Unlock These 6 Keys to Native-sounding Paraguayan Spanish
When planning a trip or choosing a regional Spanish to study, you might think of Brazil, Argentina, Peru or Colombia before your mind wanders to the striking landscape and unique language that can be found in Paraguay.
But whether you plan on traveling to Paraguay, want to meet new Spanish-speaking friends or simply feel curious about variants of the Spanish language, there are many intriguing linguistic gems to be found.
Keep reading to learn more about what makes Paraguayan Spanish special and where you can hear it, plus six key pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary tips that’ll get you sounding like a local!
- Why Focus on Paraguayan Spanish?
- Where to Practice Paraguayan Spanish
- Guara-what? The Ultimate Guide to Learning Paraguayan Spanish
Why Focus on Paraguayan Spanish?
- Discover the Paraguayan language salad: Spanish, Guaraní or Jopará? The very first thing you should know is that learning Paraguayan Spanish necessarily means learning Guaraní as well. An indigenous language, Guaraní was established as a co-official language of Paraguay alongside Spanish and is taught in schools across the country.
Guaraní is spoken by the masses and is an undeniable part of Paraguay’s identity, with politicians and the elites speaking it as fluently as the regular Paraguayan next door. Approximately 90 percent of the population speak Guaraní, although only an estimated five percent of the population is actually indigenous—numbers unique to Paraguay compared to the rest of Latin America.
The result is a very interesting mix of Spanish and Guaraní that ended up being called Jopará or Guarañol! Ready for a delicious language salad?
- Appreciate the country’s history and culture better. Paraguay carries the weight of a heavy history on its shoulders. Having withstood several eras of dictatorship, conflict with its neighbors and burdensome occupation, Paraguay still offers jaw-dropping natural and historical heritage today.
Perhaps one of your future travel plans could include visiting La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná near Encarnación and exploring the ruins of what used to be a small Jesuit colony. Looking to experience Paraguay like a native? Try drinking the traditional, incredibly popular and omnipresent tereré (infusion of yerba mate) or visit the murals and street art that brought Asunción a new breath of fresh air!
Looking for natural landscapes? Why not visit the dunes of San Cosme and Damian or the caverns of Vallemi? Paraguay gives you the natural, the historical and the urban, all in one!
- Meet young people who dream big. From creating beer that slims you down to succeeding in robotics, fighting for fair labor and even participating in the Pokemón World Championship, the Paraguayan youth has been raising its voice and playing its best cards against poverty, gender inequality and a lack of access to basic education that still threaten a happy future.
- Can you say “startup?” InfoCasas (rental and shopping for houses in Paraguay) and Préstamos (banking and loans) are examples of Paraguayan startups that keep on giving.
A major producer of hydroelectricity and home to the world’s largest generator of renewable energy, Paraguay offers a world of opportunity and challenge for entrepreneurs who dream of making an actual difference and escaping saturated markets.
Where to Practice Paraguayan Spanish
We’ll teach you the ins and outs of Paraguayan Spanish below, but first: where can you hear and practice it? Check out these fun options.
Jam Out to Hit Paraguayan Music
A great way to start getting familiar with the sound and culture of Paraguayan Spanish is to enjoy catchy Paraguayan songs.
- Without a doubt, indie rock has been one of the music genres that’s grown the most in the country. Favorite alternative bands among younger Paraguayans include Kchiporros, Villagran Bolaños, La de Roberto and Salamandra.
- Finally, if you’re into popular and traditional music genres in Paraguay like the Paraguayan polka and guarania (the cultural phenomenon of the 20th century in Paraguay) you can always check out the famous hit “India” by José Asunción Flores, as well as composers like Emiliano Fernández, Demetrio Ortiz or Mauricio Cardozo Ocampo.
- Into jazz and soul? Purahei Soul are likely to give you a healthy dose of Guaraní and soul in one serving!
Follow These Paraguayans YouTubers
Paraguayan YouTubers let you hear authentic, up-to-date local Spanish for free—and it’s always fun, too!
- You may start with the comedy group Desoxigenados and their famous series “Así hablamos los paraguayos.” (“We Paraguayans speak like this.”)
- Sin Jabón en la Boca (Without Soap in the Mouth) will give you the best of political, social and cultural commentary with a touch of humor and shamelessness.
- Mar Joha will give you relationship advice, her experience with Paraguayan society and her opinions on dating and music.
Consume other authentic content
Beyond YouTube and music, surrounding yourself with authentic content is a great way to immerse yourself in Paraguayan Spanish.
You can check out Reel Good’s list of Paraguayan movies and TV shows that are available to stream on various platforms. Or, search for Paraguayan content on immersion software like FluentU, where you’ll find short videos from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries. Plus, you’ll be able to keep up with the content thanks to interactive Spanish and English subtitles that let you define any word as the video plays.
Guara-what? The Ultimate Guide to Learning Paraguayan Spanish
As in any country around the world, Spanish won’t sound exactly the same in all regions of Paraguay. However, there are some overarching tips we can share that’ll make your life easier learning Spanish from Paraguay.
1. Vacuum Clean Your Letter “S”
Paraguayan Spanish shares some aspects of pronunciation with other Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. That being said, Paraguayan people will often turn an “s” into a soft “h.”
Talking to a Paraguayan friend, you may notice that the expression más o menos (more or less) would sound like “máh o méno.” The word español (Spanish) would also sound like “ehpañol.”
Other examples are estamos (we are), which would be pronounced “ehtamo,” and hasta (until), which would be likely to sound like “ahta.”
Can you guess how the sentence Estamos juntos y hablamos español (We are together and we speak Spanish) would sound? If you placed your bets on something similar to “Ehtamo junto y hablamo ehpañol,” you’re correct!
Check out how these tips would actually sound when spoken by a Paraguayan.
2. Pay Attention to “R” and “Tr”
In some regions of Paraguay, the letters “tr” as in trabajo (work), trio (trio) or trampa (trap) could be pronounced with the sound of a very soft, quick “tch.” Think “tchabajo,” “tchio” or “tchampa.”
Additionally, it’s not uncommon for the “r” at the end of a word to be strongly pronounced and somewhat exaggerated when talking enthusiastically, fervently or jokingly about a topic. Not only does this strong “r” sound flow easily within the language, it also helps the message come across as funnier or stronger:
¿Dónde está mi celularrrrrr? (Where is my cellphone?)
In some variations of Paraguayan Spanish, the “r” will be pronounced very similarly to English, and only in particular words within a sentence—you can see how that would sound by clicking this Paraguayan YouTuber’s video and watching out for the 0:11 to 0:16 mark.
3. Get Familiar with Vos
If you plan on spending time with Paraguayan friends, you may notice they often use the word vos instead of tú to refer to “you,” the second person singular.
The verb for this is vosear. The replacement of tú with vos is a major departure from Castillian Spanish and even from the Spanish of other Latin American countries!
Vos requires particular verb conjugations that differ from those we use with tú. For instance, instead of saying tú tienes, you would use vos tenés (you have). Rather than saying tú eres (you are), you would use vos sos.
Other common examples include:
- tú hablas → vos hablás (you talk)
- tú pides → vos pedís (you ask for something)
- tú comes → vos comés (you eat)
- tú puedes → vos podés (you can)
- tú pones → vos ponés (you put)
Do keep in mind that although intuitively the word vos would sound pretty formal, it’s used in Paraguay informally, such as between friends or mother and child. Also, it’s not unusual for vos and tú verb conjugations to get mixed up in the same conversation, sometimes by the exact same person!
4. Give That “Y” a J-twist!
Ready for a healthy dose of eccentric pronunciation quirks?
Think of the words Paraguay, Uruguay, hay (there is), soy (I am) or estoy (also “I am”).
For words that have the letter “y” at the end, as in the previous examples, the regular sound “-ee” will do. You’ll be safe!
However, when sneaking into the beginning of a word, it’s extremely common for the letter “y” to be pronounced as a soft “j.”
- ya → would be pronounced “ja” (already)
- yo → would be pronounced “jo” (I)
- yacaré → would be pronounced “jacaré” (alligator)
- Yugoslavia → would be pronounced “Jugoslavia”
Remember: the final sound will always be a very soft blend between a “y” and a “j.” Make sure you don’t draw too much attention to the sound, and keep it smooth!
5. Swap Your “LL” for “Y”
Now that your “y” is in shape… prepare for another sound swap. We know, we know… letters just love playing hard to get in Paraguay, but with some dedication and an attentive ear you’re certain to nail it!
As it happens with other versions of Latin American Spanish, in Paraguay the digraph ll (or double “l”) will regularly adopt the sound of… a “y.” That’s right! Check how the following words would be pronounced:
- lluvia → “yuvia” (rain)
- llamar → “yamar” (to call)
- ella → “eya” (she)
- llorar → “yorar” (to cry)
As in the previous case of the letter “y” becoming somewhat similar to a “j” sound, here too you must be careful not to exaggerate and instead go for a smooth blend between “ll” and “y,” as there won’t always be a clear distinction between one and the other when talking to native speakers.
6. Remember These Local Expressions
Due to its peaceful coexistence with Guaraní, Paraguayan Spanish uses several phrases that are translated from the indigenous language, creating a whole new swath of expressions you won’t find anywhere else.
Take, for example, the expression Te voy a contar ahora después (literally, “I am going to tell you now later”), which comes from the Guaraní expression Amombe’úta ndéve anga upéi.
Mixing up the words “now” and “later” in the same sentence seems counterintuitive and strange, but happens regularly in Paraguay to emphasize the time when the action will actually take place! In this case, Te voy a contar ahora después indicates that you’d tell somebody something later, but with the intention of it being pretty soon.
Then there are some short, super versatile words and phrases that pay homage to Guaraní, including:
- ¡Ma’ena! (Something like “awwww!”)
- ¡E’a! (Expressing surprise)
- ¿Ha upéi? (What’s up?)
- ¡Anichéne! (No way!)
Other Paraguayan expressions you can count on:
- Walking the streets and someone calls you guapo(a)? Sorry, but in Paraguay that might not mean you’re attractive, as it does in other versions of Spanish! It’s also a compliment, however, meaning you’re a hardworking person.
- Hay que viene, from the Guaraní Oĩ oúva, translates in English to “Someone is coming” (usually used when someone’s ringing at the door).
- ¿Y después? (And then?) is often used when answering the phone to ask “What’s up?” as a translation of the Guaraní expression ¿ha upéi?
- Was something done in a hurry, in improvisation or without a plan? Then it was done a la bartola (sloppily, carelessly)!
- Not really feeling like going out? Would you rather be a couch potato for the night than party at the club? Be sure to use the expression Estoy kaigue (meaning you feel lazy, or just don’t feel like it)!
- Trying to say something isn’t going so well? Vaí-vaí (literally “bad bad” in Guarani)…
- Spend an afternoon with Paraguayan teenagers or youngsters and you’re likely to hear the word purete every couple of sentences—now you know how to say “awesome!”
A person can be purete. A place, a dress or a joke can be purete. You just got a new car? ¡Purete!
Want to hear how Jopará, the very common mix of Spanish and Guaraní, would sound like when spoken by a native Paraguayan? Check out this video from Wikitongues!
Now that you’ve been introduced to Paraguayan Spanish, make yourself a delicious homemade tereré, prepare a playlist of your favorite Paraguayan hits, get vos on the tip of your tongue… and get ready for your Paraguayan Spanish to become 100 percent purete!