Henning lived for several years in El Salvador, working as a teacher. He is Co-Founder of the SAY ZONTE! project. Writing for this blog is his way to give s.th. back to “el pulgarcito.”
An Interview with the creator of the “Guanaco to English Dictionary”: Diego Argueta
Have you heard of “Guanaco to English”? It is a dictionary of “guanaco” (Salvadoran slang) into English that can be purchased in various parts of the country.
SAY ZONTE! has been using this dictionary since more than two years to enrich our Spanish classes with an element of Salvadoran slang and culture.
The “Guanaco to English” account on Instagram has more than 30k followers, and it seems to get more and more popular.
I think that this is only the beginning of a Salvadoran success story. Read the interview with Diego Argueta (30), the creator of “Guanaco To English Dictionary” who hit the nerve of Salvadoran people by creating this book! The interview took place in 2019 at Palo Verde Hotel.
SAY ZONTE!: Hi Diego, what’s up?
Diego: What’s up? Thanks for inviting me!
SAY ZONTE!: When did you start with your “Guanaco to English Dictionary” project?
Diego: I started in 2019 in January on social networks, putting a word of caliche per day, but the dictionary began in April.
SAY ZONTE!: And how do you explain the success of your work?
Diego: I had a lot of doubts at the beginning if this project was going to work, but the truth is that people liked it a lot. It is a Salvadoran success, and I want to say that it seems that the people feel a little proud of our lexicon of Salvadoran slang.
I have noticed that the foreigner sees El Salvador more beautiful than the Salvadoran himself. I don’t know why that will be. I don’t know if it’s a lack of cultural identity. I see that many tourists come and say how beautiful El Salvador is.
We do not believe that we have a beautiful country in spite of all these problems in this country. With my Guanaco to English dictionary, foreigners know a part of our culture, the language. The Salvadoran says: “Ah, well, now that we have a dictionary, I can explain to other people what it means when I say words like: “volado”, “cachimbón” and “chivo”.
And also the distant brothers (Salvadorans living in other countries) use it to show a part of their culture and the Salvadoran slang to other people.
SAY ZONTE!: Yes, it seems that your dictionary is not only successful in El Salvador!
Diego: Yes, I receive photos of Austria, Germany, Australia, Hungary, Italy of the United States, of course. Many write to me and say: “Look, thanks for your dictionary.
Now I can explain to my friends how we speak as Salvadorans. So that’s what I’m looking for, that everyone in the world knows a part of our culture.
SAY ZONTE!: And what are your plans for the future? Where does “Guanaco to English dictionary” go?
Diego: I want to launch Volume two with the Salvadoran slang that I still lacked in volume one. I hope this year. In total, I plan with seven volumes. The third one will be of bad words because of that we also have a lot. Many people ask me that.
I will try to do it in a more polite way possible (laughs). Also, the phrases, the places, and the Salvadoran food will be subjects of the next volumes. I plan with products like “Guanaco To English Dictionary” t-shirts, too.
SAY ZONTE!: When did you come up with this idea of this Salvadoran Slang dictionary?
Diego: That was about four years ago. I already had the dictionary designed, but I was afraid to publish it. What happens if people don’t like it? What happens if I publish it and nobody buys it?
I had all this fear for four years. The fear of rejection. My girlfriend drove me a lot: “You have to publish it!”, she said. It is a piece of advice that I have to all Salvadoran entrepreneurs. Trust in yourselves!
I wasn’t waiting for success to come so fast. Just yesterday, I was able to meet the ambassador of the United States in El Salvador. She posted a video on Twitter, and people liked it a lot.
SAY ZONTE!: Do you think there is now a wave of a renewal of Salvadoran culture?
Diego: Yes, I believe that for the past five years, there has been much support for entrepreneurship and much support for Salvadoran entrepreneurs. Ten, fifteen years ago the people didn’t see it well. The Salvadoran preferred to buy things from the United States and not from El Salvador.
That has changed in recent years. There was always the thought that something that has been created here or something of our culture is of poor quality. I also think that in our generation the mind of being a “malinchista” has already changed [The word “malinchismo” is a term used in Mexican culture to refer to a social complex that rejects the own and instead, favors the foreign].
I think there is a change in a generation. People trust in El Salvador and realize that there are also good things in this country, music, for example. Right now, this generation has awakened, and they want to change the image of El Salvador.
SAY ZONTE!: are you working on another guanaco to to english dictionary?”
People already send me through social networks many words that I have needed in the “Guanco To English Dictionary” – Volume 1. Then I will collect all these words and give credit at the end of the book. It will be a reasonably long job for Volume No.2.
SAY ZONTE!: Thank you, Diego, we wish you every success for your project!
Diego: Thanks for the invitation!
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