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 Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Language in canary islands: Languages in the Canary Islands

Опубликовано: November 12, 2022 в 3:16 pm


Категории: Miscellaneous

Canary Islands culture: New generations learn Spain’s ancient whistled language of La Gomera | Life in Spain


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  • Many believe that it was used before the Castilian conquest in the 15th century by the Guanche inhabitants of La Gomera, based on testimonies from French chronologists Pierre Boutier and Jean Le Vierre, who wrote of the island’s people who spoke “the strangest language of all the regions, speaking with their lips as if they lacked a tongue.”

    The silbo gomero (the Gomera whistle) is a phonological system that substitutes spoken language. With four consonants and two vowels, the whistler is capable of articulating phrases and words in their spoken language, which in this case is Spanish. However, they can also whistle in any other language. “It’s a very interesting language,” says Marcial Morera, professor of Spanish Philology at La Laguna University. “It could be taught in any general linguistics course, because it demonstrates clearly how a natural language is organized.”

    The 1978 publication of the book El Silbo Gomero by the linguist Ramón Trujillo helped remove some of the stigma attached to the language because it was analyzed in a scientific light. “When children went to school, the teacher told them not to whistle because they sounded like peasants,” says Morera.

    Yet it was in the villages where the whistle was revitalized. “When I arrived here, the island was completely void of its values and culture because of the people who had left it between the 1940s and the 1960s,” says Isidro Ortiz, a silbo gomero teacher and winner of the 2009 Canaries Award of Popular Culture. In 1988, Ortiz began giving whistling lessons to the children in his town outside of school hours. News quickly traveled to other municipalities and parent associations began asking him to teach it in other centers. “I told Juan Manuel García Ramos, the regional education chief, that if the language was not taught in school, it would disappear.”

    Since its introduction into the education system 20 years ago, the language’s situation has improved tremendously. “Who would have thought that I would live to see this,” says Ortiz. Until now, the silbo gomero was taught 30 minutes a week in elementary school and in the first two grades of middle school during a class on Spanish Literature and Language.

    The new program has extended two courses. Casimiro Curbelo, the president of the La Gomera Island Council and a member of the Gomera Socialist Group, asks for a “push to expand it to all the Canarian centers” without their having to request it.

    There are successful pioneering institutions such as the Acentejo school in La Matanza in Tenerife, which has taught a silbo course for the past 15 years under Rogelio Botanz, a Basque whistler, teacher and singer-songwriter. Some of his students have won La Gomera’s annual whistling contest. “We have to implement it slowly. The approach to a language should be with love, or it’ll create opposition,” says Botanz.

    English version by Asia London Palomba.


    More information

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    Manuel Planelles | La Graciosa

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    The Canary Islands’ vocabulary you should know before travelling to the archipelago

    If you are thinking about visiting the Canaries, then you probably know that they are renowned for infinite golden beaches and their distinctive cuisine. The Canary Islands’ vocabulary may attract your attention when you first land on the archipelago.

    In the islands, the official language is Spanish, but, as in other Spanish regions, there are some typical words and expressions that you will hear in daily life. So let’s try to pick up a little of that Canary Islands’ vocabulary before you start your trip! Maybe you’ve already heard some of these words and expressions, but let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used vocabulary in the Canary Islands. 

    The unique vocabulary of the Canary Islands 

    The Canary Islands are located in a privileged geographical location that has long facilitated the arrival of visitors from the UK, France or Portugal, among others. However, many Canarians were forced to migrate during the Civil War to reconstruct their lives. Although many islanders travelled to Europe, others decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Venezuela or Cuba, which at that time were prosperous countries, with the final objective of returning to the Canary Islands when the war ended.

    The numerous visits by foreign boats and the return of many Canarians from Latin America gave rise to a specific way of speaking that differs in three main aspects from mainland Spanish. On the one hand, Canarians pronounce both “c” and “z” as though they were an “s”. They do not usually pronounce the “s” at the end of word, instead creating an aspirate “h” sound. The most immediately notable change with mainland Spanish is the use of “ustedes” instead of “vosotros” when referring to “you” in the plural.

    Maybe you already knew these differences, but there are also some typical words and expressions in the Canary Islands’ vocabulary whose acquaintance you will make in the archipelago. 


    If you want to take public transport in the archipelago, don’t ask about the bus, because in the Canary Islands a bus is known as a guagua. There are several theories about the origin of this word. The best-known theory states that the name comes from Wa & Wa Co. Inc. (Washington, Walton, and Company Incorporated), the company that brought the bus to Cuba. 


    Although the average temperature in the Archipelago ranges between 26ºC and 28ºC, it can occasionally rise to 30ºC. This is when you’ll hear Canarians say that “hace calufa”, or it’s too hot


    This is one of the most commonly used words in the Canary Islands’ vocabulary. You will normally hear it in informal situations to react to something or demonstrate surprise. It can be used in many different contexts, but in the majority of situations it is the equivalent of the Spanish “tío” or “jolines“, or “wow” or “gosh” in English. 

    Cholas or Chanclas

    They’re not shoes or sandals! Don’t forget to pick your “chanclas” or “cholas” (flip-flops) to hit those island beaches. 

    Roscas and cotufas

    A true Canarian never asks for “palomitas” (popcorn). Instead, they ask for “roscas” or “cotufas” when they’re looking for a tasty snack to accompany a movie. Generally, the word “cotufa” is used in the province of Santa Cruz, while “rosca” is used in the province of Las Palmas. 


    As you may know, in the Canary Islands, potatoes are not called “patatas” but rather “papas”. A common gastronomic delight are the “papas arrugadas con mojo picón”, which quite literally translates to “wrinkled potatoes” and are an important part of the Canarian gastronomic identity. 

    Pez “Vieja”

    It is one of the most popular and much-loved fish of the Canary Islands. Recognisable for its intense colours and strong jaw, the Mediterranean Parrotfish is incredibly important in the cuisine of the Canary Islands. It is most abundant in the Islands’ waters from May to November. 


    These are typical restaurants in the archipelago that are located in private homes, often in courtyards and or even garages, where traditional Canarian food is served. The best known among them are located in the north of the island of Tenerife, although they do exist throughout the other islands. 


    This is a flour that was produced by the indigenous Canarian population and is obtained by grinding corn, which is known locally as “millo”. Gofio is a grain with a high-energy value that is widely used in the Canary Islands, frequently served as a side dish due to its mild flavour. 


    If you cross paths with a Canarian on a cold winter’s night, they will probably tell you that they feel “pelete” which refers to the intense cold felt when the temperature suddenly drops after the sun has set.

    Categories: Canaries, Tips

    The Canary Islands

    The Canary Islands

    The Canary Islands


    Section 1

    The kind of Spanish that is spoken in The Canary Islands is not really a
    dialect, but more a kind of speech. Not one of its phonetic trends belongs
    exclusively to the Canaries, and it doesnt have lexical independence from
    other Hispanic areas.

    Canary Spanish belongs to a linguistic complexity, which could be, called hablas
    hispnicas meridionales- this also includes andaluz, murciano and arguably
    American Spanish.

    A closer study of this speech in terms of its geographical situation and
    historical role can help explain some of its trends.


    The conquest of The Canary Islands and their incorporation into the crown of
    Castile was a fifteenth century undertaking not completed until the reign on the
    Catholic monarchs. Their enterprise sustained from Andalusian ports and
    participants were in all probability from Andalusia. Therefore phonetic and
    lexical idiomatic trends are all similar to some of those found in the Southern
    Peninsular. The extent of the Andalusian influence can be seen by the fact that
    Las Palmas is very similar to Seville (the most prestigious Southern city).

    At the same time The Canary Islands had been a platform for European
    expeditions to America. The influence of Portuguese on the local language can be
    explained by some of these Portuguese expeditions.

    The Canaries were a stepping stone from America and shared many things with
    American Spanish that were absent from Spain. Such features are largely lexical
    e.g. the use of the word guagua = bus. Yet they also include other
    characteristics such as the absence of contrast between 2nd person
    plural information and formal address (ustedes and the 3rd person
    plural verb is almost universal in Canary Spanish, and is identical to the
    universal American usage, and to that of parts of Western Andalusia.

    Mexico City West Indies Canary Islands Seville/ Cdiz



    Similar to what happened to American Spanish, Canary Spanish
    suffered from marinerismo. The guys who went over there on boats got
    hooked on slang sea-terms and then took them with them. Some people have likened
    it to the Spanish spoken during the fifteenth century when the conquest took
    place, after all they had little contact with Spain after this time. However
    Canary Spanish is not a fossil of the kind of Spanish spoken 500 years ago. It
    has advanced, yet at its own pace. It is neither the language of the pueblo, nor
    the upper classes. Life flows just as easily here as it does in Cdiz or

    It is neither like Judeo-espaol, it is the language of conquest from which
    the sixteenth century has eliminated pre-hispanic speech. It is a variety of

    Nowadays the individuality of the language depends on the island. For this
    reason, Tenerife is the island whos Spanish varies least from that of the

    Linguistic differences

    Like Andalusian Spanish, Canary Spanish conserves the aspiration of la f- :
    jablar = hablar, jose = hoz, juyir = huir.

    Aspiration of the final s of a group of syllables: a ko, pe ka, mu lo, etc

    Seseo is common, and the medio-palatal Yesmo is common in the two cities of
    Las Palmas and Gran Canaria.

    The c is still different from Andalusia, even though there are many other
    language similarities.

    An s sonora is found in the islands, especially in La Gomera and other rural
    areas: quzu, rzu, caza, quehazer, quezra (compared to cabsa, escoser

    Other trends are similar to those found in other areas of Spain (mainly West
    and South): paire = padre, maire = madre, lairon = ladron, poirir = podrir.

    There is an aspiration of an r before a nasal sound: ete no = eterno, sa na =
    sarna, and the interchange of implosive r and l, like in Andalusia: jalto
    = harto, barcon = balcon.

    Vosotros has all but disappeared from Canary Spanish, and can only be found
    in La Gomera and some areas of La Palma. In all other places ustedes is usually

    It is also possible to hear losotros = nosotros, los = nos, vmolos =
    vmonos etc.

    The subjunctive 1st person plural is accentuated- cmpremos,
    tngamos, higamos etc.

    Haber still has the meaning of tener – Que hayan suerte!

    The verb ser can act as an auxillary verb for intransitive verbs e. g. Soy
    nacida en, soy cristianizada.

    As in various places of Andalusia hay = hace, hay tiempo = hace tiempo, ya
    hay aos = ya hace aos.

    It is also common to come across constructions such as: Que dia somos?
    Somos cuarto. Somos viernes, estamos a viernes.

    The pre-Classical Latin interrogative / relative cuius (whose) has an
    influence in Canary Spanish.

    Although falling out of use in literary and non-literary Latin in the central
    parts of the empire, it continues to be used in the spoken Latin of Sardinia and
    Spain, where it survives as cuyo. In old and early modern Spanish this form
    could still function as an interogative as it does in the Canaries: cuyo es? =
    Whose is it?

    Lexical differences are due to different influences on the island.

    Arrife= land of poor quality

    Gofio= popular island food

    Baifo= cabrito

    Goro= establo

    Mago= campesino

    Guanche= Canario

    Portuguese influences:

    Millo= maz

    Legume= legumbre

    Abanar= abanicarse

    Bagua= pena

    Bucio= marino

    Nuevo= joven

    Lia= cuerda

    Garruja= llovizna

    Taramela= lengua

    Leonese influences:

    Bago= grano de uva

    Corozo= corazn de la mazorca

    Sachar= cavar

    Sacho= azada

    Olden Castillian Influences:

    Aguciar= azuzar

    Besos= labios

    Cadenado= candado

    Lenguarazo= que hable mucho

    Vuestra merced used for people of respect

    Andalusian influences:

    Burgado= caracol

    Vieja= pez marino

    Lasca= lonja, trozo

    American influences (remember everyone they went both ways)

    Alegador= charlatn

    Machango= bromista

    Monifato= tipo

    Obviously the language of The Canary Islands is also heavily influenced by
    the sea and navegation:

    Apopar= animar

    Bandola= vuelta de la capa

    Lanchn= zapato muy grande

    Perder la tierra de vista= to loose consciousness

    Saber ms que un peje verde

    Haber ms gente que agua

    Ser ms matrero que un sargo breado

    Consider what happens when they saw something but didnt know the name for
    it. they made it up and said what it looked like!

    Lengta del trigo= lleta

    Lengua de oveja= llantn

    Ojo de buey= crisantemo

    Vaquita= hipocisto

    Pie de gallo= digital



    Section 2

    The Influence Of Anglicisms In The Canary Islands

    Since the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the appearance of British people
    in The Canary Islands has been a familiar trend, however the British were not
    welcomed immediately and by everyone. The reason for the British communities
    coming over to The Canary Islands was primarily economic and the people coming
    over mainly constituted businessmen and merchants who were importing goods over
    from their country. By 17th century the immigration of British became
    considerably more as people attempted to utilize the advantageous elements of
    The Canary Islands for manufacturing such as its warm climate, which was a n aid
    in wine production. Due to the establishment of puertos francos (free ports) in
    1852, shipping companies were created and this meant that imports and exports
    increased dramatically. Through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the
    reasons for coming to The Canary Islands expanded. People started to go there
    not just for work reasons but also for matters of leisure, and this hailed the
    time when the British would begin to take root in the Islands. Some people had
    gained riches through economic ventures with The Canary Islands and so had
    decided to go over there to enjoy the sources and the rewards of their monetary
    gains. Others had gained stronger connections with The Canary Islands through
    marriages with the aristocracy and with the local bourgeoisie in The Canary
    Islands. For these reasons, the British have had a strong influence on the
    society and culture of the Islands.

    Furthermore British roots were established in the nineteenth century through
    media and literary elements such as The Tenerife News first published on
    3rd January 1891. This newspaper was created so that the considerable
    amount of British people who were coming to the Islands and who could not read
    Spanish newspapers, would then be able to read about local and national news
    from the area. This newspaper eventually died out, but a new article reporting
    information to the British members of The Canary Islands came in the form of an
    extra part of the newspaper El Iriarte, which was called El Iriarte
    English Supplement. It was only two pages long but represented a written
    influence of English being pressed upon the Islands as did The Canary Islands
    created in 1903 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

    The power of the British influence on The Canary Islands came in the form of
    the spoken language. Castilian Spanish has many Anglicisms itself such as
    taxi, pullover, bar, vagon and bistec, but the Canary speech gained some which
    would not be introduced on a national level, and through the vehicle of speech
    rather than in the written form. This allowed for the pronunciation of these
    Anglicisms to be done correctly, because an islander would pronounce the
    words as he heard them. However this was not suggesting that there would be no
    phonological or lexical differences at all between how words were pronounced in
    Britain and how they would be pronounced in The Canary Islands because the
    Anglicisms had to be adapted into the Canary speech to a certain

    For example the word <<naife>> meaning cuchillo in Spanish comes
    from the English original knife.

    In English it is pronounced /naif/

    No Spanish word ends in the consonant /f/ so the /e/ would be silent (muda
    inglesa) so it is pronounced /nai/.

    As was previously mentioned, the speech of The Canary Islands is linked
    with the elements of sea and boats. An example of a word associated specifically
    with the notion of an island and which shows a blurring of English and Spanish
    to make Canary Anglicisms is shown below.



    E.G. <<cambulln>> comes from can buy on i.e. you can
    buy it on board ship

    The letter n becomes m because you cannot have an n before
    a b in Spanish.

    The /y/ sound could be confused with the /ll/ sound, therefore y is
    replaced by ll

    It stems from islanders selling goods such as fruit and tobacco and the
    captain saying to passengers on the ship <<cambulln>> you can buy
    them on the boat/ship.

    (Example From Tenerife)

    From docking bay workers comes the example cachanchn <<catch as you
    can>>, <<cgelo como puedas>>

    The British used the word for getting goods when they could because they were
    not always available and it has come to mean <<trabajador inexperto>>
    in The Canary Islands.

    In areas of The Canary Islands such as Puerto de la Cruz and La Orotava you
    hear words such as chusos = shoes = zapatos.

    Some Anglicisms are more common in Gran Canaria than in Tenerife.

    The following example is again heavily associated with the islands themselves
    as was the cambulln example because it is associated with tourism.

    The word <<guanijai>> means una copa (=a whisky/little drink).
    When the British used to ask for a whisky in a hotel they would just ask for the
    make of drink eg John Haig. So they would say <<One Haig>> (=
    <<un [whisky] Haig>>)

    The Canary Islands word <<maguan>> comes from the English
    <<number one>> meaning <<el mejor>> or <<el
    nmero uno>> and through time the phrase has been reduced from
    <<One Haig>> to <<guanijai>> in the speech of The
    Canary Islands.

    Due to the importing which was mentioned earlier, other words have been
    incorporated into the speech of The Canary Islands.

    Eg King Edward potato seeds were imported and through time the words
    <<King Edward>> changed into the shortened version in The Canary
    Islands- <<quinegua>>.


    While higher classes may pronounce a word such as cake, as /keik/, the
    rest of the population in The Canary Islands will pronounce it as queque.

    Anglicisms have not just come into the speech of The Canary Islands
    from the English Language. There are also words from South America from the
    Indians. The Anglicisms come from countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, two
    places to which many people from The Canary Islands emigrated.



    <<guagua>> Free Transport

    The English put the train in place in Cuba to transport items such as cane (caa)
    among other things.

    El doctor Bazo Martinez suggests <<guagua>> stems from vagn (waggon)
    because Cubans would get into the vagon/guagua for free to get to work.

    Another example is <<guachimn>> (=watchman), a word from
    Venezuela which signified someone who kept watch over the workers

    After the eighteenth century there were English and French influences on the
    food culture in The Canary Islands and English culinary words are presently part
    of the speech in The Canary Islands. Examples of this are carrot soup
    and couliflor soup and these variants of the traditional English soups can
    be found in The Canary Islands. Rosv (roast beef) is another food type, which
    constitutes part of the speech and culture of The Canary Islands.

    The English timetable is adapted in The Canary Islands; people there are
    likely to have desayuno (=breakfast), almuerzo (=lunch), merienda (=afternoon
    snack) [t con bizcochos- tea and biscuits], and la cena (=dinner) like the
    English. Due to visits to the islands from the British and talking in the
    streets in The Canary Islands it is likely for families there to have una taza
    de t con el queque ingls (= a cup of tea with English cake)!

    Anglicisms do not just appear in The Canary Islands speech through
    words of everyday life and work, and words associated with the sea and the
    islands themselves. There are also anglicisms in the form of names for example
    in Gran Canaria and Puerto de la Cruz.

    The word <<choni>> associated with the English name
    <<John>> and its diminutive Johnny is part of the speech of
    The Canary Islands. The islanders adapted the name <<John>> to
    <<choni>>, and it is used to represent the word tourist. This
    stems from the same idea as the Spanish use of guiri and the Mexican word
    gringo which mean foreigner.

    In conclusion, in the speech of The Canary Islands one sees many adaptations
    of Anglicisms. Therefore, the Anglicisms are developed into the speech
    of The Canary Islands rather than just being completely the original forms, in
    effect the Anglicisms are Canaricized! In contemporary day, one sees evidence
    of Britain in The Canary Islands due to the number of people going there on
    holiday, and through the fact that people such as waiters in The Canary Islands
    expect to have to speak English to foreign customers. In addition, the
    permanence of a British Influence on the islands is seen through the fact that
    there is even a place called Playa del Ingls in Gran Canaria in The Canary


    Teaching English in the Canary Islands of Spain

    Article and Photos by Lucy Corne


    Each of the Canary islands boast a rugged interior, quite different from the idyllic beach paradises on the coasts.

    In Europe they are misunderstood, shunned by independent travelers for their tourist resorts and tacky reputation. In North America and the Antipodes they’re hardly known at all. Although officially part of Spain, the Canary Islands have their own style, their own character, and claim as much in common with Latin America as with Europe. These seven islands and half a dozen islets lie 50 miles off the northwest coast of Africa and boast one of the finest climates in the world.

    Even with millions of tourists a year, there’s always a deserted beach to be found.

    Few things make are more frustrating than hearing an uninformed traveler write the islands off as an overdeveloped tourist spot with nothing to offer in the way of culture. Sure, the massive tourist resorts on four of the islands have 1970s architecture to thank for their skylines and British holidaymakers to thank for their strips of rowdy pubs and all-day happy hours. But if the travel snobs did their homework they would discover this minuscule corner of the islands is overshadowed by extinct volcanoes, picturesque villages, fabulous beaches, rugged cliffs, and deserted mountain parks offering a hiker’s Eden. Add to that a voracious appetite for studying languages and an enviable ratio of wages to living costs and you’ll understand why I chose the islands to launch my ESL career.

    Fishing on Las Canteras beach, Las Palmas.

    Boats resting up for the night on Las Canteras Beach, Las Palmas

    Finding a Teaching Job

    It is no secret that tourism is the major earner for the islanders, so it is no surprise that English teachers are in demand—and they are also in pretty short supply. While thousands of teachers flock to mainland cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and San Sebastian, the Canary Islands are grievously overlooked. This will sound ridiculous, but often people don’t think that the islands are home to normal people living in normal cities. They think of the tourist resorts and cannot imagine that an ESL teacher could possibly be needed among all those water parks and late night bars.

    Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the largest city in the islands, with almost 400,000 inhabitants. Most jobs are found through word of mouth. Despite warnings from fellow teachers that finding work would be tough, I was offered three jobs within three days and taught my first class less than a week after arrival. Many employers will only take you seriously if you are in the islands and ready to start.

    Most teaching jobs are with private academies—where children and teens head once their compulsory schooling is done for the day. Outside contracts with businesses and universities can spice your teaching work life up, but be prepared for lots of small groups of very small children. Thrown straight in into the deep end, my first class was with a quintet of kindergarten kids and I quickly learned Spanish for “I need the bathroom” and “I want my mom.

    Coming prepared for the under fives is strongly recommended, as while many local schools enrol young children, they rarely have the resources to keep their 5-minute attention spans occupied. Arriving with stashes of picture books, basic videos, and colourful posters will make your life as a teacher infinitely easier from the outset.

    Living La Vida Islena

    Once settled into the daily mayhem of trying to control half a dozen tots with whom I shared no common language, it was time to figure out the local customs. Naturally, moving to the Canaries is not the huge culture shock that most countries in Asia or Africa might pose, but I found that there were still a few mannerisms to get used to.

    Life in the Canary Islands is relaxed. Think the mañana philosophy of Spain blended with the stress-free island vibe of the Caribbean and that should give you some idea. I soon learned not to expect anything to happen on time. Even for an EU citizen, arranging your paperwork can take weeks, entail visits to half a dozen government offices, and require either a bucketful of patience or else an immediate acceptance of island mentality. Not naturally blessed with patience, I opted for the latter and decided to wait it out like the locals—lying on the beach.

    The top reason tourists flock to this out of the way archipelago is its weather and fine stretches of golden or sometime black sand. Nowhere else in Europe (at least politically—geographically this is Africa) can you expect to be on the beach in January or enjoy a barbeque for Christmas. Fortunately, life as an island ESL teacher generally allows you to enjoy the best of what the islands have to offer. Classes often start in the late afternoon, leaving you with the whole morning to enjoy an often deserted beach. Of course, you do lose your evenings, but as with everywhere in Spain, night life here starts late. Restaurant bookings are rarely made before 9 p.m. and bars or clubs close at five or six if they close at all.

    The islands are known for their carnival celebrations, considered second only to Rio’s.

    Fitting Into the Culture

    Locals are known for their paradoxical character: on first meeting they are overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming, yet getting past the superficial acquaintance level can be tough. Initially feeling frustrated and sometimes lonely, I realized that again, patience was required in order to be accepted. Not surprisingly a pretty insulated society—young Canarians often leave to seek education on the mainland, further afield in Europe, or sometimes in the U.S., but virtually all return to their idyllic homeland eventually. Circles of friends tend to be huge and relationships usually date back to primary school, so you cannot expect to instantly infiltrate such a tight circle. Getting to know the locals who will be your audience is a bonus, however, and adopting the local variation of Spanish can really help to build relationships.

    Although separatists are rare, Canarians are staunchly proud of their muffled accents and a vocabulary that sets them apart from their mainland counterparts. Saying papas instead of patatas, guagua rather than autobus and steering clear of all vosotros verb forms (here they use the more formal ustedes) are sure fire ways to endear yourself to your hosts. And then there is the asadero. Known as a barbacoa elsewhere in Spain, the asadero is the quintessential Canarian pastime. Families, school friends, colleagues, and teammates congregate on weekends to grill up some meat, eat improbable amounts of papas, and wash it all down with the local tipple of choice—locally produced golden rum (Tip: If you ever want to be fully accepted in the islands, sipping the occasional cuba libre is essential).

    Traditional romerias (pilgrimages with an all day party) are common across the islands.

    Going Solo

    After two years with an academia I opted to go it alone as a freelance teacher. Having dabbled in private classes on the side while working in schools, I knew the work was out there. What I did not realize was just how much work there was. Following local protocol, I posted signs in Spanish in local bookshops and government language schools and waited for the phone to start ringing. Within days I had more students than I could cope with—taking them all would have meant curbing a daily snorkelling schedule, which was simply out of the question.

    Working as a freelancer opened the door to a totally different way of life. Sure, the lack of colleagues can be a little lonely, but most of my students were 30-somethings wanting to improve their already excellent English, so what I lost in native English teacher buddies, I gained in Canarian friends. And for anyone with an attention span similar to the aforementioned kindergarten students, private classes are the perfect antidote. Alongside my regular clients—including the constantly late businessman who would answer his phone 20 times per class—and my trio of doctors who always had a bottle of vino ready for our evening lesson, I taught random 1-off classes that never failed to add spice to my routine. I sat and listened to a budding rock star in dire need of pronunciation tips for the nonsensical songs he had penned in English. I tutored wannabe flight attendants for forthcoming interviews. I sat horrified at my lack of motherly skills as a nervous 3-year old peed all over my carefully planned kindergarten lesson plan.

    On the surface, teaching in the Canaries might not seem as exotic or adventurous as taking a contract in the Far East or Central Africa, but if you take the ease of being within Europe, add the fire and spirit of Latin America, throw in a dash of North African weather and you have got the recipe for a heavenly teaching position.

    Lucy Corne is a freelance writer and ESL teacher whose love of travel has taken her to every continent except Antarctica. She has lived and taught in half a dozen countries including India, the Canary Islands (Spain), China, and South Korea. As well as writing three detailed guidebooks from scratch (for Dorling Kindersley, Bradt, and new UK publisher Explore Travel Guides) her articles have been featured in numerous publications.

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    Living in Tenerife of the Canary Islands

    Guanche language, alphabet and pronunciation

    Guanche is an extinct language thought to belong to the Berber language family which was spoken in the Canary Islands until the 16th or 17th century. The language is also known as Insular Tamazight, Ancient Canarian Language or Ínsuloamaziq.

    Although the origins of Berber settlement in the Canaries are obscure and still unknown, the first material evidence could be traced back to 1000 BC. More modern migrations from North Africa are also known to have ocurred, possibly with Punic and Roman expeditions.

    The genetic affiliation of this language is unclear due to the diverse admixture of different dialectal influences found in the archipelago, and the important dialectalization of each island’s local speech. But there is a common substate, possibly the oldest Berber influx, related to Tamajeq dialects, mostly identifiable in the vocabulary.

    The word Guanche is used to refer only to the native people of the island of Tenerife. The equivalent in Guanche language is wa-n Shen(shen), which means “the one of Ashenshen” In later times this word became used to refer to the whole archipelago’s natives.

    Although the conquest and subsequent Spanish (Castillian) colonization resulted in a violent supression and acculturation, which lead to the total extintion of the language, many Guanche traits can still be found today in Canarian culture and local vocabulary (gofio, perenquén, tajinaste, jaira, tabaiba . ..). Moreover, in recent years there has been an important revival of Guanche
    identity, with research and reconstruction of the Insular Tamazight
    as one of its main parts.

    Today Guanche elements can be found extensively in toponyms (Gomera, Tacoronte, Tindaya, Adeje, Orotava …) and even in given names or surnames (Cathaysa, Ayoze, Tanausú, Bencomo…), as well as contemporaneous anotations from chroniclers, recent inscription decipherments and oral tradition. Through comparative linguistics, as with Proto-Indoeuropean and other attempts to
    revive extint languages, Insular Tamazight phonetics can be recovered and used to study its relationship to continental Berber languages.


    Many Tifinagh inscriptions have been found in the Canary Islands, which makes it easier to identify a genetic relationship with the continental linguistic varieties, with a clear predominance of Proto-Tuareg substrate.

    Tifinagh inscription from Barranco de la Angostura in Gran Canaria


    ZMRW YZMWKR GTW – *Za əmirəw: əyyu zam, awa akkar igət wa


    Regarding obedience: abandon the water reserve, it is stealing the (real) abundance.

    Tifinagh inscription from San Miguel de Abona in Tenerife


    DJYNWLT / FWṢ TS <ŠQS> – *Idi ijjây-in Walăt. Afa iwâṣ tăsašuqqis>


    Sirius converges there with Canopus. The light excites the heart*.

    The “ŠQS”, written over the previous verb “excites”,
    could be a post-conquest Christian rejection of the old beliefs expressed in this phrase.

    Sample texts in Guanche

    Alzanxiquian abcanahac xerax -*Als-ânɣ ikiyan abẓ/q a-nn ahaẓ Ahɣeraɣ

    Guaxate hequei adei acharan afaro yafana haxaran -*Wassksaḍ, ḥăkku əy addăy ačaran, afaro y afanan; ha əkkəs aran

    Tanaga Guayoch Archimenseu Nahaya Dir hanido Sahet chunga pelut -*Tanaqqa wayyaw wš, menzu nahağğa dir ɣandaw saɣet, šunga bel-wt


    Retake for us the origin (of the) assembly (which is) where the kin of the Great (God) is.

    Lord, give fullness to what is below, the grain for the germination; push away, then, the illness.

    A fatal sorrow (grief) afflicts the subject, the successor continues the roots (tradition) and the orphan(s) exhale lamentations.

    Information provided by Joshua Adonai Pérez Cawkill

    Sample video in Guanche


    Information about the Guanche language

    Berber languages

    Ancient Berber,
    Shilha (Tashelhit),
    Tawallammat Tamajaq,
    Tayart Tamajeq,
    Zuwara Berber

    Page last modified: 02.11.21


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    One of the Canary Islands is home to this whistled language

    LA GOMERA, Spain — Sitting atop a cliff in the Canary Islands, Antonio Márquez Navarro issued an invitation — “Come over here, we’re going to slaughter the pig”— without speaking a word: He whistled it.

    In the distance, three visiting hikers stopped dead in their tracks at the piercing sound and its echo bouncing off the walls of the ravine that separated them.


    Márquez, 71, said that in his youth, when local shepherds rather than tourists walked the steep and rugged footpaths of his island, his news would have been greeted right away by a responding whistle, loud and clear.

    But his message was lost on these hikers, and they soon resumed their trek on La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Atlantic that is part of Spain.


    Márquez is a proud guardian of La Gomera’s whistling language, which he called “the poetry of my island.” And, he added, “like poetry, whistling does not need to be useful in order to be special and beautiful.”

    Antonio Marquéz Navarro, 71, sits atop a cliff in the Canary Islands where he whistled the invitation “Come over here, we’re going to slaughter the pig,” in La Gomera, Spain, Jan. 24, 2021. (Finbarr O’Reilly/The New York Times)

    The whistling of the Indigenous people of La Gomera is mentioned in the 15th-century accounts of the explorers who paved the way for the Spanish conquest of the island. Over the centuries, the practice was adapted to communicating in Castilian Spanish.

    Silbo substitutes whistled sounds that vary by pitch and length for written letters. Unfortunately, there are fewer whistles than there are letters in the Spanish alphabet, so a sound can have multiple meanings, causing misunderstandings.

    The sounds made for a few Spanish words are the same — like “sí” (yes) or “ti” (you) — as are those for some longer words that sound similar in spoken Spanish, like “gallina” or “ballena” (hen or whale).

    “As part of a sentence, this animal reference is clear, but not if whistled on its own,” said Estefanía Mendoza, a teacher of the language.

    In 2009, the island’s language, officially known as Silbo Gomero, was added by UNESCO to its list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity; the United Nations agency described it as “the only whistled language in the world that is fully developed and practiced by a large community,” in reference to La Gomera’s 22,000 inhabitants.

    But with whistling no longer essential for communication, Silbo’s survival mostly relies on a 1999 law that made teaching it an obligatory part of La Gomera’s school curriculum.

    On a recent morning at a school in the port town of Santiago, a classroom of 6-year-olds had little difficulty identifying the whistling sounds corresponding to different colors, or the days of the week.


    Things got trickier when the words were incorporated into full sentences, like “What is the name of the child with the blue shoes?” A couple of the children argued that they had instead heard the whistling sound for “yellow.”

    If interpreting a whistle isn’t always easy, making the correct sounds can be even harder. Most whistlers insert one bent knuckle into the mouth, but some use instead the tip of one or two fingers, while a few use a finger from each hand.

    “The only rule is to find whichever finger makes it easier to whistle, and sometimes unfortunately nothing works at all,” said Francisco Correa, the coordinator of La Gomera’s school whistling program. “There are even some older people who have understood Silbo perfectly since childhood, but never got any clear sound to come out of their mouth.

    Two whistlers might struggle to understand each other, particularly during their first encounters — and need to ask each other to repeat sentences — like strangers who speak the same language with different accents. But “after whistling together for a while, their communication becomes as easy as if speaking Spanish,” Correa said.

    As is the case in many languages, whether whistled or not, there is a generation gap on La Gomera.

    Ciro Mesa Niebla, a 46-year-old farmer, said he struggled to whistle with a younger generation trained at school because, he said, “I’m a mountain guy who learned at home to whistle the words our family used to farm, but I don’t have the vocabulary of these kids who learn salon whistling, which is a bit too fancy for me.”


    Some older residents have also stopped whistling because of tooth problems. Márquez continues to whistle with his dentures, “but it’s not as easy and as loud as when I could press my finger onto my real teeth,” he said.

    With its distinct geography, it’s easy to see why whistling came into use on the Canaries; on most of the islands, deep ravines run from high peaks and plateaus down to the ocean, and plenty of time and effort are required to travel even a short distance overland. Whistling developed as a good alternative way to deliver a message, with its sound carrying farther than shouting — as much as two miles across some canyons and with favorable wind conditions.

    The mountain village of Chipude in La Gomera, Spain, Jan. 23, 2021. The whistling language known as “Silbo Gomero” is still in use on the island thanks to mandatory classes for schoolchildren. (Finbarr O’Reilly/The New York Times)

    Older residents on La Gomera recall how Silbo was used as a warning language, particularly when a police patrol was spotted searching for contraband. In a recent fictional movie, “The Whistlers,” Silbo is used by gangsters as their secret code language.

    Some other islands in the archipelago have their own whistling languages, but their use has faded, though another island, El Hierro, recently began teaching its version. “Silbo was not invented on La Gomera, but it is the island where it was best preserved,” said David Díaz Reyes, an ethnomusicologist.

    Nowadays, La Gomera relies heavily on tourism, which has created an opportunity for some young whistlers like Lucía Darias Herrera, 16, who has a weekly whistling show at an island hotel. While she normally whistles Castilian Spanish, Darias can also adapt her Silbo to other languages spoken by her audience, on an island that is particularly popular with Germans.

    Since last spring, however, the coronavirus has not only canceled such shows, but also forced schools to limit their whistling instruction. At a time of compulsory face masks, a teacher cannot help a student reposition a finger inside her mouth in order to whistle better.


    Younger children also “make huge efforts to blow out a lot of air, which means some are spitting rather than whistling,” said Correa, the school coordinator. So as a precaution against spreading the virus, the children now spend their weekly whistling lesson listening to recordings of Silbo, rather than whistling themselves.

    An added difficulty for the students is that they don’t always have much opportunity to practice Silbo outside school. In the class of 6-year-olds, only five of 17 raised their hands when asked if they had a chance to whistle at home.

    “My brother actually can whistle really loudly, but he won’t show me, because he is either on his PlayStation or out with friends,” complained one of the youngsters, Laura Mesa Mendoza.

    Still, some teenagers enjoy whistling greetings to each other when they meet in town and welcome the chance to chat without many of the adults around them understanding. Some had parents who went to school before learning Silbo became mandatory, or who settled on the island as adults.

    However much she is attached to her cellphone, Erin Gerhards, 15, sounded keen to improve her whistling and help safeguard the traditions of her island.

    “It is a way to honor the people that lived here in the past,” she said. “And to remember where everything came from, that we didn’t start with technology, but from simple beginnings.


    c.2021 The New York Times Company

    Learn Spanish in Tenerife, Spain

    Enforex Training Center, Tenerife

    Our school in Tenerife is the perfect place to combine learning and fun. Enjoy our courses in 7 fully equipped classrooms, get to know instructors and fellow students in the common areas, in the library or in the beautiful central courtyard. The school, housed in a typical Canarian-style Beljica building, will provide you with a comfortable and fun learning experience.

    Escuela afiliada

    * On Mondays all schools open their doors at 8:00


    Don’t miss its lively atmosphere, ideal climate, wonderful beaches, unique culture and delicious cuisine. What to say about its nature and tropical abundance! You won’t want to stop. Join us and learn to enjoy the real Canarian life!

    Tenerife’s location is excellent: 5 minutes walk from Martiánez beach, 2 minutes walk from “Lago Martiánez” and 10 minutes walk from City Hall.

    Building Type

    We know you’ll learn a lot while traveling around the island, but to make the most of your time, take a look at our courses. We offer you a wide variety of options to improve your Spanish level or learn it from scratch.

    Traditional Canary Islands style building, Edificio Bélgica.


    The training center has 7 classrooms with plenty of natural light. At your disposal are all the necessary multimedia equipment, a patio, a room for teachers, administration and a common room with TV, stereo, library and video.


    Andrei “My stay in Granada was very productive. Enforex offers a truly effective learning method. The teachers are real
    … more professionals in their field and all activities were very well organized. I appreciated all the support I received from Enforex in order to achieve my goals of gaining a high level of Spanish and learning more about Spanish culture, all in just 8 weeks!”

    Milos I came to Enforex Valencia because I wanted to participate in Erasmus next year and needed to prepare.
    … More My first day in Valencia was a bit chaotic but fun too. New country! New language! New friends! At school I took a test to determine my level of Spanish and I couldn’t understand much, but fortunately the school was able to find the perfect course for me.

    Nadia Zinchenko “Unforgettable two weeks at Enforex, Marbella! I would like to thank all the teachers (Andrea, Raul and José) for their positive, amazing
    … More lessons and high professionalism. I will miss your lessons! Best regards, Nadia.”

    Maria Zueva “Good evening, I am writing to thank Enforex Barcelona for the great opportunity to study there a year ago. It was an incredible experience and extremely helpful in learning the language.”

    about. Tenerife

    Tenerife, “the island of eternal spring”, is the largest of the Spanish Canary Islands. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, the island has a temperate climate. The average temperature in autumn and winter is approximately 22°C (72°F), making the island always popular with tourists.

    Tenerife’s unique volcanic shores are covered with beautiful dark sand, and the island itself is a wonderfully diverse landscape with mountains, national parks, zoos and ancient pyramids. Many of the island’s natural beauties are protected by UNESCO.

    Our Spanish language center is located in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife’s second largest tourist city. A great place with lush gardens, plazas and promenades and outdoor cafes where you can eat and drink deliciously. Puerto de la Cruz has an extremely pleasant and peaceful atmosphere. The most magnificent attraction here is considered to be Lago Martiánez, a group of saltwater pools conceived by local artist Cesar Manrique, where bathers can enjoy the sun, water and fantastic surrounding gardens.

    Tenerife is also famous for its Carnival celebrations (February-March) when the island’s main squares and roads fill with parades, samba displays and live music. All year round you can take part in exciting activities such as golf, horseback riding, diving, sea fishing, windsurfing, tennis, kayaking, sculling and much more! Come learn Spanish and discover Tenerife!

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    Learn Spanish in Tenerife

    Welcome to Tenerife, an island with breathtaking views, great beaches and vibrant nightlife. The largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife is home to the volcanic Mount Teide, with unforgettable landscapes reminiscent of the planet Mars.

    Your Spanish course will take place in Puerto de la Cruz, where the northern slope of the Teide flows into the sea.

    Taking advantage of the clean, clear waters of the area, our school also offers a Spanish course combined with scuba diving, surfing or paragliding.

    Puerto de la Cruz is also home to Loro Park where you can see an impressive collection of exotic animals including dolphins, penguins, tigers, gorillas, champagne and killer whales! For a glimpse of the traditional culture of Tenerife, you can always visit the nearby town of La Orotava, where you will find beautiful architecture and delicious wine.

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      The school is located in a quiet area “La Paz” opposite the botanical garden and just 15 minutes walk from the city center.

      Our school not only has 10 bright, fully equipped classrooms, but also three computers with internet access, a lecture hall for up to 60 people, a coffee bar and a fantastic sun terrace where students can relax and socialize with their classmates.

      Courses in Tenerife

      You can choose between 20 or 30 Spanish lessons per week, depending on the amount of free time you want to have.

      If you prefer a more personal approach to learning, private lessons are the best option for you. The lessons will be completely tailored to meet your personal needs, so you will learn the language at a faster pace.

      You can complement your Spanish course with additional surf, scuba and paragliding lessons to help you get the most out of your stay on this wonderful island.

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      Accommodation in Tenerife

      Staying with a host family will not only provide you with a warm welcome in the Canary Islands and regular Spanish practice, but also the opportunity to experience the local way of life. Our school cooperates only with reliable and hospitable families with a good standard of living. You can choose one, two or three meals a day depending on your needs.

      Otherwise, you can book accommodation with your fellow students in shared apartments! This is a great opportunity to meet and network with your peers.

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      Arrival in Tenerife

      Our school can arrange transfers from Tenerife North Airport or Tenerife South Airport. Please note that this service will have an additional cost.

      Cultural program in Tenerife

      • Breakfast on the Solar Terrace
      • Visiting the Botanical Garden in the La Paz area
      • Lessons of surfing
      • Lessons Flamenko
      • Lectures on the culture of Spain
      • in Tenerife

      (Cultural program may vary)

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      Book a course with a friend or relative and save €20 each! You don’t even have to choose the same city, you just need to contact us at the same time and enter the code EHBF09! Contact us for more detailed information!

      This offer cannot be combined with EHL30 , EHSU25 , DNC20 and EHB2WK .

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      Accreditations and memberships


      FU International Academy Spanish language school in Tenerife – Spanish in Spain

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      FU International Academy Spanish language school in Tenerife

      Spanish language school
      FU International Academy

      • 2 weeks from 334 euros
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      Spanish at FU International Academy