Mastering Argentinian Spanish is certainly an art! Not only do they have their very own expressions, colloquialisms and an accent as thick as glue, but they also conjugate verbs in a way in which you were definitely not taught at school. If you’re considering a trip to Argentina, getting the hang of the local jargon is essential for your survival!
Expressions + Colloquialisms
The ever-famous Che, which is said to originate from the numerous Italian communities during the great wave/surge of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries, is an interjection that generally starts a conversation, or is used before calling someone. It can loosely be translated as “hey” in English, or even “wow” in certain contexts. You’ll hear this at least a thousand times a day, garantizado!
Argentinians love not calling people by their names. Instead, they prefer to address friends and family with several terms of “endearment”, which in many cases are technically insults! Boludo, having a similar meaning to tonto (a stupid or silly person), is used with no restraint. Likewise, flaco, (meaning a skinny person), is very commonly heard. “Che, flaco, que hacés?, which may translate as something like “Hi, how’s it going?”, literally means “Hey, skinny thing, what are you doing”?
Fancy knowing a few slang terms to impress the local porteños? Throw in a qué copado, joya (pronounced /josha/) or flashero, all of which mean “cool/sick/great”. If you can do a typical Italian throwing-your-hands-in -the-air gesture while saying qué sé yo, (pronounced “sho’), which means, “what do I know?” or simply, “I don’t know”, you’re certainly on your way to becoming a classic opinionated and outspoken porteño.
On a last note – don’t forget some basic but essential differences in vocab from what you might have learnt at school, such as departamento (or more commonly seen as just depto) for apartment, as well as palta, rather than aguacate, meaning avocado.
While you may have been taught at school that in Spanish double L’s are pronounced the same as Y’s, Argentinian lingo breaks all the rules. For the Argentinians, and more precisely, the Porteños and those living in the surrounding areas of Buenos Aires, calle is pronounced /cashay/, amarillo is pronounced /amareesho/ and mayo is pronounced /masho/. So, if someone were to say to you “la calle amarillo que se llama calle de mayo” you’d certainly get your shh’s in a twist! While that may not be a common sentence to hear, you are likely to be asked, “cómo te llamas?”, which may throw you the first time you hear it!
Most importantly, it is vital that you can understand when someone speaks to you using vos. Vos is another subject pronoun, which has exactly the same meaning as tú. Yet, it has a whole new set of conjugations in the present tense and also for the imperative. For example, rather than saying in Standard Spanish “tu tienes” porteños will say “vos tenés”. Likewise, instead of saying “quieres un té”, they will say “querés un maté?. Please note that while it is very rare for a porteño to speak to you using “tu”, they understand it entirely. So, as long as you learn to understand vos and its conjugations, you can reply using “tú”. Take a look at this website which gives you the ins and outs on the conjugations of vos. Please note that, like in all Latin American countries, “vosotros” is not used, and thus the correct plural you form would be “ustedes”.
If you’ve been following these last few travel articles about Argentina, you should now have a good idea of what to expect food and drink-wise, the best places to visit in Buenos Aires and how to communicate using vos, ché and boludo. Once you leave Buenos Aires and its immediate surrounding areas, you’ll notice the language, landscape and locals start to change. Stay tuned for next week’s travel blog that will discuss what to expect on your travels outside the Cuidad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (C.A.B.A).
Written by Evie Oswald