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Colombian Spanish is, for the most part, very clean and straightforward, particularly in the capital of Bogotá. However, regional dialects and pronunciations can make it seem as if there are many other languages being spoken here. In Medellín, paisas tend to make a soft g sound whenever there is a ll. On the Caribbean coast, the African influence mixed with Spanish can make accents seem more Cuban than Colombian.

You’ll hear some phrases here more often than anywhere else in the Spanish-speaking world. A la orden, which essentially means “at your service,” is uttered by nearly every taxi driver and shop clerk. ¿Qué más? is often used instead of “How are you?” which can be confusing to anyone who translates the phrase literally. Instead of the word “sorry,” there’s Qué pena! Then there’s the word rumba (party), popular everywhere in the country, which can even be used as a verb (rumbear).

Diminutives are similar to Cuba and Venezuela, as ico and ica rather than the more common ito and ita like in Peru and Ecuador. Slang is quite common, especially in Medellín, where it even has it’s own name, parlace. Some favorite Colombian slang words include farra (party), barra (COP$1,000), chévere (cool), guayabo (hangover), porfa (please), and plata (money).

In addition to Spanish, there are dozens of indigenous tongues and dialects in Andean and Amazonian regions. Many of these are in danger of being lost as younger generations are not learning them. On the islands of San Andrés and Providencia, creole English, which sounds closer to Jamaican Patois than Colombian Spanish, is the norm.

Basic Spanish Vocabulary

English     Spanish     Pronunciation

Good day    Buenos días    Bweh-nohs dee-ahs
Hi/hello    Hola    Oh-lah
Pleasure to meet you    Mucho gusto/Un placer    Moo-choh goos-toh/Oon plah-sehr
How are you?    ¿Cómo está?    Koh-moh es-tah
Very well    Muy bien        Mwee byehn
Thank you    Gracias    Grah-syahs
How’s it going?    ¿Qué tal?    Keh tahl
You’re welcome    De nada    Deh nah-dah
Goodbye    Adiós    Ah-dyohs
Please    Por favor    Pohr fah-bohr
Yes    Sí    See
No    No    Noh
Excuse me (to get by someone)    Perdóneme/Con permiso    Pehr-doh-neh-meh/Kohn pehr-mee-soh
Excuse me (to begin a question)    Disculpe    Dees-kool-peh
Give me    Déme    Deh-meh
What time is it?    ¿Qué hora es?    Keh ohr-ah ehs?
Where is . . . ?    ¿Dónde está . . . ?    Dohn-deh eh-stah?
the station    la estación    lah eh-stah-syohn
(bus/train)    estación de ómnibus/tren    eh-stah-syohn deh ohm-nee-boos/trehn
a hotel    un hotel    oon oh-tel
a gas station    una estación de servicio    oo-nah eh-stah-syohn deh sehr-bee-syoh
a restaurant    un restaurante    oon res-tow-rahn-teh
the toilet    el baño (or servicios)    el bah-nyoh (sehr-bee-syohs)
a good doctor    un buen médico    oon bwehn meh-dee-coh
the road to . . .    el camino a/hacia . . .    el cah-mee-noh ah/ah-syah
To the right    A la derecha    Ah lah deh-reh-chah
To the left    A la izquierda    Ah lah ee-skyehr-dah
Straight ahead    Derecho    Deh-reh-choh
Is it far?    ¿Está lejos?    Eh-stah leh-hohs
Is it close?    ¿Está cerca?    Eh-stah sehr-kah
Open    Abierto    Ah-byehr-toh
Closed    Cerrado    Seh-rah-doh
North    Norte    Nohr-teh
South    Sur    Soor
East    Este    Eh-steh
West    Oeste    Oh-eh-steh
Expensive    Caro    Cah-roh
Cheap    Barato    Bah-rah-toh
I would like    Quisiera            Kee-syeh-rah
I want . . .    Quiero . . .    Kyeh-roh
to eat    comer    koh-mehr
a room    una habitación    oo-nah ah-bee-tah-syohn
Do you have . . . ?    ¿Tiene usted . . . ?    Tyeh-neh oo-stehd
a book    un libro    oon lee-broh
a dictionary    un diccionario    oon deek-syoh-na-ryoh
change    cambio    kahm-byoh
How much is it?    ¿Cuánto cuesta?    Kwahn-toh kwes-tah
When?    ¿Cuándo?    Kwahn-doh
What?    ¿Qué?    Keh
There is (Is/Are there . . . ?)    (¿)Hay ( . . . ?)    eye
What is there?    ¿Qué hay?    Keh eye
Yesterday    Ayer    Ah-yehr
Today    Hoy    Oy
Tomorrow    Mañana    Mah-nyah-nah
Good    Bueno    Bweh-noh
Bad    Malo    Mah-loh
Better (best)    (Lo) mejor    (Loh) meh-hohr
More    Más    Mahs
Less    Menos    Meh-nohs
No smoking    Se prohibe fumar    Seh proh-ee-beh foo-mahr
Postcard    Tarjeta postal    Tahr-heh-tah pohs-tahl
Insect repellent    Repelente contra insectos    Reh-peh-lehn-teh cohn-trah een-sehk-tohs
Now    Ahora    Ah-ohr-ah
Right now    Ahora mismo (ahorita)    Ah-ohr-ah mees-moh (ah-ohr-ee-tah)
Later    Más tarde    Mahs tahr-deh
Never    Nunca    Noon-kah
Guide    Guía    Ghee-ah
Heat    Calor    Kah-lohr
It’s hot!    ¡Qué calor!    Keh kah-lohr
Cold    Frío    Free-oh
Rain    Lluvia    Yoo-byah
It’s cold!    ¡Qué frío!    Keh free-oh
Wind    Viento    Byehn-toh
It’s windy!    ¡Cuánto viento!    Kwahn-toh byehn-toh
Money-changer    Cambista    Kahm-bee-stah
Bank    Banco    Bahn-koh
Money    Dinero    Dee-neh-roh
Small (correct) change    Sencillo    Sehn-see-yoh
Credit card    Tarjeta de crédito    Tahr-heh-tah deh creh-dee-toh
ATM    Cajero automático    Kah-heh-roh ow-toh-mah-tee-koh
Tourist information office    Oficina de información turística    Oh-fee-see-nah deh een-for-mah-syohn too-ree-stee-kah

Numbers
 
1    uno (oo-noh)
2    dos (dohs)
3    tres (trehs)
4    cuatro (kwah-troh)
5    cinco (seen-koh)
6    seis (sayss)
7    siete (syeh-teh)
8    ocho (oh-choh)
9    nueve (nweh-beh)
10   diez (dyehs)
11   once (ohn-seh)
12   doce (doh-seh)
13   trece (treh-seh)
14   catorce (kah-tohr-seh)
15   quince (keen-seh)
16   dieciséis (dyeh-see-sayss)
17   diecisiete (dyeh-see-syeh-teh)
18   dieciocho (dyeh-syoh-choh)
19   diecinueve (dyeh-see-nweh-beh)
20   veinte (bayn-teh)
30   treinta (trayn-tah)
40   cuarenta (kwah-ren-tah)
50   cincuenta (seen-kwen-tah)
60   sesenta (seh-sehn-tah)
70   setenta (seh-tehn-tah)
80   ochenta (oh-chen-tah)
90   noventa (noh-ben-tah)
100  cien (syehn)
200  doscientos (do-syehn-tohs)
500  quinientos (kee-nyehn-tohs)
1,000 mil (meel)
 
Days of the Week

Monday    Lunes    (loo-nehss)
Tuesday    Martes    (mahr-tehss)
Wednesday    Miércoles    (myehr-koh-lehss)
Thursday    Jueves    (wheh-behss)
Friday    Viernes    (byehr-nehss)
Saturday    Sábado    (sah-bah-doh)
Sunday    Domingo    (doh-meen-goh)

Spanish Menu Glossary

General Terms
 
Bread: Pan
Cheese: Queso
Chicken: Pollo
Coffee: Café/Tinto
Dessert: Postre
Eggs: Huevos
Fish: Pescado
French fries: Papas fritas
Fruit: Fruta
Meat: Carne
Milk: Leche
Pork: Cerdo
Potatoes: Papas
Rice: Arroz
Roast: Asado
Salad: Ensalada
Salt: Sal
Seafood: Mariscos
Shrimp: Camarones
Soup: Sopa
Vegetables: Verduras

Meat
 
Anticuchos: Skewered meat
Cabrito: Goat
Carne de res: Beef
Chicharron: Fried pork belly
Conejo: Rabbit
Cordero: Lamb
Costillas: Ribs
Parrillada: Grilled meats
Pato: Duck
Sancochado: Stew
 
Seafood
 
Almejas: Clams
Atun: Tuna
Bagre: Catfish
Calamar: Squid
Cangrejo: Crab
Caracol: Snails
Conchas: Scallops
Corvina: Sea bass
Langosta: Lobster
Lenguado: Sole
Mero: Grouper
Mojarra: Red Tilapia
Pargo Rojo: Red Snapper
Pez León: Lionfish
Piangua: Black clam
Pirarucu: Large Amazon fish
Pulpo: Octopus
 
Fruit

Acaí: A small, purple palm fruit, more common in Brazil
Aguaymanto: Cape gooseberry
Camu Camu: Small Amazonian fruit high in Vitamin C
Carambola: Starfruit
Cherimoya: Custard apple
Chontadura: Peach palm
Curuba: Banana passion fruit
Fresa: Strawberry
Higo: Prickly pear
Limón: Lime
Lulo: An orange citrus fruit sometimes called naranjilla
Granadilla: A variety of passion fruit
Guanabana: Soursop
Manzana: Apple
Maracuyá: Passion fruit
Mora: Blackberry
Naranja: Orange
Piña: Pineapple
Pitahaya: Dragonfruit
Plátano: Banana
Sandía: Watermelon
Tomate de Árbol: Tree tomato
Uchuva: Gooseberry
Zapote: Mamey
 
Vegetables
 
Arracacha: Root vegetable
Aceitunas: Olives
Lechuga: Lettuce
Guatila: Chayote
Habas: Legumes
Mazorca: Large kernel corn
Papa: Potato
Palta: Avocado
Tomate: Tomato
Yuca: Cassava or manioc
 
Beverages

Beer: Cerveza
Cocktail: Cóctel
Juice: Jugo
Milk: Leche
Mixed fruit juice: Refresco
Soft drink: Gaseosa
Water: Agua
carbonated: con gas
still: sin gas
Wine: Vino
 
Preparation
 
Cold (temperature): Frío
Cooked: Cocido
Fixed-price menu: El menu
Fried: Frito
Hot (temperature): Caliente
Raw: Crudo
Spicy: Picante
Vegetarian: Vegetariano
 
Colombian Favorites
 
Aguapanela: Panela dissolved in water
Aguardiente: Firewater
Ajiaco: Chicken, corn, and potato stew
Arepas: Corn cakes
Arequipe: Sweetened condensed milk
Arroz con coco: Coconut rice
Bandeja Paísa: A platter with beans, rice, eggs, and meat that varies by location
Carimañola: Yuca fritter
Ceviche: Marinated raw fish
Changua: A creamy, egg soup typical in the Andes
Chicha: Fermented maize beer
Chicharrón: Fried pork belly
Churrasco: Grilled sirloin steak
Cocada: Baked coconut cookie
Cuy: Guinea pig. Can be roasted, fried, or cooked in a sauce
Fritanga: Meats, fried plantains, fried pork, and yellow potatoes
Hormigas culonas: Large-butt ants
Leche Asada: Similar to flan
Mondongo: Tripe stew
Morcilla: Blood sausage
Palta: Avocado
Pan de bono: A typical bread from the Valle de Cauca made of cassava starch, corn flour, cheese, and eggs
Patacones: Fried plantains
Salchipapas: French fries and sliced up hot dogs
Sancochado: A meat and potato stew with dozens of regional variations
Suero: Sour cream
Tamal: Ground corn cooked and stuffed with chicken or pork, wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks, and then steamed
Tinto: Coffee with sugar



Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.