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THE SO CALLED “ACCENTS”

ONE MASTERS A LANGUAGE WHEN IS CAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENT ACCENTS. NOT BEING ABLE TO DO IT SHOWS AN INDIVIDUAL IS NOT PROFICIENT IN THAT LANGUAGE EVEN IF IT’S IN ONLY AND FIRST LANGUAGE.

The wide variety of dialects of the same language is what’s well known as “accents” though not appropriately defined. An example of this are the variations of English, the one spoken in England, U.S and Australia. They are different dialects of the same language; in this case English. Likewise, Spanish has lots of dialects: Spanish from Spain, Mexican Spanish, Colombian Spanish Argentinian Spanish and so on. That being said, in order to be proficient in our first language (mother tongue) one has to be able to understand, differentiate, and master the variations of “accents” of our mother tongue. If someone struggles understanding accents shows nothing but lack of proficiency in its own language.

Speaking with an accent is nothing bad at all, it only shows the language variation of a speaker according to his/her region, location, gender, vocal cords and it might actually tell that speaker speaks more than one language.

In the linguistics field, it’s been clearly stated that there’s no better accent over another. They are simply variations of the same language which represents the evolution of a language.
Among the elements that constituent the characteristics of a specific dialect are: particular way of pronouncing words, sometimes, spelling of some words (in the dialects of some languages), use of specific words, idiomatic expressions and colloquial phrases that are only used in a very specific region, state, or country.

It would be silly to establish a particular dialect of a language is better than another stating one was first than the other when what matters the most is the accent that nowadays predominates the most, that is to say, the one with more speakers.

 

By: JESÙS CRUZ-BAUTISTA

                                                                                                                @jc89bautista #jc89bautista

@MyPrivateSpanishTutor

 
 
 

Accents & Dialects; the mistaken use of words or just synonyms.

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Using interchangeably certain terms might confuse people which would lead to a misuse of such terms. Misusing specific words can completely change the meaning of the concepts they refer to. For instance. synonyms are words used to replace other terms with same sense. However, each word has its own definition as it represents a full unique concept that even though might be close in meaning to a particular word it won’t ever be one hundred percent the same thing. Although synonyms are equivalent words that mean the same idea the misuse of such terms can create confusion among people and misunderstandings in communication. These are just some of the reasons why I would like to point out in detail the definitions of each individual term, and compare them to finally show the contrast in their misusage with their appropriate use if  accurate and efficient communication is intended.

As a linguists I have witnessed even when educated people speakers of several languages misuse the words: ‘Accent’ and ‘ Dialect’. That is why I thought it would be good to highlight the correct usage of these terms based on the concepts they are attached to. Regardless of their first language, I have found people switch these two terms as proof of lack of deeper understanding of the actual concepts. It is worth mentioning that these two words are mostly related to languages and though their literal equivalents in any language might be other two pair of synonyms that might or not be misused too, here I will focus on the words in English and Spanish (Acento & Dialecto) to clarify what these really mean.

Based on the Real Academy of the Spanish language ‘Dialect’ it is only the variation of the a particular language without reaching the label of an independent language. That is to say, a dialect varies based on the region of the speakers of the same language, but these are variations of a specific language system. For instance, the Spanish language has several dialects across the Spanish speaking world. The Spanish spoken in Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, etc are nothing but dialects of a given language; in this case Spanish. Same thing happens with other languages just like English. The Australian, British, American, and African English are clear examples of dialects of English. Being that said, dialects cannot be called languages themselves because their are just variations of a language.

On the other hand the word ‘Accent’ has a lot of meanings either in English or Spanish. However, among its meanings the one to be highlighted here is the one which with is quite often exchanged for ‘dialecto’. According to  Wordreference Random House Learner’s Dictionary of American English  ‘Accent’ is related to the amount of prominence of a spoken sound. It is also “a way of pronouncing sounds depending on a region, country or locality”. For instance, although an accent is quite related to pronunciation it is mostly on the foreign way of pronouncing words recognized a foreign origin in comparison to the native speakers of a language.  In sum, we are not talking about “Accents” when referring to speakers that have the same language as their mother tongue but their pronunciation varies because of the different regions that surrounded them.

Although this might be surprising for some, based on the definitions of the concepts discussed, it is appropriate and quite logical to say there is an American dialect of the Spanish language spoken by American Spanish speakers in bilingual states such California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Florida, etc., just as there is a Hispanic/Mexican dialect of English. Since we are talking about neighbour countries with close relationships that has been forever there are a lot of bilingual speakers in English-Spanish or vice versa, and since these speakers use these languages on their regular basis, new dialects of their second languages has been developed. That is to say, these dialects differ from the accents in the fact that the pronunciation is not interpreted as foreign but only as different and attributed to bilingual Spanish speakers.

Learning a new communication system codes as a foreign language is not a matter of a dialect since the pronunciation will dramatically differ from those of the native speakers of a language learnt. Therefore, a dialect of a language is not exaggerating the pronunciation of that language because of difficulties to articulate words that the speaker is not used to pronounce, it would be because of region factors. Meanwhile  an accent would take place when the interference of the first language affects in the pronunciation of the second/foreign language. That is to say, an Australian does not have an English accent, that person rather have a different dialect of English. Likewise, Spaniards and British do not have a better dialect than Mexicans and Americans respectively, we all just speak different dialects of the same language. Thus, the words ‘Accent’ and ‘Dialect’ can work as synonyms. Nonetheless, these terms are also misuse for discrimination purposes giving them pejorative meanings out of the real definitions.

In Mexico people used to call dialects to indigenous languages, nevertheless, each indigenous language it is an independent communication system of codes which makes them perfectly fit into the categories of languages. So, these ethnic languages have their own dialects as well.

As a conclusion, there is no better dialect over another, they are just variations of a specific language depending on regions that have evolved with time and space. All languages have developed because of the interactions with other languages and cultures than none remains intact. On the other hand, having an accent is nothing to be ashamed of, it is rather proof that those people speak another language as their mother tongue and they are communicating in a language that is not theirs. Showing respect for speakers with different dialect and accents expose a knowledgeable individual, doing the opposite would show nothing but ignorance in this matter.

By Jesús Cruz-Bautista

My Private Spanish Tutor: Jc Bautista

Reference:

Real Academia Española, 2017. http://dle.rae.es/?id=DeWvE0K

WordReference Random House Learner’s Dictionary of American English  2017, http://www.wordreference.com/definition/accent

The difference between Hispanics and Latinos

 

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Although there have been confusions regarding this issue even among Spanish speakers this is a matter that is not complicated at all. In order to clearly understand the two concepts it is convenient to really know what each one means so that we can compare and contrast them. 

Even though Hispanics are all those Spanish speakers in the world,  the term has been used mostly for those living in in the American continent. For instance, a hispanic can be a person that was born in the United States but does speak Spanish as his first language. Being this said, all Mexicans, Argentinians, Colombians, Salvadorians and people from all the Spanish speaking countries in Latin America are Hispanics too. Spaniards do not like to be called Hispanics and they rather go with the term “españoles” that would literally mean “Spanish”.

Besides being Hispanics all Spanish speakers in the American continent from Mexico as the north boundary to the south are also placed under the “Latinos” category which is a term not exclusively for Spanish speakers but for all those speakers of a Latin Language such as: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian but only in the American continent. However, the term “latino” is not merely taken from the Latin language but also from the “Latin American” phrase.

Since the United States has given the right to call itself “America” the Rest of the continent has become Latin American, and Canada. Nonetheless, it is just one continent and is the American continent from Canada to Argentina. But, this is the reason why, the word ‘Latino’ is exclusive for speakers of the languages above BUT, only if they were born anywhere in the #Latin American- region.  That is to say, people from Brazil, and the French Guiana are Latinos as well. It is worth mentioning that even though some countries are included in the Latin American continent” they are not considered Latinos such as those people from Belize, and The Dutch & British Guianas as they do live in the Latin American territory but do not have an official language which roots come from Latin. 

On the other hand, people from Portugal, Italy, France, Spain and Romania are not considered Latinos as they do not live in the Latin America territory.  Again, the term Latino is mainly used because of the land but it is also related to the language which root should be attached to Latin; the mother of all Romance Languages. Therefore, Italians, Portuguese, French, Spaniards, and Romanians are not “Latinos”, some Romance Language speakers from Europe might used the word “Latin” (as it is in English) to refer to themselves or to point out the root of language, ancestry or identity where they come from, but not common at all to label them as Latinos. 

As stated before, these are nothing but labels that our “society” has added to different communities based on race, nationalities, and languages in order to discriminate. So if for some the word “Latino” or “Hispano” sounds pejorative is not what it is. It could be actually seen as a sign of identity that defines a gathering of cultures that because of our same language we share many traditions and customs. 

In sum, whether you are a Latino, Hispanic or not, we should not take bad the usage of these words that are but terms that represent full interesting concepts that go beyond and take in much more that many ignore. This is how I see it; what should matters is the diversity in cultures, languages and ethnicities that we have, how bored everything would be if we all look alike with the same language and same culture. Thus, remember that we do not see things as they are, we see them as we are. 

Let’s embrace cultural diversity by learning languages throughout their cultures.

by JESUS CRUZ-BAUTISTA (2017) ©

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