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

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

What are false friends in linguistics?

Those similar words are known as cognates.

Cognates can be:

  • Perfect cognates
  • Near perfect cognates
  • False Cognates

Perfect Cognates

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

For example:

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

Near Perfect Cognates

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

For example:

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

False Cognates

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s take a look!

What are some examples of false friends in Spanish?

Abogado Vs. Avocado

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

Ropa Vs. Rope

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

Librería Vs. Library

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

Embarazado/a Vs. Embarrassed

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

Realizar Vs. Realize

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

Gangas Vs. Gangs

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

Lectura Vs. Lecture

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

Recordar Vs. Record

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

Introducir Vs. Introduce

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

Carta Vs. Cart

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

Advertir Vs. Advertise

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

Asignatura Vs. Signature

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

Blanco Vs. Blank

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

Campo Vs. Camp

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

Carpeta Vs. Carpet

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

Comodidad Vs. Commodity

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

Cuota Vs. Quote

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

Envolver Vs. Involve

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

Éxito Vs. Exit

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

Extranjero Vs. Stranger

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

Fábrica Vs. Fabric

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

Firma Vs. Firm

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

Grabar Vs. Grab

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

Gracioso Vs. Gracious

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

Grosería Vs. Grocery

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

Horno Vs. Horn

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

Idioma Vs. Idiom

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

Largo Vs. Large

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

Mayor Vs. Mayor

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

Media Vs. Media

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

Noticia Vs. Notice

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

Nudo Vs. Nude

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

Once Vs. Once

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

Pan Vs. Pan

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

Pie Vs. Pie

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

Presumir Vs. Presume

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

Quieto Vs. Quiet

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

Red Vs. Red

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

Relativo Vs. Relative

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

Restar Vs. Rest

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

Soportar Vs. Support

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

Suceso Vs. Success

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

Trasladarse Vs. Translate

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

Tuna Vs. Tuna

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

Últimamente Vs. Ultimately

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

Vaso Vs. Vase

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Vaso Glass Vase Jarrón

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

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

It’s not the same saying:

“Estoy embarazada” (I’m pregnant)

than

“Estoy avergonzada” (I’m embarrassed)

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

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

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

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

How can you improve your Colombian Spanish pronunciation?

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

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

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

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

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

1. Choose your favorite accent

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

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

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

2. Listen and repeat

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

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

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

4. Get your Spanish consonants right

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

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

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

H – The Spanish “h” is always silent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it also a nightmare for you?

Don’t worry, we are here to help you.

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

Here some sentences taught to young children at school:

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

6. Stress the proper syllable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Immerse yourself in the Colombian culture

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you soon in Bogota!

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

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

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.

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