First of all, I want to explain the difference between being “bilingual” and “fluent”, in my opinion. “Fluency” is subjective and mainly refers to your ability to communicate well, even if you make mistakes or have a foreign accent. “Bilingual” means that you speak it as well as your native language. So, how long did it take me to get to the point where I speak Spanish as well as I speak English? Oh, about 20 years. Everyone is different, so I can only comment on my own process, but based on my own experience, here’s my formula for becoming bilingual:
One of the best explanations right now as to why Americans or other expats decide to live abroad is the theory of “Existential Migration” (Greg Madison, 2006). Unlike economic migration, simple wanderlust, exile, or variations of forced migration, existential migration (based partly on Heidegger’s alternative understandings of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’, and the concept of ‘home as interaction’ rather than ‘home as place’) is seen as a chosen attempt to express something fundamental about one’s own existence by moving abroad and becoming a foreigner.
“Rather than migrating in search of employment, career advancement, or overall improved economic conditions, these voluntary migrants are seeking greater possibilities for actualizing, exploring foreign cultures in order to assess their own identity, and ultimately grappling with issues of home and belonging in the world generally” (Existential Migration, Madison, 2006).
Towards the end of each interview with 27 Americans living in Buenos Aires, I asked the participants to define the word “expat” (the overwhelming majority had already mentioned the term at some point or another during the interview).
Living in Buenos Aires as a “TOURIST”
First of all, a lot (more than half based on my research) of Americans living in Buenos Aires do so under the “tourist” category, meaning that upon entering the country they get a stamp in their passport that allows them to stay in the country for 90 days of “tourism”. However, I discovered that many Americans have been living in Buenos Aires for years as “tourists”. Some of them leave the country every 90 days and then get a new stamp when they re-enter, but most of them tend to “overstay” their 90 days, and pay the $300 peso fine when they do eventually leave the country (many claim it’s cheaper than taking a trip every 3 months).
Detailed instructions for Americans (and those from any other “extra Mercosur” countries) on how to get residency in Argentina. Temporary or permanent.
STEPS: APPLYING FOR RESIDENCY IN ARGENTINA