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…