Monday, September 08, 2008

Spanish is Spoken

One of the more refreshing things about this latest trip to Peru is that they speak Spanish in Peru....As it turns out they speak it throughout MOST of latin america as well. :)

Although it's been 20 years since I formally studied Spanish, I've managed to retain quite a bit -- and subsquent exposure to the language has helped as in California, couple of trips to costa rica, some visits to mexico, meeting a cab driver in taiwan who spoke spanish, etc.

Notice that I did NOT say, "Living in Uruguay" for the last 2+ years.

Now, granted, I work, and live, and think in English. This is NOT the stuff of Spanish language immersion

However, that said, I have managed to talk to a few Uruguayos since I arrived. While it's clear that it is NOT English they are speaking, the only other thing that I'm sure of is that it is Spanish either!

Granted, they will tell you it's Spanish, but to the uninitiated, the peculiarities of the "rio platense" "Spanish" they speak here is nearly unintelligible to my ears. As always, the less formal (more street/uneducated) the utterances the more bewildering for the foreigner.

So what makes the language they speak in this part of South America so hard to understand? Well, the following is a short list of the things I find the most bewildering

1.) probably the most obvious -- and easiest to get used to is the pronounciation of "LL" and "Y" with the "sh" sound. in SPAIN it sounds a lot more like an english 'y'

calle (street) is Ca-Ye in Spain
in Uruguay and Argentina it sounds like Ca-shjay -- not sure my attempt at phonetics really help, but once you hear it you'll know what i mean.

2.) slightly less obvious and a little harder to get used to is the "chopping" of the 's' sound. Pescado (fish) becomes "Pe'cado" -- in cases where you are already vocab challenged this often makes you think you are hearing a new word (when it goes by too fast) and can confuse.

the lights went out in our apartment and we had to get the power company out to fix the meter at the street....a week later, our doorman, who hails from teh interior asked me:

"como esta la lu' "? (how is the 'lu' )


"como esta la lu' "?

(is he talking about the bathroom???)

so i finally ask, "que es 'lu'? "

he clarifies, "luZ, luZ" (light)

oh...well, why didn't he just use the Z the first time he asked? :)

3.) the most challenging thing for MOST speakers of spanish are that there are a LOT of verb conjugations and even subjects that don't exist in English -- making even more verb conjugations. On top of that there are a lot of "irregular" verbs -- or verbs that don't follow the rules of conjugation -- and on top of that there are "tenses" that don't exist in english either -- like an "ongoing past" (used to be in some state for an extended period of time), and subjunctive (which i'm not even sure i can explain other than to say that it's outcome is not certain yet).

Well this is compounded (dramatically for me) by the popular use of the noun "vos" here. In Spanish they already have two different ways to say "you" -- Usted (is formal) and Tu (is more casual/familiar). Each of these, of course, conjugates all of the verbs around it differently.

So to make things more Challenging down here they decided to create another one called "vos" -- which is basically MORE casual than "tu" -- and of course it's got it's own set of conjugations....some of which i've eventually figured out -- most of which baffle me to this day.

If one is moving here and wants to learn spanish with the intent of just living a more integrated life or working down here then doing some form of formal study here will probably help with the accent. I'm not sure if the formal schools will even teach vos and all of its conjugations of verbs....but having some friends and going out and chatting with them frequently will get you in the swing of things quickly....just don't expect the rest of the world to undestand your funny accent very well :)

The bellhop in Lima was baffled as GL was asking him if they had "sherba" (roughly translated as tea) in Lima...after the third time she asked he finally decyphered it...ah, "Yerba" ....and confirmed that they had it.

The shocking thing for me was that I understood EVERYONE on the trip that spoke to me in Spanish. Had long long conversations with people who didn't speak a lick of English....As soon as I got on the flight from Santiago back to Montevideo the stewardess came up and said something to us and I had to ask GL, "what did she say?".... felt like home :)


1 comment:

Raúl y Pablo said...

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