Argentines refer to the language they speak as castellano, not español. (In Argentina that’s “ka-stay-ZHA-no,” not “ka-stay-YA-no.”) My favorite online dictionary has this to say: the term “español” is often avoided because of its associations with the former colonizing country. The term castellano is also supposed to be more respectful of the other languages still spoken in Spain, including Basque and Catalan.

I have had a whole month of language classes (80 hours!), and yet I still refer to myself in the third person, still stop overly long mid-sentence to visualize the page of my notebook where I wrote down past tense endings, still break down completely because I don’t know how to say simple things like “try” or “leave” or “still.” I also have huge gaps. After saying “Por favor, quiero” (Please, I want…), it finally occurred to me that I sound like a barbarian.

The only solution, of course, is to keep talking and making mistakes and figuring out—after the fact—how to say things correctly.

Thank goodness for the mother of seven-year-old Otilio, a smiling, mile-a-minute talker in Lou’s tae kwan do class. Pete and I met Otilio’s mom Valeria on Lou’s second night in class, when Pete used a request for parenting advice as an excuse to vent about Lou’s tantrums. I could tell that Valeria was a generous and thoughtful person, and when Pete walked away she engaged me in conversation. And I managed. The next week we talked about our plans for Christmas and she told me about wanting to instill Christian values in her children, in part by reading them stories from the Bible, even though she doesn’t identify with any organized religion.

Valeria doesn’t speak any English, and knowing that I will see her on Wednesday and Friday nights is motivating me to try harder and spend more time on my Spanish.

2 thoughts on “Castellano

  1. liz

    that is so cool!! My main problem with Russian in Latvia was that everyone I met wanted to practice English and their English was already better than my Russian. Plus, we had not that much to talk about. Your post is making me realize that having kids to talk about is a great way to make friends in a different language. (writing this sitting outside of JJ’s room as he keeps trying to escape from nap time).

  2. ellentveit Post author

    Hi Liz! A kid is a great entree in any language…
    Pete and I had a come to Jesus moment today (here in Chile, where we both have a tough time understanding people), and I think he is going to try and get away from us English speakers a little more and I am going to accept that three months is not enough time to become fluent in another language.


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