It’s all Spanish to me!

One man’s soul-destroying journey through day one of Spanish school in Buenos Aires… Why don’t they just pronounce the letters the same way?!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


So, do you want to know what I discovered about Spanish? Apparently it’s not possible to learn it in a day. Yes, after my first Spanish lesson, that’s about all I have learnt.

My teacher has told me that the only phrase I brought to the classroom is, in fact, useless. So there goes a wasted hour practising “Hasta la vista” to try to impress him with my pronunciation!

After four hours of sitting in the lesson this morning, I have ended up with more questions than answers.

Why do Spanish-speaking people bother writing down two l’s if they’re just going to pronounce it like a y anyway? Just write y!

And the same goes for that silly h that never even gets mentioned at the start of words – it just hangs around the other letters, not doing anything, just silent and annoying. I’ve decided the h is like the Stephen Baldwin of the Spanish alphabet.

learn spanish in buenos aires, spanish school, argentina

I’ve got another problem with this language – they pronounce the z like an s. That would not be such an issue except it has ruined my childhood.

Why? One word: Zorro. It’s not Sorro. That makes him sound like a bit of a pussy.

No little kid is going to go around with his sword carving out an s in the wall. It hurts your wrist too much (try it!).

Spanish language – you have ruined my childhood dream of being a masked villain-fighting hero!

It seemed like such a good idea to enrol in Spanish school in Buenos Aires for a month. I thought it would enrich my experience of South America and bring me closer to the people.

Languages are important for digital nomads. Sadly, it seems I’m destined to sound less like Antonio Banderas and more like Speedy Gonzales.

This will only be useful when I need to tell people to “arriba, arriba”. And that phrase will only be useful once I learn what it means.

learn spanish in buenos aires, spanish school, argentina

Oh, it’s been so long since I was in a classroom (if you don’t include the birthday party that my friend held in a lecture hall – you know who you are!). It’s strange to have to answer questions, to take notes, and be given homework.

I’d actually forgotten what it was like to avoid doing your homework every evening.

Do you know the word for ‘homework’ in Spanish? No, nor did I. I just looked it up on the internet.

Seriously, why do we need to learn languages these days when everything is just on the internet? I could do a search for every word I need as I need it and it would still be faster than picking up the language at the school.

Sigh… the internet. Or, as they say in Spanish, la internet.

For now, the words all blur into the same strange characters when I look at them, and when people talk to me it just sounds like they’re singing a Shakira song. Badly. Like her. Hopefully, though, the language will start to seep into my under-utilised brain and soon I won’t feel like such a fool.

This morning a bird landed on the windowsill outside our classroom and the teacher asked us what it was in Spanish. After flicking quickly through my dictionary I said “la pajaro”. The teacher said, “almost, but it’s masculine”, to which I replied “wow, you’ve got good eyesight”. Boom tish.

12 thoughts on “It’s all Spanish to me!”

    • The Spanish dictionary has had heaps of use! It’s even featured on the blog, hasn’t it? Thanks so much for leaving it with me – I promise I’ll look after it. That dictionary has many more people to help through the long months in South America 🙂

    • Ha ha! I looked up your Spanish sentence and I agree completely! 🙂
      And thanks for the app advice… I reckon that’s going to save the day many times. (I’ve just got to make sure my teacher doesn’t catch me using it in class!)

  1. jajaja, I feel your pain Turtle! I’ve been studying here in Panama for two months now, and I’m only just getting it, so hang in there!

    Zorro is even funnier in Spain, as they pronounce Z as th. I find it hard to take even a man carrying a sword seriously when he introduces himself as Thorro!

    • This is the last week (of 4) and I still feel like a kindergarten student would beat me in a debate (in fact, that’s not even debatable!) Hopefully things improve as I travel through the rest of the continent. Necessity to communicate may force me to get better.

  2. Jajaj Is your teacher, by any chance, latin american?
    In the original Spanish language, the z is pronounced kinda like a ‘th’ but with the point of your toungue sticking out between your teeth (try listening to Antonio Banderas in spanish. He IS Zorro so he should know).

    Your posts are very entertaining


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