No longer prohibited in Spanish
It’s been more than four years now since I visited my home country of Argentina. While I was there (Buenos Aires and Patagonia), I was excited that my Spanish language skills came back: I started dreaming again in Spanish, remembering words I hadn’t used in years, and my mom said I sounded like a porteno (sorry, no tilde available on blogger) when I talked to her on the phone.
But each day since then, my Castellano skills have been deteriorating. I am forgetting words. I have no sense of syntax. When I order pupusas from Salvadorians in Takoma Park, they respond in English. Basta! Enough. I needed a wake-up call, and incorrectly insisting to a roomful of my novia’s amigos that the Spanish word for “prohibited” is pronounced pro-HEE-bido was the last straw.
One of my first memories of coming to this country when I was 4 years old is sitting in my preschool class, unable to talk to anyone because I didn’t understand their crazy idioma, leafing through the book The Fox and the Hound and figuring out the story based on the Disney drawings alone (it was so heartbreaking; why couldn’t the fox and the hound be friends just because they were different?). But as I began to learn English, my native tongue slowly devolved and took a back seat as my inferior language.
Short history of my Arjewtiness: My family and I moved to LA when I was 4 because of La Guerra Sucia, a military-power that made political dissidents disappear (including some of my dad’s friends). We lived here for four years until democracy was restored in Argentina, after which we went back for two more years. When the economy tanked, we came back to the U.S. and I became a citizen when I was 15 years old. (Yes, Blue, I AM a U.S. citizen. )
Maybe because of the constant moving, or because of my desire to assimilate into America, my Spanish skills went down the toilet. I can still have a very simple conversation in Spanish with my padres but it can be taxing to constantly think in English and translate it to Spanish. And because of Argentina’s unique dialect and pronunciation (for example, pollo is pronounced PO-zho), the Mexican- and Central American-style Spanish I always heard in the states didn’t help much.
Children are like sponges when it comes to learning; I could have learned Korean two weeks after moving here. But I am no longer 4 years old and I have to regain my Castellano (we don’t really say Espanol). I am returning to Buenos Aires in December with my mom and siblings to visit my grandmother, who will be turning 85 that month. I hope my native tongue comes back like it did before and that, this time, I continue remembering.
After all, I’m still a porteno.