April 28, 2007

Autumn Changes in Buenos Aires

Asking Questions
I just came back from a conference on the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the incredibly beautiful Faculty of Law of the University of Buenos Aires.

In Spanish the WTO is referred to as the OMC (Organizaciůn Mundial del Comercio). The panel were three doctors of law, one of whom, the Brasilian Dr. Welber Barrar, of the Federal University of Santa Catarina was presenting his book: "Negociaciones Comerciales Multilaterales", Spanish Edition. The topic was the collapse of the OMC talks.

I only mention this because this is the first time I have had the guts to ask a question in a public forum in Spanish.

It is difficult when learning another language to understand that language; more difficult still when the topic is complex and the Spanish is mispronounced in a Brazilian accent; but all this pales into insignificance when compared to taking to the floor (so to speak) and asking a question in a foreign language, albeit in a Dublin accent. I had asked questions in class, in fact I do a lot, but never, never at a conference.

I asked about the collapse of the latest rounds of negotiations and the final chapter of his new book that spoke to the topic of ecology and the interactions of the WTO with climate change. Dr. Barrar understood and thanked me for the interesting question and answered it in a very intelligent way. I was somewhat elated and thanked him after the show when he switched to English to discuss my Irish heritage.

Speaking Up
As a personal goal I really want to be fluent in this complex language by the end of the year. Things are moving very rapidly at the moment as I am using every muscle I have in a desperate attempt to avoid drowning in deep, deep immersion. I find wine helps.

In an effort to make this aim a reality, I continue classes in the crumbling but beautiful language laboratory of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (also UBA). Iím now taking level eight of the nine level classes in "Spanish for Foreigners." The course is called level seven. The teachers, all women, and all but a few, incredible communicators, are constantly asking the administration to change the names of the classes. It seems the poor students who come in with no Spanish at all are often disheartened to tell their friends that they are studying "Level Zero".

Last month I changed Masters degrees in the Faculty of Economics. Iíve dropped/opted out of the Masters degree in the Economic of International Relations and have decided to focus a bit on where I am, taking the advice of friends.

I now study a Masters in Regionalism with a focus on Mercosur, the South American Common Market. This market is growing and will have its first parliamentary session next Monday week in Montevideo (The seventh of May). I shall be there if I can get clearance. Mercosur is having itís problems and they have been added to by some of the recent pronouncements in Venezuela confusing the issue by announcing UNASUR another regional group which supercedes Mercosur in many matters. UNASUR incorporates Bolivia and Ecuador into a regional energetic union and shall have a seat in Quito, of all places. Lots of things are happening in Ecuador these days since the new president Rafael Correa took power, heís a good guy!

Anyway it is all very confusing and I may have made the wrong choice but I really like the courses so far, so I really donít care.

Wrapping Up
Life down here is much more tolerable since the heat has resided. It has been an El NiŮo summer and the rains have been awful causing huge problems nationwide, especially in the tropical north. Come down and visit if you like, the shopping is great!

Posted by Tony Phillips at 02:12 AM | Comments (3)