accents,calling all bilinguals!(well, not all...)

For all you bilingual folks out there…as an English speaker, I notice the vast difference between the accents of Americans and Brits.

No doubt you’ve all heard the difference between Yanks and Aussies.

The difference between Americans and Canadians is not quite as appearant, but still noticeable.

Is the differance between , say, Mexican Spanish and , oh, Argentinian Spanish as drastic?

Do people in Mexico City say to themselves" How could we possibly be even distantly related. I mean listen to that…They sound sooo different!" when they hear someone from Cuba talking?

Sure sure I know there are going to be different accents wherever you go , but do you think there is as great a difference in the spanish speaking world as there is for U.S./U.K.

Yes, Spanish speakers from different countries have different accents, and in many cases noticeable. :slight_smile:

I don’t speak Spanish at all, but a Mexican friend of mine once told me that the accent of Spanish speakers from Spain is very noticeable to Spanish speakers from Mexico, and that Mexicans often have the same difficulty understanding Spaniards that Americans do the English.

From the point of view of a bilingual - Mexican American - who speaks Spanish pretty well for a pocho (Americanized Latino), but not as well as most native Latinos - these are some offensively general clues to accent.

Mexicans: sound “normal” to my ears so its hard for me to describe. Some accents are “regional” sounding though. To others may be either “sing song” (northern Mexico ) or “choppy” (central or south Mexico). Also the Ch may have sh sound in north…

Caribbean Islands and Coasts: Speak rather fast, lightly pronounce or “swallow” the s before consonants.

Castillian Spaniards: Lisp the soft c’s and z’s, “mushy” s sound, very distinct intonation (more choppy than smooth). Very strong j’s (more kh sound than h).

Andalusian Spaniards - not as much lisping, fast, similar to Caribbean in intonation.

Argentines, Uruguayans: Very stacatto (perhaps Italian?) intonation, ll and y has zh sound.

Chileans - Sort of inbetween the Argentine and Caribbean.

Andean (more or less from Colombia to Peru). Can be quite like Castillian in intonation, but no lisping. Somewhat fast.

Another big clue is vocabulary. Mexicans use many words of Nahua origin, especially for animals, birds, foods, and so on (zoplilote = buitre, tecolote - bujo, cacahuate = maní…cuate = gémelo :slight_smile: ) . These Nahua loan words are often instant give aways that the speaker is Mexican; except for those that have spread elsewhere (tomate, chocolate).

Caribbeans may use some Arawak, Andeans Quechua, etc. as well instead to standard Spanish.

I don’t agree with all of cuate’s characterizations of the different accents. I don’t find Colombian and Peruvian accents to be similiar to the Spanish accent at all. Native speakers from a variety of Latin American countries consider that accent to be the most standard. I’ll add another characteristic - people from the Southern Cone (Argentina, Chile, etc.) and the Caribbean tend to drop the final “S” (so that las islas sounds like la ila).

So, the answer is yes, there is as much variation between Spanish speakers’ accents as between English speakers’ accents.

There is definitely a very considerable degree of variation. Having been taught by a Cuban-American teacher and a Chilean teacher at different times made this pretty clear. For your average highschool Spanish student, for example, Mexican spanish won’t be too much of a problem; that’s probably what most people learn. If this kid starts a conversation with a Cuban, the poor guy is probably going to get very lost very quickly. As was said, it’s fast even as Spanish goes (which is fast), and most s’s before consonants or the end of a word tend to be dropped, most especially when they are slurring into the next word. Oh yes; did I mention that the speed of Cuban Spanish also means that they’ve made blending words together into a high art form? For poor little Chilean-educated me, it was like being dunked into a pool of ice water when I went to Cuba. Even for relatively simple phrases I would often be left staring quizzically at the speaker. Very embarrassing indeed.

The movie The Whole Nine Yards was filmed in and around Montreal with many local supporting actors, though the principals were American. Rosanna Arquette played a woman allegedly born and raised in Quebec and she tried to speak in a French accent that was so hideously wrong, I cringed whenever she was on screen. Arquette must have been aiming for some kind of “Occupied Paris” twang she picked up from watching War and Rememberance too many times. The actress playing her mother, Carmen Ferland, had a conventional Quebecquois accent and was a poet by comparison.

I had a friend in college, Colombian-born but had lived in a number of other South American countries before coming to the States. I don’t speak Spanish, but he could keep me entranced for hours going through impressions of various South American accents. Well, not hours maybe, but good five minutes anyway. He used to say (all of these jokingly…please no one take offense):

Cubans speak like they are holding potatoes in their mouths

Mexicans speak like they’re angry or fighting

Argentines speak like they think gthey’re speaking Italian

etc. I don’t remember all of them. But I was left with the impression that there are certainly distinct differences.

In Argentina the phrase used to mean “the middle of nowhere” is apparently “the cunt of the parrot.”

How cool is that?

When we were in Boston, MA recently*, I saw (heard) a very interesting exhibit at the Museum of Science there. It consisted of a series of sound bites of speakers of either English or French from different parts of the world basically saying “Hello, I am XXX. this is how English/French sounds in YYY”

The English speakers were from Scotland, USA, London, Australia and Kenya (Not sure about the last one…) while the French speakers were from France, Canada, Vietnam, somwhere in the Caribean, and somwhere in west Africa.

To my ears, as an English speaker, the difference in accents for the English speakers was strong and marked, while the difference in accents in the French speakers was present, but not all that noticable. The display went on to state that to a French speaker, the accents would have been as different and varied as the English accents were to me.

*[sub]blatent promotion of website of the trip[/sub]

Stellar! Absolutely stellar. What would we do without this message board?

Thanks all.

Of course, a person from one country will say everyone in his/her country speaks normal, and everyone else speaks with an accent. :slight_smile: Someone from Mexico may say Cubans “sing” (the way the accent sounds), but the Cuban says it’s the Mexicans that have a “singing” speech. And as cuate said, vocabulary is used to identify where the person is from. Countries in the Caribbean have many words borrowed from Taíno and African cultures. People in the Andes have words in Quechua, and people in Mexico have nahuatl words.

In standard Caribbean Spanish, it is acceptable to drop the final s, except when the next word starts with a vowel. The sound of the s is replaced what was is called h aspirada, like a soft “j”. It is also acceptable for people in Latin America not to pronounce the “z”.

The reason Andalucians sound like people in the Caribbean is because it was Andalucians who mostly colonized the islands.

PD. Strange, for me I don’t speak fast… :slight_smile: (I’m Puertorrican, one of the groups supposed to speak fast)

A good example of the difference was Benicio del Toro, who is from Puerto Rico, in the movie Traffic, He plays the part of a Mexican cop but his accent was very noticeable. I guess the producers figured the English speaking viewers wouldn’t notice or care for that matter.