Monday, June 22, 2009

There's Spanish, and then there's Castellano

It´s one thing to speak Spanish in the context of an hour-long class a few times a week. It´s another to live in another language. It´s been said before, and I´ll repeat: The best (and perhaps the only) way to become fluent is to live immerse yourself in another language. And that means getting as far away from other languages as possible.

Once you´re cut off from what´s familiar, you reach a whole new level of communication. You can´t ask your teacher, "Como se dice 'county?' " You have to talk your way around it until what you mean becomes clear. And sometimes you just have settle for a shrug and a confused look.

And in Buenos Aires, it´s not quite the Spanish I learned in high school and college. The plethora of Italian, Spanish, German and other immigrants coalesced to create a weird manifestation of a language that is distinctly different from all other Spanish-speaking countries. From quirky pronunciation (the "ll" sound is more of a "zh" here) to slang words (it wouldn´t be uncommon in some places to hear the Lunfardo "morfar" instead of "comer"), it´s almost like its own language. And they call it Castellano.

The accent is incredible. It borrows some of its sounds from the Portuguese of Brazil, and for anyone who's seen "City of God," it's a treat to hear. And it's distinct; once you start speaking Castellano, it's clear to any Spanish-speaker that you learned in Argentina.

It´s difficult, but it´s rewarding I suppose. I haven´t noticed a night-and-day improvement in my speaking abilities since I got here. On the contrary, I often get frustrated because (obviously) I can´t express myself in Castellano as well I can in English. And despite the fact that people tell me I speak well, I´m noticing more mistakes than ever...a lot of them with things like gender agreement. But maybe the fact that I´m noticing is the improvement.

I´m lucky to have housemates that like to talk. There have been many nights so far where we´ve sat around with Vanesa, Liliana and Marcela making empanadas or tomando mate and talking about everything from politics to weekend vacation destinations to futbol (and the time everyone in Argentina shed tears and buried their faces in their soon-to-be-soaked pillows when they a lost game to the U.S.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Castellano...LOVE IT! Very interesting to learn about Lufardo.
-Abi