Trying to master a foreign language

Vos o tú

Like French and English, Spanish is a global language, with over 400 million native speakers in 70 different countries (my stats are courtesy of wikipedia). Spanish therefore comes in many different. flavors.

Here, in Argentina, where I am traveling to attend a conference, people use ‘vos’ instead of ‘tú’ as the second person singular pronoun.

This is not what I learned as a student of Spanish, first, briefly, in highschool, and later, much more extensively, in France, as an adult. I learned Spanish mainly from Spaniards. Spaniards don’t necessarily agree among themselves as to what constitutes proper Spanish. Speakers from Asturias don’t sound anything like speakers from, say Estremadura or Andalucia. But Spaniards all agree that the second person singular pronoun is ‘tú’. No one had ever bothered to tell me about ‘vos’.

Yet ‘vos’ is no minor local quirk. It is used in what is refered to as Rioplatense Spanish, in other words, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, and to a lesser extent in many other countries, ranging from Chile to Central America to bits of Colombia and Venezuela. That’s a lot of people. more than the total population of Spain.

To at least to try to use ‘vos’ instead of ‘tú’, while I’m here, is, of course, irresistible–at the risk of sounding even more confused than I aleady am. So what if I get it wrong? I am a foreigner–a ‘forastera’. I’m allowed to be confused. So in I dive, asking the taxi driver “tenés el cambio?” instead of ‘tienes’ (more later on the topic of asking for change in this country–that’s an entry all to itself).

More on vos or voseo:


Single Post Navigation

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: