Basic Introduction to Argentinian Spanish
Argentinians speak different flavours of Spanish than the rest of the Spanish-speaking world.
In the translation world, we know one thing: Languages are like living things with brains and the ability to react to their situations and evolve. They reproduce via the simpler process of splitting off, sending a group of their speakers off on ships to distant lands, where they either mingle with the people already there and form a mutant form of the language, or simply exist in relative isolation for a while until the language naturally evolves along a different path because the people are living under different conditions.
That’s why languages like English and Spanish and such can have such different flavours. Spanish is a grand example, as there are so many varieties of such a musical and well-understood language in the world. While you can travel to a place like Argentina, for example, and use your school Spanish to get by, you’ll find a few notable peculiarities – although the Argentinians certainly do not think of these features as peculiar at all.
Vos vs. Tu
One of the most glaring differences between Argentinian Spanish and other forms of the language is the use of voseo as a second-person singular pronoun. It boils down to: In Argentina, instead of saying tu tienes for ‘you have’ or ‘you’ve got’, you would say vos tenés. In most Spanish-speaking countries, vos is considered informal and isn’t used in any sort of formal writing or communication, although it can be used in personal communications. But in Argentina and a few other areas, it’s the de facto verb to use. This is a fairly minor deviation, but can be a little disorienting for some folks because they suddenly have to conjugate a whole new verb, and people who have learned Spanish through an old-fashioned rote system may have severe difficulties – although they’ll be understood. They’ll sound odd to the Argentinian ear.
A large portion of Argentina speaks a dialect of Spanish known as Rioplatense, which is often called Castellano, and almost never called espanol or Spanish. This dialect makes use of nearly 10,000 vocabulary words that don’t appear in any other form of Spanish. These vocabulary words are generally words for very common and commonly-mentioned things, making it very hard to communicate with a Rioplatense-speaker if all you know is Spanish – even if you’re speaking the Argentinian flavour of Spanish to begin with.
Curiously – or not so curiously, I suppose – the second most-spoken language in Argentina is English. It’s taught in the schools as a matter of course and the bulk of the population is bilingual to some degree. If only other countries were to follow this example and give their citizens the resources to become bilingual without having to work that hard for it, the world would be a closer place. As it is, English-speaking tourists to Argentina have a much easier time of it – if their school Spanish fails them, they can usually count on falling back on English!
Image courtesy hirondelle.it
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