Learning Spanish in Argentina: Be prepared for change
I was approached by this Spanish language school about putting up a guest post about learning Spanish in Argentina. I agreed since I thought it was an interesting subject. I also don’t mind giving them some publcity. I am hoping that this can lead to further cooperation with them or with other language schools for LingQ.
They said would look at creating some Argentinian Spanish language content for LingQ. Here follows the guest post. Please note that these are not my words.
Argentina is one of the world’s most popular Spanish language learning destination. The combination of high quality Spanish schools, relatively cheap prices and inspiring culture (not to mention the best steak you’ll find anywhere in the world) means there’s many reasons to choose Argentina over other destinations. However, anyone booking their language trip to Argentina is likely to be warned of a few language pitfalls in Argentina both in pronunciation and grammar.
Here’s Expanish Spanish School’s guide to the things to look out for….
Accent and pronunciation
One of the first things people notice when they hop of the plane and arrive in Buenos Aires, is the Argentine accent. Some of the characteristics include…
- Speed – Argentine’s tend to speak a fair bit faster than their Latin American neighbors, a challenge at first but the ear becomes accustomed fairly quickly
- Lack of lisp – People who are familiar with Spanish from Spain will notice there is no lisp present in the Argentine accent
- Italian twang – Due to lots of Italian heritage (due to widespread immigration from Italy in the 1900s), Argentine Spanish sounds strangely a little bit Italian
- ‘Sh’- One key thing that confuses first time visitors to Argentina is the pronunciation on double L (ll) and J. Instead of the ‘y’ sound, Argentines pronounce them ‘sh’. So ¿como se llama?’ would be pronounced ‘¿como se shama?’ and ‘Yo’ would be pronounced ‘sho’. Sounds confusing but in reality, it doesn’t take long to get used to.
Grammar – vos the problem with tú?
A little bit into their trip to Buenos Aires / Argentina, people will begin to pick up on another subtle difference…Argentine’s use of the informal second person singular pronoun as vos instead of tú. Vos is more or less the equivalent to ‘thee’ in English, which can give you a nice Shakespearean twang, should you use it in Spain. But there’s good news. The conjugation of vos is actually simpler than tú, as there are no irregular verbs to deal with other than ser, which changes to sos instead of eres. For example:
- Dormir: tú duermes –> vos dormís
- Venir: tú vienes –> vos venís
- Mostrar: tú muestras –> vos mostras
- Ser: tú eres –> vos sos
Vos is used across the country, and it is perhaps the most noticeable difference to foreigners hearing it for the first time. However, Argentineans will accept tú with only a mild sense of amusement. If you really want to fit in though, vos has to become your staple.
Porteños love their slang. If you find yourself on the wrong end of a sentence you don’t understand, don’t worry too much, it’s probably just a few made up words and with hand gestures constructed on a whim. There are over 650* unofficial words in regular use in Argentina, most of these circulating within Buenos Aires, with many more being created every time somebody mispronounces an actual word. However, here are some of the more popular ones that you may need to know:
- Che – roughly used as ‘hey!’, especially when Porteños are angry.
- “¡Che! ¡Dame mi dinero!”
- Tacho – Taxi
- “¡Me voy, llamame un tacho!
- Quilombo – A mess/disaster (literal translation is brothel, careful with this one)
- “¡Tu habitación es un quilombo!”
*not in any way based on facts, do not quote me on this figure.
Other Useful Words
- Strawberries – It’s frutilla. Not fresa, not Godzilla.
- Peaches – It’s duraznos, not melocotón.
- Juice – It’s jugo. It’s definitely not zumo. And even that wouldn’t be with a lisp.
- Computer – Computador. Much easier to use than an ordenador.
- Potato – Papa ain’t your daddy, it’s a potato.
- To take – Tomar. Por favor, no coges el bus. Hay mujeres y niños adentro.
- Tortilla – The Mexican flatbread, not that whole Spanish omelet fiasco.
- Nightclub – Boliche. Discoteca sounds lame.
- Sandwich – Sandwich