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.

Happy Language Learning! Don’t forget to follow our social media and to read our weekly blog.

It is frequently said that Colombian Spanish is “the world’s best” – or at least one of the best.

But, is there such a thing as “the best” language or “the best” dialect?

Well, this is a tricky question. Normally people answer from a very subjective perspective.

Most native Spanish speakers would proudly argue that the Spanish spoken in their home country is “the best”.

They tend to say their dialect is “neutral”, “easy” and “clear”.

In a way, they are right.

In each country people are used to their accent, so for them, it’s “neutral”.

They are used to their slangs, expressions, and colloquialisms, so for them, it’s “clear”.

Or they are used to their talking speed, so for them is “easy”.

But, objectively speaking, not all Spanish dialects are neutral, easy, or clear.

Could we actually argue that a language or dialect is “the best”?

The truth is we can’t say so.

We can’t argue there is a “best” Spanish language or dialect but we can definitely argue there are some that are easier to learn and to understand.

The Spanish language reaches numerous countries, people, and cultures throughout the world.

Thus, it is normal that the language varies and takes on so many different forms; it depends on the evolution and influences of the language in each region.

It is true that the Spanish language was originated in Spain; therefore some people might argue that the “original” and “correct” form of the language is spoken there.

However, it is also true that Spain has a very distinct Spanish, which is quite different from that spoken in most of Latin America (where most of the native Spanish speakers are).

In Latin America, the language also varies greatly from one country to another; it even varies within each country. This makes it even more difficult to say where is “the best” Spanish language or dialect.

In addition, as we would say it in Spanish: “para los gustos, los colores”. This means that it’s a matter of taste.

For instance, some people find more attractive the accent from Spain; other people find more attractive the accent from Argentina, and others find more attractive the accent from Colombia.

So, we perhaps shouldn’t ask what is “the best” Spanish but, instead, which one is the easier and the most useful to learn.

And, which one is that?

Which Spanish is the easier and the most useful to learn?

Well, we did some research and we found that people who are learning Spanish generally find it easier to understand the language spoken in the following countries (not necessarily in this order):

  1. Colombia
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Mexico
  4. Peru
  5. Spain

Why do they find it easier?

They say that native Spanish speakers from those countries speak slow, pronounce all vowels and consonants, and don’t use many borrowed words (i.e. Anglicism).

With regard to the talking speed, Spanish from Spain might not be the easiest one but people, mostly from Europe, find it easier since it’s the language they learn at school.

For the most useful one, it is also very subjective.

It depends on the geographic location, lifestyle, or job of the person who is learning the language.

For some people learning Spanish in Latin America might be more useful because there are 18 countries where Spanish is officially spoken (not counting the US, which is one of the countries with the most native Spanish speakers).

Others, mainly from other European countries, might find Spanish from Spain more useful because they travel frequently to Spain, because have friends from Spain who live in their country, or because the Spanish film industry is gaining quite some popularity (e.g Netflix series “La casa the Papel” or Money Heist in English).

What is undoubtedly true is that once you learn the Spanish language, you won’t have any problem understanding other Spanish speakers.

There might be some local words or slangs you won’t understand at first, but once you get familiar to them it’s easy.

Just think about the differences between American, British, and Australian English; it’s basically the same case.

So, why Colombian Spanish is gaining the popularity of being “the world’s best”?

Does Colombia have the best Spanish?

Let’s start by clarifying that there is no such thing as a standard “Colombian Spanish”.

Like in any other language, there are many dialects within the country. However, for a matter of practicality, when people say “Colombian Spanish” they normally refer to the dialect spoken in Bogotá.

Having said this, let’s go back to the question…

Why people tend to say that Colombian Spanish is “world’s the best” or “one of the world’s best”?

Here is why:

Although there is definitely an accent, it is way softer than the accents from the other countries. That is why people normally refer to it as the most “neutral”.

  • In general, people speak slow and paused, which makes it easy to understand for new learners.
  • People pronounce almost all vowels and consonants in every word. That is why people say it is one of the “clearest”.
  • People tend to use traditional Spanish words whenever possible. Although there is not a problem if borrowing words for new concepts. That is why people say it’s one of the “cleanest”
  • There are many slangs and expressions, but once you learn them they are quite easy to use – and also quite fun.
  • People find the accent itself very attractive. It has a slightly singing-tone that even native Spanish speakers from other countries love it.
  • Last but not least, Colombian Spanish is gaining popularity because of Colombians.

Yes, besides the language itself people like to learn Colombian Spanish because of the people!

Many foreigners have fallen in love with Colombians and with the country, they want to travel get to know our culture better, and they know that there is nothing better than speaking the local language.

Colombians, for its part, love when foreigners are interested in learning the language.

They are friendly and patient; they slow down their talking speed for new learners to understand better.

They also try to teach new words and correct politely if they hear people making any mistake.

Do you want to hear how Colombian Spanish sounds like?

Watch the following interview to one of the most popular Colombian music artists:

Or listen to the new podcast of Monica Fonseca and Claudia Bahamón, two Colombian TV presenters:

Do you grasp something of what they are saying?

Do you want to learn more about Colombia and learn Spanish? Sign up for our online classes and keep on reading our weekly blog!

Learning a new language is not always easy.

But we promise learning Spanish is a lot of fun!

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)… that’s the question.

Don’t pull your hair out when deciding whether to use “ser” or “estar”.

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

Therefore, we have prepared some tips and tricks for you to learn how to use properly this verb.

Let’s start with the basics!

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.

Confusing?

Don’t worry! In general, people understand what you want to say by the context. But it’s better when you feel confident speaking a new language, isn’t it?

So, we are here to help you speak Spanish properly.

Now, let’s go to the tips and tricks!

When do you use “Ser” and when do you use “Estar”?

The verb “Ser”

“Ser” describes a permanent state of what some people called “the essence of things”. It is generally used to describe people’s traits and to describe object characteristics.

What does it mean?

The things that make something what it is and things that are unlikely to change.

“Ser” is used for the following situations:

Time & Date:

  • ¿Qué hora es? (What time is it?)
  • Mañana es miércoles. (Tomorrow is Wednesday)
  • Mi cumpleaños es el 5 de Julio. (My birthday is on the 5th July)

Place of origin and Nationality

  • Yo soy de Bogotá. (I’m from Bogotá)
  • Mis padres son Colombianos. (My parents are Colombians)

Occupation

  • María es profesora de francés. (María is a French teacher)

Religious or political affiliation

  • Yo soy Cristiano, ella es Budista. (I’m Christian, she’s Buddhist)

The material something is made of

  • Esas son botellas de plástico. (Those are plastic bottles)

Possession

  • El carro es mío, la bicicleta es tuya. (The car is yours, the bike is yours)

Relationship of one person to another

  • Andrés es mi hermano. (Andrés is my brother)

Where an event is taking place

  • La reunión es en la oficina de Carolina. (The meeting is at Carolina’s office)

Physical and personality traits

  • Camila es muy linda y además es súper chévere. (Carolina es so pretty and she’s also very nice)

When we use Passive voice

Cien años de Soledad fue escrito por Gabriel García Márquez. (One Hundred Years of Solitude was written by Gabriel García Márquez)

The verb “Estar”

In contrast,

“estar” describes a non-permanent state or condition; something that is likely to change.

“Estar” is used for the following situations:

Geographic or physical location (except when speaking about events)

  • – ¿Dónde estás? – Hoy estoy en Cali pero mañana voy a Barranquilla. (Where are you? I’m in Cali today but tomorrow I’m going to Barranquilla)
  • Las llaves están sobre la mesa. (The keys are on the table)

State or condition (like emotions)

  • Estoy super triste hoy (I’m so sad today)
  • Estoy muy cansado porque he trabajado todo el día. (I’m very tired because I have been working all day)

When describing something in the moment

  • La fiesta está buenísima! (The party is so cool!)
  • La sopa está caliente! (The soup is hot!)

To describe how food tastes

  • Este helado está delicioso. (This ice cream is delicious)

Many idiomatic expressions

  • ¡La casa está patas arriba! (The house is a mess!)
  • ¡Ponme atención, parece que estás en la luna! (Pay attention to me, you’re miles away!)

Progressive tenses (-ing)

  • ¿Qué haces? – Estoy almorzando. (What are you doing? – I’m having lunch)
  • Me encontré a Pedro ayer cuando estaba corriendo. (I met Pedro yesterday while I was running)

Easy, right?

So, what’s the tricky part?

Well, the tricky part comes when you can use either “ser” or “estar” in the same sentence; both are correct but they mean something totally different.

How’s that?…

For example, according to the rules mentioned above, if you say:

“Yo estoy de Colombia” -> It’s NOT correct.
“Yo soy de Colombia” -> It’s correct

(I’m from Colombia)

Or,

Soy tomando café”. It’s NOT correct.
Estoy tomando café”. It’s correct

(I’m drinking coffee)

But, there are some sentences in which you can use either “Ser” or “Estar” and both are correct. It depends on the context and depends on what you want to say.

For example:
Eres muy linda! -> It’s correct
Estás muy linda! -> It’s correct

(You are beautiful)

What? How is that possible?

The first one “Eres muy linda” can be used when someone is saying to a girl that she is pretty (all the time), It’s a physical trait.

The second one “estás muy linda” can be used when someone is saying to a girl that she is (particularly) pretty on a certain day, or with certain clothes.

Sometimes people use a complement in a sentence, something like “estás muy linda hoy con ese vestido” (You’re so pretty today with that dress”. But sometimes native Spanish speakers don’t use the complement of the sentence because it is understood by the context.

Other examples:

La comida de este restaurante es deliciosa. -> It’s correct
La comida de este restaurante está deliciosa. -> It’s correct

(The food at this restaurant is delicious)

It all depends on what you want to say. If you think the food in the restaurant is “always” or “generally” delicious you would say “La comida de este restaurante es deliciosa”.

Or if you want to emphasize that on a particular day the food in the restaurant is delicious, you would say “La comida de este restaurante está deliciosa”.

These are simple examples. Even though they have different meanings it’s not a big deal if you use one or the other.

But there are some scenarios where, if you pick the wrong verb, things can get lost in translation.

“Ser” aburrido (to be boring) vs. “estar” aburrido (to be bored)

If you want to describe someone’s personality:
Sofía is aburrida (Sofía is boring)

If you want to describe someone’s mood:
Sofía está aburrida (Sofía is bored)

1. “Ser” listo (to be clever) vs. “estar” listo (to be ready)

  • If you want to say someone is smart or intelligent. Being smart is part of his or her personality:
    Daniela es lista (Daniela is clever)
  • But is totally different if you want to describe someone’s state:
    Daniela está lista (Daniela is ready)

2. “Ser” bueno (to be a good person) vs. “estar” bueno (to be hot/good looking)

  • If you want to say someone is a good person
    El chico de mi edificio es muy bueno (The guy from my building is such a good guy)
  • But is totally different if you want to describe his appearance:
    El chico de mi edificio está muy bueno (The guy from my building is so hot)

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, it’s part of the learning process. Keep practicing; the more you practice, the easier it will be for you to choose the right verb.

You can practice with different Apps, for example, ‘Verbo’. It’s an App to practice conjugations and uses of verbs at different levels. It is quite clear and it has exercises from A1 to C2, with different uses such as reflexive verbs and combined grammatical tenses according to the level.

And you can try our General Spanish classes. Here an exercise from one of our teachers:

Spanish Language: How to use the verbs Ser & Estar

Let us know your answer in the comments!

Hope you have enjoyed this article. Don’t forget to follow our Social Media and to read our weekly blog posts!

Yes, we have been saying that Colombian Spanish is one of the most neutral and clearest Spanish to learn and to understand.

And it is true!

But, like any other country in the world, Colombians also have their slang and expressions we use when speaking with friends or in informal gatherings.

If you really want to speak like a Colombian you should learn our 30 Basic slang words:

1. Vecino/Vecina

Colombian Spanish "Vecino" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Neighbor

Slang meaning:
It is a nice common way to greet someone working at a neighborhood store, even if it’s not your neighbor.

Colombian way:
Buenas Vecina, cómo está? Me regala* una gaseosa
Good morning “neighbor”, how are you? Can I get a soda, please?

2. Tinto

Colombian Spanish "Tinto" slang meaning

How would Colombia be without a “tintico”?

Literal meaning:
“Tinto” originates from the Latin word tinctus, which means dyed, stained, or tinted.

“Tinto” in all other Spanish speaking countries refers to red wine (vino tinto) because of the color of the wine,

But in Colombia…

Slang meaning:
Black coffee
Diminutive: Tintico

Colombian way:
Buenas vecino, me regala* un tintico
Good morning “neighbor”, can I have a black coffee please?

3. Guaro

Colombian Spanish "Guaro" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Doesn’t have a specific English translation

Slang meaning:
Aguardiente (Fire water) Aguardiente is Colombia’s national alcoholic drink.

Colombian way:
¿Qué compramos para la fiesta esta noche? ¡Compremos guaro!
What shall we buy for tonight’s party? Let’s get guaro!

4. Polas

Colombian Spanish "Polas" slang meaning

Meaning:
Polas is only used in Colombia. it has no official meaning in Spanish but it does hold some history.

“La Pola” was the nickname of Policarpa Salavarrieta Ríos, a heroine who helped Colombia gain independence from Spain.

Back in the days, Bavaria Brewing created a beer in her honor – La Pola. The beer doesn’t exist anymore, but the name stuck.

Slang meaning:
Beers

Colombian way:
-Vamos por unas polas?
Shall we grab some beers?
-¡Hace mucho calor hoy! Deberíamos ir por unas polas.
It’s hot today! We should get some beers.

5. Pena. ¡Qué pena!

Colombian Spanish "Qué Pena" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Sorrow, grief
For most of the Spanish speaking countries, it means “sorrow”, “pity”,

-Es una pena que no hayas venido ayer
It’s a shame you couldn’t come yesterday
-Oh, ¡qué pena!
I feel sorry for you

But in Colombia it has several meanings. It depends on the context.

Slang meaning:
Sorry, embarrassing, sorrow

Colombian way:
-Oye, que pena que ayer no pude ir a la fiesta. Tuve que cuidar a mi hermanito
Hey, I’m so sorry I didn’t go yesterday to the party. I had to look after my little brother
-Me da pena bailar sola
I feel embarrassed dancing by myself
-Esta noche vamos a tomar guaro para ahogar las penas
Tonight we are drinking to drown our sorrows

6. Tusa

Colombian Spanish "Tusa" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Cob

Slang meaning:
It’s a word used to express the way someone feels after a break-up or a love disappointment.

Colombian way:
Tómate un guaro para pasar la tusa
Drink a guaro for your heartbreak!

If you hear someone saying she or he is “entusado” it means this person is heartbroken

Cultural Tip:
Get familiar with one of the most popular reggaeton songs Tusa (with English subtitles)

7. Guayabo

Colombian Spanish "Guayabo" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
A guava tree

Slang meaning:
Hangover.
The aftereffect of drinking too much aguardiente (guaro).

Colombian way:
Tengo un guayabo que me mata.
I have a hangover that’s killing me

It can also be used as a verb: Enguayabado(a)* (To be hungover)

8. Listo

Colombian Spanish "Listo" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Smart (masculine), ready
In some Spanish speaking countries they would say:
-Ese chico es muy listo
That guy is very smart
-Estás listo para salir?
Are you ready to go?

In Colombia…

Slang meaning:
Okay, sure

Colombian way:
– ¿Nos vemos por la tarde? – ¡Listo!
Shall we meet this afternoon? Okay! / Sure!
– ¿Vamos a escalar mañana? – ¡Listo!
Shall we go climbing tomorrow? – Sure!

9. Chévere

Colombian Spanish "Chévere" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
It doesn’t have a special translation. It’s a word used in Colombia and other Latin American countries.

Slang meaning:
Very good, cool, nice. It is used for referring to places, people or experiences

Colombian way:
-¿Te gustó la fiesta? Sí, ¡estuvo super chévere!
Did you like the party? Yes, it was so cool!
-¡Ella es muy chévere!
She is really cool)¡
-¿Has estado en Colombia? Sí, ¡me encantó! Es super chévere.
Have you been to Colombia? Yes, I loved it! It’s so cool.

10. Moscas. ¡Por si las moscas!

Colombian Spanish "Por si las moscas" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Flies (In case of flies)

Slang meaning:
Just in case

Colombian way:
Llevemos la sombrilla por si las moscas
Let’s take the umbrella just in case

Synonym: “por si acaso”
Llevemos la sombrilla por si acaso
Let’s take the umbrella just in case.

Cultural Tip:
It can be also used as a verb: Estar moscas* (To be alert)

11. Pilas

Colombian Spanish "Pilas" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Batteries

Slang meaning:
To be sharp and alert, to keep one’s eyes open

Colombian way:
-¡Pilas!
Careful!, Watch out!, Pay attention!
-Pilas con tu bolso. Mejor ponlo sobre la mesa
Pay attention to your bag. It’s better if you put it on the table

12. Ñapa

Colombian Spanish "Ñapa" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Doesn’t have a specific English translation. “Ñapa” comes from a Quechua (indigenous) word meaning “help” or “increase”.

Slang meaning:
It’s a little bit of something extra given for free. It’s normally used when you are buying street food, or fruits in the market.

Colombian way:
When you order a passion fruit juice in the market, the bit of juice still left in the blender at the end could be given to you as “ñapa”.

The “Ñapa” is also that extra bread roll that a baker tucks into your bag

In Colombia, street food vendors, bakers, people at the fruit markets, and many others are used to give “ñapa”.

But, you can also ask for it:
Vecino, y la ñapa?

13. Play

Colombian Spanish "Play" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
“Play” was taken from the English language

Slang meaning:
Posh. it can refer to an object, a person, or a place

Colombian way:
-Ya fuiste al nuevo lugar que abrieron en la Zona G? Es super play
Did you already go to the place they just opened in Zona G? It’s quite posh
-Conoces a Carolina, la chica de mi trabajo? – Sí, la chica que es toda play, no?
Do you know Carolina, the girl from my work? – Yes, the girl that is quite posh, isn’t she?

14. Puente

Colombian Spanish "Puente" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Bridge

Slang meaning:
Long weekend, holiday

Colombian way:
-Qué vamos a hacer este puente?
It’s a long weekend, what are we going to do?
-Dale, el lunes vamos al banco. – No, está cerrado, acuérdate que es puente
Ok, we’ll go to the bank on Monday – No, it’s closed. Remember that Monday is Holiday

15. Lucas

Colombian Spanish "Lucas" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Lucas is actually a name

Slang Meaning:
Colombian Pesos

Colombian way:
In Colombia 20.000 pesos would be 20 lucas, 100.000 pesos would be 100 lucas

Cuánto valen las entradas del concierto? Creo que 200 lucas
How much are the tickets for the concert? 200 lucas, I think

16. Plata

Colombian Spanish "Plata" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Silver

Slang meaning:
Money

Colombian way:
-Chicas, este finde* me quedo en casa. No tengo mucha plata
Girls, I’m staying home this weekend. I don’t have much money

Cultural Tip:
Get familiar with these Vallenato songs. You will probably heard them when you are partying with Colombians:

La Plata (Classic Vallenato)

La Plata (Contemporary vallenato)

If you want to learn more about Colombian music read our post “10 Colombian music genres you need to know about!

17. Nota (¡Qué nota!)

Colombian Spanish "Qué nota" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Note (what a note!)

Slang meaning:
It’s awesome!

Colombian way:
-Ella es una nota bailando
She’s awesome at dancing
-Vi las fotos de tu último viaje… ¡Qué nota!
I saw the pics from your last trip… Awesome!

18. Paila

Colombian Spanish "Paila" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Frying pan

Slang meaning:
Too bad, screwed or to have messed up really bad, and be in a point of no return.

Colombian way:
If you order a coffee but the restaurant has run out, you turn to your friends and say
-No, ¡paila! Acá no venden café.
Too bad, they don’t sell coffee here.
-Paila, llegó el novio y no pudimos seguir hablando.
Too bad, Her boyfriend arrived and we couldn’t keep talking.
-No, ese man es muy paila. Le dijo mentiras sobre su familia.
No, that guy is “muy paila”. He lied about his family.

19. Mono/Mona

Colombian Spanish "Mono/Mona" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Monkey

In Spain, it’s a way to call someone pretty or cute.
Read also our post “Top 5 differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish from Spain

But in Colombia…

Slang meaning:
fair-haired, blond
Diminutive: Monita, Monito

Colombian way:
The word is mostly used to describe a light-skinned, fair-haired person. Typically a blonde – whether pretty or not—can always be considered a mono (male) or mona (female).

-¡Esa vieja está super linda! – ¿Cuál? – La monita que está allá
That girl is so cute! – Which one? – The blondie over there

20. Pelota, Bola

Colombian Spanish "Pelota/Bola" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Ball

Slang meaning:
Idiot. Although it’s a feminine word, pelota is used for both male and female.

Colombian Way:
-¡Qué pelota eres! / ¡Qué bola eres!
What an idiot you are!
-Que bola, dejé las llaves dentro de la casa
What an idiot I am, I left the keys inside the house

21. Cansón/Cansona

Colombian Spanish "Canson" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Tiresome (from “tired” cansado)

Slang meaning:
Annoying, someone is a pain

Cansón derives from the word cansado/cansada, but Colombians use the adjective to refer to someone who tires them.

Colombian Way:
-Esa niña es tan cansona
That girl is a pain
-¡Ese perro está muy cansón!
That dog is so annoying!

22. Juicioso/Juiciosa

Colombian Spanish "Juicioso" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Judicious (judgement)

Slang meaning:
It generally means “well-behaved”, but It also has other meaning depending on the context.

Colombian way:
The parents would say to the kids:
-Vamos a visitar a la abuela hoy, se portan juiciosos por favor
We’re visiting grandma today, please behave
-Uy, ¿y ese juicio? (said disbelievingly) – No, hoy me dio por limpiar la casa
Well, check you out! Mr. Responsible! – Nah, I just felt like cleaning the house today
-Hola, Cómo vas? Qué hiciste el finde? – No, nada especial, juicioso en casa
Hey,How’s it going? What did you do this weekend? – No, nothing special. I just stayed home

23. Miércoles

Colombian Spanish "Miércoles" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Wednesday

Slang meaning:
A lighter way to say “oh, s*!”. Just because the word begins with “mier”.

Colombian way:
-¡Miércoles! Olvidé las llaves del carro dentro.
Oh, s*! I forgot the keys inside the car.

24. Vieja

Colombian Spanish "Vieja" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Old woman

Slang meaning:
Girl, woman. You can use it to refer to women between the ages of about 15 and 50.

Colombian way:
Forget the word “mujer” to refer to women. In Colombia, we say “vieja”
-La vieja que estaba en el restaurante ayer me dijo que hoy hay un concierto.
That woman that was yesterday in the restaurant told me there is a concert today
-Esa vieja no tiene ni idea de lo que dice
She doesn’t have a clue what she is saying

Colombian Spanish "Man" slang meaning

 

Literal meaning:
“Man” was taken from the English language

Slang meaning:
Man, guy, dude

Colombian way:
Forget the the word “hombre” to refer to men. In Colombia we say “man”
-¡Ese man está buenísimo!
That guy is super hot!
-Bueno, y ayer ¿qué te dijo ese man?
So, what did that guy tell you yesterday?

26. ¡De una!

Colombian Spanish "De una" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Of one!

Slang meaning:
An enthusiastic way to say “yes, absolutely!” or “yes, let’s do it!”.

Colombian way:
¿Quieres ir a correr el sábado por la mañana? – Sí, ¡de una!
Do you want to go running next Saturday morning? -. Absolutely!

Cultural Tip: Colombians also say “De one”, mixing Spanish and English literal translation

27. Dale

Colombian Spanish "Dale" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Give it

Slang meaning:
Let’s do it, sure, OK, yes

Colombian way:
-¿Te parece si vamos a la playa mañana? – Sí, ¡dale!
Shall we go to the beach tomorrow? – Yes, sure!
-Mañana te llamo entonces – ¡Dale!
I’ll call you tomorrow – Ok!

28. Tenaz

Colombian Spanish "Tenaz" meaning

Literal meaning:
Tenacious, obstinate

Slang meaning:
Hard, difficult, challenging

Colombian way:
-El examen estuvo tenaz
The quiz was so hard
-La carrera estuvo tenaz
The race was challenging

29. Churro/Churra

Colombian Spanish "Churro" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
“Churro” is a fried-dough pastry.

Slang meaning:
Handsome; pretty

Colombian way:
¡Ese man está muy churro!
That guy is so handsome!
¡La vieja es una churra!
She is so pretty!

30. Fresco/Fresca

Colombian Spanish "Fresco" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Fresh

Slang meaning:
Chill out, relax, don’t worry

Colombian way:
-Nena, lo siento, mañana no puedo acompañarte al médico – No pasa nada, ¡fresca!
Babe, sorry, I can’t come with you to the doctor – No, not a problem, don’t worry!

* These words deserve another blog post. Keep reading our blog and learn how to speak like a truly Colombian

Did you enjoy learning these typical Colombian words?

Don’t forget to follow our social media and to keep reading our Blog. We will be sharing more Colombian Slangs and expressions in the coming posts.

After reading our previous post “Places you didn’t know they speak Spanish” you might have wondered if all Spanish speakers (more than 500 million people) understand each other.

Also, if you want to learn Spanish in Colombia you might wonder whether you would be able to communicate with others when traveling to Spain.

The simple answer to both questions is yes!

We all understand each other and if you learn Spanish in Colombia you will be able to communicate with any other Spanish Speaker.

However, keep in mind that the language varies greatly from one country to another.

It reaches so many different peoples and cultures; which makes each country and region have its own dialects, accents and expressions.

A linguist called Albert Marckwardt called this process the “colonial lag”. It means that the current state of a language spoken in new colonies did not evolve in the same way as the language in its country of origin. This could explain why the words and phrases people use in Colombia are different from those used in Spain.

If you want to know how the Spanish language has evolved read our post “The Spanish language: history, evolution and influences

Before entering into the differences it is important to note that “Spanish from Colombia” normally refers to the standard dialect spoken in Bogota. And, “Spanish from Spain” normally refers to “Castilian Spanish”.

Since the dialects spoken in the various regions of Colombia and Spain are quite diverse, those terms are more geographical than linguistic relevance.

Having said this, let’s now move to the differences!

Top 5 differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish Spain

1. Pronunciation

One of the greatest differences you might hear is regarding the pronunciation of the ‘z’ and ‘c’.

In Spain, ‘z’ is pronounced like ‘th’ in English. While in Colombia, ‘z’ is always pronounced like ‘s’.

The same goes for a “c” when it comes before an “e” or an “i”.

In Spain, the sound of the letter ‘c’ changes to the sound in English ‘th’. While in Colombia it is also pronounced like “s”.

Here are two examples:

La taza es azul (the cup is blue)

In Spain you would hear “la ta-tha es a-thul”;

while in Colombia you would hear “la ta-sa es a-sul”

INTERNATIONAL PHONETIC ALPHABET (IPA)

Spain la ta – θa es a – θul
Colombia la ta – sa es a – sul

‘Cinco cervezas’ (five beers)

In Spain, you would hear “thin-co ther-ve-thas”;

while in Colombia you would hear “sin-co ser-ve-sas”.

INTERNATIONAL PHONETIC ALPHABET (IPA)

Spain θiŋ – ko θeɾ – βe – θas
Colombia siŋ-ko seɾ – βe – sas
2. Tú vs. Usted (you – singular)

Both ‘usted’ and ‘’ are the Spanish equivalents of the pronoun “you” that can be used to replace the name of the person we are speaking to.

Normally, ‘usted’ is taught as the formal version and “” as the informal version.

Usted” is usually a more respectful way of talking to someone, such as a new acquaintance, an older person, or someone you consider to be of higher rank.

‘Tú’ is used when talking to friends, family, and others with a closer relationship.

However, the use in Colombia and Spain is different:

In Spain, “” is used most of the time. It is rarely the case when people use “usted”. For most people, “usted” is comparable with “sir” or “ma’am’’, which is considered to be old-fashioned.

Between friends or family members they never use “usted”. It is only used for example when they ask something in the street to an older woman or man or when working in customer service.

In Colombia “usted” is frequently used.

People do distinguish when talking to family members or close friends, and when talking to elders, people they just meet or people considered to be of higher rank.

In some regions of Colombia, it is common to hear people referring as “usted” even when they are close friends and family members.

Also, when two men are talking, they normally refer to each other as “usted” even if they are close friends. While when two women are talking, or when men are talking to women they usually use “tú”

3. Vosotros vs. ustedes (you – plural)

“Vosotros” (masculine) or “vosotras” (feminine) is the plural form of “you”.

Spain is the only Spanish speaking country where this pronoun is used. This is one of the key differences between the two languages.

In Spain, they use “vosotros/vosotras” in most of the cases when addressing a group of people.

Ustedes” is only used when they really want to show formality.

In Colombia, “vosotros/vosotras” simply doesn’t exist. Therefore, we use “ustedes” in both formal and informal situations.

Here some examples:

If you want to say “You all are my best friends”

  • In Spain they would say “Vosotros sois mis mejores amigos” or “vosotras sois mis mejores amigas”.
  • In Colombia we would say “Ustedes son mis mejores amigos” or “ustedes son mis mejores amigas”.

If you want to say “Do you want to go out?”

  • In Spain they would say “¿Tenéis ganas de salir?”
  • In Colombia we would say “¿Tienen ganas de salir?
4. Use of the past tense

This is probably one of the less noticeable differences between both languages.

In Spain, it is common to talk about a completed action using the present perfect tense. While in Colombia it is more common to use the simple past.

Here some examples:

What did you do today? Today I went to work

  • In Spain, they would say: Qué has hecho hoy? Hoy he ido al trabajo
  • In Colombia, we would say: Qué hiciste hoy? Hoy fui al trabajo

What did you do today? Today I stayed home

  • In Spain, they would say: Qué has hecho hoy? Hoy me he quedado en casa
  • In Colombia, we would say: Qué hiciste hoy? Hoy me quedé en casa
5. Vocabulary

This is probably the main and biggest difference between Colombian Spanish and Spain Spanish.

It’s actually the main difference between all the Spanish-speaking countries.

The difference in Spanish languages or dialects is similar to the differences between English speakers from the US, UK or Australia.

For example, Americans would say “fall” while the British would say “autumn”. They both understand what the other word means but they just don’t use it.

The same goes for Spanish speakers. We may use different vocabulary, have different accents or expressions, but we ultimately understand each other.

Here are a few examples of different words meaning the same in Colombia and Spain.

ColombiaSpainEnglish translation
Celular Móvil Mobile phone
Computador Ordenador Computer
CarroCoche Car
Jugo Zumo Juice
Papa Patata Potato
Apartamento Piso Apartment
GuayaboResacaHangover
Ella es muy chévereElla es muy maja She is cool
Esto es chévereEsto mola This is cool
Mesero/Mesera Camarero/camarera Waiter/waitress
Pasto CéspedGrass

Besides these 5 differences, the Spanish language is practically the same all over the world thanks to the RAE (The Royal Academy of the Spanish Language). This is the official institution in charge of promoting linguistic unity and to ensure the stability of the Spanish language within all territories where Spanish is spoken.

Therefore, someone who speaks good Spanish would have no issues communicating with other Spanish speakers. The main differences would be with regard to the country or region’s accent and vocabulary.

Spanish is one of the richest languages in vocabulary in the world.

And it has a good number of long words.

According to RAE, The Spanish Royal Academy the longest word in the Spanish dictionary is «electroencefalografista».

So, to help you get into the habit of enrichening your vocabulary, here are five long Spanish words you can actually use:

1. Esternocleidomastoideo (22 letters)

Meaning: Sternocleidomastoid, muscle of the neck.

2. Interdisciplinariedad (21 letters)

Meaning: Interdisciplinary, combining or involving two or more academic disciplines or fields of study.

3. Internacionalización (20 letters):

Meaning: Internationalization, to make something international.

4. Desvergonzadamente (18 letters)

Meaning: Shamelessly, lacking any sense of shame.

5. Desconsoladamente (17 letters)

Meaning: Inconsolably, that cannot be comforted

6. Electrodoméstico (16 letters)

Meaning: Home Appliance, electrical or mechanical machines which accomplish some household functions

Bonus:

Paralelepípedo (14 letters)

Meaning: Parallelepiped, a three-dimensional figure formed by six parallelograms

Caleidoscopio: (13 letters)

Meaning: Kaleidoscope, a toy consisting of a tube containing mirrors and pieces of colored glass or paper, whose reflections produce changing patterns.

As you can see, most of them are compound words (adverbs or two based-words). It could be a good exercise you try to practice their pronunciation!

 

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

This week in one of our Spanish classes we talked about what makes us happy and found a very clever Colombian saying.

“Barriga llena, Corazón contento” which translates as: full tummy, happy heart.

Colombian Spanish Saying: Barriga llena corazón contento

But what does that mean? Is it just about food?

We certainly don’t think that way.

We think “Barriga llena, Corazón contento” means everything looks different when you have fulfilled all your basic needs, like food, shelter or health.

And fulfilling your basic needs makes you feel O.K. about life and any problems you may have.

Check the pronunciation here:

What do you think? Knowing you have food for you and your family makes you feel good about life?

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Want to know more about Colombian Slangs? Head here for the full blog post

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses