I thought I understood Spanish when we lived in Panama. Until I crossed the border into Costa Rica when I sat in a guard booth just after crossing into Sixaola chatting with the border patrol while Noah went back into Panama to stamp the passports we forgot to stamp. All of a sudden, not a single thing made sense.
This last time in Panama and Costa Rica, I understood everyone. So again, I thought I understood Spanish.
Until we landed in Buenos Aires.
The pace of the language is different. Here, they use a more elegant Spanish and incorporate far more words than you hear on a daily basis in Panama or Costa Rica.
In Panama, it's Buenos when you want to say hello, morning, noon or night. Buenos Aires, not only do you have to know whether it's morning, noon or night, you have to remember how to conjugate the masculine or feminine forms of the greeting. Dias, masculine Buenos Dias. Afternoon, feminine, Buenas Tardes. Which is all well and good when I can go and look it up in a book or online, but generally, I don't have that kind of time when saying a quick good morning.
But it's really the prononciation that kills me. What really gets me is that "double L." As in villa, zapallito, zapatilla, muelle, orgullo and endless other words I've used in the past and been understood. Stress on in the past.
Villa, easy right? Vee-Ya. That's how I'd say it in just about every other Spanish speaking situation I've encountered. Not so now. Now it's Vee-zha. Zappa-zhito, moo-zhay. And if you don't say it that way, you won't be understood.
As if I would have been understood using the Panamanian version of words. Fresa. Maracuya. Mantequilla. That would be strawberry, peach and butter respectively. But mantequilla would not be pronounced in the Argentinian Man-Teh-Key-zha, because that is not the word for butter here. It's manteca. Fresa becomes fruitilla. Melocoton becomes durazno.
Of course it does. And I've heard tell that things change once again when you leave the city.
I have now truly mastered the Blank Look, No Entiendo method of communication. I'll be teaching lessons in the fall.
And now that I've probably confused all of you as much as I have myself, I'm off to take my first all Spanish yoga class.