How to speak Spanish Basics?
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 speak 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.