Opening doors through language – South American Spanish

Alicia Von Achten is an Account Manager for the Manufacturing, Legal and Finance verticals at Capita TI. Having only been with us for a matter of weeks, Alicia discusses her time before joining us, and what she learnt from other cultures.

Before joining Capita TI, I spent 5 months travelling the continent of South America. Having studied Spanish at University I thought I would have no issues with understanding Spanish all over the world. However, when I arrived in Argentina, I was lost, and realised for the first time that South American Spanish was completely different to the European version that I had studied several years before. I felt like I had entered a new world. It took time for me to adjust to the “new language” and during this transition period I felt like a tourist stuttering my way around asking for a beer.

Language differences in South American Spanish

As time went on, I picked up more of the language and colloquialisms and I started to understand that I needed to ask for a “jugo de naranja” instead of a “zumo de naranja” if I wanted a drink of orange juice. This not only worked well for me as I could quench my thirst in the midday sun, but was brilliant for the local business as they managed to sell me exactly what I wanted without any misunderstandings. This outlines just how difficult it could be to carry out business when both parties are speaking different languages.

Never underestimate the power of being able to speak a foreign language; it can make a huge difference to your experience

Communicating with the locals

After a short amount of time, life became easier, and doors were being opened. Being able to communicate with the locals gave me a better footing – I felt like I lived in the country and wasn’t just visiting it. It helped me to get to know each country I travelled though better, and by understanding their dialect and getting to know their culture I got a truly authentic experience. I was invited to people’s houses where they would share stories, their history and feelings, jokes and food, and they even trusted me to take care of their children. I was able to ask people where the best places to go were and could get fairer prices, rather than having to stay on the tourist trail and pay the sometimes heavily weighted “gringo tax*” – which when backpacking is a very welcome treat!

Being able to communicate in a different language opens doors which will never be shut

Crossing the borders into different countries would always open the door to a new culture and dialect, even when you only walk a few metres to the next country of destination. When your eyes have stopped widening with excitement and the culture shock has subsided, this is when your ever-increasing adaptability and language skills kick in and you get to learn more about the new, awe-inspiring world that you have just entered.

When I first arrived in South America, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. The cultures are so diverse and beautifully individual, but this is enhanced by the unique dialects that are personal to each and every one of them.  Being a lover of languages, I was in my element by constantly learning and adapting my linguistic skills. Travelling has taught me to never underestimate the power of being able to speak a foreign language; it can make a huge difference to your experience, allow you to communicate with people you never thought possible, and take you to places that at one point were unimaginable.

Being able to communicate in a different language opens doors which will never be shut. That’s exactly why I love working in this industry – we enable our customers to speak with their customers, no matter what languages they speak.


Alicia is an Account Manager for the Manufacturing and Engineering industries. Outside of work she enjoys the outdoors, running, biking and walking but when she has to stay inside you can find her in the kitchen cooking up a feast or planning her next adventure.

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