Not a Canaria Anymore

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)

On Wednesday evening, I returned from a lovely week at home, decompressing from work and recovering from the downside of living alone in a foreign country. This practically meant to do all those things I love from home and miss in Switzerland – like eating affordable and delicious fresh fish, sleeping without worrying to oversleep or spending a whole afternoon playing with my two cats.

It felt great to be able to communicate freely with waiters and shopkeepers, without the disturbing language barriers.

But As the days passed, I realized more and more that I was no longer considered one of the locals. I could be one of them, physically (after half a day in the sun). But as soon as I start talking, I got interrupted with the question.

Local: Where’s that accent from?

Me (with a doubtful look in my face): Well, supposedly from here. I’m Canarian.

Local: Oh no, no way. Your accent is definitely not from here…

Great. So now its official – I’m no longer a canaria.

When I left Tenerife at the age of 18, I had a beautiful accent. I used canarian expressions, local words that the rest of Spain doesn’t understand, and hardly ever swore. The last “s” of every word was substituted by a light breath (like an “h”). My accent wasn’t the original Canarian one (which is more rough and harder to understand), but I loved it – it was unique.

After 7 years abroad surrounded mostly by madrileños my accent had lost some of its uniqueness. I stopped using canarian expressions and acquired some new vocabulary frequently used in Madrid. But the accent from Madrid was really hard for me to catch and even after 7 years, it never comes naturally. I always managed to keep the essence of the Canarian accent – its intonation and pronunciation.

In Switzerland, the situation is different. I hardly know any spanish people and feel very disconnected from the Canary Islands – there are so few flight connection (and these are so expensive) that I can only go back 1-2 times a year. Instead, I’m surrounded by Argentinians and Chileans. Their accent is more similar to the one from the Canary Islands and its easy to remember the funny expressions. As a result, I seem to have lost my clear canarian accent and now speak something that can’t be defined. It’s not exactly Argentinian, nor chilean, and is definitely notcanarian anymore.

I know, accents are just a kind of pronunciation – but they’re a kind of pronunciation particular to an individual, area or nation. The manner we speak out reveals a lot about us – such as our location, socio-economic status, ethnicity and even our first language. Now that my accent is undefinable, I feel like I’ve lost part of my identity.

This left me wondering…

do you think there are accents that are easier to pick up than others for each person? Have you ever felt you’ve been losing yours when away from home?

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20 Responses to “Not a Canaria Anymore”

  1. ChristineMay 1, 2011 at 12:27 PM #

    In Spain particularly, the accent seems to be a very distinguishing factor, and one that which is the source of a lot of pride for people. It’s only natural to lose your accent if you’re immersed in a different language and/or surrounded by people with different accents than you. Embrace it–it’s just a sign of how well-traveled you are!
    Christine recently posted..The Easter Bunny Doesnt Come to Spain

    • KatherinaMay 1, 2011 at 10:49 PM #

      Thanks for brining up a positive side on this! You’re right about accents in Spain – I think I’ve not met yet another country with so many (recognizable) regional differences in pronunciation… and so proud of it! I’m secretly *happy* that at least my accent is not from Madrid… and more on to the Latin-American side (I like how the argentinians speak!)

  2. A Cynful LifeMay 1, 2011 at 1:46 PM #

    This definitely happens to me. When I speak Spanish now I get told that I have a weird accent, because of the Italian. When I go home for a long period of time and then come back to Italy, I get told that I have an accent in Italian, which I normally don’t have. I struggle so much the first few days when I go from one language to the other, especially if I have to write. It has also affected my English, which I think is kind of funny. At first I was kind of in distress by all this, but I am actually quite proud now. I am a citizen of the world!
    A Cynful Life recently posted..In this house

    • KatherinaMay 1, 2011 at 10:52 PM #

      Hi Cynthia! Thanks for this – It’s good to know I’m not the only one with these kind of strange situations. And you’ve got a really good point (which I’m going to remind myself from now on): it’s not a bad thing to have a weird mixed accent – it shows we’re citizens of the World! :)

  3. ShaeMay 1, 2011 at 6:18 PM #

    I guess for me since I don’t travel much I have the opposite problem. I really don’t feel I have an accent at all and have always wanted one. I moved down from MA to FLA (lol big jump right? ;)) And when I got there everyone said I had a crazy thick Boston accent especially when I was angry. I dont see it at all and I was always trying to catch myself dropping my rs or something like that. To me I think you are lucky to have a recognizable accent to lose. I guess it is sort of connected to that saying it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all lol!

    • KatherinaMay 1, 2011 at 10:54 PM #

      That’s a thing: you might have an accent but don’t notice it yourself! I don’t really notice me speaking “argentinian” for example, but so many people have told me so already. There are some things we just can’t easily recognize by ourselves I guess!

  4. KimMay 1, 2011 at 9:17 PM #

    Hello! I just came across this post on Twitter and found it very interesting that you are loosing your accent. I am from the West Midlands in the UK and from many years of living away (north England, France, Spain) I too am told that I speak strangely in English. However, since I have lived in different parts of Spain my accent has changed each time I have moved. I now live in Seville, but spent a lot of time in the Canaries (Gran Canaria) and when I arrived in Seville I asked where I could get the guagua. People now laugh at how strong an Andaluz accent I have, mi arma!

    • KatherinaMay 1, 2011 at 11:00 PM #

      Hi Kim! Thanks for sharing!
      I think the Canarian and Andalusian accents are quite easy to pick up. In fact, I once spent 2 days in Puerto de Santa Maria and when I called a friend on my return he told me I spoke with acento andaluz!
      I miss using words like guagua… they went out of my vocabulary when I moved to Madrid and nobody understand what I was talking about.

  5. TexaGermaNadianMay 1, 2011 at 11:43 PM #

    I think some people are more ‘impressionable’ than others. I am definitely one of those people. I pick up a little bit of accent here and there. Canadian, German and Texan all in one, haha. But the Texas one (obviously) sticks the best. And as soon as we get home for the summer, it starts right back up!
    Thanks for linking up to the Storytellers Blog Hop! Really glad you did!
    TexaGermaNadian recently posted..God Bless Texas!

    • KatherinaMay 2, 2011 at 6:19 PM #

      I guess it’s easy to pick it up again when your back home. I must stay a bit longer next time to check!

  6. ElisaMay 2, 2011 at 12:33 AM #

    oh, definitely, there are some accents that are easier than others to pick up! I pick up accents from all around the US when I visit but no matter how many times I go to the UK I can never pick up the Brit accent ;-(

    As for Italian, I tend to retain a bit of my sardinian accent, but not according to Sardinians. They say I sound like I’m from the North. And in the North they say I am clearly from Sardinia. Umph.

    • KatherinaMay 2, 2011 at 6:19 PM #

      hehe Seems to me your in the same position as me!

  7. ZhuMay 2, 2011 at 4:22 PM #

    I have an accent when I speak English but it’s not a French accent. People can’t usually tell I’m from France: I’ve been talked to in Spanish, Russian, Portuguese… I think I don’t have “ze classical France accente” because I learned English in Canada and didn’t speak French for a long time.

    My French is a bit weird these days. Oh, my grammar and spelling is fine, but I incoporated local expressions and slang French wouldn’t understand. Yet I don’t speak Québécois fluently.

    Welcome to my world :lol:

    • KatherinaMay 2, 2011 at 6:22 PM #

      That must sound interesting! People can’t tell where I’m from when I speak german neither. Well, they do notice my german is not flawless (so I was obviously not raised up in Germany) but they can’t really tell where (which I kind if like, cause it means I don’t have the “typical” spanish or english accent when speaking it!).

  8. A Ladybug's LifeMay 2, 2011 at 5:45 PM #

    Breathtaking photo! I’m following from the Storytellers Blog Hop of TexaGermaNadian.

    A Ladybug’s Life
    A Ladybug’s Life recently posted..Iron Horse Bike Trail

  9. MeriMay 3, 2011 at 7:27 PM #

    I think when we move around and pick up different accents and slang, it just makes us more interesting. You are still a Canarian if that’s where your heart is, right?
    I very much wanted to visit the Canaries when I was living in Madrid, but the tickets were spendy and I didn’t have much time to get away to do a bus/ boat type deal!
    One day I will go!
    Meri recently posted..Listless

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