The Argentine Spanish Accent is tricky. I have heard many times that Argentinians speak “too fast” and that it is “hard to understand” anything we say. However, this is not entirely true.
The speed depends on the speaker. Not everyone speaks fast! Is it really that hard to understand Argentinians? Maybe this is true, but I will tell you 3 factors about our accent that will help you get everything we say:
- ‘y’ and ‘ll’ sound like /sh/: yo me llamo Yamila
- sometimes the “s” is aspirated so “vos sos” sound like /vo’ so’/ and “vos tenés que…” /vo’ tené’ que/
- emphasis is on the last syllable which usually sounds stronger as in “tomá”, “comé”, “escribí”.
The /sh/Sound: Highlights of the Argentinian Spanish Accent
Spanish speakers born in Buenos Aires (the province) pronounce the letters ‘y’ and ‘ll’ as /sh/. Practice saying the following sentences out loud like people in Buenos Aires.
- Yo me llamo Yamila y llevo una toalla a la playa.
- Ya voy para allá. ¿Llevo frutillas?
- Yo estoy saliendo para allá. Ella recién llega.
- Ella se maquilla como un payaso.
- En la heladera hay paella, zapallo, cebollas y frutillas.
- Acá está el gayo, ahí la gallina y por allá los pollitos.
- Me puse la malla para ir a la playa y a los 5 minutos cayó un rayo y empezó a llover.
- No te llenes con el pan que ya llega la parrillada.
- El proyectó llevó 8 años de trabajo, sudor y llanto.
- Dejá de llorar, ya vas a encontrar a alguien mejor. ¡Todo llega!
It isn’t difficult at all, isn’t it? Try reading them again with your usual pronunciation. Which one do you prefer? Say it like that! Whatever you are most comfortable with, that is fine.
Even if you don’t make the sound /sh/, people in Buenos Aires will understand you perfectly. As I said before, this “yeismo” happens mainly in Buenos Aires and not in other provinces of Argentina, generally speaking.
The Aspirated ‘s’: It Occurs in Most Argentine Spanish Accents
What I mean by aspirated ‘s’ is basically omitting the letter ‘s’ when it’s placed at the end of a word. This happens not only in Argentina but also in other regions of the Americas. For example:
- ¿Qué hacés amigo? would sound more like ¿Qué hacé amigo?
- ¿Vos quién sos? would sound more like ¿Vo quién so?
- Somos todos argentinos would sound more like Somo todo argentino
- Si nos matamos, nos matamos would sound more like Si no matamo, no matamo.
Does this mean that as a student you should learn to aspirate the ‘s’?
No, in fact, if the ‘s’ is there, it is better to pronounce it. Pronouncing every single letter in a word in Spanish will help you sound clearer and be understood more easily.
So if you wonder why I am telling you about the “aspirated s” it is because this will help you understand native speakers better. Knowing in advance that this phenomenon occurs will help you avoid awkward moments. It can be quite frustrating and embarrassing to try to engage in a conversation with a local and have no idea of what they are talking about.
Some people say aspirating the ‘s’ is something a poorly educated person would do. However, there are lots of well-educated people who speak like this because that’s how everyone speaks in their province. Therefore, I think it is important for you to take this into account when you travel to Argentina and engage in conversation.
Do you know who speaks like this? You won’t believe it. The greatest soccer player in the world, the Argentinian Lionel Messi. Check out this video of Lionel Messi talking. He tends to aspirate the ‘s’. In the first few minutes he says “los niños en el cole” but it sounds more like “lo niño en el cole”.
Stressing the Last Syllable: A Key of the Argentine Accent in Spanish
When we talk to one single person in Argentina we use the pronoun ‘vos’. This is informal, but it is used a lot more than ‘usted’. When we conjugate verbs for the pronoun ‘vos’, we stress the last syllable of the word. Shifting the stress makes a huge difference in how Argentinians sound compared to other Spanish speakers. I like comparing phrases using ‘tú’ and ‘vos’ by reading them out loud. You will notice that there is a clear difference in the way the whole sentence sounds. In my opinion, using ‘tú’ sounds soft and smooth, while using ‘vos’ can make a person sound more direct or even cold. Compare:
- TÚ: ¿Qué quieres tomar?
- VOS: ¿Qué querés tomar?
- TÚ: ¿Juegas al tenis?
- VOS: ¿Jugás al tenis?
- TÚ: Puedes venir cuando quieras.
- VOS: Podés venir cuando quieras.
- TÚ: Tienes que ser fuerte.
- VOS: Tenés que ser fuerte.
- ´TÚ: Toma el helado y relájate.
- VOS: Tomá el helado y relajate.
What happens if you stress the wrong syllable? Well there might be some misunderstanding or confusion, but not always. Sometimes the message can come across just as well, but sometimes the listener might need you to repeat what you said. This can happen between natives too because, as you can see, we stress different syllables. However, in my opinion, this doesn’t severely affect communication.
As a conclusion, to become more familiar with the rioplatense accent, remember these 3 things: 1) ‘y’ and ‘ll’ sound like /sh/; 2) aspiration of the ‘s’ is common; 3) the last syllable tends to be stressed.
Do you struggle with accents? Leave a comment below.