The national language of Argentina is Spanish, which is known as ‘español’ or ‘castellano’. In Buenos Aires and the outer lying areas, including Uruguay, a particular brand of Spanish is spoken called Rioplatense. This regional form, along with a strong Italian dialect (and hand gestures) from the many Italian immigrants, creates a language and slang quite unique to Buenos Aires referred to as ‘lunfardo’. Walking in the streets you’ll hear the word ‘che’ a lot, which is slang for ‘hey.’ Although the majority of Argentines learn English as children in school, don’t come to Argentina expecting to not have to speak Spanish. Many porteños will use English with you when they can, but don’t expect everyone to be able to speak or understand English. A basic working knowledge, how to ask for things, some food vocabulary, and phrases such as ‘permiso’ (excuse me, used when passing by someone) and ‘como te va?’ (how’s it going?) are good phrases to know.
Many porteños are eager to share their language with you, and it is easy to find someone to give you one-on-one classes for a very good price. Standard private tutoring rates range from AR$40-$50 per session (usually an hour to 90 minutes). Make sure to ask if this includes materials and handouts. Most teachers will be willing to meet you in cafes or your house, and will work around your schedule. If you are a morning person, don’t expect any one to meet you before 9am, however many Argentines will work late into the night so be prepared for a 7 pm or 8 pm class during the week.
Another option for Spanish classes is to go through a language school. The prices are much higher and they cater to tourists coming for a few weeks. Be prepared to pay more for these structured lessons, but also know that you will undoubtedly get a lot out of them as well. There are many spread out over the city, and the majority of them use a natural acquisition method which will immerse you into Spanish for several hours each class. Many times these classes will also be taught one-on-one or in very small groups. Because of the popularity of these language schools, a good means of comparison is a school that fits your budget and is in a convenient location.
The University of Buenos Aires (UBA) also offers Spanish classes. Visit their website for a list of course options and prices.
Bridge Linguatec is a branch of Bridge, which is based out of Denver, Colorado, and they have many teachers from all over, not just Argentina ,so you will have the opportunity to learn from teachers with different dialects. Depending on the season and your level, you may be in a private class or in a class with three or four other students.
Expanish is another great language school that has options for prospective students, including housing arrangements and intensive immersion Spanish courses.
Spanglish Exchange allows native English and native Spanish speakers to practice their conversation skills with each other. The meetings are held in various bars throughout the city and feature a series of ten-minute sessions, half in each language. Good for some “real-world” experience once you’ve at least learned the basics.
Many private tutors post ads on Craigslist, so be sure to check there for competitive prices.
The most difficult part in understanding Spanish here (if you already have some knowledge of the language) is adjusting to the colorful dialect and slang of Buenos Aires. The porteños have fun with their language, and so should you!