The eccentricities of the Andalusian dialect
Published on: 04-06-2018

Spanish is a strange language. Not only is it sometimes also called Castillano, to indicate its real origins and distinguish itself from regional languages such as Catalan, Gallego and of course Basque, but it has some very distinct sounds and sayings that set it apart from other Latin languages such as Portuguese, Italian and Provençal.

In general, Spanish is more lispy and guttural, with ‘drier’ sounds compared to surrounding tongues, and though the language traces its roots directly to the many centuries of Roman rule, the subsequent centuries of Moorish rule are also reflected in the more guttural g’s and j’s (known as jottas here).

Nowhere is this more pronounced than in Andalucía, Spain’s most ‘Moorish’ region, so while there are many distinct regional dialects in Madrid, Castile, Asturias/Cantabria and the Canaries, Andalusian Spanish is perhaps the most divergent of all. Indeed, along with the Murcia dialect it’s sometimes slated by those who speak the ‘correct’ Castilian from Madrid and Salamanca.

As a result, people from other parts of Spain often struggle to understand the wispy, nasal sounds of Andaluz, a dialect associated with impenetrable mountain village ancients who keep talking without being understood. Imagine the poor foreigner who lands on these shores – in fact, learning Spanish here has been likened to learning English in Newcastle, German in Vienna and Dutch in Maastricht.

Watch the national news and you will soon get a feel for what is being said, but try to follow a conversation in an Andalusian bar and it takes a good deal of commitment, not just to understand the words and sounds, but also the Andalusian mind-set, which is quite different from the rest of the country.

The main difference between Andalusian and standard Spanish is not so much grammatical or structural, but in terms of phonetics (how it’s pronounced) and the many colourful terms and sayings used, many of which can be quite localised and not understood by Andalusians from 30 kilometres down the road.

The very nasal sounds, raspy j’s and nouns that are hard to ‘catch’ are most likely a relic of times when Arabic and Berber dialects were spoken on the streets of Andalusian towns. They don’t make life easy for those who wish to communicate with locals, many of whom fortunately have the ability to revert to the clearer, though rather lisping standard Spanish typical of the heartland of the language, Castile and Leon.

In the meantime, the unofficial second language of the Costa del Sol is English, so until you learn Spanish you will be able to get around with very few complications indeed!

Below a very intersting TED talk on how language shapes the way we think.