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Interesting and confusing aspects of Colombian Spanish

| 125 comments | Category: particular languages

My time in Colombia is coming to an end – I had a quick weekend in Bogotá, almost two months in Medellín, and now my last days are being spent here in Cali.

I talked about a few ways I was speaking many languages as part of my mission here, but of course the one I was using the most was Spanish, since the vast majority of my socialising has been with Colombians.

[By the way, I'm going to be announcing my next mission to learn to speak an Asian language in less than two months starting in January, in the Language Hacking League e-mail list after the weekend. I'm only giving it 2 months because I want to take on four languages by September ;) Join up on the right of the site to find out about each of those missions long before I announce them on the blog!]

My Spanish was already quite good before arrival, (I have a C2 diploma from the Instituto Cervantes, and was even interviewed live on the radio in Spanish several years ago) but of course the dialect I was most familiar with was Peninsular Spanish (mainland Spain).

My Spanish has also been highly influenced by two months in the Canary Islands (I’d describe their Spanish as halfway between Peninsular and Latin American; it’s quite Spain-like, but they pronounce c/z as “s” & use ustedes rather than vosotros for example), and two months in Argentina. I’ve also had many friends from various South American countries, so I’ve picked up many aspects of those dialects over the years.

I thought nothing could really surprise me any more in the language I have the most experience in, until I came to Colombia!

Colombian Spanish

Like in any language, you can’t simplify it to just “Colombian” Spanish, as there are many dialects within the country. When most people say “Colombian Spanish” they actually mean the standard dialect usually spoken in Bogotá (ignoring the rest of the country).

This dialect is generally well known for being probably the clearest Spanish in the world and telenovelas, hearing Shakira, and meeting several Colombians I had met in my travels confirmed this. But living in the country itself has changed my mentality about all Spanish in Colombia being so easy to understand.

I would still say that the “standard” Colombian dialect seen on TV and spoken by those in the capital, Bogotá, is the easiest to understand and I can confidently say that it’s the clearest Spanish I’ve ever heard. But leave the capital and formal conversations, and things start to get messy quickly!

For example, I was going out with a girl from the coast (a Costeña), and had such trouble understanding her accent that I constantly had to ask her to repeat what she had just said. (Pronunciation rather than actual vocabulary was the problem). This means you can expect huge variations within the country!

I didn’t have problems understanding accents of pretty much everyone else though. “Paisas” (residents of Antioquia, with Medellín as its capital) are easy enough to understand, but colour up their speech quite a lot. Because of this I actually found it way more fun talking to them!

¿Qué más parce?

As expected in any dialect, you’ll find words they prefer to use over the standard. For example “¿Qué más?” is how they say “How are you?” – it’s confusing when you consider the usual translation of “What else?”

And they say “¡Qué pena!” for Sorry! (in most dialects it means “What a pity!”) Hearing these two terms that I was already used to for completely different meanings took some time to get used to!

Next, the term “¡A la orden!” is something you’ll hear a lot when near shops and the like. It’s kind of an “At your service!” way of getting your attention to lure you into shops, but also a way to conclude business and a kind of “thank you!” that I’d hear after paying taximen for example.

Then “friend” is parce or parcero/a, “party” is rumba (or “to party” is rumbear), “cool” (awesome) is chévere etc. These are preferred over amigo/fiesta etc. and you can find a great list of them on the Wikipedia entry on Colombian Spanish.

There were others I was already more familiar with – bacán / bacano/a is the same in Brazilian Portuguese (also, “cool” but in a different context), “joder” the verb means to “tease” or “take the piss” like in Peninsular Spanish (but is not used as an exclamation like in Spain for “fuck!”)

And especially in Medellín, “pues” would appear at the end of so many sentences when talking informally. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything; kind of like the stereotypical valley girl “like”. ¡Hágale pues!

Then “coger” is “to take” (bus/taxi etc.) exactly like in Spain, even though it has sexual connotations in many other Latin American countries. Many sources I had read on Spanish mislead me to believe that “coger” was universally a taboo word in Latin America. The more I learn about each country, the more I think “Latin American Spanish” generalisations fall apart.

Also, Colombians prefer to use “-ico/a” as the diminutive when the word usually ends in to/ta. So you get un momentico (if you’re told to wait this amount of time in Colombia, then make sure you have a good book with you).

Usted vs tú vs vos

While there are many aspects of Colombian Spanish I love, I have to say this one caused me endless frustration. Before I came here, I was under the impression that “usted” is used in formal situations (although how you define “formal” depends on the culture), and tú is used otherwise with friends and family.

The one exception I had already come across was “vos” in Argentina, but this just replaces “tú” as the informal version of “you”.

Getting used to “vos” isn’t that bad; if you know Peninsular Spanish, then you would be familiar with the “vosotros” conjugation; “Vos” just removes the “i” from the -ar/-er vosotros conjugation. So vosotros sois => vos sos, vosotros habláis => vos hablás, vosotros tenéis => vos tenés etc. (“ir” conjugation is the same for vos & vosotros). If you aren’t familiar with Peninsular Spanish, then most of the time all you have to do is say the verb like the infinitive (“to” -ar/-er/-ir form), but replace the ‘r’ with an ‘s’.

So when I found out that Colombians (not those in Bogotá) use “vos”, having to use the actual conjugation was not that big a deal for me, since I learned it in Argentina. The question is… when do you use it instead of tú?

Various sources explained that “vos” is the usual informal one between friends and “tú” is much more intimate (between lovers for example), but my experience over the last weeks tells me otherwise.

To make matters worse, “usted” is NOT exclusively formal! I heard mothers talking to children using “usted” in normal situations, and the costeña I was going out with and quite close to, would constantly (despite my indignation) address me with “usted”, or conjugate her verbs for that word. She also used it with her other close friends and insisted that for her it’s more natural to use “usted” with pretty much everyone.

I’ve never had a conjugation drive me so crazy! If anything, as time went on I got even more confused about which “you” to use! It seems each person or family just happened to stick to one or the other. But even when I thought I had established a particular “you” choice with someone, they’d switch for no apparent reason.

I’d start to respectfully use the “usted” form with a taxi driver, but he’d reply with “tú”, then I’d use “tú” when out with some Couchsurfers, but they’d all start voseando-ing me.

Another confusing aspect of the use of “vos” for me personally, was that I kept hearing my name everywhere! Benny Benny vení vení!! (Spanish v & b are pronounced the same; this is the imperative “come (here)!”).

Very polite and affectionate

Although use of formal “you” was confusing, I found Colombians to be extremely polite with how they spoke to me! Some people I’d pass in the street, and the security of the building I was living in would always greet me with a cheery “¡Caballero!” (Gentleman), and they would always try their best to make you feel good.

Many of them told an American I met, whose Spanish was abysmal, (i.e. he was barely mustering up the courage to say “hola”) that it was very good. Such exaggeration is great for morale, and can help you make progress quicker.

(Since they presumed I was Spanish most of the time, they didn’t feel the need to compliment my level; this stage of not being complimented is actually what I ultimately aim for in my languages).

And the terms of endearment! Forget the girl I was going out with; waitresses (who were old enough to be my grandmother mind you), my salsa instructor, girls I had just met who would have their boyfriends beside them etc. would constantly call me “corazón” and “mi amor”, with no romantic implications at all. They are just that affectionate in general! (I’ll spare you the lesson today on what you get called in an actual romantic relationship! ;) )

I always like it when I see a culture treat strangers as close friends like this, especially from a traveller’s perspective. Colombians were so warm and welcoming, that I can definitely say I will be missing it a lot while back in more distant countries.

———-

I’ve tried to change the way I speak to be more Colombian, but all the time I spent in Spain has burned that accent into me, so much so that I was confused for a Spaniard on several occasions! Despite this, it was fascinating to learn about the various dialects and the people of Colombia.

It was a fun journey, but on Sunday I’m heading back to Ireland for the usual annual winter solstice holidays (and Germany for New Year’s with some Esperanto speakers) and then I dive into four new languages in 2011! But Spanish will always have a special place in my heart and I look forward to learning even more about the language in future travels!

If you have any thoughts on Colombian Spanish, do share them with us in the comments! Don’t forget to share this post with your friends on Facebook :)

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  • http://philintheblank.net Phil Paoletta

    Hey Benny, been great reading about your adventures in Colombia. The mother talking to her children with usted is very funny to me. All these nuances are fascinating!!! Quite an ambitious 2011 you have planned – I look forward to reading about. Enjoy the holidays. B well, Phil

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      That use of “usted” still has me scratching my head! :P
      Thanks for the well wishes!

      • http://joop.kiefte.eu/ Joop Kiefte

        It reminds me a lot of how Brazilians use você actually…

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

          How? Você is pretty universally always “you”. In the south they also have “tu”, which is preferred for closer relationships, but otherwise você is a pretty good universal way to say “you” without having to worry much about exactly how formal a situation is!

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

          How? Você is pretty universally always “you”. In the south they also have “tu”, which is preferred for closer relationships, but otherwise você is a pretty good universal way to say “you” without having to worry much about exactly how formal a situation is!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      That use of “usted” still has me scratching my head! :P
      Thanks for the well wishes!

      • Ruben

        Hi Benny, as a “paisa” from Manizales I can say that nuances between “tu” and “usted” depend on several things such as the level of income, level of education, gender of the people engaged in the conversation, etc.

        Generally, people of low income or with a lower level of education use “usted” it doesn’t matter the bond with the other person, and sometimes when they try to “tutear” they conjugate the verb wrongly.

        On the other hand, people of higher income or education tend to use more “tu” than “usted”. Additionally, If two people engage in a conversation where one uses “usted” and the other one uses “tu” I would say the one that use “tu” would replace it for “usted”.

        It is also weird to refer to your male friends as “tu”, it does’t apply for everyone though.

        I personally use “tu” with female friends and family, “usted” with male friends and with women that refer to my as “usted”, and “vos” when I am hanging out with my friends from Medellín.

        greetings.

        • Janeth Woodworth

          The word “usted” is traditional and the most respectful, “tu” is more familiar.

          The use of those words it is not about the level income of education is about “respect” (something that the new generation has lost)

          The word “usted” is used by the older people and “tu” for young people. I use “usted” to talk to my daughters, my parents, brothers and sister because I was educated in the old fashion, no because my family is low income or low educated.

      • SolrWind

        To non-native speakers (myself included), it’s indeed confusing.

        I’m gonna take a stab here and say that which form you use depends on your mood and what you’re trying to convey. “Usted” may, for example, be used when someone wants to convey respect, or to soften a sharp comment. “Tú” might be used when feeling (the keyword is feeling) close or intimate, or you’re just letting your hair down and becoming comfy. Finally, maybe “vos” is for when you’re hanging out with your guy friends, “guy’s night”, “chillin’ wit mah homies, yo,” that kind of situ. Just like us English speakers express our feelings with tone of voice unconsciously, native Spanish speakers effortlessly also express themselves by changing the form of the 2nd person. A lot of the colloquialisms you discovered rang a bell for me. I have a friend from Venezuela who uses most of that vocab on a daily basis, so it’s not isolated to just Columbia. Hey, cheers, gotta run.

    • Kim Wertz

      Ruben, I’m also from el Eje Cafetero (Colombia’s coffee region). The words “usted” and “tu” have nothing to do with education level or income. First time I have ever heard anyone saying that. If anything “tu” isn’t very polite-sounding. “Usted” is formal and sounds a lot better (and polite) than just using “tu” which is informal. Also, “tu” is less personable than “usted”

      My husband has been getting confused with “usted” and “tu” (I’m teaching him Spanish and we are going to Colombia next year). I told him not to worry so much about it and to just use “usted” when speaking to people and to say “tu” here and there in conversation if he wants to. The word “usted” doesn’t make you any less or more intimate to the person you are speaking to, it’s just a word for “you”. It sounds polite and better than always referring to the person as “tu” (be this person an acquaintance, best friend or your Mom). The word “vos” isn’t necessarily a word you have to integrate into your Spanish if you don’t want to. Just know it means “tu” and you will be fine. After your Spanish gets really good you can add it in if you want to.

      @Benny, great article. Very interesting :)

  • Anonymous

    Este artículo es chévere, Benny… I am very much looking forward to affectionate paísas, and eventually not being complimented on my Spanish! :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Well said! :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Well said! :)

    • Prietanusca

      *shevere

  • http://twitter.com/diarmuidh Diarmuid Hayes

    You could say the same about Ireland Benny, no?
    Ye and youse..crack, eejit etc etc..what way are you? How´s the form and stuff like that..headscratching but enriching..not to even mention Irish (which to us is Gaelic) and to them (the Yanks!) is our English ;)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Yeah, that’s probably why my article about Hiberno English is the highest trafficked post on this site!

  • Yuzhou

    Benny,

    a lot of things happened in Ireland while you were travelling the world! Hope you still have a good time on the green island. Have you decided yet whether Hungarian will make it onto your permanent list?

    Asian languages: Let’s see, certainly not Chinese, not Japanese, not Korean (Tokyo and Seoul are really expensive, Pyongyang is not I guess but has other issues…), Arabic? don’t think so. Thai? Already done that. My guess would be Tagalog (Phillipines), Vietnamese or Hindi…

    • http://www.google.com/profiles/medviten Victor Berrjod

      Why not Japanese, Chinese, or Korean? The writing systems? If that’s the issue, then Korean shouldn’t be on the list. It’s got an easy writing system.

    • http://www.google.com/profiles/medviten Victor Berrjod

      Why not Japanese, Chinese, or Korean? The writing systems? If that’s the issue, then Korean shouldn’t be on the list. It’s got an easy writing system.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

        Victor: http://www.fluentin3months.com/fi3m-faq/

        Writing systems (easy or hard) are NOT why I choose my languages.

        • http://www.google.com/profiles/medviten Victor Berrjod

          I know, but he said you would definitely NOT take on those languages, so I assumed that’s what he meant.

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

            I don’t care how difficult their writing systems are. That’s simply not a factor in my decision making process, positive or negative.

          • http://www.google.com/profiles/medviten Victor Berrjod

            I know that (and I already said so in my other reply)! I was replying to Yuzhou (who was making a list of languages you would “certainly” not learn). You’ve said many times that it’s not a factor, and not just in this comment thread.

            Yuzhou said: “(…) certainly not Chinese, not Japanese, not Korean (…)” then he (or she) said that Tokyo and Seoul are expensive. I assumed that *he* (or she) assumed it was because of the writing systems, and that for that reason Korean shouldn’t be on his (or her) list.

            Maybe it was wrong of me to assume that’s what he (or she) meant, but I don’t think you understood what I meant either.

        • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

          I’m calling it: it’s going to be Japanese :)

          You’ve mentioned before that you really, really want to learn Japanese and live in Tokyo for a bit but couldn’t because of the expense, and I know you’ve been living off the revenues from your e-book for the last year or so instead of translating. I’m betting you’ve got enough of a combination of money saved up plus the income you’re currently making that you’ve decided to go for it. You’re learning Japanese and moving to Tokyo for a couple months.

          Cheers,
          Andrew

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

            I’m earning enough to live off, but it’s a long road ahead to have enough to live in such an expensive place as Tokyo! I haven’t saved up anything yet unfortunately, even if I am covering my expenses well right now.
            I’m hoping to get FI3M shared on really big sites in the coming year. As more people see it and eventually buy the guide then I can start to actually save money and Tokyo will become a realistic option!

          • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

            For some reason disqus isn’t notifying me when you reply to my comments on your site, weird…

            Well, I don’t doubt you’ll have no trouble getting other larger sites to help you out, like I said elsehwhere, you provide a LOT of really unique valuable stuff on here, just keep doing that and you’ll keep growing (as will your income).

            Soooo….tagalog then? China can be cheap depending on where you go, so maybe Mandarin? You going back to Thai to do it properly?

            Cheers,
            Andrew

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

            I announced the mission in the e-mail list! If you aren’t on it, you’ll have to wait until next week on twitter/Facebook ;)

        • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

          I’m calling it: it’s going to be Japanese :)

          You’ve mentioned before that you really, really want to learn Japanese and live in Tokyo for a bit but couldn’t because of the expense, and I know you’ve been living off the revenues from your e-book for the last year or so instead of translating. I’m betting you’ve got enough of a combination of money saved up plus the income you’re currently making that you’ve decided to go for it. You’re learning Japanese and moving to Tokyo for a couple months.

          Cheers,
          Andrew

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      I’ve decided not to maintain my Hungarian. Sometimes I will learn a language simply to enhance my experience in the country while there, even if I won’t maintain it permanently, considering the amount of work involved. Most of my best friends in Budapest speak either English, German or Esperanto anyway, so it’s easier for me to keep in touch in those languages.
      Is Seoul really expensive too? Damnit – I was hoping to head there some time! Looks like I’ll have to wait until this site gets mentioned on Lifehacker or something so I sell enough guides to afford to go :P

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      I’ve decided not to maintain my Hungarian. Sometimes I will learn a language simply to enhance my experience in the country while there, even if I won’t maintain it permanently, considering the amount of work involved. Most of my best friends in Budapest speak either English, German or Esperanto anyway, so it’s easier for me to keep in touch in those languages.
      Is Seoul really expensive too? Damnit – I was hoping to head there some time! Looks like I’ll have to wait until this site gets mentioned on Lifehacker or something so I sell enough guides to afford to go :P

  • Arlen

    Que chimba parce! Man, this post came at the perfect time for me! Just arrived in Medellín one week ago and I’m lucky enough to be staying with the family of a good friend so I’ve been hanging out with his brother and his mates from his reggae band. I don’t think it would be possible to find a better way to learn paisa slang! It’s shame you left already, I was hoping I’d run into the famous irish polyglot getting his salsa on…Hágale pues! haha

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Sorry I missed you! You’ll love Medellín – it was a great place to call home :)

  • Arlen

    Que chimba parce! Man, this post came at the perfect time for me! Just arrived in Medellín one week ago and I’m lucky enough to be staying with the family of a good friend so I’ve been hanging out with his brother and his mates from his reggae band. I don’t think it would be possible to find a better way to learn paisa slang! It’s shame you left already, I was hoping I’d run into the famous irish polyglot getting his salsa on…Hágale pues! haha

  • Jay (J.)

    Interesting, i always tought that Columbians just switched the regular “tu” and “usted” uses.

    One time i was talking to a group of Spaniards and one guy told me i have a bit of a Columbian accent. I have no idea where that came from, because i spent a lot of time in Spain, but also spoke a lot with Mexicans. So right now i probably have a mix of Dutch/Spanish/Mexican accents.
    If Spanish speakers have to guess where i’m from they usually have to think quite long and then say “Germany”. However i’ve been told that i speak a “castellano puro” (though i use seseo) so maybe that’s where the “columbian remark” came from.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Since standard Bogotá Spanish is so pure, it’s probably the easiest for foreigners to replicate, presuming they can get their rolled ‘r’s and other important aspects of Spanish intonation and pronunciation.

  • Juan Fdo

    Espero que la estadía en Medellín haya sido buena y seguiré atento a las futuras misiones! suerte parcero y buen viaje

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Sisas!! :) Gracias!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Sisas!! :) Gracias!

  • Pulsarlight

    Hey Benny, cool article. just wanted to say a couple of things.
    1. There is a big discussion in the difference between dialect and accent. in my opinion there are no dialects in colombia, only different accents. dialects for me are more like galician and valencian and the many small mini languages that exist in europe or asia.
    2. In the way we are respectful in colombia, you probably didnt notice something that exists here in colombia only and specifically in bogota region. We call our parents su merce, which comes from su merced or thy mercy, it is a big mess as I can call usted my mother or su merce or rarely tu. Confuses the hell out of me and when outsiders hear it, they crack up laughing.
    Thanks

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      For me an accent is HOW people say things (the pronunciation of their words) and not what they are actually saying. Perhaps linguists define it differently, but I’m but a mere layman! So I’ll stick to saying paisa dialect rather than accent.

      Galician is a language! Suggesting that it’s a dialect is quite silly to me . I hosted a Couchsurfer who spoke Galician to me and I wouldn’t rate it as either Portuguese OR Spanish, since it has too much of both in it. It’s a language in itself. Although I would call Valenciano a dialect of Catalan.

      Yes, I didn’t notice that since I was only in Bogotá one weekend unfortunately!

  • http://joop.kiefte.eu/ Joop Kiefte

    Você is like usted: in Portugal they use it a bit differently.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      OK, you mean in Portugal? I don’t know any European Portuguese. In Brazil você is formal and informal. There’s also “o senhor” etc. but I rarely heard these.

      • http://joop.kiefte.eu/ Joop Kiefte

        True. O senhor/a senhora is used to show you see someone as important (in official communications, to speak with elderly people etc.)

        Tu (and vós as a singular pronoun) is mostly used in biblical language, and tu and/or the conjugation of tu in several regionalisms in different roles.

        Some other difference is for example in the use of “a gente” (ni/oni, see also French “on”); Portugal spits on using it for “we”.

  • http://www.buenosaireslocaltours.com Jonathan Evans

    The tú / vos / usted thing is so bloody confusing. I live with my Colombian girlfriend here in Buenos Aires and it gets very confusing as she will always use tú with me (and Argentinians) as it is “correct”, however with her friends from Calí she’ll often use vos and with her friends from Santander (Bucaramanga) she’ll use usted, and if she gets annoyed with me, then she’ll also use usted.

    And, heaven forbid I use anything apart from tú. If I call her vos, which happens after a day talking to Argentinians, she won’t answer me!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      hahaha you poor guy!! Sounds like a demanding girlfriend :D

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      hahaha you poor guy!! Sounds like a demanding girlfriend :D

  • David

    I noticed that when you pronounced Medellín, you used the Argentinian double L sound, is this how the Colombians of Medellín pronounce the ll as well? I have a friend from Baranquilla with whom I speak exclusively in Spanish, but as you mentioned above, she has a different accent and doesn’t do that at all.

    Safe travels and Merry Christmas

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      My Spanish is all over the place! Mostly Peninsular, but with obvious influences from Argentina and likely from Colombia after this experience. But the Colombian “ll” would be closer to the Argentine one than the Spanish one in my experience.
      Thanks!

    • http://www.buenosaireslocaltours.com Jonathan Evans

      In my experience the Colombian “ll” and “y” sounds are not as “sh” as Argentinian, (or Porteño at least), but there is a definite “je” sound. So Medellin would be more Mede-jin than Mede-shin.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

        Agreed. I’m pretty sure I was saying “je” in recent videos for Medellín, but I could be wrong.

  • Sara

    Hola Benny!!
    Leí con mucho interés tu post, yo soy bogotana y nunca me había dado cuenta de lo extraño que es el uso de usted vs. tu
    Tienes toda la razón, es un poco absurdo: yo tengo dos hermanas, a una la tuteo y a la otra le digo usted. Y de mis tres mejores amigas, a una la tuteo y a las otras dos les digo usted. Y sin embargo, no es que tenga mas afecto por las que tuteo o que me entienda mejor, la relación es la misma!!! Así que no te sorprendas de no haber entendido el funcionamiento de tu y usted, porque ni nosotros mismos lo sabemos jajaja

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      jajaja me encantó tu comentario :D Muestra bien la ilógica del tuteo colombiano :P :P Gracias!!

  • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

    Oh yes, I’ve heard about the costeños, they’re quite well known for being difficult to understand amongst Colombians, though it’s generally the exception to the rule. It’s really interesting (and disconcerting, because I never bothered learning it) to hear that Colombians use “vos”–not too often, I hope :/ I thought that was strictly a Southern Cone thing.

    So I take it you were there on a 90 day tourist visa? When I visit there I’d really like to stay for at least 6 months–do you know if they’ll just let you renew your visa without leaving (if it’s a tourist visa)? If not I might have to try and get some other kind of visa that’ll let me stay longer.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Vos is extremely frequent. I’m hearing it here in Cali as well. I think Bogotá doesn’t use it at all, so those only familiar with the “standard” dialect won’t need to learn it, but leave the capital and you’ll encounter it all the time.

      Getting by on “tu” is fine – they expect that from other foreigners (natives or otherwise), since that’s what most Spanish speakers would say. But I like to create better rapport and speaking as closely as possible to them is how I do it ;)

      They only give you a 60 day visa on arrival. You can renew it pretty easily – look at medellinliving.com or gobackpacking.com Dave, the guy who runs these sites, has been living in Colombia for a while and is likely to have written about his visa extensions.

  • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

    Oh yes, I’ve heard about the costeños, they’re quite well known for being difficult to understand amongst Colombians, though it’s generally the exception to the rule. It’s really interesting (and disconcerting, because I never bothered learning it) to hear that Colombians use “vos”–not too often, I hope :/ I thought that was strictly a Southern Cone thing.

    So I take it you were there on a 90 day tourist visa? When I visit there I’d really like to stay for at least 6 months–do you know if they’ll just let you renew your visa without leaving (if it’s a tourist visa)? If not I might have to try and get some other kind of visa that’ll let me stay longer.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  • http://www.MyBeautifulAdventures.com/ GlobalButterfly

    Awesome post! I love hearing about the different variations in Spanish. Safe flight home!!!

  • Anonymous

    Have you learned any rules of thumb to help a traveler pick up the local dialect? Did you do any prep work beforehand? Thanks for the story, I really enjoyed it. :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      My “trick” is the same as for starting to learn a language. Hang out with natives and they’ll teach you ;)

  • Danimon17

    Según yo, al igual que este comentario tengo la noción que no se denominan dialectos sino regionalismos, que en realidad no es simplemente acentos, sino diferentes formas de expresarse y se le denomina regionalismos debido a que el estatus de dialecto implica una mayor diferencia que imposibilita la comunicación libremente, como es el caso del alemán y el japonés.

  • katia

    I’m Mexican but use ‘que pena’ sometimes when saying i’m sorry. I really don’t know if it is common among Mexicans or if I happened to have picked it up from a novela. I live in the US so I don’t really know. For example, if I dropped someone’s glass of water I would use the term. I am also very familiar with ‘a la orden’ and have heard it from many non-Colombians. Actually, I have only ever met one Colombian. Vos is most definitely the word of choice for Central Americans. Mexicans do not use it (maybe some in the south) but I know plenty of Guatemalans and they all use it. They also have a very different vocabulary when describing certain words. It definitely seemed more foreign to me than Colombian Spanish. I like this post because many people divide Spanish into two different categories: Spanish from Spain and Latin American Spanish and that is simply not the case. Even in Mexico, people from the North like Chihuahua pronounce the ‘ch’ as ‘sh’ there are plenty of regional differences. Oh by the way, I also sometimes call children usted but usually when I am reprimanding them. However, I would never refer to my parents as tú even though that is the norm for some people to me it just seems so disrespectful.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Good to know that ‘que pena’ and ‘a la orden’ isn’t just Colombian! I had not come across these terms in Argentina or Spain.
      I can understand use of ‘usted’ for reprimanding – but never calling your parents ‘tú’ sounds quite strange to me!!

  • Jess

    Right – crazy theory here.
    What about the kind of Spanish you were exposed to in Colombia is actually evolving away from even using formal and informal “you”? Kind of like English, when thou and thee were used as the informal equivalent until surprising recently. Now they’ve become obsolete and actually sound very formal.
    I’m so excited to hear about your new language missions!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Could be – usted still has a sense of formality about it, but yes, it’s starting to get random.
      Thing is, in English we stuck to one, not three :P

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Could be – usted still has a sense of formality about it, but yes, it’s starting to get random.
      Thing is, in English we stuck to one, not three :P

  • Sebas035

    Parcero jejje pues le habla un paisa y si aca existen algunos modismos, sin embargo el espanol el muy claro. Espero te haya gustado su estadia en Colombia y espero nos veamos en algun lugar del mundo. suerte

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Gracias! Sisas, me lo pasé rebien! :)

  • Sebas035

    Parcero jejje pues le habla un paisa y si aca existen algunos modismos, sin embargo el espanol el muy claro. Espero te haya gustado su estadia en Colombia y espero nos veamos en algun lugar del mundo. suerte

  • http://ziphen.benjaminbruce.com Mashkioya

    ¡Me gustó mucho este artículo! Nomás he tenido experiencia con las variedades de español que se hablan en México, Texas, y España, y quizás no me di cuenta de que existía tanta diversidad en el mundo hispanohablante. Me parece que fue una aventura genial; ¡mucha suerte con la siguiente misión!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Muchísima diversidad!! Podría escribir más sobre el español argentino, y el de las islas canarias etc. :)
      Gracias por leer!

  • Blitzny

    They say usted in Costa Rica also, tú iwpractically non-existent. Vos at times.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Really? Good to know – if I go there, I’ll miss using “tú” a lot!

  • http://twitter.com/AbbyFerrari Abby Ferrari

    Thanks! This post is so useful. For me, not as a Spanish learner, but as a Spanish teacher or as a translator.
    As a translator (well, not yet) I can tell you I agree there’s no “Latin American Spanish” or “Neutro” but it’s impossible to convince a capitalist who refuses to pay for different translations for different countries.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Yes, I get quite annoyed when people try to simplify entire continents down to one term, or even similar languages down to “pretty much the same”. It shows no appreciation whatsoever for crucial differences.

  • http://twitter.com/ngmarley Nathan Marley

    When I was in Cartagena & Medellín last summer, I also noticed “a la orden” a lot, which I haven’t heard in other countries.

    And in Medellín one morning I got into a taxi and the driver asked me “¿Cómo me le va?” (just like that, with both “me” and “le” in the sentence) which really threw me off.

    I looked it up later and found out he was using the ethic dative, described here: http://culturitalia.uibk.ac.at/hispanoteca/Foro-preguntas/ARCHIVO-Foro/c%C3%B3mo%20me%20le%20va.htm

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      We have a similar construction in Irish English of “on me” that we employ a lot more than other English speakers. “The chair has gone and broken on me” etc. So I would understand this as a version of “How are you going on me?” (Which we wouldn’t say in Ireland). Thanks for the interesting link that explains it though!

  • Tabbymenace

    Hi there! I lived in Colombia for 4 years, 2 in Cali and 2 in Bogota, so I can maybe help you with the tu/vos/usted thing…
    In Cali, you use ‘vos’ in place of ‘tu’ pretty much all the time. Usted is reserved for more formal situations/acquaitances and always used with an older person. With all my friends aunties, uncles, grannies and parents, I use the ‘usted’ form unless I have been specifically told I can use ‘tu’.
    In Bogota, ‘usted’ still has the same formal implications, but it is ALWAYS used between males. Even if two men have been best friends since birth, they will still use the ‘usted’ form between the two of them. With a man and a woman, ‘tu’ can be used, even in a non-sexual context. Women don’t have that constraint.
    Hope that helps!
    Jennie

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Sorry but that doesn’t help! And I disagree. I don’t remember males ever calling me “usted”, but my girlfriend and other girls did.
      But I agree that in Cali it seems to replace “tu”.

  • Ryan

    I loved this post, since I’m learning Spanish. The way Colombians use pues is just like how Chileans use po. And all these was of saying you and which to use – Spanish really is an amazing language…I guess which one you use really depends on where you are…For instance, I’ve heard that in Spain, you rarely use usted, except with police officers and the like. On the other hand, my mom, who is Chilean, calls her parents usted, and they call her tú, and she uses tú and vos for most other people(Chile even has different conjugations for vos!)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Yes, I can confirm from living in Spain for over a year that “usted” is really reserved for quite formal situations. Interesting to hear about Chile!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Volví al blog dentro de poco. Voy a compartir mi experiencia de aprender la salsa caleña :)

  • http://www.wilsonusman.com/ Wilson Usman

    So glad to see you have stopped by my country it makes me miss it so much. Ojala podamos conocernos parcero para charlar en espanol y quien sabe? rumbear…jajajaja

    Okay te cuidas amigo disfruta aprendiendo todas esas lenguas!

  • Katy Y Carlos

    Definitivamente deberían contratarte en la Real Academia Española de la Lengua para que les ayudes a adquirir sensibilidad. Nos encantó tu artículo Benny, muchas gracias. Un abrazo de tus amigos en Colombia Katy y Carlos.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      jaja son muy simpáticos, gracias :)

  • sharona

    You’re so hot!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Why yes, I was quite hot in Colombia – it’s close to the Equator you know!!

  • http://www.wanderingtrader.com WanderingTrader

    Great post Benny, Colombian Spanish to me is my favorite. Venezuela, Colombia, and Argentina are the countries that speak the most correct Spanish or Spanish closes to castellano from Spain. Its funny because the majority of South America uses usted instead of vos. I myself get a little thrown of when someone uses vos.

    For example in argentina they ask: De donde sos? (where are you from)
    Instead of : De donde eres? (same thing)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      The majority of South America would use TU instead of vos. In Argentina vos is informal and usted is formal.
      I don’t like this idea of “most correct Spanish”. The most correct Spanish to learn is that of the country you intend to live in or speak with its natives the most – its proximity to what the Instituto Cervantes recommends is irrelevant in this case.

  • http://www.wanderingtrader.com WanderingTrader

    Great post Benny, Colombian Spanish to me is my favorite. Venezuela, Colombia, and Argentina are the countries that speak the most correct Spanish or Spanish closes to castellano from Spain. Its funny because the majority of South America uses usted instead of vos. I myself get a little thrown of when someone uses vos.

    For example in argentina they ask: De donde sos? (where are you from)
    Instead of : De donde eres? (same thing)

  • http://www.wanderingtrader.com WanderingTrader

    Great post Benny, Colombian Spanish to me is my favorite. Venezuela, Colombia, and Argentina are the countries that speak the most correct Spanish or Spanish closes to castellano from Spain. Its funny because the majority of South America uses usted instead of vos. I myself get a little thrown of when someone uses vos.

    For example in argentina they ask: De donde sos? (where are you from)
    Instead of : De donde eres? (same thing)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Dialects are subsets of one particular language – I mean dialect NOT accent. An accent is about pronunciation, not necessarily the words you use.
    Best of luck with your language studies!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    My girlfriend was a costeña and she used “usted” much more than tu, even informally. But I like how you describe the use in different cities!

    • Horacio

      Maybe if because of this, she used usted most of the time because she had a profund respect, because a costeña girl will always use TU, if you met her in medellin maybe she confused in how to treat a foreginer, even thoug she was your girlfriend, she used the USTED, becuase you are foreigner. as rule of thum, people from the cost use Tu, we use USTED, to show respect, or to say we are not friends , to keep our distance, example two colegues, lets say two lawyers one of the will say usted, to say we work toguether but we are not friends, other case two colegues, they are both lawyers they will Tu, because they are more friends… In bogota almost everyone will use USTED, even between family members, some will use tu… in bogota if the mother call her child, they will say Si, señora, insted of the vulgar way of Que? What? they will say si senora, si senor to their own parents…

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

        She insisted it’s how they talk in the coast, and it’s how she spoke to her other Colombian friends, not just me.

        • Laury

          Hello Benny! I looove your website and I had no idea you were here in Colombia. I totally agree with Horacio, I have to say I’m 100% “costeña” and we use “TU” all the time, we only use “USTED” to show respect to someone… I wish you would have gone to the Coast, and then you would know what I’m talking about!

          Ps: Costeños are not that hard to understand! XD

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Please keep in mind that even though this post is about Spanish, I wrote *in English*. So I’m using the English term dialect as I see it as being correct, which may differ to how it is used in Spanish based on what you’re saying.

    I have an Irish accent when I speak English, but I also speak the Hibero (Irish) English dialect, which has different grammatical and vocabulary features, but is still definitely English. This is just a fact, there is no sense of insulting involved. Even the Queen’s English is one particular dialect, since there is no “right way” to speak.

    Your use of dialect is too different to how I see it, especially if you feel people who speak different dialects can’t communicate with one another!! That would be called different LANGUAGES. Then you saying that they speak a different “language” in Florida/New York is nothing short of ludicrous.

    The Peninsular Spanish “accent” is pronouncing c as “th” and j gutturally. The Peninsular Spanish *dialect* is using words like “vosotros” or “guay” which are less common or simply don’t exist in other *dialects* like Colombian or Argentinian etc.

    Please don’t get too offended – it seems like you simply have a different definition of the word dialect to how we use it (at least in Ireland).

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Please keep in mind that even though this post is about Spanish, I wrote *in English*. So I’m using the English term dialect as I see it as being correct, which may differ to how it is used in Spanish based on what you’re saying.

    I have an Irish accent when I speak English, but I also speak the Hibero (Irish) English dialect, which has different grammatical and vocabulary features, but is still definitely English. This is just a fact, there is no sense of insulting involved. Even the Queen’s English is one particular dialect, since there is no “right way” to speak.

    Your use of dialect is too different to how I see it, especially if you feel people who speak different dialects can’t communicate with one another!! That would be called different LANGUAGES. Then you saying that they speak a different “language” in Florida/New York is nothing short of ludicrous.

    The Peninsular Spanish “accent” is pronouncing c as “th” and j gutturally. The Peninsular Spanish *dialect* is using words like “vosotros” or “guay” which are less common or simply don’t exist in other *dialects* like Colombian or Argentinian etc.

    Please don’t get too offended – it seems like you simply have a different definition of the word dialect to how we use it (at least in Ireland).

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, in my experience they don’t use vos in the capital, and even don’t like it, despite how widespread it is in other parts of the country.

    • Alex Barboza

      I know this is an old comment but being Colombian I wanted to clarify that “vos” is mainly used in the Pacific Region (Cali, Chocó, some places in Cauca). In the Caribbean region we don’t use vos at all, and in Bogotá they don’t use it either.

  • Carlosalbertojaimesuis

    Yo soy Colombiano y francamente tampoco tengo muy claro cuando usar el usted,  el tu y el vos. No hay nada escrito ni reglas claras al respecto (en lo que a la práctica respecta) el uso cambia demasiado de región en región. Hay ambigüedad en este tema y su estudio en el campo refleja la realidad de nuestra lengua en forma acertada.

  • Anonymous

    I totally get that thing about NOT being complimented. I’m a native speaker, but since I’m so lightskinned, and have my father’s Irish last name, people still will comment on how good I sound, or having an authentic accent. Haha
    Entertaining post!

  • djdemers1

    Good stuff Benny, I’m flying to Medellin in a few weeks and this may save me a few confusing moments (although those are part of the fun!) . Cool point on the stage of not being complimented too, cheers!

  • Benny

    What about replacing the Ch sound with the Sh sound or is that Guatemala?

  • http://twitter.com/DarkFulgoreII Daniel Santamaría

    Hola….
    Yo soy otro bogotano que no había considerado las serias variantes de el uso de la segunda persona (tu, vos, usted). Desde mi perspectiva, encuentro que los usos de estas tres palabras son tan variables como las personas mismas. Trataré de mostrarte mi punto de vista:

    1. Usted: Aunque normalmente se utiliza en ambientes formales, también puede significar que se tiene poca confianza con el interlocutor. Muchos colombianos intentan ganar confianza con otras personas rápidamente, razón por la cual algunos esperan algo más cercano como un “tu”, pero depende.
    2. “tu” Usar tu en principio demuestra confianza, especialmente si se trata de comunicaciones entre personas de distinto género. Es muy poco común (al menos en Bogotá) que un hombre se dirija a una mujer con “usted” después de haber hablado un par de veces y en muchos casos desde la primera vez. Sin embargo, esto no es exclusivo en el caso de conversaciones entre hombres y mujeres, entre mujeres y entre hombres también se utiliza el “tú” en diversas ocasiones, especialmente cuando hay confianza.
    3. “vos” El caso de “vos” es aún más difícil, porque depende de la zona de Colombia donde estés (nótese que acabo de “tu-tearte”). Por ejemplo en el valle (Cali, por ejemplo) es muy común su uso, a diferencia de Bogotá donde no se escucha casi. En Cali, suele usarse de manera indistinta a la relación de confianza, en Bogotá se utilizaría como si de un “tú” se tratara.

    Ahora, en mi caso particular. Normalmente uso “tú” con la mayoría de mujeres, especialmente con las que la confianza es muy alta (pareja, madre, hermana, primas, amigas, etc). En particular, usar algo diferente de “tu” para llamar a la pareja puede ser incluso ofensivo. Ahora, con los hombres es todavía más complejo, porque uso “tu” con mi padre, pero no con mis tíos o primos. Tampoco suelo usar “tú” con mis amigos, pero a veces uso “tú” con hombres de más alto “rango” (nivel social o cultural) que yo y es algo que difícilmente puedo explicar. El usted queda reservado para desconocidos, pero también para amigos, tíos y primos.

    Creo que la sociedad colombiana es un poco machista y el “tú” no se usa mucho entre hombres, de hecho si usara “tú” con alguno de mis amigos se reiría de mi con algún comentario gracioso que pondría mi preferencia sexual en duda. Entre mujeres, en cambio se ve muy normal el uso de “tú”.

    En conclusión, creo que el uso del “tú” depende de cada persona y posiblemente tendrás que definir ese protocolo con cada una. Por ejemplo, tuve una novia que aún siendo mi pareja no podía decirme “tú” y eso me hacía sentir muy extraño. Duré bastante tiempo intentando que ella cambiara eso, pero me fué imposible. De lo que sí estoy seguro es que así como yo no podría generalizar el uso que le doy, casi ninguna persona en Colombia podría hacerlo…

  • Fer

    The clearest Spanish is from Colombia and Costa Rica.

    • http://www.facebook.com/OnofreCalderon Juan Carlos Onofre Calderón

      Ja!

  • tata

    It’s Colombia and Colombian Spanish!

  • Jeff K

    welll he is from bogota they do not use that word there

  • Jeff K

    how about when the girls call their friends gorda and marica that to me seems strange

  • Christian

    Acabo de conocer tu blog y me gusto mucho el analisis que haces. Te felicito. Bienvenido siempre a Colombia parce!!!

  • Juan Manuel Torres

    ¿Has vuelto a Colombia desde entonces? Verdad que para un extranjero puede ser difícil el aprender cómo se usan los pronombres personales en segunda persona del singular pero yo que soy colombiano casi siempre digo “tú” en situaciones no formales, incluso con mis amigos y mi familia. No es que el uso de “usted” no me guste, pero es más un acuerdo tácito entre ambos interlocutores que algo automático, por eso casi solamente lo uso con mi primo. Si de repente empezara a decirle “usted” a mis abuelos por ejemplo sé que me sonaría raro, y con mis hermanas no sé ya que viviendo tanto ellas como yo en Francia hace más de diez años hablamos en francés entre nosotros. Pero sin embargo sé que mi mamá le dice “usted” a mis dos tías. Un aspecto interesante aunque complejo del español que se usa en Colombia.

  • Daniel Chacón Navarro

    Colombian Spanish is very similar to Costa Rican Spanish, in Costa Rica we also use “usted” as an informal way of addressing someone, and we also use “vos” sometimes, we never use “tú” because it is considered to be arrogant or telenovela-like.

  • Marissa

    What are some small towns in Colombia to visit? I want to take my boyfriend to Colombia but don’t want to see tourist places.

  • Jay

    Benny!, i don’t know if someone else told you if so, i’ll tell you again and if not, i want to really appreciate the fact that you took off your time to write this for people that you want to teach and they joyfully want to learn like me, Whats your Facebook name, i would really like to talk to you,

    Sincerely Jay Vasquez

  • ingrid marucci

    Hi Benny, I’m from Guatemala. Have you ever been there?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Not yet! Hope to some day!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Not yet! I hope to go some day!

  • Maria Isabel Martinez

    Hi, Benny! No wonder you were confused. Vos is used in Medellín and Cali and neighbouring areas but not in the rest of the country.
    It is peculiar of Colombia that usted has completely replaced tú in many families and in most cases. I know a German professor who got used to using usted all the time, in Bogotá she sounds very local, but she commented to me that now there is a tendency to use more tú. I notice that in male/female conversations it has become usual but not in male/ male conversations. Usted in Colombia is both respectful and friendly. Tú is of course friendly, but when someone is angry usted will be used, because is seen as more distant than tú.
    I could say that in the history of the Spanish spoken in Colombia there has been a tendency of respectful ways of address becoming affectionate terms. It happened with usted and also with Su Merced ( = Your Mercy, pronounced sumercé usually), which is used in the Boyacá province, north of Bogotá, but since there are many descendants and people from Boyacá in Bogotá you get to hear it here in Bogotá too.

  • http://emissary.zxq.net/ Leo Bracciale

    Is anyone familiar with the term “Lo hare por ti”? Is ti used in place of tu? Or are they just different forms of Spanish?

    • Yesid Castro

      The word “ti” is a form of the word “tú” much like “me” is a form of the word “I” in English. “Lo haré por ti” means “I will do it for you,” but switching the sentence around, “Lo harás por mi” means “You will do it for me.” It is incorrect to say in English “You will do it for I” just like in Spanish it would be incorrect to say “Lo haré por tú.” or “Lo harás por yo.” In English we keep that case distinction in all of our pronouns except “you” (it used to be the case that you was used here and ye elsewhere back when ye/you were plural/formal and thou/thee were singular/informal) so it’s “Do it for him,” “Do it for her,” “Do it for us,” or “Do it for them,” but not “Do it for he,” “Do it for she,” “Do it for we,” or “Do it for they.” It just so happens that that is the complete opposite of what happens in Spanish. I’m not sure about vosotr@s because I am a native speaker of Paisa (Colombian) Spanish, but I do know that “yo” and “tú” are the only ones that change in these situations of “Lo haré por…” So it *is* correct to say “Lo haré por vos. Lo haré él. Lo haré por ella. Lo haré por nosotr@s. Lo haré por usted. Lo haré por ell@s.” (The “@” here refers to the -os/as ending, so instead of writing “nosotros/-as,” it’s just “nosotr@s”) But “Lo haré por yo.” and “Lo haré por tú.” *are* incorrect.

  • Yackòó Cx

    hi benny, i’m colombian and i’m so glad with your opinion hhehe you must know the use of “usted” is for all situations in bogotá but it depends on age the youngest people uses TÚ but men never use TÚ with other men, it sounds a few weird like gay, you know… TÚ is so cuttie for using with male friends.However because of Facebook the way to talk is changing

  • David Duryea

    Hi Benny, I can appreciate everything you’ve said about Colombia and Colombian Spanish. I agree with you about Spanish spoken in Bogota being the clearest form of Spanish in Latin America. Two such Colombian soaps come to mind: Betty La Fea and Pasion de Gavilanes. In Betty you have Betty, Armando, his parents and Marcela his jealous girlfriend who all speak exemplary Spanish! In Pasion de Gavilanes you have Gabriela, the jealous mother to the 3 girls who also speaks a beautiful Spanish from the capital. I learned much of my Spanish from Colombian soaps. I honestly don’t know how Argentine Spanish can be comparable to Spaniard Spanish. To me it sounds like Spanish spoken with an Italian accent due to the heavily Italian influence there. Oh well! Loved your article!

  • David Duryea

    Benny, I’m curious. What is your opinion of Colombian Spanish from Bucaramanga (Santander) and places like Armenia, Tolima and Pasto?

  • Álvaro Baquero Parra

    Hi, the spanish from Colombia is the most clear of the planet, I love their accent and is a lovely country, I want to live there….

  • Aaron Zacharias

    Interesting article. Having spent time in Mexico and Costa Rica I have always tried to keep my Spanish as neutral as possible and only switch from using usted to tu when the other person takes the lead. The respect seems to be appreciated and I generally have done very well with meeting people and forming new friendships. I also find that people care more about whether or not you treat them with respect and kindness than whether or not you speak to them with vos or tu though it is always best to follow their lead in conversation.

  • Johnny Vargas

    Very few of these expresssions are used in the coast. I am from Cartagena.
    We do use tu and Ud. as formal and informal.