Nowadays, with the widespread of smartphone technology, people can easily ignore the accent marks in Spanish. However, these acentos sometimes could change the meaning of a word completely. The good news is, an episode about the Mexican team in this year’s World Cup finally brought some attention to it.

The World Cup 2018 in Russia just ended on July 15th. France has overcome all the difficulties and finally took back the trophy. This year’s World Cup can be described simply as “dramatic.” Unexpected moments happened one after another: the previous winner, Germany, was eliminated early in the group stage by South Korea, and three days later, lead players Ronaldo and Messi, from Portugal and Argentina, were out of the picture on the same day.

 

Unfortunately, Brazil beat Mexico in round 16. But for Mexico, correcting and displaying their soccer players’ names on the jerseys, which previously lacked accent marks, was definitely a win for the Spanish language. Admittedly, as the Spanish language evolves with new generations in today’s  high-technology atmosphere, accent marks are harder and harder to come by. However, for new Spanish learners, it’s really important to stick to the grammar rules. An accent mark change could lead to totally different meanings and pronunciations. For example, de (without an accent mark) is the preposition “of” or “from,” while dé (with the accent mark) is the formal command meaning “give.”.

It all started with Paulina Chavira, a New York Times en Español Editor based in Mexico City. Last year, she noticed that her country’s national team had their names spelled wrong: they were missing accent marks. Mexico’s national team took her advice and put on accent marks on the jerseys for the World Cup. Paulina tweeted her immediate excitement to see that the correction she had been fighting for had been finally made:

“That the national team players’ names are accurately written is a way of inviting people to nurture our language and to highlight the importance of writing it correctly,” Ms. Chavira said during an interview with the New York Times. “A simple accent may seem trivial for a lot of people, but its presence or its absence changes the way we pronounce a word, and sometimes even its meaning.”

 

It’s not the first time accent marks took center stage in sports. In 2016, Major League Baseball launched the campaign “Ponle Acento” to encourage Hispanic baseball players to put their names on their jerseys with accent marks. This campaign, a way to embrace the cultural heritage of players from Latin America, received a lot of attention from media and support from the players themselves.

As a major international event where Latin American countries thrive, the significance of cultural heritage and translation is particularly amplified because it is seen by millions of people of all nationalities. What Mrs. Chavira did for Mexico, for Spanish-speaking countries, as well as for the Spanish language is significant. According to the New York TImes, the teams from Panama, Peru, Costa Rica, and Colombia don’t use the accent marks for their teams’ jerseys. But what definitely changed this time in Russia was that people in other Spanish-speaking countries have seen that Spanish grammar rules were followed by Mexico. Could it bring some changes in how people use Spanish? Let’s see how it goes.

 

Calvin Chen

Calvin has an international education background. He has studied in China, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which exposed him to various types of cultures, customs, and language differences. He supports the public relations and marketing efforts at Diáfano, an education company responsible for the design and implementation of corporate-level Spanish classes and programs through the Diáfano Method. His ultimate dream is to become a “living bridge” between America and China and contribute to cultural exchanges. Check him out at www.diafanomethod.com.

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