By: Kate DesCombes, Emma Gerona, Lauren Simpson
Our journey to Argentina has come and gone all too soon. However, amidst all the site visits and business meetings, our group was able to pick up on different aspects of language in the country. As we expected, Spanish is the prominent language. However, English also plays a prominent role. During the week, we observed which language was used, how it was used, and speculated explanations for what we saw.
With the exception of aged buildings, Argentina showed very few signs of its history. As we wrote previously, the language has evolved as a result of different influences, and therefore no longer bears its original Spanish influence, rather it reflects the strong influences of the heavy Italian immigration to the country. Although Italian is the second most spoken language in Argentina, we did not encounter its use at all during our trip .
While dialects were not prominent in the big city of Buenos Aires, language was used differently in different locations. For example, during the soccer match, foul and slang words were commonplace. Conversely, during our business meetings, those who couldn’t speak English used formal, at most, or conversational, at least, Spanish. Context dictating dialogue is not unusual; the same thing happens all over the world. However, it was the closet our group got to experiencing Argentinas different dialects.
Much like our earlier research told us, Argentine spanish is very unique. We saw the several different pronunciations of words and different verb conjugations, including the vos form, used everywhere. Often times when we would speak with the tu form of verbs, or with the pronunciations of say “ll” that we had learned in school. We would be corrected and the conversation wouldn’t continue until we spoke to the best of our ability as an Argentine would.
Although Argentine spanish contains these big differences, it was not more difficult to understand than other countries forms of the language, and the differences were easy to pick up on. Luckily locals were all very patient with our broken spanish and were very willing to teach us the correct dictations.
The reaction from the Argentines to us speaking English was surprisingly positive. A common trend was that a majority of young adults spoke at least some English. By visiting restaurants and other commonly visited stores, the young workers could communicate in English proficiently. It was also surprising to see how many adults could speak English, most commonly amongst the elder working force. This could be due to the fact that a lot of English speaking young adults and English speaking tourists attend these restaurants and businesses.
The Argentines did seem to be anxious to speak English in some situations, especially when we were in less touristy districts of the city. It was not uncommon for the locals to continue to speak Spanish to us even when they realized we were English speakers. They were very set in using Spanish if they were not completely confident in their English skills. This was a huge difference we saw in Argentina from other spanish speaking countries. Usually locals will be very excited to try and use even very choppy English with the tourists, but this was not the case.
Overall it was a great experience to be able use and improve our spanish skills throughout the week in Buenos Aires. The best way to quickly learn about a culture and its language is to be completely immersed and this trip gave us a perfectopportunity to do just that.