These 10 simple to remember Spanish words are guaranteed to help any traveller slip smoothly into Colombian culture.
Colombian´s are often regarded as the most polite people in South America. It is also said that they speak the most easily understood Spanish. This is one of the reasons that tourists love the country so much.
Especially with foreigners, most Colombians speak comparatively slow and clear, are very patient and don´t use too much local slang. Having said that, dropping some classic Colombian colloquialisms into your beginners Spanish will go a long way, both in making yourself understood and breaking down any cultural barrier.
So here are the 10 most useful Spanish words to know in Colombia, just to get you started!
1. Todo bien: ´all good´ – This expression is used all over Latin America and is especially popular in Colombia. You can say it to a street kid or the president, either as a question: ´todo bien? ´ or an answer: ´todo bien…´
2. Chévere:´awesome´. A very popular word in Colombia and the Caribbean to describe anything positively. Anyone can say ´chevere´ to anyone. Put a ´Que´ (keh) in front to say ´How cool! ´. If somebody asks you what you think of Colombia, a great answer would be ´Colombia es chévere´.
3. Paila: ´bad´ or ´bummer´. This word is 100% Colombian. It can be used to politely describe a thing, a place or a situation that is not good.
4. Listo: ´OK´ or ´ready´. A very common word in Colombia, ´listo´ can be used to signify that you understand, to say that you are ready or to simply just say OK. It is also commonly used as a question – ´listo? ´.
5. Rico: Technically it translates to ´rich´, however ´rico´ is more commonly used in Colombia to describe something as being ´pleasant´ or ´delicious´. For example, lying on the beach at the paradise San Andres Island would be ´rico´ as well as the coco loco cocktail´s that they serve there. You can also say ´Que rico verte´, an intimate way to say ´How nice to see you´, and ´rico´ is also used as a crude way to describe somebody who is sexually attractive.
6. Qué pena: ´sorry´ or ´Pardon me´. Outside of Colombia ´que pena´ means ´what a shame´ and therefore is a prime example of the politeness of Colombians. Here it is common to use if you bump someone on the street, are trying to use a big note to buy a cheap item, or even to interrupt someone.
7. Fresco: ´no worries´. This Colombian slang has its roots in the translation of ´chilled´ and ´cool´. Say it to a Spaniard and they will think that you´re talking about the temperature.
8. De una: ´let´s do it! ´. This is a great enthusiastic expression that it is very colloquial yet is frequently used in virtually every level of formality.
9. Que tal?: usually used after ´Hola´ to mean ´Hi how´s it going?´. A useful trick is to use it at the beginning of a sentence to mean ´how is´ or ´how was´. E.g. ´Que tal el restaurante?´ or ´Que tal Cartagena?´.
10. Vamos: ´Let´s go´. The tone will determine whether it´s a question or an answer. ´VAMOS A COLOMBIA!!!´ is not a question…
The easiest way to learn a new language is to jump head first into the deep end. Be brave and you will instantly see the difference!
Don’t miss the second part of 10 Most Useful Spanish Words to Know in Colombia, part 2!
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