An Englishman’s struggles with language abroad

I started travelling late in 2009 and like a lot of Englishmen I had had very little experience with foreign languages, especially when compared to other Europeans. There isn’t an emphasis on learning languages in the UK like in other countries. Also, I would be lying if I said I didn´t have a slightly bullish attitude to foreign languages, in that I expected everyone else to speak enough English for me to get by. Travelling throughout India I found communication to be a mixed bag. Most people spoke good English in the southern states (it is the official language) but up north it was either very broken or nonexistent. Getting about wasn’t too hard but it was a shame that due to my lack of Hindi I couldn’t form proper friendships with a lot of the great Indians I met. taj

Last March my wife and I holidayed in Japan and it was the first time I came across such a definitive language barrier. The Japanese were wonderfully polite and you could see that they wanted to help when we asked or enquired, but such distinct and different cultures and languages really did stop any true connection through speaking to one another. As you can imagine there was plenty of body language and pointing from our end and plenty of awkward, polite smiles and bowing from theirs!

taj 2 An impression I got from experiencing India and Japan, to some degree, was that they didn’t expect foreign travelers to understand their languages. That didn’t make it any easier getting around, but there was an: “Ok, so I can’t understand you, you can’t understand me, let’s work this out the best we can” attitude that helped.

Coming to Argentina has been by far the biggest eye opener in the language stakes. My wife is Argentine but we never talk in Spanish and so I came to Argentina with very little Spanish vocabulary. I have been fortunate because my wife’s family all speak English well enough, but of course tend to talk Spanish when we are together socially. My bullish attitude of expecting everyone to speak English around me has been well and truly shot down!

I have so far struggled to pick up Spanish which has made it difficult at times. I get the impression that there is an expectation to know Spanish when you want to engage with Argentines (and rightly so!) and so understanding conversational Spanish is all the more important.taj 3

What I’ve learnt when on the road is that if you want to travel and just do the tourist traps then a limited understanding of that country’s language will get you by, just barely. But, just doing the tourist traps means that you are missing a big part of travelling. Going off the beaten track is how to experience a country’s true culture and people, and this requires you to put effort into learning their language.


The Passive Voice

Which facts about Seattle do you think are true and which are false?

  1. The basketball team “The Lakers” are from Seattle
  2. It often rains in Seattleseattle
  3. Silicon Valley is near Seattle
  4. Bill Gates and Microsoft are located in Seattle
  5. Chrysler cars are manufactured in Seattle
  6. Bruce Springsteen was born in Seattle
  7. “Grunge” music comes from Seattle
  8. Seattle is in the Southwest of the United States

My Hometown

Many years ago, I was born in Seattle, Washington USA. Seattle is located in the  northwest corner of the USA. Recently, Seattle has become the focus of much international attention. Many films have been made there, probably the most famous of which is Sleepless in Seattle starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Seattle is also known as the birthplace of “Grunge” music; both Pearl Jam and Nirvana are from Seattle. For older people like me, it should be noted that Jimi Hendrix was born in Seattle! NBA fans know Seattle for the “Seattle Supersonics”, a team that has played basketball in Seattle for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, Seattle is also famous for its bad weather.

Seattle has also become one of the fastest-growing business areas in the United States. Two of the most important names in the booming business scene in Seattle are Microsoft and Boeing. Microsoft was founded and is owned by the world-famous Bill Gates (how much of his software is on your computer?). Boeing has always been essential to the economic situation in Seattle. It is located to the north of Seattle and famous jets such as the “Jumbo” have been manufactured there for more than 50 years!

Seattle is positioned between Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains. The combination of its scenic location, thriving business conditions and exciting cultural scene makes Seattle one of America’s most interesting cities.

Chrysler cars are manufactured in Seattle          Chrysler manufactures cars in Seattle

Which sentence is ACTIVE and which sentence is PASSIVE?

The passive

The passive voice is used when focusing on the person or thing affected by an action.

  • The Passive is formed: Passive Subject + To Be + Past Particple

They built the house in 1989         The house was built in 1989.

  • It is often used in business when the object of the action is more important than those who perform the action.

Over 20 different models have been produced in the past two years.

The passive uses the same patterns for the other tenses:

  • PRESENT CONTINUOUS: is/are + being + past participle

Susan is cooking dinner                 Dinner is being cooked by Susan

  • PAST: was/were + past participle

      James Joyce wrote “Dubliners”      “Dubliners” was written by James Joyce.

  • FUTURE: will/going to + be + past participle

I will finish it tomorrow.                 It will be finished tomorrow.


 Practice using the passive

1. They make shoes in that factory.

Shoes      —             are made in that factory.

2. People must not leave bicycles in the driveway.

Bicycles      —             must not be left in the driveway.

3. They built that skyscraper in 1934.

That skyscraper      —             was built in 1934.

4. The students will finish the course by July.

The course      —             will be finished by July.

5. They are repairing the streets this month.

The streets     —             are being repaired this month.

Change these sentences into the passive voice

1. They had finished the preparations by the time the guests arrived.

2. You should take care when working on electrical equipment.

3. They are going to perform Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony next weekend.

4. Someone will speak Japanese at the meeting.

5. Karen is going to prepare the refreshments.




A los habitantes de Buenos Aires se le conoce mayormente como porteños, por la influencia del puerto en el desarrollo de esta cuidad. Ellos utilizan con frecuencia una jerga peculiar conocida como “lunfardo”, la cual surge de la fusión de lenguas, conocimientos y costumbres, traídas por los inmigrantes. Esta forma de hablar consiste en deformar el propio castellano, tomando palabras de algunos dialectos italianos y de otras lenguas, para luego adaptarlas en un nuevo idioma.

Es un leguaje dinámico y lleno de vida ya que se nutre constantemente de expresiones circunstanciales o improvisadas, renovándose constantemente. Al igual que el tango , nace en el ambiente marginal de los barrios pobres, debido a la convivencia forzada entre el gran caudal de inmigrantes que llegaron durantes las primeras décadas del siglo XX y la población local. Hoy se ha expandido a todos los niveles sociales y es cotidianamente utilizado en diversos ámbitos y situaciones. Lo podemos escuchar frecuentemente en los tangos, en los medios de comunicación y en los escritores más importantes de este país. Hay que mantener completa atención a la hora de escuchar hablar a un porteño, pues su español podría ser bastante complicado. He aquí varios ejemplos…

Algunas expresiones características del español rioplatense:
Opiniones favorables sobre una persona
• “Tiene onda”
• “Es re lindo/a”
• “Es copado/a”

Opiniones negativas sobre una persona
• “Es re mala onda”
• “No me cabe”
• “No me lo/a banco”

Tigre – relax your pace away from the city

Tigre – A Popular Destination for Locals & Tourists

Tigre, a long time favorite with Lvstudio, has been a popular destination for many of our Spanish-Only-Weekend-Trips over the years. While big cities like Buenos Aires are great places to spend a few weeks, sometimes there is a desire to escape to somewhere a little quieter and more peaceful to re-charge the batteries. This favored hiding place of the Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) is only a 50 min train ride from the Retiro train station. Tigre is divided in two by the Rio Tigre and the waters stream in from the inland jungles of Argentina.

Tigre lies on the Paraná delta, in the 16th century it was just a small port town until the wealthy elite of Buenos Aires discovered it at the beginning of the 20th century and transformed it with the now many colonial mansions and beautiful houses that we see today.

This is a huge water recreation area, and you will see everything that floats from canoes, kayaks, rowboats, racing shells, jet skis, rubber rafts, and power boats. There is no speed limit and everything is done by boat albeit buses, taxis, and hauling services, there are even supermarket boats! Tigre, in addition has many rowing clubs, and Argentina’s first “regatta” was held in here.

Tigre is not all about boat trips however, visit some of the many museums including the Mate Museum (dedicated to the popular tea drinking beverage in Argentina) the Navel Museum and Tigre’s Art Museum. Furthermore the iconic high ferris wheel and the many rollercoaster’s of the Tigre’s theme park provide endless hours of entertainment for the younger generation. Finally the Mercado de Frutos is a must see. This daily crafts market is great for picking up some local bargains and trinkets.

A Spanish & English Cultural Trip to Tigre with Lvstudio
Why not start your new year off by joining us at Lvstudio for our next A Spanish & English Cultural Trip to the Tigre Delta on March 1-2nd 2013? We will be partaking in numerous activities such as boat trips, swimming, sporting activities, sightseeing, and relaxing at the river side. Enjoy a typical Argentine asado with us and partake in numerous games all whilst practicing and building on your English/Spanish skills! Our goal is for you to use Spanish/English in all activities carried out throughout the day as we believe you don’t just learn a language, you experience it! Get in touch to reserve your place:


¡Ojo con los gestos! – Dictionary of Porteños’ Gestures

Cuando nos comunicamos, no sólo usamos las palabras; también hacemos gestos que pueden tener tanto significado como lo que decimos. Algunos son universales (como por ejemplo el pulgar para arriba), otros significan diferentes cosas en diferentes lugares. Acá, te enseñamos algunos gestos muy útiles para entender a los porteños.

When we talk, we use more than just words. We also do gestures that can be as meaningful as the words we say. Some of them are universal (such us “thumbs up”), some others mean different things in different places.
People from Buenos Aires are known for “speaking with their hands”. You might feel that we are making senseless chaotic movements but many of them are very meaningful and clear among locals.
Here, some of them.



¡Ojo! – Be careful!/Watch out!
[Pull down your lower eyelid with your index finger.]



¡Ni la más pálida idea! – I don’t know./I have no clue.[The chin flick: tilt your head back a bit and sweep the back of your fingers forward from under your chin.]


¡Ma sí, andá (a cagar)! – Get outta here!
[Throw your arm back toward your head.]



Montoncito – What the hell are you talking about?!/Just who do you think you are? [Bring all of your fingers and your thumb together with your hand pointing upward. Move your hand up and down at the wrist.]



¡Hambre! – You’re totally in the dark, out of it. You don’t know what time it is. [Bite your lower lip with your upper teeth and say: “mmmh!”]




The Wines Of Argentina

The Argentine wine industry is fast becoming one of the largest contenders in the global wine industry. In fact, it is now the fifth largest producer of wine in the world, and the Argentine government has recently even declared wine its national liquor. Argentina has an abundance of the natural elements in place for perfect wine producing conditions. Its high altitudes, generous sunshine, large temperature differential, limited pests and disease, low rainfall, controlled irrigation, geographic location from the ocean, and pure, alluvial soil create a perfect environment that is unparalleled elsewhere. The sizable spans of Argentina’s vineyards are located along the country’s western border. They extend for over 2,000 kilometres, from the Cafayate Valley, high up in Salta, in the north, through Mendoza, in the center, right down to the lower-level and down to the protected Rio Negro Valley, to the south east, in Patagonia.

Northwest Region – Catamara & Salta
The vineyards of the northwestern provinces of Catamarca, Jujuy and Salta are located between the 24th parallel and 26th parallel south and include some of the highest elevated vineyards in the world with many vineyards planted more than 4,900 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level. The soils and climate of the regions are very similar to Mendoza but the unique mesoclimate and high elevation of the vineyards typically produces grapes with higher levels of total acidity which contribute to the wines balance and depth. Of the three regions, Catamarca is the most widely planted with more than 5,800 acres (2,300 hectares) under vine as of 2003. In recent years the Salta region, and particularly its sub-region of Cafayate, have been gaining the most worldwide attention the quality of its full bodied whites made from Torrontés Riojano as well as its fruity reds made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat.

Central Region – Mendoza, San Juan & La Rioja
The most notable wine regions of Argentina are Mendoza, where nearly all the major wineries are concentrated. With its continental climate favoring grape growing, the Mendoza region is responsible for producing over 80% of total wine production in Argentina. Spend a few terrific days and nights in Mendoza, savouring, sipping, walking and biking this region where the majority of Argentina’s wines are produced, including Argentina’s signature wine, the rich, deep-garnet malbec.
The San Juan and La Rioja regions are long-standing regions that continue to produce a wealth of wine created from simple grapes for local consumption. Though a relatively small region, with only 20,000 acres (8,000 hectares) planted as of 2003, the region is known for aromatic Moscatel de Alexandrias and Torrontés made from a local sub-variety known as Torrontés Riojano. Lack of water however has curtailed much vineyard expansion in his area.

Southern Region – Río Negro, Neuquén & Patagonia
Southern Patagonia region includes the fruit producing regions of Río Negro and Neuquén which has a considerably cooler climate than the major regions to the north. The Rio Negro region lies at the southern end of wine production. It is known by many as an upcoming wine region, not only for cool-climate varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot noir but as well as Malbec, Semillon and Torrontés Riojano. Many of the grapes for the Argentine sparkling wine industry are sourced from this area.

Wine Tasting Buenos Aires

Wine Tasting Buenos Aires

Wine Tasting with Lvstudio
Warm weather arrives and wonder: What is your favourite Argentine wine for this summer? Here at Lvstudio we are also passionate about our wines! Join us every 3rd Thursday of the month for a wine Spanish vocabulary class followed by a visit to a favourite wine tasting venue of ours for a tasting experience through Spanish. Learn the provenance of your favourite wines and where to buy them at the best prices. All Spanish levels welcome – please contact us for further information or to RSVP attendance:

Do you like photography ? ¿Conocés a Sebastião Salgado?

UNICEF Special Representative Sebastião Salgado

Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado is one of the most respected photojournalists working today. Appointed a UNICEF Special Representative on 3 April 2001, he has dedicated himself to chronicling the lives of the world’s dispossessed, a work that has filled ten books and many exhibitions and for which he has won numerous awards in Europe and in the Americas.

“I hope that the person who visits my exhibitions, and the person who comes out, are not quite the same,” says Mr. Salgado. “I believe that the average person can help a lot, not by giving material goods but by participating, by being part of the discussion, by being truly concerned about what is going on in the world.”

Sebastião Salgado

Fun Places to Visit in Buenos Aires

Guest Blogger: LV English student, Kida Kawer

…Things to do in MY City!

Agronomy and Veterinary University (Facultad de Agronomía y Veterinaría), and Ecological Reserve (Reserva Ecológica) in Costanera Sur, are two places that I recommend for everyone who likes live in contact with the nature, living in the middle of the city.

Agronomy and Veterinary University is located in Agronomy neighborhood, it has an around 74 hectares full of old trees, horses, cows and llamas (typical animal from South America), until a lake you can find.
I live near to this place, and go there to walk, run or just go there to drink a mate is more than necessary to be in harmony. There you can breathe clean air, the damp earth smell, see the green color in the orchards, listen the sing of some birds and maybe look at some ducks jumping to little lake.
On the week you can walk to more places than on the weekend. At night that place could be dangerous.

The Ecological Reserve, it is place in Costanera Sur located by the river plate, few block away from the busyness center. It has an extension about 360 hectares. You can find a great variety of trees and animals. Is a special place to take bird pictures.

The nearest Saturday to full moon they do a night walking using the natural light, it´s a great moment to be in contact with the nature (you need to reserve).
This place is special to go by bike.

Feriados en Buenos Aires

17 días feriados en el 2012 en Argentina. Es decir, cada tres días, un descanso. Va-mos!

Es realmente chocante, ver la cantidad de días no laborables en Argentina comparado con mi país de origen (EE.UU). Para darte una idea, yo trabajo para una empresa Estadounidense desde casa a la mañana, y después acá en Buenos Aires a la tarde. Para semana santa, voy a trabajar lunes a viernes a la mañana como corresponde en USA, y solamente dos días en Buenos Aires. No es la primera vez que pasa, y curiosamente me voy acostumbrando a trabajar desde los lugares a los que nos escapamos para los infinitos fines de semana largos que hay. Llevo casi dos meses trabajando en la empresa Americana y aún no tomamos ni un feriado.

Pablo Molouny, Gerente general de dice que “El actual contexto económico en ciertos países no admite descansos, pero por suerte la Argentina se encuentra en una posición de poder brindarle a sus empleados nuevos días para relajarse, disfrutar en familia, descansar, etc.” Le agradezco a la Presidenta Kirchner, y a todos los que hacen posible unos 17 feriados anuales, pero yo realmente no sé si estoy de acuerdo. Si bien se supone que la Argentina es el país Latinoamericano con un sueldo promedio más alto, tampoco es un país extremadamente rico. El contexto ecónomico es tal que “Apenas un 10% de los trabajadores percibe ingresos mensuales superiores a los $ 4.000,” son menos de US$ 1,000. No le quiero quitar la importancia de relajarse y disfrutar en familia, pero no exageremos! Especialmente si uno considera las perdidas para numerosas empresas Argentinas por cada día no laborable.

Me interesa mucho saber qué opinan ustedes, y de dónde son! Personalmente como soy empleada, disfruto los feriados al máximo, pero no me cierran de todo. Debe ser por lo que vi de mi padre, trabajando como un loco en el Día de Acción de Gracias para dejarles a sus empleados el día franco.

En fin, buen fin de semana!