Suppose you are going to an asado with friends and want to let them know you’re bringing something to drink. Chances are you won’t be able to offer some birras without your phone’s autocorrect changing the word, certain that the term you typed is made up and non existent, and making you the laughing stock of the evening.
You can forget about conjugating verbs with vos. It’s not “¿qué hacés?” or “dale, compralo”, it’s “haces” and “cómpralo.” Any self respecting Argentine cringes at the absence of the tilde in the first case and the sight of it in the second. And there’s no chance you’re taking the bondi to meet the pibes for a couple of mates: your phone won’t have it.
There was one woman who was particularly infuriated by how much of a crusade it was to chat on the phone as she spoke in everyday life. Inés Benson tried to convince Android and Apple to add an Argentine-friendly keyboard as far back as 2010. However, her emails went unanswered. By 2016, she was living in New York, which made her aware of something. “I noticed that the keyboard in English was so much easier to use. It felt unfair that we were missing out on so much,” Benson told The Bubble. “I would go out and people would use voice commands on their phones. I couldn’t imagine that ever happening in Argentina. I was like, ‘no one is going to speak neutral Spanish on the street so their phones can understand them’.”
So, as the true millennial she is, Benson took the matter into her own hands. She met two young graphic designers, Carolina Meoniz and Paz González Ávila, through Instagram, and asked them to take care of the stickers – like that of a mate or a bondi – for her would-be app. For her part, Benson began conjugating verbs almost compulsively. She added diminutives, such as cafecito or librito, and came across an old voter registration list, which she used to include names of people and streets of Buenos Aires. She added nicknames and emailed back and forth with the Academia Argentina de Letras whenever she had a grammar question.
After months of developing an intimate relationship with the online dictionary, Guará, a keyboard with an Argentine autocorrect, was finally born. “The guará name comes from a kind of fox or wolf, endemic from the Malvinas Islands. There are no pictures or DNA samples, but Magallanes wrote about it on his journal,” Benson said. “It became extinct more than 100 years ago! When it disappeared, the preservation of species movement began. I wanted Guará to do the same for the voseo.”
Only a few months after its release, Guará has well over 17000 downloads on the Play Store, and many requests for it to come out for iOS, as well. Benson’s plans for the future include expanding the app to other Latin American regions, such as Colombia and Mexico – where she is currently living and studying programming – and keep updating it to turn it into a constant better version of itself.
For now, Guará is a haven for people who wish to write and text in their own beloved language. No more cursing out loud when autocorrect isn’t canchero enough to understand that slang you are so proud of; with Guará, you can now curse for other reasons without your phone telling you that the word boludo is not a thing. In the end, Benson’s motivation was not only the grammar nazi that so clearly lives within her, but the urgent need to have her voice represented by the devices she uses everyday.