We speak a nice little mellifluous variation of Spanish in Argentina. And yes, the Argentina language is most definitely Spanish, although you can feel the Italian influence in every wild hand gesture and way-over-polite-volume conversation between friends — or rivals. Our particular dialect is charming, seductive, expressive, and a totally unique beast born of an idiosyncratic melting pot with European and Latin American flavors. Today, I’ll take you on a small tour and we’ll learn all about it.
The Actual Name of the Argentina Language
As you know, not all dialects are the same; regional and cultural differences are a big factor, and the Spanish in the Rio de la Plata Basin is no different. Our home-grown variant is known as Rioplantense Spanish, and it’s wholly unique to Argentina and Uruguay. While the Argentina language shares some similarities with others in the area, it’s 100% its own thing, which we call Castellano.
And, regardless of its regional name, Castellano has quite a few interesting characteristics; for one, nothing sets it apart like the obvious Italian influence. It has a melodic, Neopolitan quality that sounds like something straight out of Southern Italy. This is undoubtedly due to our massive population of Italian immigrants and descendants.
Indeed, Argentina has an outsized Italian influence. In a country of 40 million, around 30 million have some degree of Italian heritage, over 62.5%. Is it any surprise, then, that we sometimes sound like that one Family Guy parody?
Voseo, Or Why “Usted” Sounds Ridiculous
Ever seen any of those movies where a Brad Pitt-looking guy runs around Latin American trying to speak Spanish? Regardless of where he is, he’s probably trying to speak a mangled variation of Mexican Spanish. To us Argentinians, that sounds doubly ridiculous because the only person we would call “usted” is a 90-year-old nonna. Heck, not even the President gets an “usted” pass, we’re typically on a first-name basis.
This is because the Argentina language uses voseo. And what is that, exactly? Most variants of the Spanish language use different words for the “you” depending on the level of respect and formality. Mind you, I’m talking about the second-person singular pronoun.
- “Tú” is reserved for a friend, confidant, or somebody we’re in a close relationship with.
- “Usted” is for older people or those higher up in the food chain.
While the Argentina language still preserves these dynamics, there are small differences. For one, we use vos as a replacement for the word “tú”. Not only does this give Castellano a distinct flavor, but it also gives it a distinct, nudge-you-in-the-ribs-like-I’m-your-friend, slightly impertinent tone.
Mind you, voseo is not completely unique to Argentina. In truth, several dialects in Latin America use some form of it. But, the prevalence, style, and cultural penetration of voseo in Argentina are pretty much absolute. Thus, it’s one of the factors that immediately set the dialect apart.
The Voseo Chart
I’ll reproduce it below:
Nominative Oblique Reflexive subject direct object indirect object prepositional object fused with con direct/indirect object prepositional object fused with con vos te te vos con vos te vos con vos usted lo / la le usted con usted se sí consigo tú te te ti contigo te ti contigo vosotros os os vosotros con vosotros os vosotros con vosotros
But hey, don’t linger too long on this. For instance, the vosotros form sounds pretty ancient to us and would be replaced by ustedes here. Not so in Spain, but that’s another story — and why you should hire translators if you don’t know these differences.
Some Other Cultural Influences on The Argentina Language
With all of that hoopla about Italian, it’s easy to forget that Argentina was once a Spanish colony. And, indeed, I can’t overstate the influence of the initial Spanish settlers and mid-20th-century immigrants on our dialect. Therefore, around 50% of our population — a good 20 million — have Spanish ancestry, present company included. (Truthfully, I’m part-Italian, part-Spanish, part-Jewish, and part-Paraguayan; such mixes are run-of-the-mill here.)
This mix of influences, in turn, led to the Argentine culture being a mishmash of styles. One thing’s for sure, we’ve got the best barbeques (asados) and Sunday family lunches you could ever hope for. That gregarious, friendly style is definitely something you can feel everywhere; it influences everything from our conversational tone (read: loud), our in-your-face, confident demeanor, our endlessly changing and memeable slang, and our theatrical body language.
But, for my money, if there’s one country that’s had the biggest influence on us, that’d definitely be Italy. Truthfully, they’re our closest cousins and the undisputed kings of body language. And hey, now that we’re on the subject…
A big part of the way we communicate in Argentina is non-verbal. Frankly, we’re big on talking with our hands, and you’ll find several gestures are lifted straight out of the Sicilian playbook. You could conceivably come to Argentina without ever learning the language and still get by with a few hand gestures.
A feeling absolutely mirrored by the author at The Real Argentina:
If you’re new to Argentina and worried about your Spanish language skills, don’t panic – you can communicate with the locals without making a sound. Everyone knows actions speak louder than words, but nowhere is this truer than in Argentina, where the way you touch your elbow means the difference between telling someone they’re stingy and telling them you’re definitely not happy. With a whole lot of Italian blood in the Argentine veins, it’s not surprising you’ll notice similarities to gesticulations from Italy
Other things to know is that we’re pretty big on touching and physical intimacy. Kissing people on the cheek, hugging, and close physical proximity are pretty much Argentina staples. Definitely not the culture for through-and-through introverts, this one. If you’re one of those people that freak out when someone touches your arm, get ready to sweat often during a normal conversation. (And hey, yeah, this is excluding the fact that we’re irredeemable, unrepentant flirts over here. Thanks, Italy.)
Regardless, it’d be hopeless to learn about the Argentina language without learning about our body language. Truthfully, getting the gestures down is about as important as understanding the accent.
Why Should a Professional Learn the Argentina Language?
First off, it’s not like any other Spanish variant out there, as I’ve already established. If you’re thinking about branching out into the Argentinian market, you should know we’re very particular about attempts to pander to us — as is any country. Therefore, if you’re going to translate your content, you need a pro who can speak our dialect. Getting just any old translator who’s got a passing knowledge just won’t do; the myriad slang words, idioms, and regional differences make that an actual fool’s errand. You’ll just get yourself in deep water that way, and it’s a poor ROI.
Hence, what you should do is hire a native translator, someone who really knows the ins-and-outs of Argie culture. But wait, what’s the point of translating your content for us anyway? Well, to be honest, there are a few reasons.
- Firstly, we’re a pretty big, 40-million-strong market with a mid-sized economy. While we’re not what it used to be, we’re definitely a consuming force to be reckoned with.
- Secondly, we’re a pretty cosmopolitan, knowledgeable bunch. We’re big into imported goods and services, and we’re fancy ourselves connoisseurs of the fancy and cool.
- Thirdly, we enjoy a vibrant, alive language that is constantly changing and updating its slang. If you’re not up-to-date, you’re out.
- Lastly, there are plenty of markets to break into. And I’m not talking just the boring legal, medical, sports, or financial markets; Argentina has a huge social culture, and there are huge music, arts, tech, and entertainment sectors that are looking for the next big thing.
In all honesty, trying to market to us may not be the hard sell I was proposing at first. You just need the right idea and a professional who can translate your unique voice into our language. While that may be easier said than done, I’ve got the right solution for you, and it’ll save you a ton of pain and heartache.
The Real Deal
If you’re looking for somebody who knows the Argentina language like the back of their hand, try our translation team at Bunny Studio. Plenty of our pros are Argentinian, and with good reason; the country has some of the most English-literate populations in Latin America, making them excellent translators and multilingual writers. Moreover, we’re pretty much multicultural at this point, and we are big consumers of American, European, Latin American, and overall global trends.
Therefore, if you’re looking for pros who can respect your creative vision and are able to tackle any project without the possibility for a cultural short-cirtcuit, we are exactly what you need. And that’s not all, we’ll knock everything you can throw at us out of the park while:
- Making sure you’re only serviced by the best translation pros in the industry. We vet and screen our pros, and we make sure you never get a second-rate translator for any of your projects. That’s simply not our style.
- We deliver ultra-fast turnaround times every time. No second-guessing, no beating around the bush, and definitely no excuses. Depending on the size and scope of your project, we tend to deliver in less than 24 hours guaranteed.
- If you don’t like the results, we won’t beg, or try to cajole you in any way. You’ll just get 100% of your money back, no questions asked. But, don’t worry, we’ll make sure you get exactly what you want so it won’t come to that. Ever.
Ready to work with the best? We’ll be ready when you are.