Monday, January 20, 2014

Language Learning: The Very Hungry Expat

article from December 16, 2010
by Julie R Butler

I recently wrote a post that listed some ways to practice Spanish before your move abroad. There are many more things you can do that will help you get a leg-up on language before you leave, too. One is to watch all the episodes of the adorable Mexican cooking show, La ruta del sabor (watch YouTube videos of the program, or keep your eye out for it on satellite TV).

I am suggesting this program in particular because it is appealing on so many levels. To begin with, the young host is so affable that you will see him as a friend, cheerily encouraging you to join him in his journeys to various places in Mexico to learn about their regional dishes. Then there is the fact that the show always begins with a little segment about each location, so you will get a taste of the various flavors of Mexico’s heritage and culture. And then, of course, you get to find out the most authentic way to prepare great Mexican foods – all while learning Spanish from native Mexican speakers.

You will definitely need to learn some cooking terms in order to read the directions on packages of pasta, rice, sauce mixes, etc., to set up or find your way around your kitchen, and to enhance your gastronomic experiences by being able to read recipes such as the one your neighbor scratches out for you for that fabulous budín that she is always bringing over. Why not let your stomach motivate you to learn all the Spanish you can in preparation for your move abroad?

There are many, many more cooking videos in Spanish on YouTube, in addition to all the cooking shows on Spanish language TV. The cooking network is produced in Buenos Aires, has an extensive website, and features a stellar lineup of the best celebrity chefs from all over Latin America and beyond. As a sophisticated answer to La ruta del sabor’s cute, casual approach, the cosmopolitan Spanish is a much harder to follow.

As long as I am talking about Latin American cuisine, I must mention The Mija Chronicles. This blog is written in English by Lesley Téllez, who started Eat Mexico Culinary Tours. There is so much to learn about language and culture when talking about food. And need I remind you that it is not just in the kitchen where you will want to know food terminology, because you have to feed yourself some way or other, whether it be in restaurants or by hitting the fresh produce stands that abound all over Latin America? Probably not, but I just did, anyway. So even English language culinary talk is useful, as it covers the names of various food items in Spanish and explains what they are.

Checking all this out might lead to travels abroad with the confidence that you will be eating very well. At the very least, it is making me one very hungry expat.

Buen provecho!

Julie R Butler is a writer, journalist, editor, and author of several books, including Nine Months in Uruguay and No Stranger To Strange Lands (click here for more info). She is a contributor to Speakout at, and her current blog is Connectively Speaking

email: julierbutler [at] yahoo [dot] com, Twitter: @JulieRButler

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