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Is it a bad idea to learn Spanish using voseo conjugations, when the rest of the Spanish-speaking world uses "tú"?

Background:

I reside in California. I have been exposed to Spanish for my entire life, as my family on my dad's side is from Argentina, and have taken several Spanish 1 classes, so I have a substantial background in the basics of the language (enough to ask some simple questions, and not understand the answers XD).

I am currently taking college level Spanish 1, with plans to continue (finally) to college Spanish 2 in the fall. In academic Spanish, the vocabulary is very neutral - we say "tú tienes," and don't even really learn "vos tenés" other than a forgettable reference to it in a small box at the beginning of the chapter about conjugating verbs.

I have motivations to learn Spanish in the Argentine dialect. For one thing, my dad was heavily exposed to it growing up and is capable of speaking it well enough to hold conversation and translate in very basic settings, although he's definitely a native English speaker, and his accent shows it. I am proud of my argentine heritage - a major motivation for me to learn Spanish in the first place is because I want to be able to talk to my Argentine relatives in their native tongue.

In one of my earlier Spanish classes, I had told my teacher before that my dad speaks Spanish. In one of the first classes (mostly review for me at that point), I said something in Spanish, and the teacher asked me if my dad was from Argentina. I was surprised that he could know, but then he explained that I had influences of it in the way I spoke my Spanish (canto cuando hablo...). Sorry, but I just think that's really cool.

Question:

I'd like to keep whatever Argentine influence I have, and build upon it, but I worry for three reasons:

  1. Using vos (which I recently learned of - they don't talk about it in school) goes against years of hard earned practice that has beat conjugations into my brain. Is it worth unlearning ?
  2. Vos will not fly on academic tests. As long as I'm taking Spanish in school, I will be learning the form, and I worry that trying to learn vos on the side (especially with enthusiastic Argentines to train me) could lead to confusion and mistakes on tests. Is this a valid concern, or will good practice enable me to switch between the pronouns with ease?
  3. Is it really weird to use vos? Will it actually hinder my Spanish communication with people from other hispanic countries? Not to mention the slang. (ie. fresas v. frutillas)
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    I don't know where you got the idea that vos won't fly on academic tests. I'm a Spanish professor in the US, I never use vos myself (I speak Castilian Spanish and use and teach vosotros), but I have no problem with students using it, so long as I'm not explicitly asking for the tú form, and if any of them express interest in a voseante country, I am happily teach them the forms in class. You'll only have problems, maybe, if you have an old-school professor from a non-voseo region, and frankly, I'd complain to the department head in that case :-) – user0721090601 Jul 20 '19 at 11:17
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    @guifa - Your comment expresses exactly what I was imagining as how a university class should be. Yay! Now, won't you put that in an answer, to preserve it? – aparente001 Jul 21 '19 at 2:26
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Well, that's three questions actually. Let me begin with the third and last one: in short, no, it's not weird to speak Spanish with voseo, and it won't hinder communication with other Spanish speakers. I'd go out on a limb and guess that even a person (meaning a Spanish native speaker) that has never been exposed to voseo would understand it with no problem after the initial surprise. The pronoun vos is the only, let's say, "new" thing for such a person, and even then most people are already familiar with it because it appears in old literature, in traditional Catholic prayers and Bible translations, in popular renditions of antiquity as seen on film or TV, etc. The verb forms are very similar, and they're not especially irregular. In fact, they're only different in the present tense,⁽¹⁾ and because the stress is shifted to the verb ending, the 2nd person singular present tense voseo verb forms from vowel-alternating verbs like mentir and poder are more regular: instead of remembering that mentirtú mientes, you have the completely regular mentirvos mentís. Finally, voseo is not an exclusive Argentine phenomenon. Some Argentinians don't employ voseo, and many, many Latin Americans do.

As for tests, I wouldn't expect you to experience confusion. Just "tuning into" one dialect or the other should be enough. It should be a bit like changing from a formal register using usted to an informal register using . Once you start off with one form, you don't have to remember it all the time.

Finally, to your first question: there's no need to unlearn . Your brain can perfectly accommodate both sets of pronoun and their verb forms. Of course, if you're still unsure, it would be wise to keep your studies focused on , which is "neutral" (not really, but close enough), and then, as you said, practising voseo on the side. If I understood you correctly, you could do this at home. A lot of people around the world keep different sets of words, dialects and even different languages apart, one for the family and friends and another one for public life.


(1) Verb forms in voseo are mostly "only different in the present tense". Voseo is not a dialect but a phenomenon with many variations. In Rioplatense voseo, the only different verb forms are in the present tense, indicative mood; sometimes in the present subjunctive (some people say que vos puedas, others say que vos podás); and in the imperative mood. Other dialects with voseo have different rules.

| improve this answer | |
  • "they're only different in the present tense" — well, depends on dialect. You get a lot of variations in different countries. So vos mentís, but some countries will be dudo que vos mientas but others dudo que vos mintás. Future can be -ás or és, preterite can be -ste or -stes (actually correct with the -s for vos jaja) – user0721090601 Jul 20 '19 at 11:14
  • Yes, I got mixed up a bit there. I'll make a footnote of that. – pablodf76 Jul 20 '19 at 13:34
  • (and actually that variation is the only thing really keeping me from requiring my elementary students to know vos forms. I expect them to recognize it when used, but don't cover conjugations for it) – user0721090601 Jul 20 '19 at 13:37

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