It is often said that kids are like sponges in the sense that they absorb everything they see, they hear, and understand and in some sense, what they believe they understand. When growing up, we have multiple acquired cultural references, and some intercultural references, like cartoons.
As kids, even before pre-school, we assimilate everything with the only people and things that surround us. But, in the 1960’s, cartoons such as Hanna-Barbera helped expand kids’ visions by offering a view outside of their surroundings, and into other societies. This was the case for children, like myself, in Latin America.
Linguistically speaking, the Spanish voice over of cartoons provided us with an insight to a “neutral” Spanish, using and teaching us words and expressions that were not part of our Colombian, Argentinian, Venezuelan and such, Spanish. For example, we learned that the word “sandwich”, often used without translation, became an “emparedado” and “Bowling” was no longer bowling, but “jugar a los bolos”. Nevertheless, though we learned to understand these, we never applied them linguistically. In Argentina, for example, the word “pochoclo” (Argentinian Spanish for popcorn) was never replaced by “Palomitas de Maiz”, the more neutral term. The word “piscina” never replaced the word pileta, again, Argentinian Spanish for pool, and we can go on.
We therefore grew up knowing there were different choices of words and as we got older, we heard them being applied and were able to understand and communicate with those who speak our same language, but are from another country. This, thanks in part to cartoons and other such references with the “outside world”, making it clear for us that there is one standard version of the Spanish language.
In a sociocultural level, through the screen, we also learned in Latin America about things like peanut butter, milk shakes and sports such as football and baseball. However, the majority of people in Latin America had probably never tasted peanut butter, or milk shakes and had played football or baseball (except in places like Venezuela, Cuba and Dominican Republic).
It might be therefore fair to say that the mornings and afternoons of leisure in front of the television when we were children, were in fact our first “interaction” with the rest of the world.
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