Heading to Argentina for a season abroad? If you are a Newcomer, someone needs to tell you the truth. Argentina is not only about dancing tango in Caminito and making eternal pilgrimages around Parrillas of Buenos Aires. Actually, one of the biggest challenges of this Latino country is to understand the colorful Spanish language. No big deal right?
The language barrier would be just another element of the expat cultural adventure, if it wasn´t because everything you learnt in your vacations in Madrid becomes useless when you try to speak Castellano, the Argentine version of the Spanish language. And if you thought this would keep you safe in Porteño land, it is because you haven´t even heard about the existence of Lunfardo yet… Lun... what? Oh yes, Buenos Aires citizens, also called Porteños, have their own slang.
No wonder why the tragedy of language immersion can reproduce awkward feelings of our early childhood, when we used to feel small, weak and hopeless in a world of adults. Been there before?
Did you ever hear the stories of ... let´s say, 30-year old expats full of hair on their chests, confessing they used to feel like a 4-year-old child when living abroad? This is also true for expats relocating to Argentina. Why is that? Language barrier challenges our sense of identity. It is not unusual that expats make visible efforts to integrate to Argentine culture, by forcing themselves to speak Castellano like a native- or at least try hard to make their first “Che boludo” expressions sound as accent free as possible! Even though we may think that in Rome we should behave as Romans do, pushing ourselves to the limits can lead us to wonder: “Am I still the person I used to be?”
First things first
Our native language fosters relationships with main significant others in our childhood: our first friends, our first loves, our first jobs.
When we live in our home country and speak our native language every day, we hardly notice its existence. Our language is a suite that everybody is wearing around us –and we give it for granted, as the air we breathe. And every time we speak to our co-nationals, their response reinforces the fact that “we are all in the same boat”.
However, when we relocate to a country where a different language is spoken (or same language, but with different accent or idioms), the environment of the host culture tells us silently “Listen to yourself…You are not one of ours”. Language barrier comes suddenly into play, leading us to review our communication strategies and wonder how to make ourselves understood.
Language, culture and identity: a 3-way road
In other occasions, resistance to incorporating some expressions of the foreign language is a way of avoiding the shame of being a child again – in need to “create” the words in a universe of adults.
Having said this - There is light at the end of the tunnel.
When you overcome the cross-cultural challenge of the language immersion, you´ll begin to feel that there is enough space in yourself for both your native language – and Castellano. Your identity is no longer threatened. On the other hand, you will perceive that learning foreign languages makes you rich and diverse, and you can offer this diversity to others.
As an expat in BA, you´ll come across plenty of interesting opportunities to assimilate Lunfardo.
The good thing about getting familiar with Lunfardo is that it will take you closer to the real identity of Buenos Aires and its people, giving your cross- cultural experience a whole new dimension.
Join our Intercultural Coffee Meetings for Expats in BA!
Learn. Share. Live Buenos Aires
Next Meeting: "How Much do you know about Lunfardo: Porteño Slang?"
Friday February 5th - 6.00pm.
"Tea Connection". O. Cossentini 1545. Puerto Madero
Attendance fee: 40 Ar$/ person.
Coming with a friend? 70Ar$ for both of you!
Limited seats available Pre-booking required.
To book your seat, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org