10 Spanish expressions you have to know to understand Colombians

Since our last post was about going to Colombiato practice your Spanish, today, we want to give you some tools to understand Colombians, because as you know, a language can have different expressions and they can mean one thing in a country but also a very different thing in another country.

These kinds of differences in words and expressions of the same language, depending on the country or city happen in every language of the world, for example, in the United States you hear the expression “first floor”, but in England you can hear “ground floor” to refer to the floor number one of a building; or maybe you can hear “cross walk” in the US but “zebra crossing” in the UK, it’s all a matter of where you are.

The same thing happens in Spanish, people use words and expressions in Mexico that are not used in Spain, they also have unique ways of saying things in Chile, Argentina or Costa Rica. Actually, there can be a unique way of talking in just one small city, just like in Medellin, Colombia.

As you can see, languages are very extensive, and the only way to be familiarized with some certain expressions, used in one specific region is to go there, enjoy the country and talk to people. It is very difficult to get to know all the words and expressions by reading them or memorizing them, however, just for you to start, we want to introduce you to some Colombian expressions and words that would be hardly understood in a different country.

Also we don’t want you to memorize these words, this is why we will add some examples of how to use them, so focus on the sentences not the individual words.

1.Ome: This Word is very common in Medellin, it basically means “man”, but it is not used to say things like “he is a man”. Nobody would understand if you say “ese ome me vendió un helado”.

The correct way of using this word is for showing emotion, the equivalent in English would be something like this: “Oh man, I’m really late for work!” or “No way man, I ain’t doing that!”. This is how you can use “ome” in Spanish:

-¿Si me puedes prestar plata?

Ome, ¡ya te dije que no!

Here is another example:

-Voy a llegar muy tarde al trabajo hoy ome.

2.Pues: Just like “ome”, “pues” is very common in Medellin and when I say common, I mean, very common; people use it all the time, and it’s used without any meaning. For example:

– ¡Vamos puesque ya esta tarde!

Here is another example:

-¿Y pues… qué vas a hacer mañana?

Pues*… no sé, tal vez iré a donde mi abuela.*

3.Ir a vitrinear: It means to go to a mall, hang out, not buying anything or perhaps getting an ice-cream; this is probably what people do during Sundays. Here is an example of how it is used:

– ¿Qué hiciste el domingo?

-Pues, simplemente fui a vitrinearcon mi esposa al centro comercial.

4.Dar papaya: This is slang and it means to give a reason for people to make fun of you. For example:

– ¡jajaja! ¿Escuchaste lo que dijo Daniel?

-Sí, es que él siempre da papaya.

Here is another example:

-No den papayamuchachos para que no se burlen de ustedes.

5.Chévere: It means cool, it’s just the same as when we say things in English like: “That movie was so cool” or “It’s pretty cool when we go to hang out at the park together”. This is how you must use it in Spanish:

-El paseo a Medellín va a ser muy chévere.

Here is another example:

-Ayer fui con mi mamá a comprar un perro.

– ¿En serio? ¡que chévere!

6.Hágale: In most cases, this means OK and sometimes it can mean that you are giving permission for something. Here is how people use it in Spanish:

-Deberíamos ir a visitar a David mañana.

Hágaley le llevamos una torta.

Here is another example:

– ¿Me puedo ir para mi casa temprano?

-Claro, hágale.

7.Qué pecao: this expression is used for showing that you feel pity for something or someone. For example:

– ¡Qué pecaode Mario que trabaja tanto!

Here is another example:

-Ome, que pecao del perrito tan feo que vimos en la calle.

8.Tirar caja: This is slang exclusively for Medellín city; in fact, I’ve never heard this expression in a different city of Colombia and it means to laugh. For example:

-Te vi tirando caja con Aleja a la hora del almuerzo.

Here is another example:

– ¿y a donde fueron anoche?

– Solo fuimos al parque a tirar caja un rato.

9.Parche: It means to have a plan to hang out with your friends. For example:

-Vamos a piscina mañana con Vanessa y Liz.

-Uy sí, que buen parchepara mañana domingo.

Here is another example:

– ¿No hay parchepara hoy?

-No, tengo que trabajar toda la noche.

10.Desparche: This is the opposite to “parche”, so it means to not have a plan to hang out with your friends or with anybody. For example:

– ¿Para dónde vamos hoy pues?

-No, con este desparche, no hay para dónde ir.

Here is another example:

-Hola, ¿qué estás haciendo?

-Nada, aquí desparchadoen la casa.

Those are just a few expressions that people from Colombia use, especially in Medellin; so next time you travel, don’t forget to make a good “parche” with your friends and enjoy everything this country has to offer, including Spanish.

In SpanishToMind, we also want to hear from you, so leave us a comment; tell us about other Colombian expressions, slang or idioms that you know, have you ever been to this beautiful country? What did you like? What didn’t you like? Did you have problems with Spanish when you went there? Or if you haven’t gone to Colombia, are you planning to visit the country? … leave us a comment, we are eager to hear from you!

Diego Cuadros is a blogger and a Spanish online teacher. He uses stories to help Spanish lovers understand fast-speaking native speakers, so they don't freeze and panic in conversations.

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