January 5, 2014, by Guest blog

Talking like a local

I have an advanced level of Spanish and what I now find very interesting about language is all of the words and gestures which you don’t find in dictionaries and textbooks. These are things that you can only truly pick up and dominate after living abroad for an amount of time. During my time in Spain I have picked up some of these gestures and noticed the differences between the Spanish and British ones. Spanish people are renowned for speaking with their hands and there are so many hand gestures that I have subconsciously picked up and started using. It is hard for me to describe these without pictures but there are gestures for when a place is full of people, to emphasise exaggeration and even one which says “I’m going to hit you”. Don’t worry, there have been no situations when I’ve had to use the latter!

Another one of the fascinating things I enjoy about language learning is the regional differences. I spent my summer in Valencia and my Erasmus stay in the Canary Islands. The Spanish used in Canary Islands is very much like Latin American Spanish in terms of the nonuse of the verb form vosotros and the pronunciation of c’s and z’s. There is a lot of variety and richness in the Spanish language and I am now at a point where I am making region-specific vocabulary lists so as not to slip up. Some words are used very differently depending on which country you go to and it is important to know which ones are the ones with multiple meanings across the borders.

There are also many interjections that I have picked up and started using, making my Spanish richer and helping me to sound less foreign. The bwah, joerrr, tío/a, buff and all of the ayyyy’s are now ingrained into my brain. I really enjoy using these in everyday language and feeling like a local. It’s great when my friends hear me say certain words and do a double take as they don’t expect to hear an English girl shouting “¿Qué dices, muchacho?”.

Posted in Language acquisition