Argentine people living abroad and language barriers

Para la versión es español, presiona aquí.

Argentina is a country with a high rate of immigration, both currently and historically. However, there is also a high number of qualified Argentine professionals living abroad. Where do they live? Why did they leave? What do they do and how? How do they experience life in other languages? In this post we discover the history of Carolina, Antonela and Aldana.

Carolina, Communication Specialist in Turin, Italy

Carolina Ortega lived all her life in Almagro, Buenos Aires City, where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations. At the age of twenty-five, after having worked for four years in Communication and Press, and inspired by a short transatlantic trip, she decided she wanted to know in depth the life that could be awaiting for her in other parts of the world. With a Working Holiday Visa to live and work in Portugal, she got into the plane. After comparing the European serenity with the chaotic pace of Buenos Aires, she decided she wanted to live permanently in the old continent. So she went back home to pick up some documents to acquire her Italian citizenship and made some research to choose a region to settle down. Next step was moving to Italy.

Why did you choose Turin?

I knew that here there are document procurement specialists that had a lot of experience in cases like mine. My original plan was getting my EU passport and moving to other cities in Italy or Barcelona, where my family and friends are. But while I was waiting the procedure times, I met my boyfriend, who is Italian, we fell in love, and I decided to stay here in Turin with him.

What languages do you speak?

Spanish is my mother tongue, I also studied both English and Portuguese for a year as university subjects, and I learnt Italian living here.
A year of Portuguese was more than enough, because it’s very similar to Spanish. It was easy to get a bit more than basic notions to communicate fluently with Brazilian and Portuguese people. But today, after not practicing it, it is very hard for me to build sentences again.
On the other hand, a year of English was definitely not enough! After graduating I was not able to speak it well. So I decided to study it with a private teacher in Buenos Aires, for an extra year and a half. That helped me improve and feel more confident when producing sentences. Speaking English is super important to get better positions, and it was highly demanded in the job market, even in Argentina.
I learnt Italian with a basis of both Spanish and Portuguese. The three of them are very similar, and it can be quite messy! When I first started studying Italian, I couldn’t help thinking in Portuguese. It was very hard for me to make the switch. But at some point, after consuming local TV and music, and speaking a lot with my boyfriend in his language, I completely forgot Portuguese and started thinking in Italian.

How was the language shock with the Italian?

It was hard, particularly at work. It was a constant pressure. Nobody spoke Spanish, and it is a double effort to learn a language while learning how to perform a job.
If I was out with the friends of my boyfriend, I could turn off my listening when I was tired of paying attention, but I couldn’t do the same at work! I had understand very well what my bosses and coworkers said to me. I had to focus in learning the language.

What have you learnt after this multilingual experience?

I would say I’ve learnt four things. Firstly, I’ve learnt to listen to people. In our own language, we are sometimes in automatic pilot and we don’t really listen what people has to say.
Secondly, I’ve learnt to stop being ashamed to ask people to repeat as many times as necessary when I don’t understand something.
Thirdly, I’ve learnt to be patient and understand that learning a language is a process, and it is unrealistic to want to speak it in just a few days, even when you’re living in a country where it is spoken. At the end of the day, that pressure and anxiety takes a toll on you.
Finally, I assimilated the fact that a new language is also the entrance to a new culture. It is through the language that you get to understand a lot of things from life-styles and people in general.

To get to know more about Carolina and her adventures, you can visit her website or her Instagram.

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Antonela, digital marketing in Turkey

Antonela Ferrari has been living in Istambul for five years. She met her now husband in a study trip to Italy. After that trip, she came back to Argentina for five months, and decided to move definitely to the land of her love.

How is working in Istambul?

It’s not easy— there are professions that are banned for expats, because they are reserved for locals, for example, medicine. There is a lot of demand for language teachers and, in fact, the salaries of the people with a degree in that field are quite high. But for the rest, the payment is quite low, work-life balance is not great, and the hierarchic system is very rooted.
I started working here four and a half years ago, and I have been doing digital marketing, communication and free-time tourism for over two years. Before that, I worked in medical tourism, and in the Bolivian Consulate as a secretary.

What languages do you use there?

Mostly English. I am bilingual because my mother is an English teacher and a part of my family lived in Canada, so I have always been in touch with it. However, to live in Turkey it is necessary to speak the local language, because most people do not speak English.
As soon as I moved here, my husband enrolled me in a Turkish language course, but it’s Greek Turkish to me (pun intended). It is a language that has no subject and predicate and no verb to be, the main verb goes at the end of the sentence and everything has prefixes. They have eight vowels, different consonants and a very different pronunciation. Even today, after five years, I can’t understand my husband when he speaks it. Truth is: I can’t think in that language. The structure is completely different from the one in languages with Latin roots.

What things would you have liked to know before going to Turkey?

I would have liked to have more time to prepare myself with the language.
When I arrived, my husband enrolled me in an intensive course, away from the touristic places. My fellow classmates were from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. It was easy for them, as they all spoke Arabic or Persian. I was the slowest in that class. I would have liked to come here with some base, to have to a bit of an advantage.

To discover more about Antonela, you can visit her Instagram.

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Aldana, graphic designer in Denmark

For the last twelve months, Aldana lived with her boyfriend, Eric, in Scandinavia, with a Working Holiday Visa. Yafuetodo.project is the name of the account they use to share in Instagram and Youtube their everyday experiences and the places they visit. They have already spent a year in Denmark, and they are moving to Germany next week. Aldana answers the following questions.

Where are you from, and how did you get to know each other?

I was born in Bragado, a city in Buenos Aires Province, and Eric is from Sarmiento, a town in Chubut, a province in the south of Argentina. We met for the first time while we were studying in the University of Mar del Plata. After we got our degrees, we both wanted to move to Buenos Aires to work, so we went together. That was our first adventure.

Why did you decide to go to Denmark?

We both individually wanted to experience living in another country. We love Buenos Aires and we were definitely not tired of living there, but we were tired of the working routine. It made no sense for us to work a whole year to be able to travel only one month. We think life is more than just working.

And what do you do now?

We are both designers, with clients in Argentina and the rest of the world, through freelancing online platforms. I don’t know what the future in Germany will hold for us, but in Denmark we had a few other jobs as well, as possibilities were arising.

What about the language and communication?

We both speak Spanish, and a bit of English. We don’t speak Danish, except for some words or phrases.
My English is quite good, and I can communicate fluently. For Eric it was a bit harder, because he had less English when he was at school. To level up, he studied with a private teacher when we were still at university.
Even though my English is good, speaking it on the phone used to make me very nervous. I even had palpitations sometimes, because I couldn’t see the person, and I had to solely trust the words.
All in all, I think the process of adapting to English and Danish environments was quite smooth and natural.

What did you learn after living and working in Denmark?

I think that we mostly get over that fear that someone can have when being in a place where people speak in another language; but something in the mind helps you make the switch. It is a process, and we didn’t wake up one morning speaking fluent and perfect English, as a magic thing. But living here did force us to stop being afraid. It was a matter of survival.
One of my goals in this trip was to improve my English, and I think that is something I already have in the pocket.

To discover more about Aldana and her adventures with her boyfriend, you can visit their Instagram or their Youtube channel.

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What do you think about these people? Would you dare to move to a place where people speak a language you don’t? If you need help to start or perfect your Spanish (or English) before setting off, reach out and send a message.

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