Espeaking Espanish: My Difficulty as a Gringo

I have spoken Spanish for almost 15 years. I got a degree in the Spanish Language and have lived in a handful of places where all they speak is Spanish.

Yet sometimes, it’s funny how hard it is to understand what the hell’s going on.

Accents, dialects, colloquial phrases – all this stuff is a bit overwhelming when trying to communicate in foreign lands. I originally learned Mexican Spanish (my favorite, wey) and have evolved from there. I lived in Spain, have been to some parts of South America, but when I got into Argentina… are you kidding me? What are they saying? WTF is Ca-ste-SHA-no?

these guys speak funny

Every place has its own meanings or uses for the same word, many times totally different from other locations.

In Spain, for example, concha, is a sea shell. Or it’s the name for a girl, short for Concepcion.

In Mexico, it’s vagina.

Coger is to grab, like ‘grab me a beer,’ or ‘grab a taxi.’  While in other places it means to fuck.

You can imagine the humor involved.  On top of this is the range of accents you find throughout the world, as well as within the each country itself.

Think about a girl from China learning to speak and understand perfect North American English.  Her entire education was in and based around U.S. television, pop culture, and American accents.  Then send her to Dublin, Ireland and see how she holds up.  This is pretty much my case today in BA.

everybody's walking at me...

everybody’s walking at me…

Here in Buenos Aires, they have a very distinct accent and verbiage.  It dances a line between spanish/italian/portuguese, drawing out sounds and phrases totally different from what I’m used to.

For instance, they replace the ‘y’ sound (pla-ya) with a ‘sh’ sound (pla-sha).

So, ‘me yamo Tyler’ becomes ‘me shamo Tyler.’  And it’s the same for any and all words containing the ‘y’ sound (calle – street, chicken – pollo, etc.)  Being a wanna-be Mexican like myself, it’s a little rough to catch on (let alone listening to them trying to pronounce ‘Teylor’).

Some people say that Argentine is the most beautiful Spanish accent.  It’s very lyrical, reminiscent of Italian at times, with character and poise, they say.  Sure, if you want to call it that.

I prefer Mexican for its clear, slowly spoken delivery, and the constant ‘borrowing’ of English words into their everyday dialect (Lunchear, anyone?).  I can understand it the best and it lacks pretentious ‘european flair’ that Argies speak with.  Regardless, for some one else with different training, it could probably be just as misunderstood as any other dialect of Spanish out there.  Conclusion: it’s a crapshoot.

dancing in the sun

dancing to their own tongue

Poco a poco, I’m adapting and speaking more in the Argentine style, but that’s only good until I move my journey on into other hispanic countries where I’m sure they’ll make fun of my accent.

So as I trying my best to not say ‘Hey, let’s fuck this bus,’ I’ll still push on in my quest to perfect my Spanish, although I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t exist.

i DO understand this guy

i DO understand this guy

Have you had similar experiences during your time abroad? Share some!


4 thoughts on “Espeaking Espanish: My Difficulty as a Gringo

  1. Pingback: English, or Spanish? Expat Gringos in Panama | The Panama Adventure

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