Would you like to speak Spanish with an Argentine accent? Today I’ll teach you how!
If you have been following my Argentine Spanish blog, you have already read a few articles that will help you sound more Argentine: the use of voseo, the exclamation che, the adverb re, etc.
This time we will focus on the pronunciation and intonation of a standard porteño accent!
Because what’s internationally recognized as the Argentine accent is actually the one from Buenos Aires, the capital of the country.
Argentina is huge and has different dialectal areas. The River Plate area, where porteño or rioplatense Spanish is spoken, is just one of them!
How to speak Spanish with an Argentine accent
Having clarified that, to speak Spanish with an Argentine accent you basically need to follow three steps, ordered by level of difficulty.
If you are already familiar with Latin American Spanish, you know that, unlike most Spaniards, we always pronounce the c and z as s.
So that’s more of a general rule that applies from Argentina to Mexico.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
1) Pronounce the ‘ll’ and ‘y’ as ‘sh’
This the most prominent feature of the Argentine Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires: we always pronounce the ll and the y as sh.
So if a say a phrase like yo me llamo Kevin, you will hear sho me shamo Kevin.
lluvia = shuvia (rain)
pollo = posho (chicken)
playa = plasha (beach)
yarda = sharda (yard)
Here you can hear the famous Cuban-American pop singer Camila Cabello imitating a porteño accent! Can you understand all the words?
And you can hear many sh’s in this chill pop song by the Argentine singer Emmanuel Horvilleur, Llamame cuando llegues (Call Me When You Arrive).
This pronunciation of ll and y as sh is actually a linguistic phenomenon called yeismo rehilado, which is also common in Uruguay.
If you are curious about it, I suggest you watch this interesting video of BBC Mundo on Youtube!
2) Imitate an Italian – but don’t exaggerate!
The porteño accent has been highly influenced by the successive waves of Italian immigrants that arrived in the country between the mid-19th and the mid-20th centuries.
So although it might sound a little bit stereotypical, it’s true that there’s some Italian in our intonation and cadence when we speak.
And by Italian, again I should clarify, I mean from Southern Italy, since that’s the region where most of the immigrants came from.
Check out this video contrasting both accents! The Argentine guy speaks really fast, so don’t focus on what he says as much as on how it sounds. What do you think?
Now one more example of a typical rioplatense accent!
Do you know Andy Muschietti? He’s a succesful Argentine filmmaker recognized for directing the two film adaptations of the famous Stephen King novel It.
In this interview you can hear him talking about his experience directing It: Chapter Two.
And also a brief impersonation of him by the American actor and comedian Bill Hader, who imitates Andy’s instructions on-set with an Italian accent!
So that’s the second step: imitate an Italian. But don’t exaggerate!
3) Want to speak with an Argentine accent? Aspirate your s’s!
When I’m teaching, it’s usual for my students to think that sometimes I don’t pronounce the s.
For example, I teach the word bosque (forest) and no matter how many times I repeat it, they keep hearing boque.
In phonetics, ‘to aspirate’ means to pronounce something with a breath that can be heard. That’s what we do with the s not only in Buenos Aires, but in half of the Hispanic world!
An aspirated s sounds very similar to an h in English. But be careful! There are some rules, which also apply for the z, because it’s pronounced as an s.
Let’s take a look at this phrase: no quiero soñar mil veces las mismas cosas.
When a word starts or ends with an s or when it is before a vowel, it’s pronounced normally: soñar, veces, las, cosas.
When the s is before a consonant sound, we aspirate it. But as long as we pronounce that consonant sound immediately afterwards, linking the sounds!
Aspirating the s’s, our phrase would sound like this: no quiero soñar mil veceH laH miHmaH cosas.
However, if there were a pause between the words, the s would be pronounced normally, because we aren’t linking the sounds: no quiero soñar mil veces… las… miHmaH cosas.
Let’s listen to a native Spanish speaker once again!
In this video, Abel Pintos, one of the most popular singers in Argentina (and among the popular ones, the most talented in my opinion), answers 11 random questions.
The video has subtitles, so pay attention to those times when the s is before a consonant sound.
For example, at 00:27, when asked which musical genre he prefers, he says me guHtan laH doH por igual.
Keep practicing, but don’t get obsessed! It will take some time until you are able to aspire you s’s naturally.
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Thank you very much and until next time,