Posts tagged ‘Argentina’

May 15, 2012

To Be Or Not To Be An Accent. That Is The Question.

What’s in an accent? Accents come in all shapes, sizes and tones.

All countries have accents that are regional. We know that here in the US, because there are southern accents, New England accents, New York accents, etc.

And then there are the accents of immigrants when they speak English.  Again, this is universal. I remember that I was 10-years old when I met my grandfather for the first time in Argentina. He was originally from Poland, and to my surprise, he spoke Spanish with a heavy accent!

I started really thinking about accents because my social media specialist, Rob Whitley (who is awesome by the way) asked me how I feel about the way my name is pronounced. So for example, when he says ‘Brigitta’ on the phone, he said he could say it with a Spanish accent, the way Samantha [Samantha Villegas, my awesome public relations consultant] says it, which is with a soft G. But he said that he often says it with  a regular G sound. He also asked, when or if someone whose native language is English, and they DO make the effort to pronounce my name in a Spanish way, do I care if the ñ is accented? But mainly, he wanted to know whether I appreciate it more if someone makes this effort altogether when the language that is going to be spoken during that conversation is English for example.

Rob’s question made me realize that this was a very important topic, and one that has hit close to home for me my whole life. First  because I grew up in a household of immigrants with accents, also because I married an immigrant with an accent, and  because I have a difficult name to pronounce, no matter what country you’re originally from.

The quick answer to Rob’s question about my name is that I prefer for people to pronounce  it with a Spanish accent (soft G). But I don’t create perceptions or assumptions about people if they don’t pronounce it correctly the first time. Maybe this comes from growing up in the 60’s and 70’s where there was not much diversity in Alexandria, Virginia, where I grew up. EVERYONE had trouble saying my name, or even attempting to pronounce it. I was constantly having to pronounce my name, and I admit that at that time I pronounced it with a more “American” accent – so as not to complicate matters. Today, I pronounce my name with a Spanish accent for many reasons – including the diversity of names that I hear around me.

My parents came to the United States from their respective countries, Argentina and Ecuador, as adults. They spoke English with very heavy accents. Then I married someone from Central America who, as my parents did, came to this country as an adult, and speaks English with an accent. I have been surrounded by accents my whole life!

Research shows that when someone leaves their native country as an 11-year old or younger, they will be able to learn the language of their new country without much of an accent ( Age Vs. Learning A Second Language Study).  My own experience with that are two cousins that came from Ecuador to live with my family when one of them was 13-years old and the other was 10-years old. The 13-year old ended up speaking fluent English with a slight accent and the 10-year old ended up speaking fluent English with no Spanish accent at all.

I was born in Maryland and grew up in Virginia so I don’t speak English with an accent, except for a slight “Northern Virginia” accent. Is there really such a thing as a “Northern Virginia” accent though? Well, when I was a teenager I visited family in Michigan, and the native Michiganders (and yes, they have  accents) asked me if I was a southern belle because they could distinguish somewhat of  a southern accent.  I had never considered myself a “southerner,” but there you go – someone heard that accent in my speech! Now, there are some people that suspect I’m from another country only because they say that I enunciate words clearly. That person must have a very fine ear…

Rob then asked me: “Overall, when you  hear a person whose native language is English, speak Spanish fluently in sort of an “English” way versus trying to speak it as if Spanish was their native language, what do you think?”

Another great question. I  am thrilled when people learn more than one language and have the courage to try to speak the second or third language without being shy about making mistakes. So I applaud anyone that does their best to converse in their new language, whether or not they are speaking it with the “correct” accent.

What about Siri on the iPhone. She doesn’t  understand people that speak to her with an accent. How do you teach a “machine” to understand accents? There are accents everywhere, right? That’s a challenge for Apple, but if any company were able to tackle it, Apple could, and I believe they will.

At least Siri has an excuse for her issue. She’s a machine that hasn’t yet been programmed. But how do we program people to understand accents, or at least have the patience for those with them? How do we teach tolerance throughout the world to people who are listening to others trying their best to speak their new language: can we learn to be patient with the person speaking our language with a heavy accent, and making grammatical mistakes? Can we agree that speaking louder to the person learning the new language is not going to help? Isn’t there a better way than yelling out, “What? I don’t understand you.” Yes, it’s frustrating, but instead of impatience, or annoyance, I think a drop of tolerance and patience will go a long way for a person learning their second or third language and it will bridge together our ever-growing melting pot of cultures.

October 25, 2011

You Eat Tacos, Right?

For so many years I’ve heard people say to me that because I’m Latin, I must eat tacos and a lot of hot sauce.

But Latin American food is so much more than that! There is such a variety of wonderful food that you can find in Latin America. Some dishes within each country are hot and spicy, but not ALL of the dishes are. Here are some examples:

Argentina: chimichurri, churrasco, parrillada, mate, puchero, milanesa, provaleta, dulce de leche

Belize: johnny cakes, meat pies

Bolivia: Salteñas, charque de llama, Sopa de quinua

Brazil: Feijoada (meat stew), pao de queijo, bolo de rolo

Chile: chacarero, picoroco, chumbeque, arrollado de chancho

Colombia: sancocho, bandeja paisa,

Costa Rica: chicharrón

Cuba: Cuban sandwich, picadillo,

Dominican Republic: bandera, sancocho, Chicharrones de pollo

Ecuador: llapingachos, fanesca, locro, menestra, cuy, ceviche, salsa de ají, patacones

El Salvador: pupusas, curtido, atol de elote

Guatemala: pepian, desayuno chapín, tapado

Honduras: baleada, tajadas,

Mexico: enchiladas, mole sauce, chiles rellenos, tacos, pollo pibil, huachinango,

Nicaragua: nacatamales, vigorón, gallo pinto, chicharrón

Panama: hojaldras, caribbean porridge, carimañola, Panama, which means “abundance of fish,” lives up to its name with lots of fresh delicacies from the sea, including pargo (red snapper), corvina (sea bass), langostino (jumbo shrimp), langosta (lobster), calamari, cangrejo (crab), and pulpo(octopus).

Read more:

Paraguay: sopa Paraguaya, bori bori, mbeyu, reviro, jopara, arro quesu

Peru: papa a la huancaína, anticuchos, lomo saltado, ceviche, cau cau,

Puerto Rico: mofongo, lechón, arroz con gandules, asopao, cuchifritos

Uruguay: grappamil, asado

Venezuela: arepas, hallaca, pisca andina, dulce de lechoza, bien me sabe

And this is just a brief sampling! I highly suggest that you look up a Latin American restaurant near you and give it a try! You won’t regret it! And do I eat tacos? Yes, but not spicy ones. And I enjoy cuisine from many other countries too!

There are some foods that are consumed almost universally throughout Latin American countries. They include empanadas, tamales, chicharrón, arroz con pollo, licuados (fresh shakes), desayuno típico, rice and beans, plátanos, ceviche, flan, tres leches, arroz con leche, buñuelos – to name a few! There are often variations to how the food is prepared in each country, but these are the main categories.

What other delicious Latin American food do you know of? Please share!

October 6, 2011

Folkloric Argentinian words

The other day I posted Folkloric Ecuadorian words that I remembered hearing my mother say. Now I’m posting some of the Folkloric Argentinian words that I heard my father say and others that are now common in Argentina. Some of these words/phrases are considered Buenos Aires slang or lunfardo –  a cross of Neapolitan, Genovese and Sicilian dialects. Lunfardo is also known as the language of the Argentinian tango.  I love to hear the Argentinian accent – the intonation and accent is beautiful!


Ananá: piña – pineapple

Asado: barbecue


Bañadera: tina – bathtub

Barrilete: cometa – kite

Boliche: bar or nightclub

Bombilla- metal straw used to drink mate

Bronca: enojado – angry


Campera: chaqueta – coat

Cancha: campo – field

Che: somewhat equivalent to “man”

Chimichurri: steak sauce

Choripan: sausage sandwich

Colectivo: autobús – bus

Confitería:  pastelería – pastry shop


Dale: ok


El que nace barrigon, el ñudo se lo desata – a leopard does not change its spots (Martin Fierro poem)

Empedado: borracho – drunk


Facturas: pan dulce – pastries

fiambre: embutidos – cold cuts


Gauchada: favor

Gaucho: cowboy

Goma: llanta – tire

Guita: dinero – money


Heladera: refrigeradora – refrigerator

Hincha:  – fan





Laburar: trabajar – work

Listo: I understand


Malla: traje de baño – swimsuit

Masitas: pan dulce, pastries

Mate: special type of tea that Argentinians drink

Mear fuera del tarro: equivocarse – to be wrong

Micro: bus that goes from one city to another

Milonga: place to dance the Argentine tango


Nafta: gasolina – gasoline



Pancho: perrito – hot dog

Parrillada: barbecue

Pebeta: muchacha – girl

Petisa: pequeña – small one

Pibe: muchacho – child

Pileta: piscina – pool

Pollera: falda – skirt

Porotos: frijoles – beans

Porteño:  person from Buenos Aires



Remera: camiseta externa – t-shirt

Remis: taxi


Sandwiches de miga: tea sandwiches


Tal cual: yes, exactly, I agree

Tipo: hombre – guy



Viste: you know

Vos – In Argentina the word “Vos” is used, but simply as a substitute for “Tu” (You)




Ya fue: it’s over

Yuyos: hierbas – herbs


Please help me add to this list! I welcome that!

Watch for our blog on Nicaraguan folkloric words!

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