Posts tagged ‘linguistic’

February 27, 2012

Music As Our First Language

I was recently reading an article in Psychology Today called Music Matters by Professor in Music Cognition – Henkjan Honing. Although Professor Honing believes that music comes before language and that he “…emphasize[s] that these very early indications of musical aptitude are not in essence linguistic…” –   I believe that the first language I learned as a baby was the language of music. My first memories are of my mother singing and playing the piano. It is through her voice and those sounds that I began to feel a connection to her, and I strongly believe she reached me through music in a way mere words never could.

In the article in Daily Mail Reporter called Babies develop an ear for classical music at just 5 months of age, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience – Ross Flom, who conducted a musical study on infants says, “Infants’ discrimination of music is important because music, like speech, is communicative and a basic function of music and speech is to express meaning through emotion.”

My mother, who was originally from Ecuador, was a musician. She played the piano, guitar, organ, harp, and she sang beautifully.  Her mother (my grandmother) lived with us and she also sang and played the guitar. She always encouraged my mother to play, and for a time, as a child, I played the piano, violin, and I sang.

Holistic Baby Specialist and Dance Movement Therapist, Brigitta White* from  WholeMe! Programs states that “newborns already carry with them inherent nonverbal communication knowledge, such as recognizing your mom’s voice as a newborn.  Our first language or communication method is nonverbal.  Pre-verbal language or communication is made up of sounds, music, rhythm, body movement, body gesture, dance or measured interactive dynamics.  As an infant, you are learning about your self in the world in relation to those around you. Therefore, the style of communication from your parents, the sounds around you and how you create sounds are part of your psychological make-up.”

Sadly, my mother passed away 6 years ago (almost to the day). Very recently, I was looking through some of her things and I found a musical composition that she and her mother had composed together. It’s the sheet music with the music by my mother and the lyrics by my grandmother. Such a gift and treasure.

Family heritage musical composition

There is no doubt in my mind that music was my first language. Although I haven’t sung or played an instrument in many years, I believe my mother’s and grandmother’s musical talent are at the heart of my love for music and languages today. I look forward to carrying on their tradition of connecting and speaking through song with my own grandchildren one day.

Do you have early memories of music in your life? How do you think it shaped your language and your relationships with those who played it for you?

* Full disclosure: Brigitta White is my daughter and she did not have as much music as her first language as I did because I wasn’t as talented as my mom. But I did sing lullabies to her!

September 19, 2011

Folkloric Ecuadorian words

I recall my mother and grandmother’s rich Ecuadorian language.  Yes, they spoke Spanish, but every country has folkloric words that are used just in their countries. These are some of the idioms that I remember!

It is pretty common in the mountainous region to hear “quichuismos” or words borrowed from the Quichua language or that reflect linguistic Quichua structures. Some words are used throughout Ecuador.


Achachay: exclamación utilizada para denotar frío, físico o figurativo. Proviene del Quichua – expression used when something is cold

Alhaja: placentero – a pleasant person, nice

Ananay: exclamación utilizada para denotar gusto o placer, figurativo. Proviene del Quichua – so nice

Aniñado /aniñada : quien presume de su estatus social o de su situación económica aventajada – cocky or childlike

Aquisito nomás: muy cerca – a non-specific expression meaning a close or near

Arrarray: exclamación utilizada para denotar calor excesivo, físico o figurativo. Proviene del Quichua – expression used when something is hot

Atatay: exclamación utilizada para denotar aversión, asco; físico o figurativo. Proviene del Quichua – expression used when something is disgusting

Ayayay: exclamación utilizada para denotar dolor intenso, físico o figurativo. Proviene del Quichua – expression used when something hurts


Buena facha – good dresser


Cachas: ¿entiendes? – do you understand?

Cachos: chistes – jokes

Caleta: casa – home

Camellar / camello : Trabajar, trabajo – work

Canguil – popcorn

Chagra – 1) Cowboy from the Andean region, usually from the town of Machachi.  2) Insult

Chapa: agente de policía – disrespectful term for a policeman

Chiro / chira : sin dinero. Ej.: ‘No puedo ir, ando chiro’ – without money

Cholo/a: Ethnic slur created by Hispanic criollos in the 16th century, and it has been applied to individuals of mixed or pure American Indian ancestry, or other racially mixed origin. The precise usage of “cholo” has varied widely in different times and places.

Chompa: abrigo – jacket

Chuchaqui: resaca, malestar producido tras ingerir grandes cantidades de alcohol. Proviene del Quichua – hangover

Chumado : borracho – drunk

Chuta – expression of surprise

Conchudo: pícaro – a person with no scruples

Culebras verdes – expression of exasperation


De una: inmediatamente – right away

De ley: Asegurar algo, dar aprobación de un tema. Afirmar – for sure


Encamador: fanfarrón, mentiroso – liar

Elé : “Ahí está.” – You see


Fachosa – badly dressed

Farra: fiesta – party

Fresco: no hay problema, no pasa nada, todo sigue normal, sin novedad – no problem


Guagua: niño pequeño (m/f). Proviene del Quichua – baby or small child

Guambra: hombre/mujer muy joven. Proviene del Quichua – kid

Guaso: grosero – rude


Jama : comida – food

Joder : hablar mucho. Ej.: “Esa man (chica) como jode”. / Hacer bromas de mal gusto a otra persona. Ej.: Ese man me está jodiendo – to talk too much, bother


La leona : tener hambre atroz. referido específicamente a los efectos del THC. Ej. : ‘¡Ando con la leona, loco!’ – as hungry as a lion

Llapingacho: plato típico ecuatoriano que consisten de tortillas de puré de papa rellenas con queso = typical plate from Ecuador that are potato patties made with cheese and fried

Loco / loca : amigo, amiga. La forma más informal de aludir a segundos o terceros durante una conversación y un ambiente coloquial – friend

Locro: plato típico ecuatoriano que es una sopa hecha con papa, leche, queso – typical plate from Ecuador that is a soup made with potatoes, milk, and cheese

Llucho/a : desnudo /a – naked


Mande: Sí señor, señora- yes sir (ma’am), do you need something?

Mechas: pelo – hair

Melindrosa: remilgado – picky eater

Mono/a : en la Sierra se usa para referirse a alguien de la Costa – a person from the Coast of Ecuador – derogatory term

Mucha: beso. Proviende del Quichua – kiss

Mushpa : menso. Proviene del Quichua – dumb


Ñaño / ñaña : hermano, hermana. Proviene del Quichua – term of endearment for sibling or aunt/uncle


Omoto: niño pequeño – kid


Pelado / pelada : 1. chico/chica 2. sin cabello o pelos 3. dícese de la persona con la que se mantiene un vínculo amoroso (el novio, la novia) – girl/boy

Pluto /pluta : ebrio, ebria – drunk


Quien con lobo se ajunta, a aullar aprende  – If you run with the wolves, you learn to howl


Sapo: corrupto – corrupt, takes advantage of situations

Serrano: en la Costa se refiere a la gente de la Sierra de manera ofensiva debido a su acento – what people of the Coast call people from the mountains, derogatory term

Shunsho : persona poco inteligente, tonto/a. Proviene del Quichua – Fool

Simón : aseveración sobre algún tema, puede significar ‘te creo’

Sota: de la moneda anterior a la dolarización ‘diez mil sucres’

Sumercé—Your mercy (usually used in the Sierra between a person of indigenous origin and a
white person or one of a higher social status)


Taita : padre. Proviene del Quichua – father

Tuco : corpulento (fuerte, no gordo) – strong

Tutuma: Cabeza – head


Viejo /Vieja : el padre, la madre, mujer, hombre – mother, father, woman, man

Some of these terms are used in other Latin American countries now. Do you know of other Ecuadorian idioms to add to this list?

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