Regional differences in the way Spanish is spoken can usually be attributed to either the influence of native languages that exist in a particular area or the languages brought by immigrants that blend with Spanish to create a unique regional dialect. The Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires, as we have discussed in our series on Lunfardo words, is no exception.
Another example of a language influence is Cocoliche, which takes its name from Antonio Cuculicchio, a theater worker in the Podestá theater company established in Argentina and Uruguay towards the end of the nineteenth century. An Italian immigrant, Cuculicchio’s accent was apparently often mocked by others, giving rise to the comical caricature of a figure called “Cocolicchio”, representing a southern Italian.
Cocoliche is a hybrid language that arose from the meeting of Spanish in Argentina and Italian brought to that country by immigrants around the turn of the twentieth century. The result was a pidgin — an oral form of communication that blended elements of two languages to foster communication between diverse groups of people, in some cases simplifying the grammar and lexicon of each language.
Over time, as the Italian immigrants in Argentina spread out geographically and blended more into their new culture, Cocoliche began to disappear. Yet as it became more and more rare to hear the language spoken, per se, its remnants were left — and still remain — in the form of surviving words and turns of accent. Indeed, Cocoliche is the origin of some characteristics commonly associated with the Argentinian accent of Italian immigrants, such as the “ch” sound in “diche” (dice).
Italian family arriving in Buenos Aires
Some cocoliche words:
Uruguayan Musician Rubén Rada supports the campaign
A new campaign is picking up steam to eradicate instances of racism in the Spanish language. The contentious phrase, “trabajar como un negro” (“to work like a black person”), is unifying musicians, famous athletes, and officials in a call to Spain’s Real Academia Española (RAE) to eliminate the phrase for being discriminatory and outdated.
The RAE is a royal institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language including its lexicon, grammar, orthography and other linguistic aspects. The institution received an open letter signed by several figures which was then published and disseminated around the Spanish-speaking world by various media outlets.
The phrase has roots in the history of African slavery on the continent, and is sometimes compared to the expression “to slave away” in English. Proponents for its eradication from common speech argue that it recalls a time of discrimination, inequality and subjugation which Uruguay — and the Spanish-speaking world as a whole — would best leave in the past. They also argue that removing it from the Spanish language would help break the cycle of using pejorative language in reference to certain ethnic groups.
The petition can be viewed at http://www.borremoselracismodellenguaje.com/s.php. Those who would like to add their name to its list of supporters can also sign the petition at the same web address.
More information continues to come out about the challenges and benefits of young children learning two or more languages simultaneously. Studies in recent years have largely focused on how early bilingualism or multilingualism affects learning in other areas, as well as the effect on a child’s vocabulary both short-term as well as long-term.
A recent study in Canada looked at the specific issue of language mixing — borrowing words from one language while speaking in another, often resulting in individual sentences with two languages. Children who were raised bilingual from birth were found, as toddlers, to have slightly smaller vocabularies as a result of their parents engaging in language mixing while communicating with them or teaching them new words.
There were a few reasons for mixing languages thus which many parents cited, such as the nonexistence of an exact translation for a particular word, not remembering the equivalent of a word in the language they are using, or difficulty with pronunciation. It was also noted in the study that parents will often mix languages when teaching new words, so their child could learn the word in both languages at the same time.
Yet while the study pointed to resulting vocabularies that were smaller in the short term, the researchers noted that it is likely that a bilingual child’s vocabulary would expand at a faster rate later on. The short-term challenge of categorizing and distinguishing between two different languages when they were so mixed would eventually be counterbalanced by the learner’s increased ability to compensate for such challenges in reasoning and other cognitive skills. These skills include, for example, an increased ability to switch between strategies as well as the ability to learn two new rules at the same time.
According to Spain’s Cervantes Institute, Spanish has officially become the world’s second most used language on Twitter after English. With the most speakers of any language globally, Chinese is in third place. And while China does have its own version of Twitter, Weibo, it is undeniable that Spanish is currently seeing a growing presence on the internet in general.
With more than 500 million Spanish speakers worldwide, and counting, the language currently occupies the place of third most used language online. And even with that, it is estimated that roughly 60% of Latin Americans still have not joined the web. In the non-digital world, the Cervantes Institute reports that the number of people learning Spanish globally is witnessing an 8% increase year on year.
Much of that growth is taking place in the U.S., which is estimated to have the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world within three or four generations, but it’s also happening in Asia. Indeed, the demand to learn Spanish in China currently far exceeds teacher availability — resulting in many applications to learn it being rejected. The Asia-Pacific region as a whole is seeing an increase in Spanish language instruction spurred by economic growth and close ties to another region making strong economic gains — Latin America.
Following the last post on US Border Patrols, we’re taking a look at a term widely used in immigration contexts – La Migra. The term is more often heard in states along the border with Mexico than any other region of the U.S., although it can be heard just about anywhere that Spanish slang is used.
Image source: http://www.zazzle.com
A derivative of the Spanish term migración (migration) or related to migraciones – the offices dealing with immigration issues in Spanish-speaking countries – the term has become shorthand for both agencies and individuals that deal with immigrants and immigration. Both the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol agencies can be referred to as La Migra, as well as the personnel who work for them, including immigration officers and agents who perform inspections of cars crossing the border or in search of illegal immigrants in places of business.
While the term is not only used by immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, if you hear La Migra come up in conversation, chances are someone is complaining about an encounter with immigration officials – much the same way a person might complain about having to deal with the law.
Many translators are familiar with the controversy surrounding the horned Moses and his sometimes-amiss translator. Although that translator, commonly known as Saint Jerome, concerned himself with biblical analysis, theological debate, history, correspondence and translation, he earned his place in history mainly through his translations and revisions of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Jerome translated these texts from the original Hebrew into Latin, and was humble enough to admit ignorance when warranted and to revisit parts of his translations when it became apparent that he had made a mistake. Nonetheless, his Latin translation of the Bible was later recognized by the Council of Trent as the official version, and to this day he remains a widely respected and studied biblical translator.
The controversy in question concerns part of the text in Exodus 34. The original Hebrew version can be read idiomatically as stating that Moses had “rays of light” coming from his head when he descended from Mt. Sinai. However, the same word for ray of light also meant “horns” depending on the context. And in what some may consider a classic case of mistranslation, Jerome chose the latter meaning.
The result of his possible mistake was a horned Moses appearing in the official Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. And as a lesson to students of translation and art alike, Michelangelo secured that image in our collective consciousness by basing his 1515 sculpture of Moses on Jerome’s translation—along with a list of other contemporary and subsequent artists.
More recently, scholars have attempted to justify this transgression by citing the metaphorical relevance of horns to “glorification, strength and authority”, in an attempt to align them with the meaning of light emanating from Moses’s face. Similarly, some artists such as José de Ribera in his 1638 interpretation, have tried to visually combine the light rays and horns to be essentially the same. Students of translation, however, will likely take from this a reminder to always look into the meaning behind the words and their historical context.
Michelangelo’s Moses with horns
José de Ribera’s Moses with rays of light