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Argentinian Spanish (Essential Words, Pronunciation and More)

For whatever reason, maybe after watching “Evita” or tasting your first empanada (meat-filled pastry), you’ve decided to take on Argentinian Spanish.

Congratulations: You’re about to adopt one of the most unique Spanish accents and vocabulary in the book.

In this post, you’ll learn all about Argentinian Spanish, from the pronunciation to some essential words and phrases!

Contents

Argentinian Spanish: The Basics

If you want to learn how to speak Argentinian Spanish, 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 and expansive gestures.

Let’s start by taking a look at two rather tricky topics.

Dealing with the Argentinian “sh” Sound

Argentinian 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 Argentinian Spanish.

The same goes for “y” sounds. Playa  (beach) becomes “plasha.”

It may take a few days to get used to this new pronunciation, but once you’ve got it, you’ll never want to go back.

Addressing the Second Person in Argentinian Spanish

Forget everything you’ve ever learned about the second person singular; (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 . 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?).

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.

Verb conjugationVos conjugation
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 “í”)

Now that you’ve got basic pronunciation and conjugation down, let’s explore the expansive world of Argentinian Spanish.

Filler Argentinian 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.

Che boludo, ¿me pasás la última empanada? — Hey dude, will you pass me the last empanada?

Viste — you see

Generally used to begin a sentence or to stress a point.

Viste, Messi es el mejor jugador del mundo. — You see, Messi is the best player in the world.

¡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.

Ni en pedo iría a Marte. — There’s no way I’d ever go to Mars.

Posta — for real, seriously

This is used in an affirmative sense. It’s generally used as an interjection after someone’s told you something strange or remarkable.

Me dieron el puesto. — They gave me the job.
¿Posta? ¡Felicidades! — Really? Congrats!

Bárbaro awesome

Este lugar es bárbaro. — This place is awesome.

You can see some examples and explanations of filler expressions like cheposta and viste in this video.

Flirting Like an Argentine

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 some essential language to deal with Argentine suitors:

Chamullero player or smooth talker

Qué chamullero, siempre está buscando chicas. — What a player, he’s always looking for girls.

Chamullar — to smooth-talk

No me chamulles. — Don’t give me your smooth talk.

Piropo compliment/catcall

These are generally quick one-liners men dispatch at women in the street, with or without women’s knowledge or consent.

Estoy cansada de escuchar piropos en cada esquina. — I’m sick of hearing catcalls at every corner.

Chabón / Chabona guy/girl

El chabón de allá me dio una flor. — The guy over there gave me a flower.

Mina young girl

La mina me mira raro. — The girl is looking at me strangely.

Tirar onda to flirt

Me tiró onda pero no estaba interesada. — He flirted with me but I wasn’t interested.

Discussing Work and Money in Argentinian Spanish

Argentines are remarkably resilient and lively people. Here’s a list of terms you’ll need to discuss the job market in Argentinian Spanish:

Laburo work or job

Also used as a verb, laburar .

Me gusta mi laburo. — I like my job.

Al pedo lazy, useless

Not to be confused with en pedo (drunk).

Como no tenía un laburo el verano pasado, la pasé al pedo. — Since I didn’t have work last summer, I lazed around.

Mango peso (Argentinian currency)

This word can also mean “money” in general.

Me costó dos mangos. — It cost me two pesos.

Perdona, no tengo mangos. — I’m sorry I have no money.

Colectivo Buenos Aires bus

Note that while this word is most commonly used in Buenos Aires, it’s also widely understood across Argentina.

Tomá el colectivo 126 para ir al centro de la ciudad. — Take the 126 bus to go to the city center.

Cheto / Cheta rich or snobby

Can refer to people or places.

No me gusta Recoleta, es demasiado cheto. — I don’t like Recoleta, it’s too snooty.

Argentinian Spanish Terms For Nightlife

Argentinian nightlife takes stamina and resilience. In fact, you’d be advised to take a nap before going out in order to survive the long night ahead.

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

Mañana es la joda de Enrique. — Tomorrow’s Enrique’s party.

En pedo drunk

Estuvo en pedo anoche. — He was super drunk last night.

Birra — beer 

This Italian loanword (which in turn derived from German “Bier”) was most likely adopted in Argentinian Spanish thanks to the huge Italian immigration in the country.

Vamos a comprar unas birras. — Let’s go buy a few beers.

Boliche nightclub

Ponen música electro en este boliche. — They play electronica at this nightclub.

Quilombo  a mess

Qué quilombo llegar al centro con este tráfico. — Getting to the center with all of this traffic is a mess.

Copado / Copada  cool

Es muy copado el chabón. — That guy is really cool.

Why Learn Argentinian Spanish?

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 Argentinian Spanish, 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.

How to Learn Argentinian Spanish

  • Listen to Argentinian music. A fun way to learn Argentinian Spanish is to try listening out for Argentinian Spanish words and pronunciation in music created by Argentine musicians. Make sure to check out famous Argentine artists like Tini, Diego Torres and Andrés Calamaro.
  • Watch Argentinian cooking videos. Argentina is famous for its empanadasasadochoripán and alfajores as well as a ton of other delicious dishes. If you’re interested in immersing yourself in Argentinian Spanish while also adding more dishes to your repertoire, why not try searching for videos on YouTube? Check out this video and learn how to make empanadas!
  • Immerse yourself in Argentinian content. Your Argentinian immersion doesn’t have to be limited to just Argentinian music and cooking videos. There are so many resources to choose from! For example, you could watch Argentinian movies like “Matrimillas” (“The Marriage App”) on Netflix, or you could use a language learning program like FluentU—which teaches Spanish using authentic videos like movie trailers and music videos—to search for some of the terms featured in this post and hear them used in context by native speakers.

 

So there you have it. Start preparing your mate and give Argentinian Spanish a go!

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