‘Granaíno Style’: Overcoming the Daunting Language Barrier in Granada

Michelle Alderink is a student at Grand Valley State University  and an ISA Featured Blogger. Michelle is currently studying abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain.

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We’ve all listened to the catchy song ‘Gagnam Style’ and have enjoyed (and slightly suffered from) its catchiness and make-you-want-to-dance beat. However, never would I have thought that a parody of this video based on my host city, Granada, would be exactly what I needed to break my nervousness about the thick Granadino accent.

But, before I dive into this, my adaptation to the dialect of Spanish here in Granada warrants further explanation. Before coming to Spain, I knew that it was going to take some adjusting to speak with an authentic Castellano accent (for example: ‘graTHias’ instead of gracias). After a week in Madrid before heading to Granada, I had the pronunciation down and was confident I would be able to communicate well in Granada. How different could the accent really be? We were only going a few hours away!

Well, I was wrong. Not only did certain phrases differ between Madrid and Granada, but diminutives and phonology also changed. Even when my host señora spoke slowly and used simple words, many times I couldn’t understand what she was saying because the accent is so distinct from any Spanish I had leaned before. And when I would try to talk to her, I could see her soft, brown eyes crinkle as if trying to concentrate in order to understand me. And I thought I knew so much Spanish!! What drove me even crazier was my personal goal of learning to speak like a local Granadina so I felt a more authentic connection to Granada.

After a few weeks of feeling frustrated with my lack of ability to comprehend and communicate as well as I had hoped, I came across the video ‘Granaíno Style’ which put my language barrier into perspective. Despite the video being sung in typical dialect, I found that reading the lyrics and watching the video helpful to decipher the meaning of the words. The catchy beat and the familiarity of the song put my mind at ease and made overcoming this dialect challenge not so overwhelming!

By re-watching this video more times than I’d like to admit, I realized I didn’t feel quite so overwhelmed just focusing on comprehension rather than dialect variations. What I hadn’t realized is that understanding what’s being said has to come before trying to apply the variations to your own speech! I was enthusiastic about my new discovery and realized that  if I could understand a ridiculous song where informal phrases and spontaneous transitions are thrown around, then I can get through a normal street conversation successfully. Now that I’ve adjusted to the dialect, I have started to apply to aspects to my speech and find it much easier than before.

For your own dialect acquisition, it’s important to know it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Although you probably won’t have a Gangnam Style parody about your city, I recommend using media to listen to the dialect and just comprehend! You could also go on a walk and listen to the conversations around you (as long as it’s to better your comprehension it’s not considered eavesdropping!). Finally, intercambios, also known as “language exchanges” are something I strongly recommend because they give you practice in speaking and listening to the language.

Overall, 4 months would never be enough to master any dialect; so for me, I’ll be happy leaving Granada with however much ´Granaíno Style’ I can grasp and hold on to! I recommend that you go out and find your own personal way of adjusting to your language barrier!

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