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Is there such a thing as “ESPAÑOL NEUTRO”?

People are constantly building upon language as they find new ways to express their feelings and opinions. As times change, the code of communication takes on various twists and nuances while distinct tones and accents remain somewhat constant. Thus, a Spanish person from the South does not speak like someone from the North, just like an American from New York has an accent that is very different from someone raised in Alabama, and also like the accent of a cordobés*(1) differs greatly from a porteño *(2) or a correntino *(3).  However, even though they may speak differently, they still speak the same Spanish or English.

Those different accents tend to reflect regional and social traditions of these peoples and, therefore, should be respected, disseminated and explained so that we can all communicate with authenticity and freedom. There was a time when those accents were used for identification and belonging and, to a greater or lesser degree, everybody knew them.  However, after the globalization process of the 80’s, a “neutral” impersonal “language” became more and more common (at least for Spanish-speaking peoples), creating hybrids without a true sense of grace or personality.  In fact, this trend had started much earlier, when in the dubbing of the TV series you could hear things like: “aparca el carro” (4), “va a haber una balacera”(5) y “báñate en la alberca que yo abriré la nevera para saborear un mantecado”*(6).

But even so, Argentines learned and incorporated many of these idioms in the 60’s, just as in the 40’s all Latin America had accepted and enjoyed the tango slang heard in Argentine films at the time.  Those films that succeeded throughout the region, starred by legends from Gardel to Libertad Lamarque, Sandrini, the Legrand twins and Nini Marshall, were the messengers of our way of life and cultural pattern. But the 90’s brought a linguistic saturation that has limited many possibilities of pure exchange. Ironically, more communication and greater opportunities to travel all over the world has indirectly led to diminished knowledge of our respective languages, and a loss of that wonderful ability to recognize regional accents and features that make us different and unique.  It is not about making the world a chaotic Tower of Babel, but to preserve and promote our cultures so that by “painting our village,” our existence can be truly universal.

Today, globalizing desires have created an “idiomatic mash”, a mixture of salsa, a mambo and calé with some Mexican tacos, Chilean cueca and acrobatic tango for export, which is nothing more than nonsense.  But in reality, there is nothing more pleasant and enriching than to hear, enjoy, and share terminology and idiosyncrasies with one’s peers, and it is these shared external aspects that make our different cultures unique and unrepeatable.  We are all who we are, and this is what makes us all truly “international.”  And as Argentine people who have learned the meaning of a nevera, alberca, aparcar, carro, balacera, coge un taxi, tío, gilipollas, botija o mariachi, they (other Latin American Countries) should also learn our heladera, pileta, estacionar, auto, tiroteo, tomate un tacho, pibe, pelotudo, pendejo tostado mixto.  Knowledge through language will continue to change, but one’s identity is the last thing one should resign as a result of adopting a “neutral” language.

  •  (1) cordobés is somebody from the Argentine Province of Cordoba
  • (2) porteño is somebody from the Buenos Aires City
  • (3) Correntino is somebody from the Argentine Province of Corrientes
  • (4) “aparca el carro” means “park the car”, and in “Argentine Spanish” would be “estaciona el auto
  • (5) “va a haber una balacera” means “there will be a shooting”, and in “Argentine Spanish” would be “va a haber una tiroteo
  • (6) “báñate en la alberca que yo abriré la nevera para saborear un mantecado“, means “have a bath at the pool, I will open the fridge and taste an ice-cream”, and in “Argentine Spanish” would be “bañate en la pileta que yo voy a abrir la heladera y voy a tomar un helado
  • Translated and adapted from a text written by the genius Argentine artist, Enrique Pinti.

Diego Olivera, Argentine actor, speaking “Neutro” at a Mexican soap opera:

Diego Olivera speaking naturally at an Argentine soap opera: