For whatever reason, maybe after watching Evita or tasting your first empanada (meat-filled pastry), you’ve decided to take on Argentine Spanish.
Congratulations: You’re about to adopt one of the most peculiar Spanish accents and vocabulary in the book.
So why go through the trouble, you may ask yourself.
Why Bother Learning Argentine Spanish Slang?
For one, the sheer level of difficulty will give your ear a solid workout, and make speaking Spanish in any other Spanish-speaking country a piece of cake. Once you’ve mastered Argentine Spanish and slang, under-water basket weaving and black-belt levels of kung fu will seem like a walk in the park.
Besides, it will allow you to (ideally) spend some time in a stunning country and capital. And you’ll be in good company; you’ll be sharing your tongue with literary giants such as Borges and Cortázar, the creators of tango, and a whole population reputed for its unparalleled good looks.
Have I convinced you? Let’s get started.
How to Speak Like a True Argentine
If you want to learn how to speak Spanish like a true Argentine, you’ve got to learn to talk like porteños. Porteños, as Buenos Aires residents are commonly called (the word is derived from puerto (harbor) and refers to “people of the harbor”) are reputed for their highly expressive manner of speech.
A wave of Italian immigration at the beginning of the 20th century is largely to blame; as immigrants adopted Spanish as their new tongue, they kept their native peninsula’s singsong intonations, expansive gestures… and womanizing tendencies.
Dealing with the Argentine “sh” Sound
Argentine or Porteño Spanish is most easily identified by the particular “sh” sound used to pronounce “ll” and “y” sounds, pronounced as a “ye” sound in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world.
Calle (street), for instance—ordinarily pronounced “caye”—becomes “cashe” in Argentine Spanish.
The same goes for “y” sounds. Tuyo (yours)—normally pronounced as written—becomes “tusho.”
It may take a few days to become used to this new pronunciation, but once you’ve got it, you’ll never want to go back.
Addressing the Second Person in Argentine Spanish
Forget everything you’ve ever learned about the second person singular; tú (you) is nonexistent in Argentina. Instead, get ready to be addressed by vos in a form known as the voseo. The conjugation for this particular form differs slightly from that of tú. The biggest difference is in the conjugation of the verb ser (to be).
As a foreigner, you’ll frequently be asked, “¿De dónde sos?” Years of formal Spanish education can’t possibly prepare you for this astounding permutation of “¿De dónde eres?” (“Where are you from?”). But now you’ll know not to tentatively answer “bechamel?” or some other equally baffling response (to your interlocutor).
Instead of tú eres (you are), you’ll hear vos sos in Argentina.
The following outlines how you should conjugate vos with -ar, -er and -ir verbs. As a general rule, always emphasize the conjugation (end of the word), as indicated by the respective accents.
Hablar (to speak):
Tú hablas → vos hablás (placing the emphasis on the “á”)
Querer (to want):
Tú quieres → vos querés (placing the emphasis on the “é”)
Salir (to leave):
Tú sales → vos salís (placing the emphasis on the “i”)
Now that you’ve got basic pronunciation and conjugation down, let’s explore the expansive world of Argentine slang.
Filler Argentine Spanish Expressions
These are common expressions you can interject in the flow of conversation.
Che – hey. The most common way to get someone’s attention. This does not necessarily refer to Che Guevara. To go completely native, feel free to add boludo (dude). Be aware, though, that “che boludo” is very informal, and could be seen as rude in some contexts—so only use this with your closest friends or in informal situations.
As in, “Che boludo, ¿me pasas la ultima empanada?” (Hey dude, will you pass me the last empanada?).
Viste – you see. Generally used to begin a sentence or to stress a point.
As in, “Viste, Messi es el mejor jugador del mundo” (You see, Messi is the best player in the world) or “Viste! Ganó Messi como lo había dicho” (See! Messi won like I said he would).
Ni en pedo – no way. Comes from the expression en pedo (drunk) and literally means “not even drunk would I do that.” But just like “che boludo,” this is another expression that could come across as rude if used in the wrong context, so again, save it for your close friends or informal situations.
As in, “Ni en pedo iría a Chile” (There’s no way I’d ever go to Chile).
Posta – no way, but in an affirmative sense. Generally used as an interjection after someone’s told you something strange or remarkable.
As in, “Me dieron el puesto” – “Posta!” (They gave me the job – No way!)
Barbaro – awesome.
As in, “Este lugar es barbaro” (This place is awesome).
Mastering Argentine Seduction with Slang
Bold, slick and deathly good looking, Argentine men are world-renowned for their impassioned discourse and relentless pursuit. But women of the world, watch out: He may call you the most beautiful angel to walk the earth, but he’s probably calling 15 other girls the same. Here’s a some essential language to deal with Argentine suitors:
Chamullero – player or smooth talker.
As in, “Qué chamullero, siempre está buscando chicas” (What a player, he’s always looking for girls).
Chamullar – to smooth talk.
As in, “No me chamulles” (Don’t give me your smooth talk).
Piropo – compliment. These are generally quick one-liners men dispatch at women in the street, with or without women’s knowledge or consent.
As in, “Estoy cansada de escuchar piropos a cada rincón” (I’m sick of hearing piropos at every corner).
Chabon – guy.
As in, “El chabon allá me dio una flor” (The guy over there gave me a flower).
Mina – young girl.
As in, “La mina me mira de manera rara” (The girl is looking at me strangely).
Tirar onda – to flirt.
As in, “Me tiro onda pero no estaba interesada” (He flirted with me but I wasn’t interested).
Discussing Work and Money in Argentine Spanish
The Argentine economy may collapse every ten years (the last financial crisis in 2001 was nothing compared to past crises, older Argentines will assure you), often resulting in ridiculously high inflation and instability. Yet despite this—or perhaps because of this—Argentines are remarkably resilient and lively people. Here’s a list of terms you’ll need to discuss the job market in slang:
Laburo – work or job. Also used as a verb, laburar.
As in, “Me gusta mi laburo” (I like my job).
Al pedo – bored or useless. Not to be confused with en pedo (drunk).
As in, “Como no tenía un laburo el verano pasado, lo pasé al pedo” (Since I didn’t have work last summer, I was bored).
Mango – another way to express Argentine currency, the peso.
As in, “Me costó dos mangos” (It cost me two pesos).
Colectivo – Buenos Aires bus.
As in, “Tomá el colectivo 126 para llegar al centro” (Take the 126 bus to arrive at the center).
Cheto – rich or snobby. Can refer to people or places.
As in, “No me gusta Recoleta [a neighborhood], es demasiado cheto” (I don’t like Recoleta, it’s too snooty).
Spanish Slang to Survive the Never-ending Nightlife in Argentina
Argentine nightlife takes stamina and resilience. In fact, you’d be advised to take a nap before going out (most Argentines swear by pre-nightlife naps) in order to survive the long night ahead, considering you won’t be hitting the sack until 10 a.m.
That’s correct: A typical previa (pre-gaming session) starts around 11 p.m. or midnight. You’ll hit up a party or club around 2 or 3 a.m., and then typically won’t be done until you’re starved for breakfast and barely able to stand on your two feet. Here’s some essential vocabulary you might need on your quest:
Joda – party.
As in, “Mañana hay la joda de Enrique” (Tomorrow’s Enrique’s party).
En pedo – drunk.
As in, “Estuvo en pedo anoche” (He was super drunk last night).
Birra – beer (taken from the English).
As in, “Vamos a comprar unas birras” (Let’s go buy a few beers).
Boliche – nightclub.
As in, “Pasan música electro en este boliche” (They play electronica a this nightclub).
Quilombo – a mess.
As in, “Qué quilombo llegar al centro con este tráfico” (Getting to the center with all of this traffic is a mess).
Copado – cool.
As in, “Es muy copado el chabón” (That guy is really cool).
So there you have it. Strap on your tango shoes and give Argentine Spanish a whirl!
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