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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!

Colombia is a country that surprises all those who come to visit.

It passed from being skipped for many travelers during their South America trip, to being one of the top destinations of the world.

Colombia is well known for its people, green landscapes and beautiful beaches.

It is also popular for being one of the countries where it is easier to learn the Spanish language.

Still, many don’t know much about Colombia, except what they have heard in the media or from other people.

So, here are some things you probably didn’t know about our country:

What is Colombia’s most famous for?

1. Colombia has the second-highest number of native Spanish speakers

Top 12 countries with the largest number of native Spanish speakers worldwide

Top 12 countries with the largest number of native Spanish
speakers worldwide Source

Around 480 million people around the world speak the Spanish language.

After Mexico, Colombia is the country with the largest number of native Spanish speakers in the world, with over 49 million.

More than 99.2% of Colombians speak Spanish, but there are also 80 different indigenous and Creole languages.

About 850,000 people in Colombia are speakers of native languages.

In  San Andres and Providencia, Creole English is spoken by 20,000 – 30,000 people. A blend between English, Spanish, Kwa from the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo, and Igbo from Nigeria.

Colombia is becoming one of the most popular destinations for learning Spanish.

It is often said that Colombians speak one of the most neutral Spanish in the world. By “Colombian Spanish” people normally refers to the dialect spoken in Bogota.

2. Coffee Cultural Landscape, a World Heritage site

Things You Probably Didn't Know About Colombia : Coffee

Yes, you know Colombia produces the best Coffee in the world.

It is the third-largest exporter of coffee after Brazil and Vietnam.

Colombia produces around 12% of the world’s coffee.

In 2011, UNESCO declared the “Coffee Cultural Landscape” of Colombia, a World Heritage site.

An exceptional example of a sustainable and productive cultural landscape that is unique and representative of a tradition that is a strong symbol for coffee growing areas worldwide.

This landscape comprehends The coffee-growing axis (Eje Cafetero), about 1.2% of the Colombian territory, where most of the coffee harvest is produced.

3. Nevado del Ruiz and the Ring of Fire

Things You Probably Didn't Know About Colombia : Volcano Ring of fire

Colombia is part of the Ring of Fire, also referred to as the Circum-Pacific Belt.

The Ring of Fire is a 40,000 km, horseshoe shape of countries in the Pacific Ocean characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes.

Seventy-five percent of Earth’s volcanoes—more than 450 volcanoes—are located along the Ring of Fire. 90% of Earth’s earthquakes occur along its path.

Nevado del Ruiz lies within the Pacific Ring of Fire. This volcano is located 29 kilometers west of the capital city Bogotá and is known for the eruption in 1985, one of the deadliest Volcanic Eruptions Since 1500 A.D.

4. Famous emeralds

Things You Probably Didn't Know About Colombia : Famous Emeralds

Colombian emeralds are well known for their brilliance and deep color.

It is the world’s leading producer, 60% of the world’s fine Emeralds come from Colombia.

The country has more than 150 mines churning out high-quality emeralds.

The most valuable emerald in the world is The Tena Emerald found in Muzo, in 1999.

Colombian emeralds are also famous throughout history:

  • The Crown of Andes, estimated to be worth $2.5 million and on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
  • The Chalk Emerald, it became the centerpiece of a diamond and emerald necklace owned by Indian Maharani, Sita Devi.
  • The Mogul Mughal Emerald. One of the largest emeralds known. It’ on display at the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

5. Cycle Path Network and Sustainable Transportation

Things You Probably Didn't Know About Colombia : Sustainable Transportation

Colombia’s capital city, Bogota, has one of the biggest cycle path networks in the world. It is by far the most bike-friendly city in South America.

And for the last couple of years, the Colombian government has been committed to strategic public transport systems.

Take for example Medellin, famous for its innovative sustainable transport and awarded the 2012 Sustainable Transport Award.

6. “Megadiverse” Country

Things You Probably Didn't Know About Colombia : Biodiverse Country

Colombia is listed as one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries. It hosts close to 10% of the planet’s biodiversity.

There are 17 megadiverse countries in the world and Colombia is the second country with the most biodiversity per square kilometer.

Flowers

Colombia is the second largest fresh cut flower exporter in the world after the Netherlands. 95% of Colombia’s flower production is exported.

It is also the top supplier of flowers to the United States.

Worldwide, Colombia ranks first in orchid species diversity

Birds

Colombia has the greatest bird diversity in the world.

There are 1851 confirmed bird species in the country, equivalent to 20% of the global total.

Humpback Whales

Colombia is the world’s top destination for whale watching.

Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park is one of the favorite places for humpback whales to give birth to their babies.

Annually from July to November, Humpback whales flee the cold South Pole for the warmer waters of the Colombian Pacific.

Wax Palm Tree

Quindio wax palm, Colombia’s national tree, is the world’s tallest palm tree. It can grow up to 60 meters tall.

Tropical fruits

According to the Humboldt Institute, Colombians could eat a different fruit every day for more than a year.

Yes! You are reading well.

We could spend a whole year trying different fruits. In Colombia, there are over 400 edible native species.

If you want to know more about Colombian fruits read our post “15 exotic fruits you have to try in Colombia”.

7. Unique geography

Climate

Thanks to its geographical proximity to the equator, Colombia doesn’t have typical seasons like spring, summer, fall, or winter.

Instead, there are only two seasons, rainy and dry season. This makes the weather stays more or less the same all year round in each region.

Snow-capped mountains with ocean view

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (5,710m) is the world’s highest coastal mountain range.

Páramos (moorland)

The world’s largest páramo is in Colombia. Sumapaz páramo is located just a couple of hours from Bogota.

Paramo is one of the world’s most important ecosystems, nestled in mountains between the treeline and glaciers and one of the fastest evolving ecosystems on Earth.

Colombia is one of only three countries in the world to be home to paramo and more than 60% of these moorlands are found in our country.

Islands

There are approximately 74 islands in Colombia, including oceanic, river and lake islands, cays, and islets.

One of those is the world’s most densely populated island: Santa Cruz del Islote

The Pacific Ocean & Caribbean Sea

Colombia is the only country in South America that has coastlines on the North Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Amazonia

Amazonia is a vast 643,000-sq-km slice of rainforest accounting for a third of Colombia’s total area – about the size of California – and spread over some eight of the country’s departments.

Most of Amazonia’s area is unreachable and untamed.

8. Other interesting facts about Colombia

National Anthem

It is mandatory for radio and public television in Colombia to play the National Anthem every day at 6 am and 6 pm.

National Holidays

Colombia has 18 National holidays. It is one of the countries with the most National holidays in the world.

It’s Colombia, not Columbia

Most people misspell “Colombia”, probably because some other names are spelled with an “u”, like British Columbia or how the word sounds in English.

Just remember, Colombia is named after Cristoforo Colombo or Cristobal Colón in Spanish (Christopher Columbus in English), the explorer who began the European colonization of the Americas.

The Willys Jeep

Why is the Willys Jeep the most iconic car in Colombia?

Cien años de Soledad

Why should you read “One Hundred Years of Solitude”?

We really hope you enjoyed this post.

Now We’d like to hear from you:

Which fact from today’s post did you find most interesting?

We’d like to hear from you. So go ahead and leave a comment on any of our social media channels. Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

 

 

 

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.

Do you want to explore cosmopolitan cities, snow mountains, and oceans in the same trip?

Or maybe see humpback whales having their babies and pink dolphins swimming next to your boat?

Do you want to see a seven-colours sea and a rainbow river?

Or, do you want to invest in one of the most important Latin America’s economies?

What if we tell you that there is a place where you can do all these things while meeting the friendliest people of the world as well as learning a new language?

Yes, there is. This place is Colombia!

More than 2,000 people a year now travel to Colombia to learn Spanish. It has become one of the top destinations to learn this language.

Here 10 reasons why Colombia is the perfect place for you to learn Spanish:

1. Colombia’s strategic location

Bogota’s International Airport is one of the largest passenger hubs in Latin America.

It handles over 30 million travelers per year and has several daily nonstop flights to the major cities in the Americas and Europe.

Colombia is known as the “Gateway of South America”.

It is located in the northwest part of the continent and connects South America with Central America.

So, If you are traveling around any of these parts of the continent, Colombia is the best place to start your trip.

2. Colombians are one of the friendliest and most welcoming people of the world

Colombians happy, friendly, and spontaneous people. We love talking, we make jokes and make friends easily.

When you travel or live in Colombia don’t be surprised by being invited to friends and family gatherings, even if you just have met them one day ago, or even a few hours ago.

There is no better way of experiencing a country than by talking to its people!

That is why every day more people have decided to visit the country and start their journey with an immersion of the Spanish language.

If you want to read what people think about Colombians you should read our post “10 joys and challenges of having a Colombian partner

3. Colombia’s rich cultural diversity

Are you one of those passionate about world cultures?

Then Colombia is should be in your bucket list! It is a dream destination for all those who love traditional music, food, history, and art.

One of the things people like the most when visiting Colombia is to discover the different cultures within the country. Each region has its traditions, its unique customs, and its accent.

Colombians are a fascinating blend of people and cultures. If you want to know more about Colombian people read our post “People of Colombia, as diverse as their country

4. Colombia is one of the main world’s emerging economies

Latin America and Africa are now known as “the new Asia” in terms of profitable market opportunities.

Colombia is one of the countries leading these economies. It is the 32nd largest economy in the world and the 4th in Latin America.

 

The country sits at an important corner for world trade, the country’s macroeconomic indicators (i..e. GDP, unemployment, inflation) are improving, and the middle class is rising.

In the past, Colombia was a high-risk country for foreign investors due to internal conflict. But since the political situation has stabilized, foreign investment has increased.

For instance, Softbank Group Corp invested $1B in the Colombian unicorn, Rappi.

With over $1.4B in disclosed funding, Rappi is now one of the highest-funded Latin American startups.

5. Affordable cost of living

For North American or European standards the cost of living in Colombia is relatively low. It depends, of course, on your likes and lifestyle.

In cities like Bogota, Medellín, or Cartagena, like in any other cosmopolitan city, you might spend quite some money if you don’t control your expenses. But, in general, living in Colombia is very affordable.

For example, below are some rough costs (USD) for somebody living in a neighborhood like Chapinero in Bogota near our Spanish school.

Accommodation

  • 1 bedroom apartment – $500 per month
  • Private bedroom in a shared apartment – $200 per month
  • A dorm bed in a hostel – $10 per night
  • Private room in a hotel – $50 per night

Food and Drinks

  • A “menú del día” (day menu), which is normally a traditional Colombian dish that comes with soup, juice and sometimes even dessert – $4
  • Street food all around the city – less than $2
  • Main course meal at a mid-level restaurant – $10
  • Main course meal at a high-end restaurant – $25
  • Craft beer in a Pub – $3
  • Cocktail in a trendy rooftop– $10

Transportation

  • A local city bus or Transmilenio – $0.70c
  • 30 min Taxi or Uber trip – $5
  • Bus trip to cities like Medellin, Cali or Bucaramanga – $25
  • Round-trip flights to the Caribbean coast – $100

6. Plenty of natural places to explore

Colombia is listed as one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries. It hosts close to 10% of the planet’s biodiversity.

There are 17 megadiverse countries in the world; eight in America, five in Asia, and four in Africa. Those countries together host around 70% of world biodiversity

Colombia is the second country with the most biodiversity per square kilometer. 41 natural parks, 11 fauna and flora sanctuaries, 2 national nature reserves, and 5 biosphere reserves.

Also, just to name a few of the wonders of the country,  you can find in Colombia:

7. You can find any climate, anytime

Colombia is known for its great climatic diversity. The climates are usually categorized according to the elevation of the mountains. This is known as “pisos termicos” in Spanish.

Furthermore, thanks to its geographical proximity to the equator, Colombia doesn’t have typical seasons like spring, summer, fall, or winter. Instead, there are only two seasons, rainy and dry season. This makes the weather stays more or less the same all year round in each region.

The best of having a climate defined by the elevation of the mountains is that you don’t need to plan your trips according to the season.

If you feel like having a “summer” holiday you can book anytime a flight to the Caribbean coast. Or, if you are in Bogotá you can drive 3-4 hours to small cities and towns which are around 30 degrees all year round.

If you feel like having a “spring” break you can visit Medellín, a city known for being “the city of the eternal spring”.

If you like the “autumn” feeling, you can spend some time in Bogota, the country’s capital city. Bogota brings together the best of Colombia; its music, its food, its art, its people. The cultural offer is infinite. Read our post “Bogota: Cultural diversity in just one place

And if you feel like winter, you can plan a trip to one of the many snow-capped mountains of the country.

8. No student permit needed

You do not need a study permit to enroll in a short-term study program.

Holders of passports from 99 countries do not require a visa to enter Colombia for a maximum stay of 90 days. During your stay as a tourist, you can enroll any short-term Spanish course

If you fall in love with Colombia, which we tell you in advance that it usually happens, and wish to stay longer, then you can extend your stay for another 90 days paying only about $25USD

9. Easiest Spanish to learn

It is often said that Colombians speak one of the most neutral Spanish in the world. By “Colombian Spanish” people normally refers to the dialect spoken in Bogota.

Although there are many accents, dialects, slangs, and expressions. Is it true that Colombian Spanish is one of the easiest to understand and learn?

Colombian people, mostly those from the center of the country, tend to speak slowly and clearly. Even with only a limited knowledge of the language, you will have a much better chance of understanding a conversation with Colombians than you would with Spaniards or Chileans, for instance.

When we say “neutral” it doesn’t mean we don’t have an accent. We do have “an accent” but it is an undeniably pleasant one.

So, if you learn Spanish in Colombia, you will not only pick up a beautiful and understandable accent but you easily communicate with any other native Spanish speaker.

Read also our post: “Top 5 differences Spanish from Colombia and Spanish from Spain

10. Locals don’t speak much English

Last but not least, Colombia is particularly a great location to learn and improve your Spanish language because most of the people don’t speak much English.

You might find people who speak very good English in big cities, in touristic places, or in hotels and hostels. However, when going to restaurants, when taking a taxi or a local bus, or when visiting small towns finding people that speak English might be difficult.

Don’t worry about it. Colombians will always find a way to communicate with you, either by sign language, by smiling, or by google translator, and since you will be forced to practice you will learn to speak Spanish faster!

These are enough reasons to choose Colombia as your next destination for learning Spanish, right?

Don’t forget to follow our social media channels and to read our blog here!

We have talked about Colombia’s diversity in the past.

About its food, people, and music.

And we know, it is precisely our rich cultural diversity one of the reasons people decide to visit Colombia and to learn Spanish.

Colombia is a big country. There is so much to see and so much to do!

If you want to explore and experience deeply our cultural richness you would need to visit all five regions. The Caribbean coast, the Pacific coast, the Andes Mountain Range, the Grassland Plains, and the Amazon Rainforest.

Which requires quite some time…

Luckily, you can visit and live in Bogota. The city where you can get a full immersion into Colombian culture.

Where is Bogota?

Bogota is the capital of and the largest city in Colombia. It is also the third-largest city in South America after São Paulo (Brazil) and Lima (Peru).

With its many universities and libraries, Bogota is known as the “Athens of South America”.

It is the political and cultural centre of the country. It is a place of convergence for people from all over the country and from all over the world.

Every year people move to the capital city to either study or to work. Therefore a good part of its population is not local, and as a result, it is very diverse and multicultural.

Bogota is the country’s beating heart. It is said that it is the melting pot of Colombia.

Here all cultures have a place.

What is Bogota known for?

Bogota brings together the best of the country; its music, its food, its art, its people. The cultural offer is infinite.

There is a broad array of local and international restaurants. There are many parks with concert facilities, and beautiful mountains surrounding the city where you can do day-hikes.

For art lovers, there are around 58 museums and over 70 art galleries.

There are also events such as ArtBo (International Fair of Art of Bogotá), La Feria del Millón (Art festival for both up-and-coming artists and first-time art buyers) and Barcú (International Fair of Arts and Culture).

In Bogota, you can find sounds and vibes from the Caribbean at festivals like Colombia al Parque or night clubs like La Negra. And, the flavours of the Pacific and Amazonia region in restaurants like Petronio or Mini-mal.

You can also find the Colombian best coffees. There are places where you can do coffee tasting, or book stores where you can sit and enjoy a reading afternoon such as Wilborada 1047.

Bogota, cultural heritage

In addition, Bogota was named the UNESCO City of Music in recognition of its rich musical heritage and the innumerable festivals held throughout the year.

Read also our post about Colombian music “10 Colombian music genres you need to know about!”.

In Bogota, you will be 2.600 meters “closer to the stars”.

Yes, it is one of the highest capitals in the world, located 2.600 meters above sea level (8.612 feet).

It is a city that will always exceed your expectations. Check out why:

Cultural diversity in Bogota

Bogota not only attracts people from other regions of Colombia.

It also attracts people from non-Spanish speaking countries who are keen to immerse themselves in the Colombian culture and to learn Spanish.

Rolos, as people from Bogota are known, are reputed to have one of the most neutral and clearest accents in the Spanish-speaking world. They have also an internal reputation for being distant or “cold” -as it usually happens with people from capital cities-. However, you would be surprised by how friendly, polite and open-minded Rolos are.

Tip: In Bogota, many people prefer to use the formal “usted” instead of “tú”, even between good friends and family members.

To know more about the differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish from Spain read our previous post “Top 5 differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish from Spain

Why learn Spanish in Bogota?

If you want to learn or improve your Spanish before starting your trip around Colombia, there is nothing better than spending some time in Bogota.

Why?

In Bogota you will meet people from Cali, Medellín, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Chocó, Bucaramanga, Pasto and many other Colombian cities.

You will have time to talk to them when buying street food, visiting local fruit markets, or having drinks at one of the city’s trendy rooftops.

You will get familiar with the different accents, dialects, and talking speeds. Also, you will learn the most common Colombian slang and expressions.

One thing is for sure, you will never get bored in Bogota! A city full of art, fashion, food, culture, history, music, and unique experiences.

See you there!

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

 

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)

Spainlata – θaesa – θul
Colombialata – saesa – 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)

Spainθiŋ – koθeɾ – βe – θas
Colombiasiŋ-koseɾ – 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
CelularMóvilMobile phone
ComputadorOrdenadorComputer
CarroCocheCar
JugoZumoJuice
PapaPatataPotato
ApartamentoPisoApartment
GuayaboResacaHangover
Ella es muy chévereElla es muy majaShe is cool
Esto es chévereEsto molaThis is cool
Mesero/MeseraCamarero/camarera Waiter/waitress
PastoCéspedGrass

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.

It would be difficult to imagine Colombia without music, wouldn’t it?

In Colombia, music is passion, it’s a sensory experience.

As we usually say, music is in our blood -“Llevamos la música en la sangre”-

And, yes, it is literally in our blood!

Our music is a blend of Spanish and European influences with indigenous sounds and African beats. Read also our post People of Colombia, as diverse as their country

In Colombia, we don’t just hear the music, we feel it and we live it.

Our passion for music and our love for dancing is actually one of the things people like the most about Colombians.

“Music is an important part of the Colombian culture. It is a way of expressing emotions, sharing discomfort or showing love to friends and family. It is a way of showing their pride for their roots, and a way of living in the moment.”

Colombian music has a rich and diverse cultural heritage. Every part of Colombia moves to a different sound; each region has its own rhythms.

There are more than 1,025 folk rhythms grouped into 157 different genres. That is why our country is known by “the land of the thousand rhythms”.

It is not surprising, then, that ProColombia has outlined one of the country’s promotion campaign based on our musical diversity. The campaign is called Feel the Rhythm.

Also, in 2018, ProColombia together with UNWTO and Sound Diplomacy released a white paper on music and tourism, called Music is the new gastronomy. It looks at music as a primary driver of tourism.

Now you know, no trip to Colombia is complete without music!

So, if you are planning to visit Colombia, make sure you get familiar with our music and with our language.

There is no better way to enjoy Colombian culture than by dancing our music and talking to our people!

Let us now take you to a Colombian music journey. Discover the 10 most popular Music Genres and Styles from our country:

Caribbean region

1. Cumbia

Cumbia is perhaps the country’s most popular music genre. It originated as a courtship dance among West African slaves.

Initially, Cumbia was performed using only drums and claves. Then, it incorporated other influences from the indigenous Kogui and Kuna tribes (flutes and percussion). As well as from Spaniards (European guitars), and Germans (accordion).

Even if you have not visited Colombia, you have probably heard Cumbia beats and seen Cumbia dance. Shakira, one of the country’s most recognized artists has been a great ambassador of this genre.

The following video explains how and where Cumbia began.

If you want to learn more about Cumbia, watch also videos from Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto.

2. Bullerengue

Bullerengue is a Cumbia-based style traditionally sung by women. It also has African and Spanish roots and influences.

Some of its main characteristics include a strong emphasis in rhythm and improvisation over melody, large groups of musicians, and a call-and-response interaction between the lead singer, known as “cantadora” and a choir.

Two of the most famous bullerengue singers are Petrona Martinez and Totó La Momposina. Thanks to them, Bullerengue recognized internationally.

3. Vallenato

Along with Cumbia, Vallenato is one of the most popular Colombian music genres.

Vallenato is traditionally played with an indigenous Gaita flute, a caja drum, a guacharaca, and an accordion.

This genre is characterized by its literary content and narrative style. To such extent that Gabriel García Márquez, Colombian writer, once said that this music had been woven with the same strand of his novels and that the most famous of them “One hundred years of Solitude” was nothing more than a 300-pages Vallenato.

Vallenato was considered the music of the lower class and farmers. But, after the mid-20th century, it gradually started penetrating through every social group.

In recent years, artists like Carlos Vives have begun mixing vallenato with contemporary rhythms, developing a modern variant.

4. Champeta

Champeta is more than a music genre or a dance; it’s a movement. It began in the early ’80s among Afro-Colombians, mainly Cartagena de Indias.

The word “champeta” originally denoted a kind of knife used in the region at work, in the kitchen or, sometimes, even as an offensive weapon. Then, the term “champetudo” started to be used by the elites of the city to refer to those residents of the more outlying districts of Cartagena, who tended to be poorer and of African descent.

Champeta is a fusion of rhythms from Africa (soukous, highlife, mbaqanga, juju), the Antilles (ragga, compás haitiano), and music of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian origins (bullerengue, mapalé, zambapalo and chalupa).

Champeta also has evolved during the last decades. It passed from being a music genre and dance of the so-called “poor”; to being even one of the favorite music genres of the middle and upper classes in Bogotá.

Pacific Region

Pacific music includes a large number of music styles depending on the region.

Music from the north is more energetic, while music from the south is characterized by a mellow timbre from the wooden marimba.

5. Currulao

Currulao is the most renowned Pacific music genre.

It is mainly played by a group of musicians. The Currulao rhythm is created by striking the skin of the African drum called “cununo” with the one’s hand and tapping the side of the drum with a small stick. But the main instrument is perhaps the Colombian marimba, a wooden xylophone that resembles the African balafon.

Check out the following video and learn how Currulao sounds like

In recent years Currulao has gained popularity amidst young musicians from the region. They have included the rhythms and instruments in their contemporary compositions to promote their region and to show how proud they are of being Afro-Colombians and being from the Pacific.

Watch for instance Herencia de Timbiqui and Choquibtown

Andean Region

6. Bambuco

Bambuco is a folk genre that originated in the Andean highlands. It is pretty much a fusion between Spanish and indigenous styles, although it has some African roots as well.

It is traditionally performed with a bandola, guitar or mandolin and a small 12-string instrument called a tiple.

Rhythmically is related to the Currulao, which is called some times Bambuco Viejo (Old Bambuco). However, Andean Bambuco has a more melancholic spirit.

Bambuco was popular all over Colombia between the 1920s and the 1930s. Unfortunately, its popularity is not as it used to be but its rhythms have influenced many other modern genres.

Interestingly, during the last years, traditional music has gained again some popularity thanks to young musicians. One of them is Katie Jaimes, who was born in south Ireland but when she was two years old her family moved to Colombia where she grew up and lives presently.

Check out one of her latest videos with Spanish subtitles so that you can practice your Spanish!

7. Salsa

Those from Colombia probably are used to hearing “are you from Colombia? So you dance salsa, can you teach me?”

Although Salsa is not originally a Colombian music genre, it is very important to mention it due to its great influence in our culture.

There is not a trip to Colombia without music, there is definitely not a trip to Colombia without salsa.

Colombian salsa started developing in the country during the 1960s when Cali’s upper class organized every year a carnival to commemorate the crop of sugarcane. This music style gained quite some popularity among the “caleños” (people from Cali), they introduced their own steps and speed. Was then when Colombian Salsa or Salsa Caleña was born.

Unlike other salsa styles, in Colombian salsa, the upper body remains mostly rigid, with most of the movement occurring in the hips and legs.

Check out how Colombians dance salsa:

Over the years, like all the other genres, Colombian salsa has also evolved. New subgenres have been born. One of those is Salsa Choke. It is a genre-mixing Afro-based rhythm and traditional salsa with reggaeton.

Orinoquia Region

8. Musica Llanera and Joropo

Joropo is the traditional style from “música llanera” which literally translates to “music of the plains”. It is inspired by nature, landscapes, and the lifestyle the Colombian cowboys.

There are milking songs (canciones de ordeño); cattle driving songs (canciones del cabestrero); calming songs before sunset (canciones de vela); and taming songs (canciones de domesticación).

It is known for verbal contests called “contrapunteo”, the use of the harp as the lead instrument, and the fast-paced maracas.

Cholo Valderrama is one of the most popular artists performing Musica Llanera. Check out the following video and learn how it sounds like:

Insular Region

9. San Andrés and Providencia Islands rhythms

The music of the insular region is even more diverse than the music from the other regions. It also has African and European influences, but it also adds some Caribbean mixes.

The rhythms from the islands include Calipso, Compas, Foxtrot, Mazurka, Mento, Praise Hymn, Pasillo isleño, Polca, Quadrille, Reggae, Schottische, Soca, Vals isleño, and Zouk.

There is not one specific genre from the Colombian Insular region; the “traditional” rhythms are the blend of these.

Check out the following two videos from San Andrés and Providencia artists:

Creole group

Elkin Robinson

Did you hear any different language than Spanish in these songs? Yes, you are right! in this region, people also speak Creole and English.

Amazon Region

10. Amazon Rainforest Rhythms

The Amazon is the least populated and least developed region of Colombia, but it is one of the most biodiverse from Colombia and from the world.

Amazon rainforest is also known as being the Lungs of the Earth. It produces some of the world’s rarest and most unusual fruits and flavors. It is also home to numerous indigenous communities, sounds and rhythms.

There is not a specific genre or rhythm from this region. However, each year, at the end of November, and for three days, takes place the International festival of amazonense popular music finmupa “el pirarucu de oro”.

Check out the latest video of the Feel the Rhythm campaign about this region and let yourself mesmerized by the sounds of the indigenous flute and the images of the rainforest.

We hope you have enjoyed the Colombian music journey. Colombia is a culture that is best understood through its sounds.

We also hope that by watching these videos you are now more familiar with our music, our dances and our traditional dresses. Remember that even though music is an international language, learning Spanish will give you a great advantage when understanding the lyrics of the songs and understanding our culture.

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

According to the 2019 report from the Instituto Cervantes, more than 580 million people around the world speak the Spanish language. This includes native speakers (483 million) and non-native speakers (97 million).

You might wonder where all these people come from, don’t you?

In this post, we’ll talk about which countries have Spanish as their official language, and which countries Spanish is widely spoken in, even if it’s not their official language.

You might be surprised; Spanish is spoken in countries you probably never thought of!

Let’s start!

In which countries Spanish is the official language?

Spanish is today is Spoken in 3 out of the 5 continents of the world. It’s the or an- official language of 20 Countries (excluding Puerto Rico):

The Americas (18 countries):

Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Also, Spanish is also an official language of Puerto Rico (US) and Easter Islands (Chile)

Latin America is the region with the biggest population of native Spanish speakers. It has a lot to do with the region’s history. Read our post The Spanish language: history, evolution and influences

Mexico has the greatest number of native speakers in the region (more than 125 million). It is followed by Colombia (almost 50 million), and Argentina (more than 45 million).

Europe (1 country): Spain

Although Spain is where the Spanish language was originated, it is not one of the countries with the greatest number of native speakers (more than 46 million).

Spain accounts for less than 10 percent of the world’s Spanish speakers. It is even behind the United States, which today, has the third-largest Spanish speaking population (Yes! You will see in the next section).

Africa (1 country): Equatorial Guinea.

Did you know that there is still one country in Africa where Spanish is one of the official languages?

Yes, Equatorial Guinea. Nearly 68% of the country’s population speaks Spanish. It has been one of the official languages since 1844 when Spanish settlers established cacao farms.

See below the map of the countries where Spanish is spoken as an official language, and where Spanish has gained popularity as a second language:

Geographical distribution of the Spanish language

Geographical distribution of the Spanish language. Source

Did some of the countries on this map surprise you?

Let us surprise you even more!

Countries where Spanish is not an official language but is still widely spoken

The Americas

1. The United States

More than 13% of the US population (over 43 million people) speaks Spanish as a first language.

This makes it the second-largest Spanish speaking country in the world after Mexico. What is more interesting is that there is a bigger Spanish speaking population in the US than in Spain.

Additionally, the United States is home to nearly 12 million bilingual Spanish speakers.

Americans who don’t already speak Spanish are trying to learn it. Spanish is the most studied language in the U.S.

Here, you can see the map where Spanish is spoken in the United States and Puerto Rico. The darker the green, the higher percentages of Spanish speakers.

According to the US Census Office, it is estimated that 138 million people will speak Spanish by 2050.

This would make it the biggest Spanish-speaking nation on Earth, with 30% of the population speaking Spanish as their mother tongue.

2. Brazil

The official language in Brazil is Portuguese. Due to its proximity to Spanish speaking countries, and due to the fact that Portuguese is also a Romance language, Spanish is widely spoken in the country.

There are only 460,000 Spanish native speakers in Brazil. However, more than 6 million people speak Spanish as a second or third language.

In the parts of Brazil that border Spanish-speaking countries, you can encounter a pidgin language known as Portuñol, which is a mix between Spanish and Portuguese

3. Belize

Since it was a British colony, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. Nonetheless, Spanish is also spoken by more than 50% of the population.

4. Canada

Canada is one of the most diverse and multicultural countries in the world. Its official languages are English and French, and depending on the region one of them is spoken more than the other.

Since there are a large number of immigrants from all around the world, there is also a diversity of languages.

However, Spanish is also gaining popularity as in the rest of the world. According to national reports, Spanish is the most spoken foreign language, almost 1.8 million Canadians speak it.

5. ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao)

Dutch and Papiamento are the official languages in the Dutch Antilles. However, its proximity to Central and South America makes Spanish one of the most spoken languages in the islands.

In Aruba, 80% of the population speaks Spanish, while in Bonaire and Curaçao 59% does it.

Europe

In Europe, Spanish is the fifth most commonly used language after German, French, English, and Italian.

Besides Spain, these are the European countries with most native speakers: France (9,06%), Portugal (6,98%), Italy (6,56%), Sweden (4,78%), Ireland (3.65%), Denmark (3.29%), and the Netherlands (3.24%)

Percentage of people who self reportedly know enough Spanish to hold a conversation, in the EU, 2005

Percentage of people who self reportedly know enough Spanish to hold a conversation, in the EU, 2005. Source

Other countries important to highlight are:

1. Switzerland

What it’s most interesting about this country is not only that they have four official languages (i.e. German, French, Italian, and Romansh), but also that Spanish is one of the most popular as a second language. About 150,000 people or 2.3 percent of the population speak the language.

2. Andorra

Andorra is the only country in the world with Catalan as an official language. 70% of the population also speaks Spanish due to the immigration of Spanish immigrants between 1955 and 1985.

3. Gibraltar

It is a British overseas territory. English is the official language, it is used by the Government and in schools. However, Most locals speak Spanish because of its proximity to Spain.

Africa

1. Morocco

Did you know what Morocco was also a Spanish colony?

That’s why now in Morocco still mainly people speak Spanish as a second language. It is spoken mainly in the northern region, also because of its proximity to Spain.

2. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Western Sahara, formerly Spanish Sahara, Spanish was the official language during the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, Sahrawi nomads (about 500,000 people) still speak the language.

3. Algeria

In 1492 Spain was declared a Catholic nation which resulted in expelling the Spanish speaking Muslims out of the country. Most of them flew to Algeria.

Also, at the end of the Spanish civil war many Republicans had to take up exile and went to Algeria too. That is why still today we can find 200.000 Spanish speakers in the city of Oran.

Asia

1. The Philippines

Only one country in Asia stands out for the use of Spanish language, this is the Philippines.

Yes, these islands were also a Spanish colony. They ruled the country from 1565-1898, and Spanish was the official language back then.

Then, at the end of the 19th century, the United States invaded the country. During that time English language was imposed and Spanish forbade.

After the Spanish-American War, Spanish remained as a co-official language until 1987. Since then, it has been designated as an optional language. This is why much of the Spanish language disappeared.

Today, there are some 120 to 187 languages spoken in the Philippines. However, most people speaks English and Tagalog (a mixture of English, Spanish and native languages).

There are also other languages like Bisaya that has many Spanish words. For instance, they use the same words for the days of the week, the months of the year, the numbers and the cookware.

And, there is also a language called Chavacano (i.e. Spanish-based Creole), that is very close to Spanish.

Oceania

1. Australia

Although Spanish is not one of the most spoken languages in Australia, it is interesting to see how the language has also gained popularity during the last years due to the immigration of Spanish and Latin Americans. Spanish is one of the 10 foreign languages spoken in the country

2. Guam Island

This is an island in Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean and is part of the United States. It also stands out for speaking the Spanish language since 36% of the population speaks it.

Did any of the countries on this list surprise you?

Spanish as a second language is growing fast. It is a language of cultural integration, if you learn Spanish you will definitely have a major advantage when visiting all these countries and meet its people.

Plus, it’s one of the easiest languages for English speakers to pick up.

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

 

 

One of the things people like the most when visiting Colombia is to discover the different cultures within the country.

Each region has its own traditions, its unique customs, and its own accent.

There is plenty of music, food, and people wherever you go.

We often hear people saying they like Colombians or they like Colombian Culture, but what do they really mean?

Colombian culture is fascinating. It has been the result of the country’s location and the influences of other cultures over the years.

Let’s look back into history!

How did the cultural mix start in Colombia?

Since the “La Conquista” period, Colombia has been an important point of arrival for immigrants coming to South America. For instance, Spanish and Africans. They settled in the country for more than two hundred years.

As a result, three new racial groups emerged:

  • Mestizo, from the mix of indigenous and Europeans.
  • Mulato, from the mix of Africans and Europeans.
  • Zambo, from the mix of indigenous and Africans.

Later, during the 19th and 20th centuries, immigrants from the Middle East arrived in the country. They, and their descendants, are known as Arab-Colombians.

They settled mainly in the Caribbean region and, still today, they have an important influence in the region’s culture (i.e. food, music and traditions).

Now, let’s move to the present.

What races and ethnic groups are in Colombia today?

There are four ethnic groups in Colombia:

Out of those groups, indigenous groups play a crucial role in the country’s diversity. It is very important to highlight the diversity within these groups.

There are 87 different indigenous groups located in almost all departments of the country, 27 out of the 32 departments. Which explains why some demographers say Colombia is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the Western Hemisphere and in the World.

Now, let’s talk about languages

Languages also play an important role in Colombia’s cultural diversity. Why is that?

In Colombia, 99% of the population speaks Spanish, yet, there are plenty of people who speak it as a second language.

The exact number is not clear but according to experts, there are about 70 indigenous languages still spoken in Colombia and more than 750,000 people speak them.

Besides Spanish and indigenous languages, there are also two kinds of Creole languages. Creole is a language that has developed from another.

The first one is the Creole spoken in the islands of San Andres and Providencia. It is a blend between English, Spanish, Kwa (from the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo) and Igbo (from Nigeria).

The second one is the Palenque Creole, or Palenquero. It is a blend of Spanish language and Kikongo (from Central Africa, RD Congo and Angola).

With all these influences, you might be wondering how Colombians look like. Don’t you?

Colombians reflect indeed the blend between Spanish, African and indigenous. Some of them reflect as well as their Arabs roots.

Let’s better explain it with pictures. It might give you an idea of the diversity of Colombian people.

As you could see, Colombians are a fascinating blend of people and cultures.

That is why every day more people have decided to visit the country and start their journey with an immersion of the Spanish language.

There is no better way of experiencing a country than by talking to its people!

Are you one of those passionate about world cultures? Let us know on our social media channels @ilikespanish