Monthly Archives: January 2020

The Neutral Accent in Spanish… Is it real?

Photo taken from Pixabay.

Admit it: You probably have tried to imitate the impeccable accent you have always been hearing on soap operas or TV series coming from the Spanish-speaking world, but you may have noticed it sounds very different from the language spoken elsewhere.

Well, I congratulate you for using your TV as a learning tool—it is indeed very useful. But let me tell you that what you hear on TV is nothing more than el acento neutro (neutral accent).

But what is it exactly? Well, el acento neutro (also known as español internacional) is an artificial construct of spoken Spanish created for the dubbing market in Latin America and based on the elevated Mexican variant. Note that I say “artificial” as chances are you will never hear this accent on the streets.

This language variant is used essentially to avoid any regionalisms that could give away clues of where the movie, series, or documentary you are currently watching was dubbed within the Spanish-speaking world.

The neutral accent’s goal is to “get rid” of any phonetic and semantic features belonging to any particular country, so that it can be understood by all Spanish-speaking audiences at once. The idea behind it is to eliminate the need to adapt every dubbing to a specific market and/or regional variant.

Key Traits of Neutral Spanish

The neutral accent shows two main characteristics: The first one is that every word is pronounced as clearly as possible, without dropping any syllable or changing the sounds of vowels and consonants in the slightest. For example, the letter “s” should never be aspirated—a common trait of spoken Spanish.

It also entails that many regional expressions must be discarded in favor of terms not used in actual spoken Spanish, in order to preserve some uniformity in meaning. Here you can see some of them:

 

Emparedado: Sándwich, sánduche (Sandwich)

Apresúrate: Apúrate (Hurry up!)

Es una broma: Es un chiste (It’s a joke!)

Barbacoa: Parrilla (Barbecue)

Excusado: Inodoro (WC)

¿Qué sucede/ocurre?: ¿Qué pasa? (What’s going on?)

Goma de mascar: Chicle (Bubble gum)

Rosetas de maíz: Cotufas, palomitas de maíz, pochoclos… (Pop corn)

Enfadado: Molesto, enojado (Angry, mad)

Anteojos: Lentes, gafas (Glasses)

Elevador: Ascensor (Elevator)

Auto/automóvil: Carro, coche (Car)

Pastel: Torta (Cake)

Estufa: Cocina, hornilla (Stove, kitchen)

 

However, how can we be sure that what we are hearing is actually the neutral accent? In the next three videos you will find all the answers:

The first one will teach the way of speaking Spanish in the most neutral way:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzvjIcftfrY?feature=oembed&w=500&h=281]

The second one will show you how it sounds like when a narrator uses neutral Spanish in a given documentary:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2JkF5qiLEQ?feature=oembed&w=500&h=281]

Finally, the third one lets you to compare how different the same person sounds when changing from neutral Spanish to the many existing variants of Spanish:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYxy3FFfSbM?start=136&feature=oembed&w=500&h=375]

I just need to vent for a second…

Why in the MIERDA (carajo??) are there so many MALDITAS words to learn?? HOSTIA PUTA I thought I was making tons of progress in my learning and so I decided I was ready to purchase a book in Spanish and attempt to read through it, and no MIERDA there are so many estúpidas words that I don't know and need to look up. To the people who are fluent: COMO DIABLOS did you do it? I commend you. As stupid as it sounds I've never realized just how large our vocabulary is in our first language, and how much you need to relearn when you're trying to teach yourself another. Chain, breath, swamp, scraps, slaps, fleeting, CARAJO…just some of several words that I didn't know on one page. It's taken me an HOUR to get through the first three pages, and I'm not even 100% what's going on because I was getting so tired of having to look up half of the words. ¡Me cago en la hostia!

Ok thanks for letting me get it out of my system. Feel free to vent back, wish me luck or tell me to vete a la mierda.

Con amor, fuck me.

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Trekking in Guatemala for a Good Cause

Uno de mis pasatiempos es el senderismo (One of my hobbies is hiking). I’ve planned many travels around hiking, including some epic trips in Latin America such as trekking in Patagonia and doing the jungle trek to Machu Picchu. Recently, I went on the 3-day trek from Xela to Lago de Atitlan in Guatemala with the amazing Quetzal Trekkers organization. In this post I’ll introduce them and what they do and share some information about the trek, which was an incredible experience.

Get to Know Quetzal Trekkers

Quetzal Trekkers is a non-profit organization that runs trips in Guatemala and Nicaragua. When you trek with them, 100% of the proceeds go to Escuela de la Calle (School of the Street), an organization that provides education, housing, and social support to disadvantaged children in the city of Xela.

Outside of the Quetzal Trekkers office in Xela.

The organization was founded after the civil conflict in Guatemala that came to an end in the mid 1990s. As a result of the devastating years of conflict, thousands of children were living on the streets in the city of Xela. This led a group of two Guatemalans and one Brit to found the school in order to provide these children with an education.

They tried several different methods to raise money for the school, including selling cakes and opening a bar, but they eventually settled on leading treks in the area. Since 1995, they have managed to raise nearly $1.5 million for the school. I should mention that the organization is almost entirely volunteer-run.

Trekking from Xela to Lake Atitlan

Quetzal Trekkers runs several different trips, but their most popular one is the 3-day trek from Xela to Lago de Atitlan. This difficult yet rewarding trek covers 45 km, starting in the outskirts of the city and ending at San Pedro de la Laguna.

On the way to Lago de Atitlan.

Here’s a description of the hike from their website, first in Spanish and then in English:

Spanish Version

Camina por tres días a través de bosques nubosos, siembras de maíz, fincas de café y pueblos pequeños para luego ver la increíble salida del sol en el famoso Lago de Atitlán.

Durante la travesía pasaremos dos noches en pequeños pueblos de Guatemala. En uno de ellos tendremos la oportunidad de disfrutar del Temazcal – una sauna Maya natural – y relajarse al lado de una fogata en un ambiente hogareño al lado de nuevos amigos.

En el tercer día nos levantaremos temprano y después de un corto caminar presenciaremos la salida del sol en el Lago desde el Mirador mientras disfrutamos del desayuno. Después de la salida del sol descenderemos por la montaña hasta llegar a una finca de café en San Juan la Laguna donde disfrutaremos de una taza de café en la Cooperativa de Café La Voz.

Desde ahí nos transportaremos en pick up hasta San Pedro la Laguna donde nadaremos, almorzaremos y esperaremos por nuestras mochilas en el restaurante El Fondeadero a la orilla del lago, antes de despedirnos con lágrimas.

English Version

Walk for three days through cloud forests, corn crops, coffee farms and small towns and then see the incredible sunrise on the famous Lake Atitlan.

During the crossing we will spend two nights in small towns in Guatemala. In one of them we will have the opportunity to enjoy Temazcal – a natural Mayan sauna – and relax next to a bonfire in a homely atmosphere next to new friends.

On the third day we will wake up early and after a short walk we will witness the sunrise on the Lake from the Mirador while enjoying breakfast. After sunrise we will descend through the mountain until we reach a coffee farm in San Juan la Laguna where we will enjoy a cup of coffee at the La Voz Coffee Cooperative.

From there we will take a pick up to San Pedro la Laguna where we will swim, have lunch and wait for our backpacks at the El Fondeadero restaurant on the shore of the lake, before saying goodbye with tears.

My Experience

Trekking to Lake Atitlan from Xela was an unforgettable experience. We had some amazing guides leading our group, which by the way was a pretty great one. Several different countries were represented in our group and we all clicked from the get-go.

It was no walk in the park, though, that’s for sure. Our bags were quite heavy and we walked 20 km on each of the first two days. It poured rain on us for a bit on the first day and we slept on floors with nothing but thin mats. Roughing it was definitely worth it for the unbelievable views we got along the way.

Sunrise over the lake.

Beyond the natural beauty of the area, we got to experience the warmth of the Guatemalan people. This trek goes through remote areas that are inhabited mostly by indigenous people. From the Super Helados guy who sold us some refreshing ice cream, to the curious local kids who gathered around to watch me flew my drone, we met lots of friendly people on our way to the lake.

While I could ramble on and on about how epic the 3-day trek was, I’d rather just show you a video! Here’s a highlight reel from all three days of the trek:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiFQoz0TIj8?feature=oembed&w=500&h=281]

If you’re interested in signing up for a trek, volunteering as a guide, or just making a donation to help out, head over to Quetzal Trekkers. I highly recommend joining a trip with them if you’re planning to travel to Central America.