish I could learn that fast witha sound and healthy job. I wanted to be a engineer when I was younger, but that was a long time ago...

Good luck learning spanish!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vulture63

Hi James, thats my aim but iv been learning only on this site also but still struggling with the speed the spanish speak at when listening to audio, im still using the tortoise haha.....well done though.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ferreybar
Ferreybar
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Enhorabuena. Conseguir hablar en español en sólo 4 meses me parece un triunfo.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jaaron_phil67

Good job!!!

1 year ago