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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn these expressions and impress your Colombian friends!

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

1. “No le cabe ni un tinto*”

Colombian Slang: No le cabe ni un tinto

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

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

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

2. “Como Pedro por su casa”

Colombian Slang: Como Pedro por su casa

Literal meaning: Like Peter in his own house

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

3. “Las cuentas claras y el chocolate espeso”

Colombian Slang: Las cuentas claras y el chocolate espeso

Literal meaning: Clear accounts and thick hot chocolate

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

4. “Lo que no mata, engorda”

Colombian Slang: Lo que no mata, engorda

Literal meaning: That which does not kill, fattens

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

5. ¿Durmió conmigo anoche o qué?

Colombian Slang: ¿Durmió conmigo anoche o qué?

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Uyy, ¿quién pidió pollo?

Colombian Slang: Uyy, ¿quién pidió pollo?

Make sure you say a long “uyyy”

Literal meaning: Uyy, who ordered chicken?

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

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

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

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

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

9. ¿Qué come que adivina?

Colombian Slang: ¿Qué come que adivina?

Literal meaning: What do you eat that you guess?

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

10. “El que tiene tienda que la atienda”

Colombian Slang: El que tiene tienda que la atienda

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

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

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

Colombian Slang: Le cuento el milagro pero no el santo

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

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

12. “Colgó los guayos”

Colombian Slang: Colgó los guayos

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

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

13. “¡Que entre el diablo y escoja!”

Colombian Slang: ¡Que entre el diablo y escoja!

Literal meaning: Let the devil come and choose!

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

14. “Es pan comido”

Colombian Slang: Es pan comido

Literal meaning: It’s an eaten bread

Slang meaning: It’s a piece of cake

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

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

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

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

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

16. “Más aburrido que mico en un bonsái”

Colombian Slang: Más aburrido que mico en un bonsái

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

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

17. “Más largo que una semana sin carne”

Colombian Slang: Más largo que una semana sin carne

Literal meaning: Longer than a week without meat

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

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

18. “Más raro que un perro a cuadros”

Colombian Slang: Más raro que un perro a cuadros

Literal meaning: Weirder than a checkered dog

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

19. “Más prendido que arbolito de navidad”

Colombian Slang: Más prendido que arbolito de navidad

Literal meaning: More lit up than a Christmas tree

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

20. “Lo que le diga es mentira”

Colombian Slang: Lo que le diga es mentira

Literal meaning: What I tell you is a lie

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

Learning Colombian Spanish is so much fun!

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

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

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

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

How can you improve your Colombian Spanish pronunciation?

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

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

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

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

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

1. Choose your favorite accent

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

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

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

2. Listen and repeat

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

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

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

4. Get your Spanish consonants right

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

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

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

H – The Spanish “h” is always silent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it also a nightmare for you?

Don’t worry, we are here to help you.

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

Here some sentences taught to young children at school:

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

6. Stress the proper syllable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Immerse yourself in the Colombian culture

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you soon in Bogota!

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

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

How would our life be without food?

How would traveling be without trying local dishes?

And, how would Colombia be without its flavors?

As Anthony Bourdain said:

“I think food, culture, people and landscape are all absolutely inseparable.”

The culture of a society is manifested in a variety of ways such as art, music and food. There is so much to learn by exploring the gastronomic richness of the countries.

Gastronomy (gastronomía in Spanish) is the study of the relationship between food and culture. It’s the art of preparing and serving rich or delicate and appetizing food. It’s the cooking styles of particular regions and the science of good eating.

If you love food and if you are interested in Colombian culture, then this post is for you!

What foods are popular in Colombia?

Colombia is a gastronomical paradise due to its natural and cultural diversity. Our food is a blend of different traditions. It is a blend of indigenous, Spanish, African and Arab flavors.

Each region has its own traditions and its own food. It would take some time -and many trips around the country- to try the flavors of each region.

But, if you want to have a taste of all Colombian regions in one place, then Bogota is your city!

Bogota is known as the gastronomic capital. It offers the opportunity to enjoy the flavors of Colombian, international and fusion cuisine. It’s not a surprise then that Bogota is one of Latin America’s major emerging culinary hotspots.

That’s why Netflix has included the city in the new series “Street Food Latin America”

What are the most popular Colombian dishes?

Colombian food is colorful, diverse and rich in flavor.

If you want to eat like a Colombian, make sure you try these 10 traditional dishes:

  • Ajiaco
  • Bandeja Paisa
  • Sancocho
  • Patacones
  • Arepas
  • Chocolate con queso
  • Aguadepanela
  • Salpicón
  • Tamal
  • Buñuelos

Also, make sure you go to the city’s local markets and try these 15 exotic fruits. You will understand why Colombia, and especially Bogota, is known as a gastronomical paradise.

How to learn Spanish through food?

What if we told you that you can learn Spanish through food?

Yes, it sounds amazing – and delicious-, isn’t it?

Trying new food is not only delicious but an opportunity to learn about new cultures and to learn new languages.

In Colombia, food connects people. When you come to visit Colombia you will have the opportunity to share time with locals while trying new dishes. You will be invited to join family and friends dinners, to visit local markets, and to try street food.

So, while you wait until it is possible to travel again you can learn Spanish online. It will not only keep you busy and motivated during COVID times, but it will prepare you for your next trip to Colombia.

Spanish food vocabulary

If you want to have a deep and meaningful experience, you should learn how to communicate with locals with regards to food.

Here we have prepared a short guide to help you learn the basics of Spanish food vocabulary:

Useful Vocabulary

  • To eat (Comer)
  • To drink (Beber or Tomar)
  • Breakfast (Desayuno)
  • To have breakfast (Desayunar)
  • Lunch (Almuerzo)
  • To have lunch (Almorzar)
  • Dinner (Cena)
  • To have dinner (Cenar)
  • Snack (Merienda)
  • To snack (Picar)

Fruits (Frutas)

  • Apple (Manzana)
  • Banana (Banano or Plátano)
  • Grapes (Uvas)
  • Lemon (Limón)
  • Lime (Lime)
  • Orange (Naranja)
  • Peach (Durazno)
  • Pear (Pera)
  • Pineapple (Piña)
  • Plum (Ciruela)
  • Raspberry (Frambuesa)
  • Strawberry (Fresa)
  • Watermelon (Sandía or Patilla)

Vegetables (Verduras o vegetales)

  • Asparagus (Espárragos)
  • Broccoli (Brócoli)
  • Carrot (Zanahoria)
  • Cucumber (Pepino or pepino cohombro)
  • Garlic (Ajo)
  • Lettuce (Lechuga)
  • Peas (Arvejas or Guisantes)
  • Pepper (Pimiento or Pimentón)
  • Potatoes (Papas)
  • Spinach (Espinaca)
  • Tomato (Tomate)
  • Onion (Cebolla)

Meats (Carnes)

  • Bacon (Tocineta)
  • Beef (Carne de vaca)
  • Chicken (Pollo)
  • Duck (Pato)
  • Ham (Jamón)
  • Lamb (Cordero)
  • Pork (Cerdo)
  • Sausage (Salchicha)
  • Steak (Bistec)
  • Turkey (Pavo)
  • Veal (Ternera)

Drinks (Bebidas)

  • Beer (Cerveza)
  • Coffee (Café or Tinto)
  • Juice (Jugo)
  • Milk (Leche)
  • Soda (Soda o Gaseosa)
  • Tea (Té)
  • Tap Water (Agua de la llave)
  • Mineral Water (Agua mineral)
  • Red Wine (Vino tinto)
  • White Wine (Vino blanco)

What does Sobremesa mean in Colombia?

Another important word is “Sobremesa”. This word doesn’t have a specific translation but it’s very important in Colombia.

Literal translation: “Over-table”
Slang meaning: In Colombia it refers to the drink that comes with the meal.

When you go to a restaurant, the waiter normally asks you:
2¿Qué desea tomar de sobremesa?”

What would you like to drink with your meal?)

While in Spain it refers to the action of spending time relaxing after a meal. It could be drinking coffee or just hanging out chatting at the table after eating.

If you want to know the main differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish from Spain read our post: “ Top 5 differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish from Spain

Useful sentences and expressions in Spanish related to food

  • I’m hungry (Tengo hambre)
  • I’m thirsty (Tengo sed)
  • May I have the menu, please? (Podría ver el menú, por favor?)
  • What do you recommend? (Qué me recomienda?)
  • I would like… (Quisiera…)
  • May I have some…? (Podría traerme…)
  • Nothing more, thanks (Nada más, gracias)
  • Without….. please (Sin…. por favor)
  • I’m vegetarian (Soy vegetariano/a)
  • Can I have the bill, please? (Me regala la cuenta, por favor)

We hope you have enjoyed the reading. If you want to learn and improve your Spanish language from home join our online classes. And, if you want to learn more about Colombian culture don’t forget to read our weekly blog.

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

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

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

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

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

1. Regalar (me regala)

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

Slang meaning: To give

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Me regala

This is one of the most used verbs in Colombia.

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

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

Why?

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

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

“Me da un café, por favor”

But in Colombia, we would say:

“Me regala un café, por favor”

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

“Me regalas un minuto? Tengo que decirte algo”

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

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

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

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

2. Arrunchar(se)

Literal meaning: None

Slang meaning: To cuddle

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Arruncharse

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

3. Dar una vuelta

Literal meaning: To give a turn

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

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Dar una vuelta

4. Hacer una vuelta

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

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

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Hacer una vuelta

5. Hacer una vaca

Literal meaning: To make a cow

Slang meaning: To chip in

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Hacer vaca

6. Rumbear

Slang meaning: To party

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

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Rumbear

7. Picar

Literal meaning: To chop

Slang meaning: To snack

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Picar

8. Dar Papaya (No dar papaya)

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

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

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

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Dar papaya

9. Camellar (camello)

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

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

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Camellar

10. Prestar (Me prestas)

Literal meaning: To lend something

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

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Prestar

11. Poner los cachos

Literal meaning: To put on horns

Slang meaning: To cheat on the partner

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Poner los cachos

12. Estar Prendido/Prendida

Literal meaning: To be lit

Slang meaning: To be buzzed

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Prendido

13. Caer

Literal meaning: To fall

Slang meaning: To hit on someone

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

This verb has other meaning depending on the context

Slang meaning 2: to drop by at someone’s

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Caer

14. Mamar Gallo

Literal meaning: Suck a rooster

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

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

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Mamar gallo

15. Cuadrar

Literal meaning: To square up

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

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Cuadrar

16. Embarrar

Literal meaning: To smear

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

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Embarrar

17. Parar bolas

Literal meaning: To stand balls

Slang meaning: To pay attention, to listen

Colombian way:
¡Párame bolas!
Listen to me!

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

18. Meter la pata

Literal meaning: Put the foot in

Slang meaning: To screw up something

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Meter la pata

19. Estar enguayabado

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

Literal meaning: To be stuck in a guava tree

Slang meaning: To be hungover

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

Colombian Spanish Slang: Guayabo

20 Dejar plantado / plantada

Literal meaning: To leave something/someone planted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a way, they are right.

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

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

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

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

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

The truth is we can’t say so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, which one is that?

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

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

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

Why do they find it easier?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Colombia have the best Spanish?

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

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

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

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

Here is why:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you want to hear how Colombian Spanish sounds like?

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

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

Do you grasp something of what they are saying?

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

Learning a new language is not always easy.

But we promise learning Spanish is a lot of fun!

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

“To be” (ser) or “To be” (estar)… that’s the question.

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

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

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

Let’s start with the basics!

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

Putting it in a simple way:

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

Confusing?

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

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

Now, let’s go to the tips and tricks!

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

The verb “Ser”

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

What does it mean?

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

“Ser” is used for the following situations:

Time & Date:

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

Place of origin and Nationality

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

Occupation

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

Religious or political affiliation

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

The material something is made of

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

Possession

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

Relationship of one person to another

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

Where an event is taking place

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

Physical and personality traits

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

When we use Passive voice

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

The verb “Estar”

In contrast,

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

“Estar” is used for the following situations:

Geographic or physical location (except when speaking about events)

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

State or condition (like emotions)

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

When describing something in the moment

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

To describe how food tastes

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

Many idiomatic expressions

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

Progressive tenses (-ing)

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

Easy, right?

So, what’s the tricky part?

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

How’s that?…

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

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

(I’m from Colombia)

Or,

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

(I’m drinking coffee)

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

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

(You are beautiful)

What? How is that possible?

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

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

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

Other examples:

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

(The food at this restaurant is delicious)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spanish Language: How to use the verbs Ser & Estar

Let us know your answer in the comments!

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

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

And it is true!

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

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

1. Vecino/Vecina

Colombian Spanish "Vecino" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Neighbor

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

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

2. Tinto

Colombian Spanish "Tinto" slang meaning

How would Colombia be without a “tintico”?

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

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

But in Colombia…

Slang meaning:
Black coffee
Diminutive: Tintico

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

3. Guaro

Colombian Spanish "Guaro" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Doesn’t have a specific English translation

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

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

4. Polas

Colombian Spanish "Polas" slang meaning

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

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

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

Slang meaning:
Beers

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

5. Pena. ¡Qué pena!

Colombian Spanish "Qué Pena" slang meaning

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

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

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

Slang meaning:
Sorry, embarrassing, sorrow

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

6. Tusa

Colombian Spanish "Tusa" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Cob

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

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

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

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

7. Guayabo

Colombian Spanish "Guayabo" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
A guava tree

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

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

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

8. Listo

Colombian Spanish "Listo" slang meaning

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

In Colombia…

Slang meaning:
Okay, sure

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

9. Chévere

Colombian Spanish "Chévere" slang meaning

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

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

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

10. Moscas. ¡Por si las moscas!

Colombian Spanish "Por si las moscas" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Flies (In case of flies)

Slang meaning:
Just in case

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

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

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

11. Pilas

Colombian Spanish "Pilas" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Batteries

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

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

12. Ñapa

Colombian Spanish "Ñapa" slang meaning

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Play

Colombian Spanish "Play" slang meaning

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

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

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

14. Puente

Colombian Spanish "Puente" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Bridge

Slang meaning:
Long weekend, holiday

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

15. Lucas

Colombian Spanish "Lucas" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Lucas is actually a name

Slang Meaning:
Colombian Pesos

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

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

16. Plata

Colombian Spanish "Plata" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Silver

Slang meaning:
Money

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

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

La Plata (Classic Vallenato)

La Plata (Contemporary vallenato)

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

17. Nota (¡Qué nota!)

Colombian Spanish "Qué nota" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Note (what a note!)

Slang meaning:
It’s awesome!

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

18. Paila

Colombian Spanish "Paila" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Frying pan

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

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

19. Mono/Mona

Colombian Spanish "Mono/Mona" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Monkey

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

But in Colombia…

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

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

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

20. Pelota, Bola

Colombian Spanish "Pelota/Bola" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Ball

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

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

21. Cansón/Cansona

Colombian Spanish "Canson" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Tiresome (from “tired” cansado)

Slang meaning:
Annoying, someone is a pain

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

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

22. Juicioso/Juiciosa

Colombian Spanish "Juicioso" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Judicious (judgement)

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

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

23. Miércoles

Colombian Spanish "Miércoles" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Wednesday

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

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

24. Vieja

Colombian Spanish "Vieja" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Old woman

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

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

Colombian Spanish "Man" slang meaning

 

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

Slang meaning:
Man, guy, dude

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

26. ¡De una!

Colombian Spanish "De una" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Of one!

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

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

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

27. Dale

Colombian Spanish "Dale" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Give it

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

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

28. Tenaz

Colombian Spanish "Tenaz" meaning

Literal meaning:
Tenacious, obstinate

Slang meaning:
Hard, difficult, challenging

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

29. Churro/Churra

Colombian Spanish "Churro" slang meaning

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

Slang meaning:
Handsome; pretty

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

30. Fresco/Fresca

Colombian Spanish "Fresco" slang meaning

Literal meaning:
Fresh

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

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

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

Did you enjoy learning these typical Colombian words?

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

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

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

The simple answer to both questions is yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish Spain

1. Pronunciation

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

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

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

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

Here are two examples:

La taza es azul (the cup is blue)

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

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

INTERNATIONAL PHONETIC ALPHABET (IPA)

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

‘Cinco cervezas’ (five beers)

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

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

INTERNATIONAL PHONETIC ALPHABET (IPA)

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

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

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

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

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

However, the use in Colombia and Spain is different:

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

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

In Colombia “usted” is frequently used.

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

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

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

3. Vosotros vs. ustedes (you – plural)

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

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

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

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

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

Here some examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here some examples:

What did you do today? Today I went to work

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

What did you do today? Today I stayed home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it has a good number of long words.

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

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

1. Esternocleidomastoideo (22 letters)

Meaning: Sternocleidomastoid, muscle of the neck.

2. Interdisciplinariedad (21 letters)

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

3. Internacionalización (20 letters):

Meaning: Internationalization, to make something international.

4. Desvergonzadamente (18 letters)

Meaning: Shamelessly, lacking any sense of shame.

5. Desconsoladamente (17 letters)

Meaning: Inconsolably, that cannot be comforted

6. Electrodoméstico (16 letters)

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

Bonus:

Paralelepípedo (14 letters)

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

Caleidoscopio: (13 letters)

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

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

 

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