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Language lessons in Madrid

Sonya Chaudhry believes that studying abroad in Madrid this quarter has exposed her to language barriers -- no matter how subtle -- among different Spanish speaking countries. (Courtesy of Sonya Chaudhry)

When in Madrid, do as the  madrileños do.

After about a month in Spain, I’m starting to see why so many Stanford students are in love with this program.

One of the reasons is that we are really lucky to be able to live with host families and get three home-cooked meals a day. So far, studying abroad in Madrid has been a very hands-on way to learn about Spanish culture.

My roommate and I live with a very loving single mom who spoils us in every way imaginable. She offers loads of advice on where to party, how to dress, what to eat — you name it. My favorite advice so far: eating lettuce and salad can make us gain weight, but a little bit of chocolate everyday is totally acceptable. After all, it has kept her figure slim and her friends jealous over the years.

As informative as her witticisms are, it’s also been exciting to share our own cultures with our host mom. My roommate is part Mexican — and I’m a native Californian, have a Mexican boyfriend and, consequently, have lots of happy memories associated with Mexican culture.

However, the Spanish spoken in Spain is very different from the Spanish spoken in Mexico. Thus, we are constantly being introduced to new slang or are reminded to pronounce the Spanish lisp and say opthión instead of opción.

Our greatest surprise thus far has been the word coger. Everyone in Spain, including our host mom, has been telling us to coger un taxi, el libro, etc. We were a little bewildered and uncomfortable. For the non-Spanish speakers out there, to Castellano speakers, the word coger is short for recoger, which means to pick up or get. In Mexican slang, however, coger essentially means to have sex with, but in cruder terms. Needless to say, we got a good laugh out of explaining our confusion to our host mother and learning a little bit more about Spanish culture.

— Sonya Chaudhry

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