Argentines living abroad fret one thing above anything else and that is losing their identity, which they carry high above them as trophies. The first time this happened to Gastón, a successful tennis player living in Spain, was two years ago, while talking on the phone with a friend from Buenos Aires. Instead of saying the word “ruta” (route or road), he said “carretera” instead. Like the song by Julio Iglesias. On the other end of the line, his friend resorted to ominous laughter. The worst part for Gastón was that his friends living in Argentina might think he did that kind of thing on purpose.
Gastón, like other Argentine exiles, feels really dumb when he loses his own words and has to borrow other words that do not belong to him, to his culture. He felt like a thief, rather than a simple fool. Also, when speaking Spanish to people from other countries, it is always best to iron out the phonetical, linguistic phenomenon known as “yeísmo” or “lleísmo”, which only occurs in the Rio de la Plata region, in order to avoid confusion. Yeísmo as in where the sound of the letter “Y” or “ll” is pronounced like a “sh” in English.
Not long ago, Gastón was at a press conference in Argentina, talking about a book and its quality etc. He was addressing a group of journalists and when looking for adjectives to describe the book, he could only think of two, one in Madrileño, (Spanish dialect from Madrid) and one in English. Obviously most of them did not understand him, and that is when he started panicking. He looked at his manager who had been away from his home country probably even longer than him and asked him: “what is the Argentinian word for this?” Total silence. That is when Gastón realized that he was a stranger in his own hometown.