A Guide to Paisa Spanish

This is guest post written by Connor Grooms, who learned Spanish to a B1 conversational level in a month and made the film, “Spanish in a Month: A Documentary About Language Learning” about it.

A few months ago, I learned Spanish to a B1 conversational level in a month while living in Medellín, Colombia. If you want to see the whole story and see how to learn Spanish fast, like I did, watch the documentary here.

But all Spanish is not the same, and I learned a specific breed – “paisa” Spanish. Paisa refers to people from Antioquia, the region where Medellín is.

So, below I will explain how some things are said differently here. These are trends I’ve noticed, and by no means is the definite “how things are” – which doesn’t really exist.

The Basics
You will almost never hear “de nada” or “adios” – instead, your welcome is “con gusto” or “con mucho gusto“, or literally, with pleasure. This is also how you say nice to meet you. “Adios” is only really used for long periods of time – at least a few weeks. Instead, people use “ciao“, mostly, or “hasta luego“.

The phrase “es que” is used a lot – literally meaning “it’s that…”, it starts most explanations.

It’s common to exchange several greetings before ever saying anything of real meaning. “Como estas” is still extremely common, but the “paisa” way is “bien o no”, or, “bien o que”, which literally means “good or not?”, “good or what?”.

Between friends, another common greeting is “¿que mas?“, which means “what more” – and outside of a greeting, it still means that – but as a greeting, it means “what’s up?”. “¿Que tal?“, which is used elsewhere as well, is also used.

If you bump into someone, need to excuse yourself in a crowd, make an error, or otherwise do something that would render an “sorry, excuse me” or a “oh! sorry”, use “que pena“, which literally means “what shame”. If something makes you embarrased, you’d use “me da pena“.

Affirmatives
If you come to Medellín and want to sound local, drop the “si“, and use one of three main affirmatives:

Claro = of course. This is used a LOT.
Cierto = right/yes
Eso = literally means “that”, but it’s used as a general affirmative, in a wide variety of situations.

Common filler words
Anyone who has done some research on Paisa Spanish has probably heard of the heavy use of the word “pues“.

Pues” literally means, “well”, and it’s still used as such, but it’s also used as a filler. You could add it to almost any part of any sentence and it would make sense – it’s almost meaningless. It’s like an “uhhhm”.

O que” is another common one – it’s added to the end of lots of sentences to form a question. This is almost as common as pues.

Paisas are also fond of throwing a “que” in front of adjectives to express a feeling. So instead of “chevere” (cool), they will say “que chevere” (how cool/ a stronger “cool”). This is part of the culture of everything being great, and the common exaggeration of everything, good or bad. Speaking in a bland “it was kinda cool”, has the potential to leave Paisas bored.

Local slang
Something (generally) uneducated young women will do is transform many words to end in “is“. For example, instead of “hola“, they will say, “holis“, and instead of “raro“, they will say “raris“. It’s very improper and actually quite annoying to hear, but if you hear it, that’s whats going on.

Amigo” is rarely used between friends. Instead, people use “parce / parcero“, which basically means “dude/mate/bro” (use this and you’re instantly better friends with any guy, trust me). If you’re good friends, you’ll even use “guevon“, which is offensive if you don’t know someone. Worse than guevon, there is “marica“, which basically means fag, which is definitely offensive if you don’t know someone, but is sort of teasing if you’re good friends.

There are few ways to say “awesome” – the most common would be “bacano“. If something is REALLY awesome, you use “brutal“, which is the equivalent of “sick” in American English.

This should get you sounding paisa when you come to the amazing city of Medellín. Click here to see the documentary I made while learning Spanish in a month here.

English, Language, Language learning, Spanish 1 Comment

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 6 Comments

Polyglot Pathways

If you’re a polyglot who learns languages for fun, you might choose languages from a particular family or region, or languages that have contributed to your mother tongue. Or you might choose ones that are completely unrelated to one another in order to challenge yourself. These are possible pathways a polyglot might pursue.

Another possible polyglot pathway that I came up with the other day is especially for dog lovers: learning languages from regions associated with breeds of dog. For example, if you have an Alsatian, you could learn the Alsatian (Ëlsässisch) and speak to your dog in that tongue. Or if you have a Bernese mountain dog you could learn Béarnese, and chihuahua owners could learn one or more of the languages of Chihuahua state in Mexico, where their dogs originate. The most widely-spoken of these is Tarahumara (Rarámuri ra’ícha).

Do the languages you study have a particular theme or connection?

English, Language, Language learning 3 Comments

French and potatoes

I came across an interesting phrase in Scottish Gaelic today: Ith do bhuntàta beag mus dig na Frangaich!, which means “eat your small potatoes before the French come!” and it is apparently said to children picking at their food to encourage them to eat up [source].

Are there similar phrases in other languages, perhaps used in different contexts?

What did your parents say to you to get you to finish your food?

Or if you have kids, what do you say to them, if they need encouragment?

English, Idioms, Language, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases 8 Comments

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 5 Comments

Word of the Year

According to the Oxford Dictionaries the word of the year for 2015 is not a word at all but an emoji, specifically the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’:

Face with Tears of Joy emoji

Do you use emoji(s)?

Is the plural emoji or emojis?

Do you think of them as words?

What’s your word of the year?

English, Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments

La vie de baguette

The best-known type of French bread is the baguette, which was possibly introduced to France in the early 19th century by August Zang from Austria, though that’s another story.

Baguettes only stay fresh for a day, so what do you do with them once they start to go hard?

Here are a few possibilities:

La vie de baguette - a cartoon showing ways in which the French use their baguettes

Here’s a translation:

1. First Day: sliced with butter, sandwich
2. Second Day: toast
3. Third Day: French toast (“lost bread”)
4. Fourth Day: croutons, crumbs for the pigeons
5. Fifth Day: hammer, golf club

Image supplied by Frantastique, who can teach you all about the bizarre French cuisine, and help you to learn French.

I was told that if your baguette is a bit stale you can revive it by sprinkling a bit of water on slices and blasting them in a microwave for a short while. I haven’t tried this as I’m am microwaveless.

The French word baguette can also refer to:

– a magic wand = baguette magique; baguette de fée; baguette de sourcler
– chopsticks = baguettes chinoises
– conductor’s baton = baguette de direction; baguette de chef d’orchestre
– a drumstick = baguette de tambour

Expressions incorporating baguette include:

– sous la baguette de … = conducted by …
– faire marcher qn à la baguette = to rule sb with an iron hand

What are baguettes called in your country?

English, French, Language 9 Comments

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language 9 Comments

Free Language Podcast

Yesterday I did an interview over Skype with Chapman Woodriff, who runs FreeLanguage.org, which provides a variety of language-learning material and advice. Chapman made the interview into a podcast in which I explain how I got into languages, how I started Omniglot and how people can use Omniglot to learn languages.

English, Language, Language learning 1 Comment

Mandarin or Putonghua?

Today I received an email in which the writer tells me that Chinese should be called Putonghua and not Mandarin. Apparently, “People don’t know, and school teachers don’t care! obviously; leaving me to inform: The name ‘Mandarin’ has been obsolete 105 years now.” The name Mandarin was used for a ‘Manchurian high official’ who spoke 官話 (official speech). However since the fall of the Manchurian Qing monarchy in 1911, “Mandarins dead as dodos” and to use the name Mandarin is “an affront to the republican nation”.

This language in fact has a number of different names in different countries and regions:

– 普通话 [普通話] (pǔtōnghuà) – “common speech” – in China
– 國語 (guóyǔ) – “national language” – in Taiwan
– 华语 [華語] (huáyǔ) – “Chinese language” – in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and the other parts of Southeast Asia.
– 汉语 [漢語] (hànyǔ) – “Han language” – in the USA and among the Chinese diaspora
– 中文 (zhōngwén) – “Chinese language” – in Taiwan, mainly
– Chinese, Mandarin, Mandarin Chinese, Putonghua, etc. in English-speaking countries
– Other names in other countries and languages

During the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1912) dynasties, the language used by court officials became known as 官话 [官話] (guānhuà) – “official speech”. The word Mandarin comes from the the Sanskrit मन्त्रिन् (mantrin = counselor, minister) via the Portuguese mandarim. It was first used to refer to Chinese bureaucrats, and later it was used to refer to the language those officials spoke, which was used as a lingua franca of China from the 14th century.

What is Mandarin / Putonghua / Chinese known as in other languages?

Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Chinese

Chinese, English, Language 10 Comments
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