One of my favourite countries in Latin America, this Colombian slang guide will help you fit in.
Tomorrow is the last day of my two month visa in Colombia and I’m moving on.
When I first arrived in Colombia I was very frustrated because I could not understand Colombians. Colombian slang has its own set of expressions and slang.
Lunfardo: Argentinean Slang
I wasn’t sure if it was because they were mumbling, talking quickly or a combination of the two.
Essential Colombian Slang
One thing I did realize is that there is an incredible amount of expressions that I did not understand:
Listo literally means ‘ready’ but its also used if something is smart or cool or okay. I hear this several times a day but when I first arrived I thought people were always asking me if I was ready.
A la orden
Colombians are extremely polite and there is a sense of formality in their speech. Anyone serving you, from a taxi driver to a grocery store clerk will say this to you. It literally means ‘to order’ but is more similar to ‘at your service’.
I did not understand this one at all, especially when I would complain to taxi drivers that they were charging me too much and they responded with this phrase which really meant get of the cab gringa.
Con mucho gusto
Another Colombian pleasantry which can be confusing. While in every other country it means ‘nice to meet you’ I started hearing it here from waitresses and other service people when I thanked them.
Caliente does not only mean hot but it also means horny in Colombian slang. I learned this the hard way when my dance partner did not realize I was saying I was hot temperature wise.
Update: A kind friend just wrote me it was because I said estoy cliente and not tengo calor. Lesson learned.
As Tourist2Townie pointed out, if you want to fit in you need to drop ‘si’ and start using local speak.
Colombians love to marvel at beauty and bonita, hermosa, guapa and preciosa weren’t cutting it; you’ll often hear them use lindo/linda to descibe pretty things.
All ways to say something is cool although apparently chimba trumps chevre the same way awesome trumps cool.
But be careful because chimba also refers to female genitalia – although somewhat nice to see they at least appropriated it in a positive light.
Like our shortened expressions in English ‘por favor’ is too much for many Colombians so it’s become porva. This was the only slang that annoyed me as I could not find the verb in any dictionary.
Once I mastered these I really felt like I had taken my Spanish to a new level, of course that is today but tomorrow I’ll be in Ecuador and there may be a whole new batch of expressions to learn.