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.
In the spirit of “when in Rome” and all that, you might like to imitate their way of waxing lyrical. For anyone so inclined, I’ve drawn up an infographic guide on how to speak Colombian Spanish.
[For more of this, check out also our exclusive video course on the Spanish you’ll need to win Colombians over.]
How to Speak Colombian Spanish – Infographic Text
A short guide to leaving behind ‘gringo Spanish’ and learning to chat like a real life local.
Forget about asking friends how they are just by saying “¿Cómo estás?“. That’s altogether too dull. Instead, spice things up with one of the local ways to say “Whats up?”.
There are plenty available, but try: “¿Qué más?”, “¿Quiubo?” (“¿qué hubo?“), “¿Bien o qué?”, “¿Bien o no?”, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, “¿’ntonces? ”.
2. MEN AND WOMEN
Classroom Spanish teaches you to talk about men and women as “hombres” and “mujeres”, or “señores” and “señoras”.
To get more Colombian about things, you can instead refer to a guy using the English word “man”. You’ll need to pronounce it in a more Latin style, mind.
Locals also like to call any woman between the ages of around 16 and 50 a “vieja” — technically the word for an elderly lady, though not in Colombia.
3. ADJUST YOUR CLOCK…
Learn that the Spanish word “ahora“/ “ahorita“, which is supposed to translate as “now”, means nothing of the sort in Colombia.
More often than not, “ahorita” actually means “later”, but it can also be a polite way to imply that something is not going to happen at all.
The same goes for the superbly mystifying expression “ahorita más tarde“, or “now-later”.
4. …AND YOUR CALENDAR
You will never hear a Colombian referring to a week as having just 7 days. No. A Colombian week is always said to last “ocho días” or “eight days”.
Want to talk about a period of two weeks? Well then you have to say “quince días” or “fifteen days”. Obviously.
5. FRIENDLY CHAT
A Colombian friend need not merely be an “amigo“, when you could refer to him with the preferred local term “parcero“. Feel free to attract his attention by uttering the word “parce” in his general direction.
Ladies, don’t be alarmed if your friends occasionally call you “gorda” (“fat”). Gents, don’t take it to heart if your buddies refer to you as “güevón” (“asshole”).
Far from being insults, in the topsy-turvy world of Colombian Spanish, these terms, if said by friends, are nothing short of the height of friendliness.
6. TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL
You’ll know, of course, the word “bueno” to describe something good. But in Colombia you needn’t limit yourself to this.
Do as the locals do and describe “cool” stuff as “bacano” or “chévere“. To get more enthusiastic still, you can say that someone (or something) is “bien bacano“, “demasiado bacano” or “bacanísimo“.
You have ample opportunity to mix things up further by describing the great things in life as “lo máximo“, “brutal“, “una nota” or “una belleza“.
7. ORDER LIKE A PRO
Textbooks teach all manner of overly formal sounding ways to order in restaurants etc.
The only phrase you need master for Colombia is “¿me regalas [whatever] por favor? “. Literally, this means “can you give me [whatever] as a gift please?”. Not so for our Colombian friends. There, it is the industry standard way to order stuff.
8. GET RELIGIOUS
Colombians are a religious bunch and this is reflected in the way they speak. The dedicated Colombian impersonator will need to do likewise.
So, when asked how you are, respond with “muy bien, gracias a Dios” (“very well, thanks be to God”). Or, if you’re talking about your hopes and plans for the future, add in a quick “si Dios quiere” (“if God wishes it so”) to make things sound much more local.
And, if you’re in Medellin, chuck in a quick “Ay ave maría” as an expression of exasperation. It’ll be guaranteed to get a big reaction from the locals.
That’s it… ¡YA TE COLOMBIANIZASTE!