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Happy Thanksgiving

28th November 2019

Over 41 million people across the United States will greet each other in Spanish today. But they won't be speaking with one voice or in one accent.

Happy Thanksgiving to our friends across the Atlantic.

Or perhaps we should say Feliz día de acción de gracias!

Over 41 million people across the United States will be greeting each other in Spanish today. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be speaking with one voice. Taking Florida as just one regional example, the accents and speed of speech you hear in conversations between Cuban-Americans may be a world away from the slower and more formal diction of Columbian-Americans. And when listening to Venezuelan Spanish you may be struck by the absence of sibilant “s” sounds. The Puerto Rican origins of almost three quarters of a million New Yorkers resonate in their daily speech, while Californians of Mexican heritage may speak completely different types of Spanish according to how long they’ve been in the United States. The distinctiveness of people, their age groups and their regional accents and dialects makes a “one size fits all” approach to language unsuitable when dealing with people in the same city, let alone the same country.

Conversis technical specialist Paul Hunter deals with these variations every day and embraces the diversity he sees.

“We really shouldn’t be surprised by the differences in regional Spanish speech. In the United Kingdom we might hear the same simple English sentence spoken in Glasgow, Newcastle, Belfast, Birmingham and Cardiff in accents so different that only local people would fully understand them. It’s too easy to think of a language as one homogenous collection of words. The reality is that language is alive and constantly evolving, and the geography and culture of each region it’s spoken in will tweak that evolution in a new and interesting way”.

This is a good day to remind ourselves of the influence of Spanish in the United States. While the first Anglicised Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 by pilgrims who’d come to America on the Mayflower, findings at Florida’s Museum of Natural History have revealed that a Spanish Thanksgiving was held decades earlier. In 1565, explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés attended a special Thanksgiving Mass with over 800 fellow sailors and settlers in St Augustine, then sat down to eat side by side with local Native Americans. Menéndez de Avilés had lost half his ships on the voyage from Spain, and this show of friendship and appreciation was his first response on reaching safety on America’s Atlantic coast. Four and a half centuries later, it’s a gesture we can still learn from today.

Feliz día de acción de gracias!

Happy Thanksgiving

 

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