Writing Spanish Work Emails Like a Pro
The Spanish you’ll come across in the workplace is as different from the textbook version of the language as it is from the sort you’ll hear used on the street. You’ll need to get used to littering your work emails with the kind of long, flowery and ever-so terribly polite expressions that the locals enjoy.
How to Improve Your Accent in Spanish (and Stop Sounding Like a Gringo)
When Spanish words are pronounced by a native speaker, the language has a certain musicality that gives it a real charm. But, as foreigners, our efforts to replicate these sounds are often nothing short of a complete disaster. We butcher the accent and destroy what should be a quite beautiful tongue.
Colombian Spanish: A Learner’s Dictionary
One of the problems I faced as a Spanish learner in Colombia was that the meaning of many of the words I heard in everyday conversation didn’t appear to match what the dictionary said they should. Any attempt to translate such things literally proved extremely unenlightening.
Colombian expressions explained: ‘Pelar el cobre’
Inspired by a recent reader query, I thought I’d add some new posts explaining more advanced local expressions, which you may come across after talking with Colombians for a longer period. One is “pelar el cobre” or “mostrar el cobre“, which is broadly similar in meaning to the English “to show one’s true colours”.
Studying Spanish in Medellin: the City’s Best Schools
Colombia’s second largest city is smaller, more laid back and warmer than Bogota, and provides a great environment for perfecting your Spanish skills. Fewer long-term expats live in Medellin, but a steady stream of arrivals means that there is still a decent selection of Spanish schools and courses available in the city.
Your Options for Studying Spanish in Bogota
Bogota is Colombia’s capital and its largest city, making it a natural-enough base for students of Spanish and plenty of expats rave about how enjoyable life is in the city. That’s largely thanks to the fact that Bogota offers all the major trappings you’d expect of a big urban centre: in other words, a dizzying array of places to eat, shop, drink, dance and enjoy yourself.
Using ‘Vos’ in Colombia and Beyond
In some parts of Colombia, people use “vos”, instead of “usted” or “tú”, when addressing others. In a guest post, Avalon from the Colombia Immersion language school explains how, when, where and why this happens.
¿Mucha feria o qué?
August brings the famous “Feria de las Flores” (or “Flower Festival”) to the city of Medellin. While you will find a couple of events which are rather flower-heavy, most are not. Instead, music, celebration and fun take centre stage, all washed down with a healthy serving of “guaro” (or “aguardiente”), the favoured local tipple.
6 Great Ways to Practice Spanish in Envigado
There’s no better way to practice Spanish than by interacting with the language in real-life situations. Envigado, a municipality just south of Medellín, is the perfect place to do just that — as Avalon from the Colombia Immersion Spanish school reports in this guest post.
Finding Spanish Language Exchanges in Colombia
Becoming fluent in Spanish, as we all know, requires more than just hitting the books. You have to get out there and start having proper conversations with real live people. Even in a country where locals are as friendly as Colombia, getting into lengthy chats to practice your Spanish can be a difficult business, especially in the early stages of learning.
Colombian Slang Basics #4: Parche
Today’s slang word is “parche”; a term the dictionary would have you believe just means “patch”. In Colombia, it has an altogether more useful meaning too. While no exact English translation exists for Colombians slang use of “parche”, it roughly means: “a group of friends getting together to do something”.
The Perplexing Mystery of Colombian Culture
As you settle into your time in Colombia, you’ll most likely find local cultural values and social customs to be at once familiar, and refreshingly different, from what you’re used to back home. Colombian culture contains plenty of contradictions, which means it’s difficult at first to get a coherent picture of what life in the country is really like. But then figuring all this out is part of what makes the place so enjoyable.
The Complete Guide to Colombia’s Spanish Schools
For many years, Colombia was not a destination that you’d really considered going to if you wanted to study Spanish. Not so anymore. Nowadays, more and more foreigners are making the trip here to perfect their language skills and the number of schools, institutes and private teachers has expanded dramatically. In other words, if you’re planning to go and study in Colombia you will not be short of people willing to teach you.
Moving to Medellin? Here’s How to Do It
Medellin today has become something of a mecca for Spanish-language students, retirees, remote workers and digital nomads alike. The weather is great, locals friendly, nightlife lively and the prices still fairly competitive. The availability of decent internet, infrastructure and healthcare have all helped make living in the city a feasible option for people from all walks of life.
Online Spanish Courses and Learning Apps: Which One is Right for You?
When I first started learning Spanish, way back when in 2007, the tools and materials at a student’s disposal were limited. To pick up another language you had to go to class or simply work your way through a physical textbook (and audio accompaniment, if you were feeling fancy). Nowadays, of course, you can also make use of any one of an expanding number of online platforms, courses and apps to boost your linguistic skills.
¡Qué oso! – Slang from Bogota
As far as possible, on this blog I try to examine slang phrases which are used in the whole of Colombia. However, some expressions are so essential for anyone staying in a given city or area, that it’d be remiss of me not to explain these too. This is most definitely the case for the phrase “¡qué oso!” in Bogota.
19 Funny Sayings from Colombia
Colombians do enjoy a good bit of exaggeration. Not seen a friend for a week or two? “I’ve not seen you in like a thousand years!” (“hace como mil años que no te veo”), a local will most probably decry. Pick up a bargain in the sales, meanwhile, and our Colombian friends are just as likely to describe their purchase as “given away” (“regalado”) as they are to say that it was merely cheap.
Colombian Slang Basics #3: “Chévere” and “Bacano”
“Chévere” is a popular word for “cool” that is heard throughout Colombia, though it is not exclusive to that country. The population in neighbouring Venezuela, for instance, also enjoy using it a fair old amount. Understanding the types of context in which this term is heard is a straightforward affair, given that it is used in almost exactly the same way as its English equivalent.
How to Speak Colombian Spanish
Latin America’s friendliest inhabitants – the Colombians – have long claimed that theirs is the most ‘neutral’ Spanish on the planet. Ah, if only that were so. Chat to the locals during your stay and you’ll quick find that this beautiful sounding version of the language contains as many funny linguistic quirks as it does bits of local slang.
(Colombian) Spanish: From Zero to Hero
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’ve been told that by moving to a Spanish speaking country, you’ll “just pick up” the language, then you’ve been lied to. Unless you’re below the age of about 12, there is nothing passive about learning a foreign language. Much as we might wish it were so, having daily contact with these alien words and expressions does not mean that they will effortlessly seep into your brain.
Studying Spanish in Colombia – Your Questions Answered
I often receive messages from readers of this blog, covering various aspects of studying Spanish in Colombia: from logistical questions about visas, costs and the availability of Spanish schools in the country; right through to queries about how to use specific bits of slang or idiomatic expressions. I’m publishing here a selection of a few recent questions I’ve received about learning and studying Spanish in Colombia.
Colombian Slang Basics #2: The Meaning of “Vaina”
When it comes to Colombian slang, oftentimes there is no one definitive translation of a given term that will fit all situations and all contexts. Confusingly enough, the meaning of many of these words shifts about a lot depending on the situation in which they’re used. This is true of “vaina”; a highly versatile and multipurpose Colombian slang word that is generally held up as the most widely used and most typical of all “colombianismos”.
What Does A ‘Colombian Accent’ Sound Like?
In many ways, my choice of the name ‘Colombian Spanish’ for this blog was a bit silly. It’s difficult to talk about an entirely uniform sort of speech across the country when there are so many differences in language use between regions. Nowhere is this clearly than when it comes to the subject of accents. As you’ll soon discover, Colombians from one or other region of the country often pronounce the same words in sometimes very different ways.
Colombian Slang Basics: The Meaning of "Parcero" / "Parce"
One of the most famous Colombian slang words, especially in Medellin and nearby areas, is “parce”, or “parcero/a”; a word whose meaning is roughly like “dude”, “bro” or “mate” in English. It is a word which you’ll hear in near enough every informal conversation between young(ish) Colombians, and is especially popular among guys. Less commonly, you might come across “parcerito”; the diminutive version, which sounds a little too cutsie for most people’s taste.
Describing Colombians: The “-ón” Crowd
A classic area to study in Spanish class is how to describe people. The sad thing is that often the focus is very narrow. More often than not you’re just taught how to describe a few physical characteristics. The result is that you can only ever provide a highly superficial explanation of how somebody is. You can say that they are tall, thin, have blue eyes, and so on, but can’t even hint at what they are really like as a person.
Spanish and Slang in ‘Narcos’: Your Complete Guide
Even accomplished Spanish speakers can be perplexed by some of the conversations between Pablo Escobar and his associates in the popular Netflix series ‘Narcos’. Based mainly in the Colombian city of Medellin, most of the characters speak using the distinctive local brand of Spanish. This features a liberal sprinkling of parlache; a specific strand of slang which originated among Medellin’s criminal underworld.
The Many Meanings of “Berraco”
Of all the many Colombian slang terms explained on this blog, one of the trickier terms to get your head round is “berraco”. It is extremely easy to get confused with this one. Technically, a “berraco” is a sort of pig, but if you hear this word in Colombia, it is almost certainly not being used to refer to the animal. But it is not always an easy matter to figure out what the word is being used to mean.
Learning ‘Social Spanish’ in Medellin: An Interview with Violeta
Rarely do Spanish teachers embrace the philosophy of teaching their students to speak like a real native, instead of simply getting them to converse like some kind of living textbook. One of the few exceptions to this rule in Colombia is Violeta Bernal, a Medellín-based instructor, who runs an independent teaching outfit called “Social Spanish”.
English Words That Colombians Love
Speaking natural-sounding Spanish is all about learning how to use the exact same words that locals do, in the exact same contexts. Your teacher or textbook might tell you the correct way to speak, but on the streets of Bogota or Cali, many of these phrases just won’t cut it. Rather than obsessing over how to say things in a technically perfect way, my advice would be to embrace the local variations and imitate them as far as possible.
Where is the Best Place to Study Spanish in Colombia?
One of the most difficult choices for anyone thinking about studying Spanish abroad is where to select as your base. Choose well, and you can find yourself in pleasant surroundings, with high quality tuition and plenty of opportunities to socialise and practice your new Spanish skills outside of class. Choose badly, and you might end up somewhere distinctly less enjoyable and not even progressing much with the language.
Insanely Useful Colombian Spanish Resources
A great way to expose yourself to the Spanish spoken in Colombia is by watching, reading, listening to and generally enjoying the country’s entertainment output. The amazing thing about doing this is that it feels like much less effort than consulting textbooks or studying in class. It is also fun and can be done for minimal cost, whether or not you’re physically located in Colombia.
How Do Colombians Rate Your Spanish?
The whole time you’re in Colombia — studying, attending classes and practicing your Spanish out in the big wide world — you should be constantly improving. I’ve always found Colombians to be very tolerant of those still brushing up their Spanish. Between friends, however, the opinions expressed are more honest and verge on the brutal.
Is Colombian Spanish Really the World’s Best?
During my time in Colombia, I was frequently told by local friends and acquaintances that Colombian Spanish was the “best in the world”. This was invariably expressed as: “yo no sé, pero dicen que el español colombiano es el mejor del mundo” (“I don’t know myself, but they say that Colombian Spanish is the best in the world”) which led me to think this wasn’t just an opinion, but rather an objective fact.
Top 10 Colombian Slang Terms
I’m never entirely sure of the source of this claim, but I’ve been told on many occasions that Colombian Spanish is the world’s most ‘neutral’ sort. While I can certainly vouch for the fact that the Colombian accent is clear and undoubtedly pleasant sounding, the actual use of Spanish language is not 100% ‘neutral’ in the strictest sense of the word. There is a lot of slang. Chat to any local and you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about.
Dating in Colombia: The Language of Love
Often has it been said that the best way to improve in a foreign tongue is to start dating a local. There is, it must be said, much truth to this. Even students who, in the classroom, can barely be bothered to string together a coherent sentence, suddenly have boundless enthusiasm for improving their language skills as soon as they chat to a guy or girl they like.
Spanish with a Touch of the Divine
Hang around with Colombians for any length of time and you’re sure to notice that religion continues to play a large part in their lives. In fact, faith is so strong, and religious belief so widespread, that many Colombians often take it as read that most everyone they meet will be a Catholic. This is reflected in surveys and polls, where the vast majority of the population report that they are religious.
Quick Tips for More Natural Spanish
We’ve all seen those language courses which guarantee that you’ll be speaking “fluent Spanish in 60 days”. Sound great don’t they? Yet — in common with ‘get rich quick’ schemes or ‘effortless’ weight loss programmes — these courses, more often than not, promise much, but deliver little. To obtain real fluency in another language there is, regrettably, little substitute for hard graft.
It’s a Jungle Out There: Animal Slang in Colombia
Listen in to a conversation between Colombians and you are likely to hear quite a few references to a variety of animals. Outside of the countryside, however, such terms are not often used literally. Rather, Colombians have incorporated a large number of animal names into colloquial expressions and slang, which have meanings quite different to how they initially appear.