10 Most Useful Spanish Words to Know in Colombia

These 10 simple to remember Spanish words are guaranteed to help any traveller slip smoothly into Colombian culture.

A Colombiano flag with the text 'I speak Colombiano'

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…´

A banana tells us that learning is awesome!

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.

Island paradise San Andres, Colombia

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!

 

If you like our blog, don´t forget to´like´ us on facebook and follow us on twitter.Curious about tours to Colombia? Browse through our suggested itineraries or get in touch with one of our travel advisors.

Muchas gracias!

 

  • http://www.mantarayatravel.com Ernesto Schmidt-Mumm

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    Que chevere el articulo! Nice collection of common colombian expression. Great!

  • Joe

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    Awesome local knowledge!

  • Christina Barrera

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    que beraquera!

  • Frapy16

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    Still missing the colombian expressions “qué más?” and “cómo así”??? But very nice article :D :)

  • Ay

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    Great article. It would be even better without the excess apostrophe in the second sentence.

  • Filosofiabarata82

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    Rico as delicious or pleasant is not Colombian slang. That’s one of the meanings of the word in standard Spanish. Look it up!

  • Asann81

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    Parcero or Parce = dude or mate, is actually missing… it is a powerful slang and friendly like word in Bogota, Medellin or Cali…

  • Janeth Vargas O

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    Really nice article, for me as a colombian is “muy bacano” that a foreigner like you, learn our esence and most important, share it with the rest of the world, this is nicer instead of see articles about guerilla or drugs.

  • Ilbuffon

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    what do you think? there are even more!!! come to Colombia and Learn….

  • Gina

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    it is, but the way they use it makes it sort of slang..

  • Aaa

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    Nice article, but missed the most important Colombian expression: berraco. It can be used in both good and bad sense, ‘qué berraco’ as ‘how annoying’, or ‘qué berraquera’ as ‘how cool’ (same as ‘qué chevere’). Berraco is anything that has its own implicit strength.

  • Chris

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    Not ‘berraco’ but ‘Chimba’ or ‘Chimbo’ are way more common

  • nbs

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    Great article! =)

  • ANA

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    qué chimba de articulo! gracias :)

  • cote

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    Is it missing the word “mamera” or is it me the only user? LOL…. By the way, nice article ;)

  • Pablo

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    very cool and accurate! good job!

  • http://www.mantarayatravel.com Ernesto Schmidt-Mumm

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    Thanks for the tip! Maybe we can make another post with common phrases. Looks like there are still a lot of more common words. ;)

  • Dfad

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    Another one… “oigan a mi tio!!”

  • xavimen

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    Nice articule, it’s del PUTAS !
    u missed that one :P

  • Nicholl

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    Parce le que una chimba el artículo!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=551925568 Mahuricio Ghracia G

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    There is the expression “mamando gallo”…which is used when you are “kidding” or “fooling around”…there is also “tomando el pelo” which means pretty much the same

  • Mankhi

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    What means : Me lo rumbeo?, Rumba?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=706536447 Carlos Acosta

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    Super cool ;)

  • Noxpunkguy

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    Rumba is party so rumbear is going out to party, however, in this context rumbeo means kissing.

  • http://twitter.com/mi_balle Miguel A Ballesteros

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    +1 about “Bacano”

  • http://twitter.com/mi_balle Miguel A Ballesteros

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    +1

  • Claunicholls

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    Dar papaya: Dont be an easy target!!!!!!

  • Drew Sullivan

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    Well, perhaps that can go in the “10 Most Useful RUDE Spanish Words to Know in Colombia”. I can think of 100 more…

  • Drew Sullivan

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    What does mamera mean? I’ve heard people say Que mamera! before…

  • Drew Sullivan

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    Haha I like it. I think that I will have to post another 10 words shortly…

  • Achm

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    Writer should be careful about the orthography of the foreign expressions. In Spanish there are open quotation and open exclamation marks (“¿” and “¡”.) The author should also be careful with the use of stress marks: when used in interrogative form, the word “qué” must have the stress mark («tilde») over the letter “e.” Expressions must be: “¿Qué tal?,” “¡Qué chévere,” “¿Qué tal Cartagena?” and “¡VAMOS COLOMBIA!.”
    I definitively would not learn Spanish from this author.

  • Liliana831214

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    “mamera” is like tired that you don´t want to move or if someone is really intense or annoy you can say ” esta vieja o tipo es una mamera”

  • Ascaroth

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    Also, another very useful expression is “quiubo careponqué” that means soemthing like “good morning”.

  • Cheveritooo

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    Niceee!!!

  • clau

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    Drew, even though “putas” means whore, when you say “del putas” in Colombia it means “chevere”.

  • clau

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    Drew, even though “putas” means whore, when you say “del putas” in Colombia it means “chevere”.

  • clau

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    Drew, even though “putas” means whore, when you say “del putas” in Colombia it means “chevere”.

  • clau

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    Drew, even though “putas” means whore, when you say “del putas” in Colombia it means “chevere”.

  • clau

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    Drew, even though “putas” means whore, when you say “del putas” in Colombia it means “chevere”.

  • Sandra

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    One of the greatest colombian words is missing: “berrraco”. It is only used in Colombia and it is not accepted by the Real Academia de la Lengua Espaniola, but what could we do without that word in our daily lives?

  • santicardona

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    I think that the Really Missing One is
    Amaña(d)o/a
    Ve, y ¿estás amañao por allá?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ha2c.AnAn.Arianovich Henry Andrés Arias Correa

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    Parcero was come from the english word partner,but in spanish is very similar to amigo:friend,so many people use parcero when like to say amigo.

  • Griano

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    Paila is not used by educated people.

  • Griano

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    That is not used by educated people.

  • Rudegial

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    Clau… it’s still rude. My mom will “voltearme el mascadero” if I said it in polite company.

    Drew you rock for posting this article!
    A few of the commenters here are just yanking your chain ;)

  • Tripulante

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    Neither it isn’t a bad word

  • juan duque

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    The best colombian word ever is EMBOLATADO… which means misplaced or lost. “Esa platica está embolatada” or even better “Me embolaté haciendo unas vueltas” (in this context means “I lost track of time running some errands”).

  • Jocefus

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    :D :D Funny comment, but don’t believe in this one Drew, it is a joke! I agree with “berraco”, “embolatado” and “amanado”, they are very colombian. However, “paila”, “mamera”, “parce”, “parcero” are not used in half of Colombia, you may hear them in Bogota or Medellin but not in Cartagena or Barranquilla, just to mention some of the most populated cities.

  • Scvarelal

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    Quén tal el Quibo ? Porque así suena… y el tenaz… Enseño español a ejecutivos y cuando regresan de sus viajes, me piden explicación por estas dos colombianadas!

  • Sutra85

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    The expression Que mamera! means that the person does not want to do it, feels not in the mood. It can also refer when another person is being mean, annoying.

  • Encoder

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    Parcero, parceria… Portuguese…

  • John Harcker

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    You forget “sizas” y “parce”

  • Mariano

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    Agreed. I didn´t know that “todo bien”, “listo”, “rico”, “qué pena”, “qué tal” or “vamos” were specific Colombian words. Fortunately Spanish is more than a country and serves as a communication channel for millions of people even when some try to steal it.

  • Veeve

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    I don’t see “que mas” here as “what’s up” or “how are you doing”! I think you should add it. Good job at all the other words though, it’s amusing to see how we talk from a foreigner’s perspective.

  • Lorepi26

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    Yeah thats true! My boyfriend always look at me in a funny way when I say Que mamera!, he knows spanish but not the slangs, then at the begining he was wondering whether it was a good or a bad word, lol.

  • http://www.facebook.com/javier.b.mendoza1 Javier Barreto Mendoza

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    all u need is a good diccionary like larousse lengua espanola 18000 words and 27000 acepciones you take one word a day and you will learn in about 10 years ha ha ha the laguage is to rich good lock trying o and it has 2000 more words add it every month ha ha ha lol to the people that are trying to learn the spanish language

  • http://www.mantarayatravel.com Ernesto Schmidt-Mumm

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    We are amazed about all the comments and your interests in our article. It would be great if you tell us what you think would be great to write about next. Visit our home and a popup should appear where you can leave a note. Thanks!

  • Hagocosas Blog

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    me gustó el artículo, que lastima que estemos perdiendo el respeto que tanto nos caracterizó

  • B153585

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    @Griano Im a very educated person, in fact I have 2 postgrades (master and phd) and we still used that word when hanging out with friends…

  • Cagudeloh

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    El mayor riesgo de venir a Colombia es que te quieres quedar

  • Lola

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    I think you forgot “Q’ hubo” which means “how it going” or “what’s up”. I’m not Colombian but my boyfriend says that word a lot.

  • Hernan Rubiano

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    also it could mean that you have had sex recently and your friends know it and they greting you “quiubo careponque”

  • Hdarios22

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    jjajajjaja good one, I think one of the biggest contribution to the social knowlege

  • maberly

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    Very, very used!!!!!!!!

  • maberly

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    Me lo rumbeo means that you got a kiss from a guy; me la rumbeo is that u got a kiss from a girl……… que rumba means “so nice!!” …. and vamos a una rumba means: let´s go to the party! LOL

  • Hdarios22

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    yeah that is one of the most famous colombian’s words “HIJUEPUTA”. I’ve traveled for hole latin america and almost everybody would like to learn that word, always they are asking me how is its pronunciation. You could use it in negative or positive expressions, please add comments there are a lot of talking about…

  • maberly

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    Que mas? very very used!!!!!!!!!

  • maberly

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    As I am colombian I think this article is very very cool!!!!!!!!!! Super chévere!!!!!!!!!!!!! me encanta! and yes! you could find thousands of slangs :D ………….. waiting for more articles!

  • http://twitter.com/BGiffuni Blas Giffuni

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    Great article, estuvo muy “bacano”

  • Hdiaz2143

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    It took me more than a year to understand what Colombian people I met meant by “que más”. For me “que más” (what else) would come well into a conversation, but Colombians use it at the beginning. For almost a year, after being asked “que más” I would always reply “nada más”. Funny thing is that some of them took my reply as rude. Another thing I noted is that some Colombian would repeat “que más” several times, as if they were not happy with the responses given so far.

  • Hdiaz2143

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    Wrong. These words are not spefic Colombian words. They are spanish words used by all spanish speakers. The difference is in the context in which they are used. For example, Argentinians, Peruvians or Spanish would never say “qué rico verte”. They would say something like “qué bueno verte”. “Rico” would be used in something like “que rico que está el pollo”. As in many languages most words in Spanish can have more than one meaning. An example in English would be “pants” which in the UK means underware but it the USA is the equivalent of “trousers”.

  • mateo lorenzo

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    Great list, but while you’re at it you may as well add “estoy mamado!” which means that you are extremely tired :)

  • Drew Sullivan

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    I use ‘q’ hubo a lot too. I will put up the next 10 words shortly and definitely include it!

  • Drew Sullivan

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    Nice one!

  • Hugh

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    Paila and parcero are both used by educated youth in Bogota. Go to Los Andes university and you’ll see that all the young-educated-rich students use parcero and paila.

  • Bike639

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    I’m accord this word is very common in colombia in all class of people, it is used when there a friend.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Owa-Aspe/551652637 Owa Aspe

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    You forgot ¡Que chimba!

  • Luis Andrés Gaona

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    Please, don’t forget “Qué camello!” which means “It is very difficult or very hard”. “Camello” that in ordinary context is the camel (animal) , in Colombia we use it like “job”, so “Camellar” is “to work”

  • cesareo

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    It is not used by all Colombians, at least not in the coast, it is more frequent in Medellin

  • Negrito

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    Completamente cierto

  • Lola

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    Awesome! and it was a great article by the way! : D

  • Val87

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    I’m with Cesareo it is not used by all Colombians, in fact is mainly used in Medellín. @Griano is partially right, he doesn’t mean formal education, but politeness, and Parce or Parcero is an awful word…

  • Vanita

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    I had never heard that!

  • Vanita

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    We often say “que hubo (quihuvo) que mas?” as a hey what’s up or hi what’s going on. Toguether in a sentence.

  • Vanita

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    No quibo sino quihuvo

  • Vanita

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    It is not the actual words, but the meanings that we give to them and the intentions we are trying to express when we say them. We are not stealing anything. ( ni mas faltaba )

  • Vanita

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    What about “Mira ve” used in Cali and a lot of places in the departamento del Valle del cauca!!

  • Diobando

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    Y “sumerce” se les esta olvidando. this means “you”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Camilo-Gomez/863750292 Camilo Gomez

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    I Like… “¿Que más?…. nada más….. jejejejeje

  • catabug

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    This is only used in Bogota and Boyaca

  • catabug

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    Hijueputa you can used to call someone “son of a bitch”, but also when you hit yourself, or you let something fall down on the floor (like your phone), and in this context you could say “jueputa” ….but if you don’t want to used that rud word, you can also say “hijuepucha’ or ‘juepucha”

  • Bob4you

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    Fabulous, very helpful, love spanish, such a horny language. YUMMY

  • http://www.LocateHome.com Dave Kinskey

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    Embolatado/embolatada also mean very busy (ocupado/ocupad). ¡Ay! Me dieron tanto trabajo esta tarde. ¡Estoy muy embolatado!

  • Bogotanian…

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    The fact how how many Masters and Pd.D doesn’t make you a educated person. I’m from Bogotá D.C. and live in Europe, I’ve never tried to export the “parce” that word is not for good educated people, never, is kind of a “gansta’ slang”. Cheers

  • http://www.mantarayatravel.com Ernesto Schmidt-Mumm

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    See also other great post of drew like http://www.mantarayatravel.com/blog/a-travel-guide-to-la-feria-de-cali-2011 a great guide for the Cali Fair 2011 or http://www.mantarayatravel.com/blog/10-great-shopping-ideas-in-colombia Which contains great ideas what to bring your beloved ones when you come back from Colombia. (Do you think we missed some important gifts?, please comment!)

  • Guest

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    that is some kind of “white trash” slang and nobody should learn that

  • Pingback: Spanish! | MoCa | Morgan + Camilo

  • Sierra

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    definately not polite though

  • Sierra

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    maybe bogotanos are losing class

  • Sierra

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    totally white trash

  • Anna

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    I was seeing the most beautiful guy from Cali,Colombia for 6 months. I was much older than him but we enjoyed each others company very much. I loved how he spoke and loved how he loved Puerto Rico which is where I am from even though I was raised in the United States. He said he loved it because salsa came from there. I laughed at how he would say things and how beautiful he spoke. Many times I would have to ask him what certain things were because I did not understand the context.

    They do use “man” alot which I though he was saying the name Herman. hahaha. Parce or parcero for friend. Puerto Ricans use more the word “mi pana” is my friend. I will always cherish my time with this lovely guy. You might ask why didn’t you stay with him? Believe me if he had said he wanted to be with me I would of done it.
    Well when there is a 28 yr. difference it is hard. I do not look my age I look 20 some years younger. Plus he only had a visitors visa for 6 months. I do plan on going to visit him, but am leery about it because it will pain me to see him with someone else. But I do believe I would love to MARRY A COLOMBIAN after my time with him.