Jaza's World Trip

Bienvenidos, boludo

On the bus to Bariloche this evening, I had a hilarious first introduction to the crazy phenomenon that is Argentinean Spanish. A few seats behind me, a little girl was whinging loudly to her Mum about something. Anonymous Argentinean Mum said this to her, in a heavy Argentinean accent:

"Cashate, o vamoh volveh a Chile" (in real Spanish: "callate, ó vamos a volver a Chile", lit: "be quiet, or we're going back to Chile")

That shut the girl up real quick. I don't blame her: because like, seriously dude, Argentina is like, sooo much better than Chile, ohhh-mygod.

As with Chile, Argentina has its own very unique blend of Spanish. And one that I'm going to have to get used to. Unlike Chilean Spanish, which is just plain filth — no real rules to the dialect, just constant mumbling and foul-mouthed slang — Argentinean Spanish at least adheres to some standards (albeit strange and non-textbook standards). So it's hard to understand, but it is at least consistent. I found a page explaining the key features of Argentinean Spanish. Here's what I've noticed already, after just one evening here:

  • The "sh" thing. In regular Spanish, "y" and "ll" are always pronounced as an English "y" sound. But in Argentina, both of these are instead pronounced as an English "sh" sound (or sometimes closer to an English "j" sound, like in my own name, "Jeremy"). So it's not "Yo me llamo Jeremy", it's "Sho me shamo Jeremy". You don't descend into "la valle" ("the valley"), but rather into "la vashe". And that bone in your leg is not your "rodilla" ("knee"), it's your "rodisha".
  • Lazy word endings. Like Chileans, Argentineans also can't be bothered to say the final sound in many words (especially if the word ends in "s"). They just kind of end with a soft "h" sound instead. So it's not "gracias" ("thankyou"), it's "graciah". It's not "como estás" ("how are you"), it's "como estah".
  • Not tú, vos. By some very strange turns of lingustic history, Argentina managed to invent its own version of the Spanish third-person singular informal word meaning "you". They never use the standard Spanish "tú". Instead, they always use "vos". So it's not "bien, y tú" ("fine, and you"), it's "bien, y vos".
  • Ché, boludo. I still have a lot to learn about Argentinean slang, but I've already gotten on top of the two most important local words around here. "Ché" is like "mate" (instead of, for example, just saying "amigo"). And "boludo" (technically a rude word, means "jerk" or "asshole") is a really common way to greet and to call your friends.
  • Con amor. The strong influence of many Italian immigrants can clearly be heard in the way that Argentineans talk. Argentinean Spanish (very unlike Chilean Spanish!) is not spoken, it is sung. Every sentence is a sweet, rich melody that comes from the heart. As one Argentinean has already explained to me: "no hablamos, (en?)cantamos" (lit: "we don't talk, we (love?) sing").

So I have three weeks to master "Castishano Argentino": should be an interesting learning experience.

Filed in: BarilocheLanguage barrierSlang