There are certain topics that make non-native Spanish speakers pull their hair out when learning Spanish.

There are some rules to follow but there are also many exceptions to those rules. There are also ways of talking, sentences or words that simply don’t make sense in other languages but in Spanish they do.

In previous posts, we talked about the use of the verb To Be (Ser & Estar) and about False cognates. Today, we are talking about “Gender in Spanish”. This is one of the topics people struggle the most when learning Spanish, mainly those whose mother tongue doesn’t come from a romance language (i.e. French, Italian, Portuguese).

Learn Gender in Spanish: Spanish Gender Rules

If you are an English speaker you might think that “gender” refers to people in their feminine or masculine form. Which, to a certain extent, it’s true… However, in Spanish, we also use “gender” for nouns, articles and adjectives.

In Spanish, words like “the”, “car”, “house”, “tree”, “lunch”, “black” or “tall” can be feminine or masculine.

While in English, gender is not important unless you are speaking about a living object (i.e. a person or an animal),  in Spanish, all nouns (person, place, thing or idea) have a gender.

At first, it might be difficult but after a while it becomes natural and we can even say that you know by intuition what’s the right gender of each word.

What is it important to learn the gender of the nouns in Spanish?

Simple.

The gender of the noun is important because the adjective and articles must match the noun in terms of the gender.

If you don’t pair the words correctly, it’s not a big deal. It sounds weird for native Spanish speakers but they will still understand you.

But since we want you to speak Spanish properly we are here to give you some tips. Keep in mind, though, that it takes more than reading an article to have a couple of Spanish classes. If you truly want to master your spanish language you need to start but making some mistakes, learn from them and practice, practice, practice.

How to know when a noun is feminine or masculine?

Everything in Spanish is either male or female. Our language is charged with gender power!

The most common structure for nouns in Spanish is:

(article) + noun + (adjective)

So, let’s follow this stricture. Let’s talk about Spanish article gender rules first.

1. Articles

In English, there are three articles:

Definite article “The”

  • Feminine
  • Masculine
  • Singular
  • Plural

Definite articles “a”, “an”

  • Feminine
  • Masculine
  • Singular
  • Plural (“some” is not considering an article but it is used as such)

In Spanish, we have a total of eight articles. Yes, eight!

That’s because we change the articles according to both gender (feminine and masculine) and number (singular and plural)

Definite articles “The”

  • Masculine, singular: “el”
    “El niño”. The kid
  • Feminine, singular: “la”
    “La niña”. The kid
  • Masculine, plural: “los”
    “Los niños”. The kids
  • Feminine, plural: “las”
    “Las niñas”, The kids

Indefinite articles “a”, “an”, “some”

  • Masculine, singular: “un”
    “Un niño”.  A kid
  • Feminine, singular: “una”
    “Una niña” A kid
  • Masculine, plural: “unos”
    “Unos niños”. Some kids
  • Feminine, plural: “unas”
    “Unas niñas”. Some kids

2. Nouns

Who is to decide whether “lámpara” (lamp) is masculine or feminine? – It’s feminine by the way

What determines a “libro” (book) to be a masculine noun? And what makes “cuchara” (spoon) a feminine noun?

Thankfully, there are some rules to follow to help you remember whether a noun is masculine or feminine.

Masculine Nouns

Rule No. 1

Nouns ending in “o”, “os”

Examples

  • “El libro” (The book)
  • “Un pájaro” (A bird)
  • “Los vasos” (The glasses)

Rule No. 2

Nouns ending in “ma”, mas”

Examples

  • “Los problemas” (The problems)
  • “El aroma” (The fragance)
  • “El clima” (The weather)

Rule No.3

Nouns which refers to males

Examples

  • “El padre” (The father)
  • Los reyes (The kings)
  • “El hijo” (The son)

Rule No.4

Nouns ending in “r”, “res”

Examples

  • “Los motores”  (The motors)
  • “Un calentador” (A heater)
  • “El comedor” (The dining room)

Rule No.5

Nouns ending in “aje”, “ajes”

Examples

  • “El viaje” (The trip)
  • “El equipaje” ( The luggage)
  • “Los porcentajes” (The percentages)

Rule No.6

Days of the week

Examples

  • “El lunes” (Monday)
  • “El martes”  (Tuesday
  • “El miércoles” (Wednesday)
  • “El jueves” (Thursday)
  • “Los viernes”(Fridays)
  • “El sábado” (Saturday)
  • “Los domingos” (Sundays)

Notes: – In English, the days of the week don’t use articles. In Spanish they do
– In Spanish, months of the year don’t use articles

Rule No.7

Compass directions

Examples

  • “El norte” (North)
  • “El sur” (South)
  • “El oriente” (East)
  • “El occidente” (West)

Rule No.8

A group with mixed genders is always* masculine

Examples

  • “Los estudiantes” (The students)
  • “Los padres” (The parents)
  • “Unos colegas” (Some colleagues)

Rule No.9

Languages

Examples

  • “El español” (The Spanish language)
  • “El inglés” (The English language)
  • “El italiano” (The Italian language)

Tip:
People use the word “LONERS” to help remember when a noun is masculine. Words that end with any of the letters in LONERS are usually masculine.

Some examples include:

L → El papel (paper)
O → El oso (bear)
N → El atún (tuna)
E → El hambre (hunger)
R → El calor (hot weather)
S → El bus (bus)

Feminine Nouns

Rule No. 1

Nouns ending in “a”, “as”

Examples

  • “La guitarra” (The guitar)
  • “Una camisa” (A shirt)
  • “Las camas” (The beds)

Rule No. 2

Nouns ending in “ión”, “ión”

Examples

  • “La religión” (The religion)
  • “La comunicación” (The communication)
  • “La pasión” (The passion)

Rule No. 3

Nouns ending in “dad”, “tad”

Examples

  • “Una ciudad” (A city)
  • “La verdad” (The truth)
  • “La libertad” (The freedom)

Rule No. 4

Nouns ending in “umbre”

Examples

“Una costumbre” (A tradition)
“La cumbre” (The summit)
“La incertidumbre” (The uncertainty)

Rule No. 5

Nouns ending in “z”

Examples

“La paz” (Peace)
“La nariz” (The nose)
“La actriz” (The actress)

Rule No. 6

Letters of the alphabet

Examples

La “a” (The “a”)
La “b” (The “b”)
La “c” (The “c”)

Rule No. 7

Nouns which refer to females

Examples

“La madre” (The mother)
“La reina” (The queen)
“La princesa” (The princess)

Exceptions to the rule

Here comes the fun!

All languages have rules, and all rules have exceptions. The Spanish language is no different.

Exceptions are just that, exceptions. We don’t need to understand them or find the logic behind them, we just need to learn them.

To make your life easier we have prepared a list of the most common exceptions to the rules listed above.

Exceptions to the feminine rules

“El día” (The day)
“El mapa” (The map)
“El Sofá” (The couch)
“El agua” (The water)
“El artista” (The artist)
“El cura” (The priest)
“El planeta” (The planet)

Exceptions to the masculine rules

“La mano” (The hand)
“La radio” (The radio)
“La moto” (The motorbike)
“La modelo” (The model)
“La piloto” (The pilot)
“La foto” (The photo)

3. Adjectives

As a reminder, an adjective is what we use to describe a noun.

In English, adjectives are similar to articles and nouns with regards to gender; they simply don’t have a gender.

“Red”, “short”, “big” are used in the same form for all nouns regardless of the gender -if any- and regardless of the number (singular or plural).

In Spanish, knowing the gender of the noun is crucial because it defines the article and the adjective you need to use.

Adjectives in Spanish also change slightly their form -their ending- depending on the gender. Adjectives can be masculine, feminine, and neutral

  • Masculine: Typically the ending of the adjective changes to “o”
  • Feminine: Typically the ending of the adjective changes to “a”
  • Neutral: Typically the word never changes regardless of the gender

Let’s see some examples:

MasculineFeminine
WhiteBlanco
El avión blanco” (The white plane)
Blanca
La casa blanca” (The white house)
TallAlto
El edificio alto” (The tall building)
Alta
La chica alta” (The tall girl)
PerfectPerfecto
El clima es perfecto!” (The weather is perfect!)
Perfecta
La temperatura es perfecta” (The temperature is perfect)
BigGrande
El museo es grande” (The museum is big)
Grande
La jirafa es grande” (The giraffe is big)
KindAmable
El vecino es amable” (The neighbor is kind)
Amable
La vecina es amable” (The neighbor is kind)

That’s all for today!

We hope this article has been useful to you. Remember that the key to mastering any language is practice!

If you want to improve your current level of Spanish do not hesitate to contact us. Join our school in Bogota or our online program.

Keep on making mistakes in Spanish?

Making mistakes is inevitable when you are learning Spanish. It is part of the process of learning a new language.

There is no need to be frustrated, but if you want to speak Spanish properly it’s important you are aware of the mistakes you constantly make.

There are major and minor mistakes.

Major mistakes are those that affect your communication with others. Spanish speakers won’t understand the sentence or the context.

On the other hand, minor mistakes are those that native speakers notice but they don’t affect your communication with them. Spanish speakers would understand what you are saying even if it is not correct.

If you want to learn Spanish properly pay attention to the following mistakes people make when learning Spanish.

1. Assuming that Spanish words that look like English words mean the same thing

Around 30% to 40% of all vocabulary in English have related words in Spanish.

Those similar words are known as cognates. There are perfect cognates, near-perfect cognates and false cognates.

The last ones, false cognates are the tricky ones. They are also known as “false friends” because they fool you. You think you know what they mean but the actual meaning is something completely different.

One of these mistakes is saying “estoy embarazada” (I’m pregnant in English) when you want to say “I am embarrassed”.

Be vigilant with those false friends. Native Spanish speakers would understand what you want to say but you don’t want to learn broken Spanish but good Spanish, right?

2. Assuming that the sound of the vowels and consonants in Spanish is the same as their sound in English

Many students struggle with the Spanish pronunciation. They have trouble communicating with native speakers because they think they are pronouncing words correctly but people don’t understand them.

Why is that?

Because they are pronouncing the words in English, not in Spanish.

To be honest, Spanish pronunciation is pretty easy and straightforward.

You should following simple rules:

  • Learn the sound of the vowels, and stick to it….Always! In Spanish, there are five vowels (a, e, i, o, u). We always pronounce them, their sound never changes.
  • Learn the sound of the consonants and stick to it. Similarly to the vowels, the consonants in Spanish have their unique sound. However, there are a few exceptions. Make sure you learn the exceptions and stick to the rules.
  • Roll your tongue and practice the “rrrr” sound as much as you can.

3. Using pronouns unnecessarily

In English, for instance, all sentences require a pronoun. But in Spanish, that isn’t necessary.

Why?

Because it’s implicit in the verb.

In Spanish, we conjugate the verbs according to each pronoun. So, when talking Spanish we normally omit the pronoun.

If you use the pronoun in all sentences it wouldn’t be grammatically incorrect, but it sounds a bit weird. It’s redundant.

Let’s look at an example with the verb “querer” (to want):

Yo quiero (I want)
Tu quieres (You want) – You in a singular form
Él/Ella quiere (She/He wants)
Nosotros queremos (We want)
Ustedes quieren (You want) – You in a plural form
Vosotros/as queréis (You want) – Vosotros/as is only used in Spain
Ellos/Ellas quieren (They want)

In Spanish we would say:

  • ¿Quieres un café? (Do you want a coffee?)
  • Queremos ir a la playa mañana. (We want to go tomorrow to the beach)
  • Quiero comprar un regalo para mi hermana. (I want to buy a present for my sister)

See? We don’t use the pronoun because each verb already explains who it is referring to.

Spanish students frequently overuse the pronoun “yo” (I).

So, next time you are having a conversation in Spanish try to be aware whether you are using the pronouns more than you should.

4. Using the wrong gender for articles and adjectives

Contrary to English, in Spanish, the articles and adjectives can be either feminine or masculine.
There are basic rules to define when a word is feminine or masculine. But, since there are also some exceptions, students get frequently confused and mix up the genders.

The only way to get all the articles and adjectives right is by memorizing them.

Practice, and more practice!

5. Mixing up the verb “To be” (Ser or Estar)

One of the most difficult topics for Spanish language learners is the use of the verb “To be”, which in Spanish is divided into two verbs:

“Ser” and “Estar”.

“To be” (ser) or “To be” (estar).

We know it can be tricky since the distinction between those two doesn’t exist in other languages.

What’s the difference between “Ser” and “Estar”?

Putting it in a simple way:

“Ser” is used when describing permanent things, while
“Estar” when describing temporary things.

Make sure you learn the rules for each verb. You don’t want to say “soy aburrido/a” (I’m boring) when you actually mean “estoy aburrido/a” (I’m bored)

  • Soy aburrido. (I am boring.) – I am a boring person in general.
  • Estoy aburrido. (I am bored.) – Right now I feel bored.

6. Using The verb “To be” instead of the verb “To have”

There are some cases where we use the verb “To have” (Tener) instead of the verb “To be” in Spanish.

For many students, it doesn’t make sense, but the best advice we can give you is:

Don’t translate everything literally. Understand the rules each language has and start using them.

It doesn’t need to make sense at first. When you start speaking the language you will see it will make sense.

In English the verb “to be” is used for example when talking about age:

“I am 25 years old.”

But in Spanish, the verb “tener” (to have) is used when talking about age.

To say that you are 25 years old, you would say:

“Tengo 25 años”

This translates literally to “I have 25 years,” hence the common mistake by both English and Spanish speakers in their respective second language.

There are quite a few other Spanish phrases that use the verb “to have” (tener) while their English counterparts use “to be”.

For instance:

  • Tener calor (to be hot)
  • Tener cuidado (to be careful)
  • Tener frío (to be cold)
  • Tener hambre (to be hungry)
  • Tener sed (to be thirsty)
  • Tener miedo de/a (to be afraid of)
  • Tener prisa (to be in a hurry)
  • Tener razón (to be right)
  • Tener sueño (to be sleepy)
  • Tener suerte (to be lucky)

7. Using the adjectives in the wrong order

In English, adjectives come before the noun.

For example:

Kind person
Blue shirt
Long road
Tall man
Rainy day

Whereas in Spanish, adjectives often come after the noun:

Kind person, “Persona amable”
Blue shirt, “Camisa azul”
Long road, “Carretera larga”
Tall man, “Hombre alto”
Rainy day, “Día lluvioso”

The more you read and the more you watch movies; the more you will improve your Spanish. Be attentive to how native Spanish speakers talk, you will improve a lot just by listening.

If you want to learn Spanish as fast as possible, we advise you to do an immersion course in a Spanish speaking country. Our school, Learn More Than Spanish offers intensive courses for all levels.

If you can’t travel soon to Colombia but you are interested in learning Spanish, you can take online Spanish classes with us. You will have highly qualified teachers focus on the skills you want to learn and improve.

Hope to see you soon!

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

When learning a language, there are four skills we need for complete communication: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.

These are called the four language skills. No matter what language we learn, we should learn these skills equally.

When we are learning our native language we go through a simple learning process:

  1. We learn to listen
  2. We learn to speak
  3. We learn to read
  4. We learn to write

If we want to learn a second language, then we should follow the same process.

Just like when we are babies.

Babies spend their first months and years listening and replicating the sounds they hear. Then, they start learning the vocabulary. And, only after that, they start making sentences.

If this is a natural process, why do some people find it more difficult to learn one skill than another?

Is there one skill, in particular, you find it the most difficult?

Let’s start from the beginning. Let’s listen

When we are adults we want to see the results of everything that we do quickly. We want to be productive and efficient. And it makes sense, we invest part of our time in learning a new language and we want to make the best of it.

But let’s take it easy and enjoy the process. You will see it will make much sense.

Some people start learning Spanish by “reading” and “writing”. They read and write vocabulary. They try to memorize it.

But the problem comes when they want to have a conversation. They struggle to understand other people, they can’t make proper sentences, and they get frustrated.

If you start by just listening:

You will get familiar with the sounds of the vowels and consonants in Spanish. Believe it or not, they are way different than the English sounds.

When you listen you can also improve your pronunciation.

The way you pronounce Spanish directly affects your ability to understand it. If you are consistently pronouncing a word wrong, you will struggle to understand a native speaker when they say it correctly.

You will also tune your ear to different people, different accents and different speeds.

One of the biggest mistakes is getting used to only one person’s accent, you will find it difficult to understand other people.

Only in Colombia, there are dozens of different accents and dialects. When learning Spanish choose Bogota’s dialect, it’s the easiest to learn. But don’t forget to train your ear with other accents.

Become an active listener instead of a passive listener

Listening passively is not enough to make you a good listener.

Listening actively means being attentive. When you are an active listener you will notice new vocabulary. You will be keen on asking questions and, ultimately, you will understand the context even if you don’t understand every single word.

For instance, if you are listening to your friends talking, don’t be afraid of asking them the meaning of certain words or the context of the conversation.

You can also be an active listener while practicing the other language skills.

Don’t get us wrong, we did say that you should focus on listening, and we mean it. But there are few things you can do in parallel which will help you to improve your Spanish.

When listening to a song, a movie or a conversation you can take notes of words that catch your attention. This is useful because your memory is fresh and you can look them up later.

You can also improve your pronunciation skills while listening to something. It won’t distract you, if you do it consciously.

How is that?

¡Simple!

Practice “listen and repeat”

When you repeat out loud a word or a sentence your brain will be more active and you will be more likely to remember what you said afterward.

Be Patience! Go at your own pace

Many Spanish language learners get frustrated at the moment of listening to native Spanish speakers.
We know you would love to speak Spanish as soon as possible to join the conversations with friends, to understand the lyrics of the songs, or to understand the Spanish movies.

But relax, cause no matter how hard you try it will always take some time. It doesn’t mean you won’t get there, it means you need to be patient.

First of all, you must be honest with yourself about your current level of Spanish. There is no point in trying to understand a movie, for instance, if you start learning Spanish a few months ago. It will only frustrate you…

What you can do is start incorporating Spanish into your daily life.

What else can you do to improve your listening skills in Spanish?

There are so many tools and materials available out there to practice.

Let’s look at some of them:

  • Listen to Spanish or Latin American music. No matter your level of Spanish you can start grasping a couple of words, then a few sentences, and eventually you will get it all.
  • Listen to audiobooks. You can choose from easy children’s books if you are a beginner, to Spanish or Latin American literature.
  • Switch your Apps to the Spanish language. For instance, your GPS, Waze or your running Apps. You already know what they say in your own language, so try them in Spanish.
  • Watch movies and videos on Youtube. There are so many options, you will never get bored! Ask your friends to send you voice messages instead of text messages.
  • Do a language exchange. Find a Spanish speaker who wants to improve your mother tongue. Ask him or her to speak Spanish and you reply in English. After 30min you can switch so that both have the same opportunity to practice. It’s an excellent exercise!
  • Do some exercise in Spanish. Yes, you can find all kinds of online classes in Spanish: Yoga, Zumba, Pilates.
  • Do you like Ted talks? You can find very interesting TED talks in Spanish with English subtitles.
  • Or, do you like to meditate? Choose online guided meditation sessions in Spanish. There are plenty on Youtube and on Apps like Insight Timer and Gaia.

Whatever you choose, make sure you listen to what you enjoy and you are passionate about. If you start incorporating Spanish into your daily routines and your hobbies you will see how easier it becomes.

Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it at first. Be patient and persistent!

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

Spanish is a Latin language, it has similarities with Italian, French and Portugues. English, in turn, is a Germanic language; it has similarities with German and Dutch.

However, you might be surprised to learn that many English words come from Latin. Some experts say that 60% of the English words come from Latin and that around 30% to 40% of all vocabulary in English have related words in Spanish.

What are false friends in linguistics?

Those similar words are known as cognates.

Cognates can be:

  • Perfect cognates
  • Near perfect cognates
  • False Cognates

Perfect Cognates

Perfect Cognates are those words that are spelled exactly the same in two languages and have the same meaning. Pronunciation is often different, though.

For example:

Spanish English
Actor Actor
Colonial Colonial
Experimental Experimental
Idea Idea
Social Social

Near Perfect Cognates

Near Perfect Cognates are words that are very similar and have the same meaning but the spelling is slightly different.

For example:

Spanish English
Attention Atención
Contrario Contrary
Salario> Salary
Solitario Solitary
Vocabulario Vocabulary

False Cognates

False Cognates are words that sound very similar but mean something totally different.

These are the words we will talk about in this post!

False Cognates are commonly known as false friends. They have taken this name because they actually fool you.

False friends often confuse people learning both Spanish and English. It’s totally normal to make mistakes while learning a new language, but there is no need to be played for a fool.

We have prepared a very comprehensive list of the most common Spanish-English false friends.

Let’s take a look!

What are some examples of false friends in Spanish?

Abogado Vs. Avocado

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Abogado Lawyer, advocate Avocado Aguacate

Ropa Vs. Rope

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Ropa Clothes Rope Cuerda

Librería Vs. Library

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Librería Bookstore Library Biblioteca

Embarazado/a Vs. Embarrassed

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Embarazado/a Pregnant Embarrassed avergonzado/a

Realizar Vs. Realize

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Realizar To carry out, perform or achieve Realize Darse cuenta

Gangas Vs. Gangs

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Gangas Bargains Gangs Pandillas

Lectura Vs. Lecture

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Lectura Reading Lecture Charla, Conferencia

Recordar Vs. Record

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Recordar To remember Record Grabar

Introducir Vs. Introduce

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Introducir To insert (an object) Introduce Presentar (people)

Carta Vs. Cart

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Carta Letter Cart Carro (supermarket, trolley, etc.)

Advertir Vs. Advertise

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Advertir To warn Advertise Anunciar, hacer publicidad

Asignatura Vs. Signature

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Asignatura Subject Signature Firma

Blanco Vs. Blank

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Blanco White Blank en blanco, vacío

Campo Vs. Camp

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Campo Field, pitch, countryside Camp Campamento

Carpeta Vs. Carpet

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Carpeta Folder Carpet Alfombra

Comodidad Vs. Commodity

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Comodidad Confort Commodity Producto, mercancía

Cuota Vs. Quote

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Cuota Membership, fee Quote  Cita literaria

Envolver Vs. Involve

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Envolver To wrap up Involve Involucrar, implicar

Éxito Vs. Exit

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Éxito Success Exit Salida

Extranjero Vs. Stranger

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Extranjero Foreigner Stranger Extraño, desconocido

Fábrica Vs. Fabric

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Fábrica Factory, Plant Fabric Tela

Firma Vs. Firm

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Firma Signature Firm Empresa, compañía

Grabar Vs. Grab

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Grabar To tape, to record Grab Agarrar, coger, tomar

Gracioso Vs. Gracious

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Gracioso Funny Gracious Cortés, amable

Grosería Vs. Grocery

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Grosería Rude remarkrude expression, rudeness Grocery Tienda de alimentos

Horno Vs. Horn

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Horno Oven Horn Cuerno, bocina

Idioma Vs. Idiom

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Idioma Language Idiom Modismo

Largo Vs. Large

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Largo Long Large Grande, numeroso, amplio

Mayor Vs. Mayor

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Mayor Bigger, biggest, older, oldest Mayor Alcalde

Media Vs. Media

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Media Stocking, or one sock Media Medios de comunicación

Noticia Vs. Notice

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Noticia News Notice Anuncio, aviso

Nudo Vs. Nude

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Nudo Knot Nude Desnudo

Once Vs. Once

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Once Eleven Once Una vez, una vez que, en cuanto

Pan Vs. Pan

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Pan Bread Pan Sartén, cacerola

Pie Vs. Pie

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Pie Foot Pie Tarta

Presumir Vs. Presume

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Presumir To show off, to boast Presume Suponer

Quieto Vs. Quiet

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Quieto Still Quiet Silencioso, callado

Red Vs. Red

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Red Network Red Rojo

Relativo Vs. Relative

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Relativo Related to Relative Pariente, familiar

Restar Vs. Rest

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Restar To subtract Rest Descansar

Soportar Vs. Support

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Soportar To put up with, to bear Support Apoyar

Suceso Vs. Success

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Suceso Event, happening, incident Success Éxito

Trasladarse Vs. Translate

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Trasladarse To move, to transfer Translate Traducir

Tuna Vs. Tuna

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Tuna School or University musical group Tuna Atún

Últimamente Vs. Ultimately

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Últimamente Lately Ultimately Finalmente

Vaso Vs. Vase

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Vaso Glass Vase Jarrón

False friends are fun sometimes but you don’t want to be taken as a fool, so make sure you learn the differences.

There are false friends that can put you in trouble. For example:

It’s not the same saying:

“Estoy embarazada” (I’m pregnant)

than

“Estoy avergonzada” (I’m embarrassed)

If you want to improve your Spanish language join our classes here. Also, read our weekly blog and learn about Colombia, Bogota and Colombian Spanish.

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

Like any other language, Colombian Spanish has its own slang and expressions when spoken in informal environments.

We all know that Colombians love to talk and to make jokes. Thus, it should come as no surprise that our (informal) language reflects it.

If you are interested in Colombian culture you shouldn’t only learn Spanish, you should learn our most common slang and expressions.

It will help you understand better the conversation with your Colombian friends and, above all, it will make you laugh!

In our previous posts, we wrote about the most common Colombian slang. If you haven’t read them yet, don’t worry! Catch up with our previous post here:

In this post we go a level higher, we talk about funny expressions that are commonly used in Colombian Spanish.

Learn these expressions and impress your Colombian friends!

How to speak like a Colombian: 20 funny Colombian expressions and what they mean

1. “No le cabe ni un tinto*”

Colombian Slang: No le cabe ni un tinto

Literal meaning: There won’t even fit a “red wine”*

Slang meaning: When a place is so crowded that not even a cup of coffee can make it in.

*Remember that only in Colombia, “tinto” refers to black coffee, instead of red wine

2. “Como Pedro por su casa”

Colombian Slang: Como Pedro por su casa

Literal meaning: Like Peter in his own house

Slang meaning: It is used to describe someone impertinent who has entered somewhere without permission. Or to describe a person who moves with ease in a place that is not his or her own.

3. “Las cuentas claras y el chocolate espeso”

Colombian Slang: Las cuentas claras y el chocolate espeso

Literal meaning: Clear accounts and thick hot chocolate

Slang meaning: Short reckonings make long friends, accounts settled and old friends, let’s get things clear, let’s keep the books straight

4. “Lo que no mata, engorda”

Colombian Slang: Lo que no mata, engorda

Literal meaning: That which does not kill, fattens

Slang meaning: It means that even if your food falls to the ground the worst thing that can happen after eating it is getting fat.

5. ¿Durmió conmigo anoche o qué?

Colombian Slang: ¿Durmió conmigo anoche o qué?

Literal meaning: Did you sleep with me last night, or what?

Slang meaning: It is used when someone enters a place without greeting.

6. “Tengo un filo, que si me agacho me corto”

Colombian Slang: Tengo un filo, que si me agacho me corto

Literal meaning: I have a blade, if I bend over I cut myself

Slang meaning: It means that you are very hungry! Getting to the point you are “Hangry”

7. Uyy, ¿quién pidió pollo?

Colombian Slang: Uyy, ¿quién pidió pollo?

Make sure you say a long “uyyy”

Literal meaning: Uyy, who ordered chicken?

Slang meaning: It is used to joke around or flirt with friends when someone handsome/pretty approaches you or passes by.

8. “No me abra los ojos que no le voy a echar gotas”

Colombian Slang: No me abra los ojos que no le voy a echar gotas

Literal meaning: Don’t open your eyes like that I am not going to put eyedrops on them

Slang meaning: It is used when someone doesn’t like you -or doesn’t like something you said-. Then he or she rolls his/her eyes and gives you “that” look.

9. ¿Qué come que adivina?

Colombian Slang: ¿Qué come que adivina?

Literal meaning: What do you eat that you guess?

Slang meaning: It is used when someone guesses what you are thinking or what you are about to say.

10. “El que tiene tienda que la atienda”

Colombian Slang: El que tiene tienda que la atienda

Literal meaning: The one that owns a store, attend it

Slang meaning: It has two meanings. It means you must be in charge of your own things. It is also used to say to someone that he or she should look after his or her partner.

11. “Le cuento el milagro pero no el santo”

Colombian Slang: Le cuento el milagro pero no el santo

Literal meaning: I tell you the miracle, but not the saint

Slang meaning: When people are gossiping they would use it. It means they would tell you the “secret” or the “gossip” but not who told them.

12. “Colgó los guayos”

Colombian Slang: Colgó los guayos

Literal meaning: (He or she) hang the soccer shoes

Slang meaning: This expression is used to say that someone died.

13. “¡Que entre el diablo y escoja!”

Colombian Slang: ¡Que entre el diablo y escoja!

Literal meaning: Let the devil come and choose!

Slang meaning: It is used when you have two options but you don’t like any. Basically, you are screwed either way.

14. “Es pan comido”

Colombian Slang: Es pan comido

Literal meaning: It’s an eaten bread

Slang meaning: It’s a piece of cake

15. “Virgen del agarradero (agárrame a mi primero)”

Colombian Slang: Virgen del agarradero (agárrame a mi primero)

Literal meaning: Virgin of the handgrip (grab me first)

You can say only the first part “Virgen del agarradero” or the full sentence “Virgen del agarradero, agárrame a mi primero”

Slang meaning: When you are afraid about something, it’s a funny way of saying “oh my God” or “God, save me!”

16. “Más aburrido que mico en un bonsái”

Colombian Slang: Más aburrido que mico en un bonsái

Literal meaning: More bored than a monkey in a bonsai tree.

Slang meaning: It means that you are absolutely bored, there is nothing to do.

17. “Más largo que una semana sin carne”

Colombian Slang: Más largo que una semana sin carne

Literal meaning: Longer than a week without meat

Slang meaning: Colombian cuisine is meat-based. By meat (carne in Spanish) we mean beef, pork and chicken.

So, having a whole week without eating any kind of meat would be a tourture for most Colombians. So, this expression describes something that is interminably dull.

18. “Más raro que un perro a cuadros”

Colombian Slang: Más raro que un perro a cuadros

Literal meaning: Weirder than a checkered dog

Slang meaning: It is used to express that something or someone is very weird

19. “Más prendido que arbolito de navidad”

Colombian Slang: Más prendido que arbolito de navidad

Literal meaning: More lit up than a Christmas tree

Slang meaning: It is use to say that someone is very tipsy, but not drunk yet

20. “Lo que le diga es mentira”

Colombian Slang: Lo que le diga es mentira

Literal meaning: What I tell you is a lie

Slang meaning: It is used when someone asks you a question and you don’t really know the answer.

Learning Colombian Spanish is so much fun!

These funny expressions won’t only impress your friends; it will also help you make new friends. Colombians love when people get interested in their culture.

Don’t forget to follow our social media and weekly Blog. You will learn more than Spanish, you will learn Colombian Spanish!

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to learn a new language is focusing on what they are seeing rather on what they are hearing.

That is why people find Spanish language pronunciation difficult. Even those who have good proficiency in the language struggle with this.

How can you improve your Colombian Spanish pronunciation?

Let’s think about the way a baby learns to speak.

Babies spend their first months and years listening and replicating the sounds they hear. Then, they start learning the vocabulary. And, only after that, they start making sentences.

This is exactly how we should learn a new language, no matter how old we are! But, the older we get, the more analytical we became.

This makes learning a language more difficult because we are constantly comparing words, rules and sounds to our mother tongue.

So, if you want to master this accent, pay attention to the following Spanish pronunciation tips:

1. Choose your favorite accent

When learning a new language it is important you pick the accent you want to adopt.

That is the accent you will keep for most of your life. So, choose your favorite accent wisely!

If you want to speak Colombian Spanish, then it is advisable to adopt its most neutral dialect, the dialect from Bogota. It is the easiest and clearest to understand.

2. Listen and repeat

It’s all about listening and tuning into the sounds. Then, let your mouth replicate those sounds.

In general, Colombian Spanish pronunciation is quite regular. We pronounce all the words from the way they are written.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Yet, this is a common mistake that non-native Spanish speakers make. They pronounce the words the way it is written but in their mother tongue, not the way it is written in Spanish.

So, make sure you learn first the Spanish pronunciation of all vowels and consonants.

Watch Youtube videos or movies, and listen to Colombian music. Pay attention to how they speak and pronounce all the words.

And then, repeat! That’s the best exercise.

3. Learn the sound of each vowel, and stick to it

The English language has around 19 vowel sounds depending on the country it is spoken in. In contrast, the Spanish language has five fixed vowel sounds.

Make sure you learn them and pronounce them always with the same sound:

 

A – Pronounced “ah”, like the “a” sound in the word “spa” or “father”

E – Pronounced “eh”, like the “e” sound in the word “let” or “shed”

I – Pronounced “ee”, like the “ee” sound in the word “see” or “bee”

O – Pronounced “oh”, like the “o” sound in the word “boring” or “orange”

U – Pronounced “oo”, like the “oo” sound in the word “boot” or “too”

These are always short and open vowel sounds; they never change. Not even when they are combined like au, eo, ia, et, etc.

For example:

  • To say Barbara – Say “Bar-ba-ra” with the “ah” sound instead of “Bar-ber-uh”
  • To say excelente – Say “ex-ce-len-te” with the “eh” sound instead of “ex-uh-len-tay”

Mastering the vowel sounds is a vital first step towards a better pronunciation. Vowels represent more than 50% of the word you’re trying to pronounce.

4. Get your Spanish consonants right

Even though English and Spanish have almost the same alphabet, the same letters do not always represent the same sound.

Many consonants in Spanish sound the same as the English consonants. Yet, there are important differences you should always remember:

D – The Spanish “d” is non-aspirated and it is always soft. The sound is a sort of a cross between the “t” and “d” in English.

H – The Spanish “h” is always silent.

J – In Colombian Spanish, we pronounce the “j” softer than they pronounce it in Spain. We pronounce it like the English “h” sound.

Ñ – The Spanish “ñ” sounds like “ny” in English. For instance, we pronounce “jalapeño” as “ha-la-PE-nyo”.

R – This is one of the most difficult ones for English speakers. It deserves a full section (see next tip No.6)

T – The Spanish “t” is a non-aspirated, soft sound. It sounds like the end of the American pronunciation of “wet” or “dart”.

LL, Y – In Colombian Spanish, we pronounce “ll” and “y” the same way. It is like the “y” sound from “you” in English.

For example, we pronounce “caballo” (horse) as “ca-ba-yo”.

C, S, Z – In Colombian Spanish, we pronounce “s”, “c” and “z” the same way. It is one of the main differences between the Spanish spoken in Spain.

Learn these rules, practice and stick to the sounds. Take your time to pronounce all the vowels and consonants. Don’t sacrifice proper pronunciation for speed.

5. “Rrrrr”, the non-native Spanish speaker’s nightmare

Is it also a nightmare for you?

Don’t worry, we are here to help you.

The consonant “r” in Spanish has special rules. Pay attention:

There is a soft sound (“r”) and a hard sound (“rr”).

  • When the word starts with “r”, it always has a hard sound.
    For example: “Raul”, “ratón” (mouse), “rosa” (rose).
  • When the “r” is in the middle -or at the end- of the word, it is always a soft sound.
    For example: “Colores” (colours), “ventilador” (fan), “armario” (closet)
  • When you find a double “r” (“rr”) in the middle of the word, it is always a hard sound.
    For example: “Carro” (car), “perro” (dog), “Correr” (To run)

It’s very important you remember these rules. Mispronouncing the “r” in the words could lead you to misunderstand. Some words mean something totally different if it’s written with one “r” or double “r”.

For example:

  • Caro (expensive) vs carro (car)
  • Pero (but) vs Perro (dog)
  • Coro (chorus) vs Corro (I run)

How to improve your “rrrr” sound? Roll your tongue, practice, practice, and practice.

Here some sentences taught to young children at school:

“Erre con Erre Cigarro” (“R with R” cigar)
“Erre con Erre Barril” (“R with R” barrel)
“Rápido ruedan los carros” (Quickly run the cars)
“Sobre los rieles del ferrocarril” (Over the rails of the railroad)

6. Stress the proper syllable

In Spanish, there are strict rules about how to stress syllables.

For all words ending in a vowel, the stress falls on the next-to-last syllable. For example:

  • “Ventana” (window) is pronounced “ven-TA-na”.
  • “Cerveza” (beer) is pronounced “cer-VE-za”.
  • “Cuaderno” (notebook) is pronounced “cua-DER-no”.

Words ending in a consonant (except “n” and “s”) stress the final syllable of the word. For example:

  • “Papel” (paper) is pronounced “pa-PEL”.
  • “Doctor” (doctor) is pronounced “doc-TOR”.
  • “Comedor” (Dining table) s pronounced “co-me-DOR”

Words that don’t follow these two rules have an accent mark above the stressed vowel to show you how to pronounce them. For example:

  • “Fútbol” (football) is pronounced “FUT-bol”.
  • “Miércoles” (Wednesday) is pronounced “MIER-co-les”.
  • “Lámpara” (lamp) is pronounced “LAM-pa-ra”.

7. Immerse yourself in the Colombian culture

There is no doubt that when immersing yourself in the culture, you will pick up easily the accent.

The most efficient way is, of course, to spend some time in Bogota studying the language and living in the city. Here you will interact with locals and your pronunciation will naturally improve.

We know that for the moment it is very difficult to travel to Bogota to study Spanish. COVID-19 has made the world stop for a while.

However, it is the perfect time to start learning Spanish at home! You can start learning the language online with us at LMTS.

As soon as the borders are open you can book your flight to Bogota. We guarantee you will have the best Spanish immersion experience.

Hope to see you soon in Bogota!

In the meantime don’t forget to follow our social media and to read our weekly blog.

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

In previous posts, we explained why Colombia is the best destination for learning Spanish. We also mentioned the different options for studying the language, at university courses or language schools.

In this post, we are going to talk about studying Spanish in Bogotá and why is one of the best cities in Colombia to learn and practice the language.

Bogota attracts people from non-Spanish speaking countries who are keen to immerse themselves into the Colombian culture.

Why?

Because Bogota is the country’s capital city. It offers a great variety of activities for you to learn the language and it gives you the opportunity to meet people from all regions of Colombia.

Living in Bogota will help you to get familiar with the different Colombian accents and dialects. Also, it will help you learn the most common Colombian slang and expressions.

If you are wondering how you can study Spanish in Bogota, this post is for you!

Note: If you are a German citizen, we have good news for you. Scroll down to the last section of this article.

Options for learning Spanish in Bogota

There are basically three options:

  1. Spanish for foreigners at Bogota’s Universities
  2. Spanish courses at Language schools
  3. Private tutors

There is no right or wrong choice. It all depends on how much time you would like to invest and how much time you have to stay in the city. Of course, it also depends on your budget and your preferences.

Here we have prepared a brief summary of the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

University Courses

Colombian language schools and Universities offer consistent standards and high-quality instruction. What are their pros and cons and how to choose one or the other?

Pros

  • Opportunity to enroll in regular university classes.
  • Enjoyment of the campus’ facilities.
  • Opportunity to meet other Colombians and to enjoy the student Colombian life.
  • You might get entitled to get transferable credits to your program back home.
  • It will look good in your CV.
  • You can apply for a student visa.

Cons

  • Classrooms with large groups of students.
  • The program could be a bit pricey.
  • You won’t have personalized classes.
    There won’t be many foreign students in case you want to share your challenges and/or frustrations.
  • Although you can do short courses, university courses are normally designed for long-term programs.

Universities offering Spanish courses in Bogota for foreigners

  • Universidad del Externado
  • Universidad del Rosario
  • Universidad Sergio Arboleda
  • Universidad de la Sabana
  • Universidad de la Salle

Spanish School courses

Pros

  • Programs are more flexible than University courses.
  • You choose between group classes and private classes.
  • Classrooms with small groups of students.
  • If you are interested in learning a specific skill you can plan the program with your teacher or tutor. For instance, D.E.L.E exam preparation, or Spanish for business.
  • Once you are back to your home country you can continue your classes online.
  • Language schools offer many social activities.

Cons

  • There are so many options but you should look for the one that suits your needs and expectations.
  • Some schools mentioned their teachers are native speakers but it doesn’t mean they are certified or have enough experience.
  • Not all Spanish schools give you a certificate of attendance.
  • Languages schools don’t have the same infrastructure, facilities, and services as universities.

Private Lessons

Pros

  • Classes are designed for you.
  • Learn at your own pace, no peer pressure.
  • Flexible classes. Learn anytime, anywhere.
  • You progress fast.

Cons

  • Private classes are much more pricey.
  • You won’t have fellow students to share time with.
  • You won’t enjoy any facilities or social activities
  • You won’t have a valid certificate
  • You can’t apply for a student visa.

Bildungsurlaub Accreditation

If you are a German citizen and you are interested in learning Spanish we have good news for you!

We proudly announce that Learn More Than Spanish has received the Bildungsurlaub accreditation.

Bildungsurlaub is an educational leave program for German employees. It allows employees by law to attend courses on special kinds of topics during their working time.

German employees who are interested in this program should submit their application to the employer by the employee. The employer has the final right to decide whether the applicant is exempted from the work or not.

The application must be handed in in written form and all documents should be enclosed showing that the selected course is recognized as BU in the respective federal state. In most federal states, the application should be submitted twelve weeks before the course starts.

If the application is accepted, the employee is entitled to 5 days of paid leave per year to study at a recognized institute.

After completing the course, the employee could use the certification as a proof for the new skill in German professional market.

If you want to know more about this program visit the Bildungsurlaub official website.

Don’t forget to follow our weekly blog here. We will keep you entertained with Colombian culture and Spanish language articles.

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

There are 20 countries where Spanish is the official language. So, imagine how diverse the language gets!

Every country has its own accent and its own dialect. One of the most beautiful dialects is Colombian Spanish. People usually say they like the language because of the accent. They also say it’s clear and easy to understand.

Within the country, there are also different accents and dialects. When we talk about Colombian Spanish we refer to the dialect spoken in Bogota. If you want to learn more about Colombian different accents read our previous post, Colombian Spanish accents: what you need to know.

Getting to know the local slang and expressions might not be easy, but it’s vital since they are used in everyday life.

In today’s article, we will explain the meaning of 20 verbs we use in Colombian Spanish. Make sure you also read of the post “30 Colombian slangs and what they mean”, it will help you to understand better how Colombians speak.

1. Regalar (me regala)

Literal meaning: “to gift” or “to give as a gift”,

Slang meaning: To give

Colombian way: Buenas Vecina, ¿me regala una cerveza?
Good morning “neighbor”, could you give me a beer, please?

Colombian Spanish Slang: Me regala

This is one of the most used verbs in Colombia.

Many people, even native Spanish speakers from other countries, get confused when hearing:

me regala un café” or “me regalas una cerveza”.

Why?

In standard Spanish “regalar” means “to give something as a gift”.

In other Spanish speaking countries for ordering a coffee people would say:

“Me da un café, por favor”

But in Colombia, we would say:

“Me regala un café, por favor”

It’s just a polite way to ask for something, whether it’s food, drinks or even when asking someone for a moment to talk:

“Me regalas un minuto? Tengo que decirte algo”

Do you have a minute, I need to tell you something

The verb “regalar” is used as synonymous of the verb “dar” (to give) only in Colombia.

Don’t be surprised if you hear stories of Colombian people that ordered a coffee or beer in countries like Spain or Argentina and the waiter/waitress answer:

“No, lo siento. Acá no regalamos nada” (No, sorry. Here we don’t give things for free”

2. Arrunchar(se)

Literal meaning: None

Slang meaning: To cuddle

Colombian way: “Está lloviendo hoy, arrunchémonos a ver una peli”
It’s raining today, let’s stay in bed, cuddle and watch a movie

Colombian Spanish Slang: Arruncharse

Arruncharse is basically lie in bed and cuddle, watch a movie, sleep or whatever but it’s meant to be a very easy and lazy plan to do.

3. Dar una vuelta

Literal meaning: To give a turn

Slang meaning: To go for a walk/ride, to walk around, to hang out

Colombian way: “¿Qué haces? Estoy aburrida en casa. ¿Vamos a dar una vuelta?
What are you doing? I’m bored at home. Shall we go for a walk?

Colombian Spanish Slang: Dar una vuelta

4. Hacer una vuelta

Literal meaning: To do a loop, to do a turn

Slang meaning: To do a favor for somebody, to run errands, or to do any sort of obligation of your own.

Colombian way: “¿Nos vemos esta tarde? Dale, pero primero tengo que hacer unas vueltas. Veámonos al final de la tarde.
Shall we meet this afternoon? Sure, but first I have some things to do. Let’s meet late afternoon.

Colombian Spanish Slang: Hacer una vuelta

5. Hacer una vaca

Literal meaning: To make a cow

Slang meaning: To chip in

Colombian way: “Hagamos una vaca para comprar pizza”
Let’s chip in to buy a pizza.

Colombian Spanish Slang: Hacer vaca

6. Rumbear

Slang meaning: To party

Colombian way: “Este viernes es el cumple de Antonia. Vamos a rumbear!”
This Friday is Antonia’s birthday. Let’s party!

Watch out, if you hear the verb in its reflexive form, it doesn’t mean “to party” but “to kiss somebody”
“Nos rumbeamos anoche”
We kissed last night

Colombian Spanish Slang: Rumbear

7. Picar

Literal meaning: To chop

Slang meaning: To snack

Colombian way: “Tengo un poco de hambre. Pedimos algo para picar?”
I’m kind of hungry. Shall we order something for snacking?

Colombian Spanish Slang: Picar

8. Dar Papaya (No dar papaya)

Literal meaning: To give papaya (Don’t give papaya)

Slang meaning: It’s a common expression in Colombia. It’s difficult to translate but when people use it they mean:

Don’t expose yourself to danger and don’t make it easy for thieves. Don’t lower your guard, have common sense. Don’t put yourself in a position where you become vulnerable to be taken advantage of.

Colombian way: “No dejes tu teléfono sobre la mesa. No des papaya”
Don’t leave your phone on the table. “No des papaya” (somebody could steal it)

Colombian Spanish Slang: Dar papaya

9. Camellar (camello)

Literal meaning: To camel. It’s a verb made from the animal word “camel”

Slang meaning: To work. A job or a task that requires a lot of effort.

Colombian way: “Quieres ir a escalar este finde? – No, no puedo. Tengo que camellar todo el finde”
Do you want to go climbing this weekend? – No, I can’t. I’m working all weekend.

Colombian Spanish Slang: Camellar

10. Prestar (Me prestas)

Literal meaning: To lend something

Slang meaning: It’s also used when asking someone to lend you something. However, it’s also a polite way of asking to use the toilet.

Colombian way: “¿Me prestas el baño, por favor?
Could I use your bathroom, please?

Colombian Spanish Slang: Prestar

11. Poner los cachos

Literal meaning: To put on horns

Slang meaning: To cheat on the partner

Colombian way: “Juan le puso los cachos a Diana. Ella está súper triste por eso”
Juan cheated on Diana. She’s really down about it.

Colombian Spanish Slang: Poner los cachos

12. Estar Prendido/Prendida

Literal meaning: To be lit

Slang meaning: To be buzzed

Colombian way: “¡Me tomé dos tragos y ya estoy prendido!”
I’ve drunken two cocktails already. I’m buzzed!

Colombian Spanish Slang: Prendido

13. Caer

Literal meaning: To fall

Slang meaning: To hit on someone

Colombian way: “Mira, ese es el man que me está cayendo”
Look, that is the guy who is hitting on me

This verb has other meaning depending on the context

Slang meaning 2: to drop by at someone’s

Colombian way: “Llámame mañana y te caigo después del trabajo.”
Call me tomorrow and I’ll drop by after work.

Colombian Spanish Slang: Caer

14. Mamar Gallo

Literal meaning: Suck a rooster

Slang meaning: To make fun of someone, to tease, to pull someone’s leg

Colombian way: “¡Deje de mamarme gallo!
Stop pulling my leg!

¡No te enojes, sólo te estaba mamando gallo!
Don’t get mad, I was just teasing you!

Colombian Spanish Slang: Mamar gallo

15. Cuadrar

Literal meaning: To square up

Slang meaning: To arrange a meeting, to organize, schedule a date, to plan, to coordinate.

Colombian way: “Cuadremos algo para mañana.”
Let’s plan something for tomorrow

Colombian Spanish Slang: Cuadrar

16. Embarrar

Literal meaning: To smear

Slang meaning: To mess up, to ruin, to screw up

Colombian way:
“¡La embarré!”
I messed it up!

Colombian Spanish Slang: Embarrar

17. Parar bolas

Literal meaning: To stand balls

Slang meaning: To pay attention, to listen

Colombian way:
¡Párame bolas!
Listen to me!

“Pero, ¿me estás parando bolas?”
But, are you paying attention to me?

18. Meter la pata

Literal meaning: Put the foot in

Slang meaning: To screw up something

Colombian way: “Le dije a Juana que su hermana tenía un regalo para ella. Pero ¡Juana no sabía! ¡Metí la pata!”
I told Juana her sister had a present for her. But Juana didn’t know! I screw it up!

Colombian Spanish Slang: Meter la pata

19. Estar enguayabado

Guayabo is the noun, hangover, while “estar enguayabado” is the verb

Literal meaning: To be stuck in a guava tree

Slang meaning: To be hungover

Colombian way: “Ayer salimos con mis compañeros del trabajo. Estoy super enguayabado”
Yesterday we went out with my colleagues. I’m hungover

Colombian Spanish Slang: Guayabo

20 Dejar plantado / plantada

Literal meaning: To leave something/someone planted

Slang meaning: To leave someone waiting, don’t show up for a date

Colombian way: “Quedamos de salir ayer con Julio, pero me de plantada!”
I was planning to meet Julio yesterday, but he never showed up!

So there you have it, 20 Colombian slang phrases to use on your daily dialogue. Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below if you think we’ve missed any!

Learning a new language can be challenging when it comes to understanding the different accents, dialects, slangs and expressions that each country and region has.

When you are learning a language -whether it is Spanish, English, French, or any other- you might face, at first, difficulties understanding people from a different region than the one you are learning in.

But when your proficiency in the language is good, you will be able to understand anyone who speaks it.

For instance, when you learn French you should be able to communicate with people from France, Belgium and Canada.

And, when you learn English you should be able to communicate with people from the United States, Canada, UK and Australia.

Likewise, when you learn Spanish, you should be able to interact with any native speaker.

However, as we have explained in previous posts, Spanish is the official language of 20 countries, and it’s growing rapidly as a second language.

This gives an extra challenge for all those Spanish language learners.

Why?

Because dialects not only vary from one country to another, but they also vary within the countries.

What are the different regions of Colombia?

Now, talking specifically about Colombian Spanish, it is true that there is a “Standard Spanish”, which is worldwide known as one of the easiest to learn and clearest to understand. That’s the dialect from Bogota.

However, since Colombia is such a big and culturally diverse country, it is normal that language-wise there is also a significant diversity.

Colombia is divided into six natural regions:  Andean, Caribbean, Pacific, Orinoco, Amazon and Insular Region, and 32 Departments (the equivalent to states or provinces).

The dialects spoken in the various regions of Colombia are quite diverse. People from the coastal areas tend to speak faster and tend to cut and put the words together, while people from the highland do not.

Colombia Natural Regions and Departmets Map

Left: Colombia Natural Regions Map. Right: Colombia Departments Map.

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia?

There is a discussion between linguists regarding this topic.

Some of them propose Colombian dialects should be grouped into four major regions; others propose they should be grouped into five, seven or even into eleven groups.

Let’s explore the 11 Colombian Spanish Dialects from the North to the South part:

Insular

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? San Andrés and Providence Map

Colombia San Andrés and Providence Map.

The insular dialect is spoken in the Islands of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina.

The dialect is known for being a mixture of Caribbean Spanish (Costeño) with some features of (British) English.

Thus, words such as “verso” (verse) becomes [ˈbeɹso]; “invierno” (winter) becomes [imˈbjeɹno]; and “escarlata” (scarlet) becomes [ehkaɹˈlata].

This dialect is closer to the Nicaraguan dialect because of the proximity of the islands to this country.

It’s important to note that besides Spanish, in the Insular region other languages are spoken. English, due to the proximity of English Speaking Caribbean islands and the influence of the British colonization. And a type of Creole, which is a blend between English, Spanish, Kwa (from the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo) and Igbo (from Nigeria).

Costeño

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? Map of the Caribbean Region

Colombia Caribbean Region Map.

The Costeño dialect is spoken in the Caribbean Region of Colombia.

Some of the most notable features of the costeño dialect are:

  • Word-final /n/ is realized as velar [ŋ] (velar it is the sound of ng in English sing).
  • One of the most defining characteristics of the region is the aspiration of the /s/ at the end of a syllable, which changes from an /s/ sound to a weak /h/. Thus, “costa” (coast) is pronounced [ˈkohta]; and “más o menos” (more or less) sounds more like “má[h] o meno[h]”
  • The “d” in words that end in “-ado” is generally skipped. For instance, you’ll hear “pesca’o” instead of “pescado” (fish) and “pela’o” instead of “pelado” (slang for boy or guy).
  • Some other letters may be omitted as well. For example, Cartagena would be pronounced “Ca’tagena” and “verdad” (truth) would be pronounced “ve’dá”.

Within the Costeño dialect, there are notable and distinguishable varieties of the dialect as well. The accents from Barranquilla, Cartagena, La Guajira and the interior coastal regions are all considered sub-dialects of the broader costeño classification.

Most of the people from outside the Caribbean region (including Colombians from the interior regions) might have a hard time picking them out.

For them, they all speak “costeño dialect” but for costeños people, the accent is pretty distinguished.

Santandereano

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? Map of the Santander and Santander North

Left: Santander Department Right: Norte de Santander Department

Santandereano dialect is spoken in the northeastern part of the country in Santander and Norte de Santander Departments.

The most common feature of this dialect is the strong use of “ustedeo” in both informal and formal contexts.

In these regions you will rarely hear the pronoun “tú” (“you’ in its informal and singular form), as “usted” (“you” in its formal and singular form) dominates in almost all formal and informal situations.

For people from outside these regions, the use of “ustedeo” and their staccato speech makes the accent sound a little angry and rough.

Paisa

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? Map of Antioquia and Caldas Departments- Paisa

Left: Antioquia Department.
Right: Caldas Department

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? Map of Risaralda and Quindio Departments- Paisa

Left: Risarlada Department Right: Quindio Department

Paisa dialect is mainly spoken in the departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío.

The way Paisas speak Spanish is distinctive both within and outside Colombia.

Paisas are said to speak Spanish fast and soft. They have many local and regional expressions that are opaque even for other Colombians.

Some of the most notable features of the paisa dialect are:

  • Voseo (using “vos” instead of ‘tú”). Paisas use “vos” as the second person singular informal pronoun (instead of tú) and “usted” for formal address. You will (almost) never hear “tú” but it is common to hear “usted” even with relatives and friends. Thus, instead of “¿Qué quieres comer?”, you might ask “¿Qué querés comer?” (what do you want to eat?)
  • One of its most distinctive features is the phrasal intonation. Some people call it a singsong accent that drags out the end of a sentence in a most peculiar tonal rise and fall.
  • The /s/ is pronounced slightly more like an /sh/, giving the accent an almost whisper-like feeling.

Chocoano

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? Map of Choco Department- Chocoano

Choco Department

The Chocoano dialect is spoken throughout the Pacific coast.

It is said to reflect African influence in terms of intonation and rhythm. Similar to the Costeño dialect, this dialect is known for omitting the syllable-final /s/ or debuccalize it and pronounce it as [h].

For example, you would hear “e’to señore” instead of “estos señores”.

This dialect is also spoken by Afro-Colombians living inland in the departments of Cauca and Valle del Cauca.

Cundiboyacense

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? Map of Cundinamarca and Boyaca Departments- Cundiboyacense Dialect

Left: Cundinamarca Department Right: Boyaca Department

The Cundiboyacense dialect is spoken in the departments of Cundinamarca and Boyacá, also known as “Altiplano Cundiboyacense” (Cundiboyacense High Plateau).

The main feature of this dialect is the use of the term “sumercé”, which is a shorter way of saying “su merced” (literally “your grace”).

This is an old term to treat someone with courtesy and respect back in the colonial times. After the Spanish Conquest, people used to say “vuestra merced”, now since in Colombia we don’t use “vosotros” this term has changed to “su merced”. (Read our post Top 5 differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish from Spain)

Although Bogota is located in the Cundinamarca department, the dialect spoken in the capital city is quite different and has its features.

Rolo

Rolo is the dialect spoken in Bogotá.

Some people also called it “cachaco”, however, there is a difference between Rolos and Cachacos.

Rolo dialect is known as being one of the easiest Spanish dialects to learn and to understand. Some of the most notable features of this dialect are:

  • The use of the pronoun “usted” even among family members and close friends.
  • Rolos are known for being very polite and its dialect proves it. In Bogota, you will normally hear people saying “Podría por favor abrir la ventana?”, which is similar to the polite British way of saying “would you please open the window?”
  • The pronunciation of all letters, including syllable-final /s/ and /d/ in the -ado endings.

When people talk about  “Colombian Spanish” they normally are referring to the Rolo dialect. It’s the most neutral dialect of the country and therefore it is used for formal speeches, National TV and radio.

Opita

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? Map of Tolima and Huila Departments- Opita Dialect

Left: Tolima Department Right: Huila Department

The Opita dialect is spoken in the departments of Tolima and Huila, mostly in the central and southern parts of the Magdalena River Valley.

This dialect is known for having a strong influence on indigenous languages and is noted for its slow tempo and unique intonation.

The dialect is also characterized by the use of the second-person pronoun “usted” with a variation of the word in some rural areas “vusted”

People from Tolima and Huila are known for speaking very slowly and for changing the common hiatuses to diphthongs. For instance, for the word “pelear” (to fight) you would hear “peliar” and for the word “peor” (worse) you would hear “pior”.

Llanero

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? Map of Meta and Casanare Departments- Chocoano

Left: Meta Department Right: Casanare Department

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? Map of Meta and Casanare Departments- Chocoano

Left: Arauca Department Right: Vichada Department

Llanero dialect is spoken in the eastern plains of the country. It is spoken throughout the Colombian plains in the Meta, Casanare, Arauca and Vichada departments.

Some of the most notable features of this dialect are:

  • Perhaps the most typical feature of this dialect is its Indigenous inheritance, there are many indigenous terms incorporated into this speech.
  • It suppresses or weakens the redundant /-s/ of the plural, making it sound like a soft /h/. For example a sentence like “Los perros cuatronarices” would sound like “lo[h] perro cuatronarice) (cuatronarices is a local snake species), or for a sentence like “ los padrinos” (the godfathers) you would hear “lo[h] padrino”
  • It also tends to make a composition of words. For instance “pativoltiao”, which is a combination of “pata” (leg) + “volteado” (flipped).

Caleño (Valluno)

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? Map of Valle del Cauca- Caleño

The Valluno dialect is spoken in the valley of the Cauca River between the Western and Central cordilleras. It is also known as Caleño (from the city of Cali).

Some of the most notable features of this dialect are:

  • Similar to the Paisa dialect, the Caleño dialect is known for the strong use of voseo.
    This dialect has many slang and phrases not used in the rest of the country.
  • Another of the most notable features of this dialect is the strong use of “jejeo”. This is the change of an /s/ sound in between vowels to a /h/ sound. For instance, you would hear “nehesitár” instead of “necesitar” (to need), or “lohombres” instead of “los hombres”.
    Also, the /n/ sound at the end of a sentence is often changed to an /m/ sound. For example “pan” (bread) becomes “pam” and “tren” (train) becomes “trem”.

Pastuso

Which dialects are spoken in Colombia? Map of Pasto - Pastuso Dialect

Nariño Department

Lastly, the Pastuso dialect is spoken in the southwest of the country in the Nariño department.

This dialect is closer to that spoken in Ecuador, Peru or Bolivia than to many of its Colombian counterparts.

Some of the most notable features of this dialect are:

  • Pastuso dialect also has strong indigenous influence, with many common words adopted from Quechua language, for example: “achachay” for cold, “cuiche” for rainbow and “guato” for small.
  • The /r/, like in Chile, is assibilated. It means that the sound is more like a hissing sound.
  • Vowels are also weakened to give more emphasis to the consonants, and like in the interior, the /s/ is never omitted or weakened.

In conclusion

As you can see, there is a huge world within the Colombian language and its dialects. There are some easier to understand than others.

So, don’t worry! Don’t get frustrated if you go to a different region or country and you are having issues to understand certain words or expressions. If it’s any consolation, even for us, native Spanish speakers, some dialects are more difficult to understand.

Just keep practicing and most importantly don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand the meaning of a word or expression. Colombian people are very friendly and they will be happy to explain to you and teach you new words.

Last but not least, don’t miss our next blog post. We know is difficult to get a proper idea of the accent by just reading the characteristics so we have prepared some audios that will help you to identify the features of each dialect here mentioned.

File Attributions and References:

  • Natural Regions of Colombia By MilenioscuroTrabajo propio  CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
  • Departments of Colombia By MilenioscuroTrabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
  • Colombia San Andres y Providencia Map By Milenioscuro / CC BY-SA
  • Colombia Caribbean Region Map By Milenioscuro / CC BY-SA
  • Santander Department Map By  TUBSOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
  • Norte de Santander Department Map By TUBSOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
  • Antioquia Department Map By TUBSOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
  • Caldas Department Map By TUBSOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
  • Risaralda Department Map By TUBSOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
  • Risaralda Department Map By TUBS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17366776
  • Quindio Department Map By TUBS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17366776
  • Choco Department Map By TUBS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17366568
  • Cundinamarca Department Map  By TUBS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17366612
  • Boyaca Department Map By TUBS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17366393
  • Tolima Department Map By TUBS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17366873
  • Huila Department Map By TUBS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17366662
  • Meta Department By TUBS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17366718
  • Casanare Department By TUBS / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
  • Arauca Department Map By TUBS / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
  • Vichada Department Map By TUBS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17366912
  • Valle del Cauca Department Map By TUBS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17366891
  • Pasto Department Map By TUBS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17366727

 

There are many reasons why people decide to learn a new language.

Because it’s one of the most spoken languages of the world;

It’s very useful for traveling and doing business.

Or simply because they like how the language sounds.

Those who learn Spanish in Colombia might have chosen the country because they have fallen in love with a Colombian and they are interested in our culture.

Or, because they want to travel around the country and discover its beauty.

Whatever the reason is, the most important is making the learning process entertained.

That is why we have prepared a short guide on how to learn Spanish by watching Colombian Movies and Series.

How watching movies could help you improve your Spanish?

Although it is very important to have a teacher who helps you learn properly the language’s grammar, pronunciation, and structure; it is not advisable to get used to only one person’s accent and way of speaking.

It is very important to immerse yourself as much as possible in the language; to get yourself used to hearing different accents, talking speeds, and words.

There are many ways you can practice your Spanish outside your classes. A very nice and entertaining way is by watching movies. Yes, as simple as that!

It doesn’t matter which is your level of Spanish.

How is that?

By watching movies and series in Spanish you could:

  • Learn new vocabulary.
  • Get used to different accents and conversation speeds.
  • Learn slang and expressions.
  • Get to know the Colombian culture better.

To get the best out of the movies or series, watch them consciously. It’s important you are in the ”mood of learning”.

Here some tips that could help you!

Tips to improve your Spanish while watching movies and series

1. Keep always a notebook and a pen next to you

You might think you will remember the words you like during the movie for the next class with your teacher, but the truth is you won’t remember much.

So, enjoy the movie but keep a page of your notebook to add new vocabulary.

2. Watch English movies with Spanish subtitles

Start by putting Spanish subtitles to all movies, series, TV shows, and talks that you like.

It will help you to get familiar with the words, construction of the sentences, and expressions.

3. Watch Children movies in Spanish keeping Spanish subtitles.

Who doesn’t love children’s movies?

Well, this is an opportunity to remember your childhood. Watch movies like the Lion King, Aladdin, The Jungle Book, Tarzan, Bambi, and Toy Story in Spanish. You have seen these movies before, so you know what’s happening. Thus, you can focus more on the language than on the movie.

4. Watch Colombian, Latin American, and Spanish movies in the original language.

If your Spanish proficiency is not that good yet, keep the English subtitle, but always keep attention to conversations.

Try to grasp as many words and expressions as you can.

If you are confident enough with your Spanish language, then watch the movies in the original language with Spanish subtitles.

Reading the subtitles will help you to understand better in case you miss out on any words and will help you improve your spelling.

5. Focus on short segments and simple conversations

Start with baby steps.

Don’t get frustrated if you don’t understand much in the beginning.

There is no need to rush, just focus on short segments of the movie or series. Pay full attention to those conversations when just one or two people are talking.

6. Listen and repeat

This is a fun exercise. Choose a simple sentence or conversation and try to repeat what they are saying.

Pay particular attention to the intonation of the words and sentences, to the pronunciation, and the speed. This will help your tongue getting loose and thus having a better pronunciation.

7. Look up new words

As soon as you finish watching the movie or series, look up the words you wrote down and their meaning. It’s important you do it when your memory is still fresh.

Try to use the new words you learn in further conversation with your teacher or friends, this will help remember them easily afterward.

8. Watch the movie or series all over again

Who hasn’t repeated movies once, twice, three times or even more times?

Well, if you find a favorite Spanish language movie or series, watch it over and over again. Since you already know the story you can focus more on the language!

So, keep these tips in mind, get yourself some popcorn, and start practicing!

This is a list of 10 Colombian movies and series you should watch to improve your Spanish language. They could help you learn our most common slang and expressions as well as our culture.

Top 10 Colombian movies and series

Documentary – Colombia Wild Magic (Colombia Magia Salvaje)

“A wonderful country full of amazing creatures in America called Colombia, seen as never before, accompanied by incredible shots, make it a must-see place for adventurers and wildlife lovers this natural paradise”. (IMDb)

Movie – The Wind Journeys (Los Viajes del Viento)

“For most of his life, Ignacio Carrillo traveled the villages of northern Colombia, playing traditional songs on his accordion, a legendary instrument said to have once belonged to the devil. He eventually married and settled in a small town, leaving the nomadic life behind. But after the traumatic death of his wife, he vows to never play the accursed accordion again and embarks on one last journey to return the instrument to its rightful owner. On the way, Ignacio is followed by Fermá­n, a spirited teenager determined to become his apprentice. Tired of loneliness, Ignacio accepts the young man as his pupil and together they traverse the vast Colombian terrain, discovering the musical diversity of Caribbean culture”. (IMDb)

Movie – The Strategy of the Snail (La estrategia del Caracol)

“A lot of people live in an abandoned house; after many years of quiet living, the owner of the house wants them out. They try whatever they can to avoid being evicted, without success. But one of them thinks of a way of saving, at least, their dignity”. (IMDb)

Movie – The Colors of the Mountain (Los Colores de la Montaña)

“Manuel dreams of being a goalkeeper and ventures into a minefield to rescue his new ball”. (IMDb)

Movie – Maria Full of Grace (María Llena de Gracia)

“A pregnant Colombian teenager becomes a drug mule to make some desperately needed money for her family”. (IMDb)

Movie – Satan (Satanás)

“Based on the Mario Mendoza’s book and inspired by true events, tells three interconnected stories happening in the eve of the infamous Pozzetto Massacre”. (IMDb)

Netflix Series – Wild District (Distrito Salvaje)

“After surrendering to Bogotá police, an ex-guerrilla avoids prison by working undercover to investigate a ruthless enforcer of government corruption”. (IMDb)

Netflix Series – Always a Witch (Siempre Bruja)

“Time-traveling witch from the 17th century escapes death and finds herself in modern-day Cartagena”. (IMDb)

Netflix Series – Green Frontier (Frontera Verde)

“When a young Bogotá-based detective gets drawn into the jungle to investigate four femicides, she uncovers magic, an evil plot and her true origins”. (IMDb)

Netflix Series – Bolívar

“This dramatization depicts the life – and loves – of Venezuelan Gen. Simón Bolívar, who helped liberate several Latin American countries from Spain”. (IMDb)

Tips from our teachers

If you like movies, one of the Learn More Than Spanish teachers have recommended the following Apps:

RTVC Play

On this app, you will find all the audiovisual content of the Colombian public radio and television system. Here you will have access to free series, movies, radio stations, documentaries, children’s content, and many others for free, and with the possibility of connecting them to your SmartTV. You only need to open a user account with your email and you will be able to enjoy many movies, series, shorts, and documentaries in Spanish.

Cine ARPLAY

On this app, you will find hundreds of free Argentine movies, classified in different genres: drama, comedy, horror, action, and the best… they are free. You only need to open a user account with your email, and you will be able to enjoy many movies, series, short films, and documentaries in Spanish.

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