Posted by: janecronin | June 4, 2017

Spanish dialects


As well as containing various languages, Spain, as I imagine is true of all other countries in the world, is full of different dialects.  Of course when we start learning Spanish we are completely unaware of these and are unable to distinguish a standard word or expression from some local peculiarity.  It may also take a long time for us to recognise different accents and I think it is extremely difficult for anyone who has come to the language later in life to ever fully appreciate all the possible nuances of accent and dialect that make up the language as a whole.

Having lived and worked in the coastal areas of Murcia and south Alicante for many years, I tend to break the news to my students that if they really want to live in a place where classically standard Spanish is spoken, they should move to the region of Castilla y Leon in the north west of Spain, to cities like Salamanca or Valladolid; the only disadvantage being that there are no beaches and winters are extremely cold and generally snow-bound.  Most people decide to stick with good weather and take the Spanish as it comes.

So, just as in the UK you may wear pumps, plimsolls or daps and eat sandwiches, sarnies or butties, so in Spain, there is an endless variety of terms, which are often related to local traditional ways of life and different cultural heritages.  These have often been preserved in the language over the centuries because of vast geographical features that impede communication, such as mountain ranges, rivers and valleys.

Prior to moving in this area, I lived in the region of Asturias, and specifically in the village of Llanes, where they had a completely separate set of vocabulary.  They  used the word “guapo” to describe attractive things as well as people; they had a word “mancar” which meant “to hurt” and “fricar” which meant “to trap ones fingers”.  Having absorbed these words and never questioned whether they were standard Spanish or not, one summer I went to teach English to a group of rich kids in Madrid.  They laughed to derision at my “country bumpkin” Spanish every time I came out with one of these terms, much to my discomfort.  So, I found out about my local dialect the hard way.

Here in the Vega Baja there is a regular radio item on Cadena Ser where a retired teacher talks about local sayings and words that are peculiar to this area.  I must admit that I listen with interest, but I don´t commit any of them to memory.  They’re just too much for me!  As a teacher of the Spanish language I made the decision from the outset that it was more useful in the long term to teach, and learn, standard Spanish, which is understood everywhere in Spain, and leave dialects to the locals as much as possible.

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