Sunday, January 16, 2022

Language & Phrasebook in Argentina

South AmericaArgentinaLanguage & Phrasebook in Argentina

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The official language is Spanish. In general, most people speak Spanish in a local dialect, Castellano Rioplatense, which is different from both the language of Spain and the language of Central America. Notably, the pronoun “tu” is replaced by “vos” and the plural pronoun “vosotros” is replaced by “ustedes”, the latter being common in Latin America. There are also distinct verb conjugations, which sometimes differ significantly for irregular verbs in the present tense and for informal commands. In addition, people in each city pronounce words differently too! For example, people in Buenos Aires speak differently from those in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries; Example: Chicken in Spanish (pollo) is pronounced PO-zhO or PO-SHO by “porteños” (inhabitants of Buenos Aires), with the SH sound harder than in Spanish; unlike most other Spanish speakers in South America who pronounce it PO-yo. However, all Argentines learn standard Castilian Spanish at school, and even if it is not the first language of choice, people are generally competent enough to communicate.

Rioplatense Spanish is also strongly influenced by and often confused with Italian, due to the large influx of Italian immigrants. Italian-derived hand gestures are very common, and many colloquial expressions are borrowed from Italian (e.g. instead of saying “cerveza”, which means beer, young people find it cooler to say “birra”, which is in Italian). Most locals can understand most Spanish dialects well, as well as Portuguese or Italian (mainly because of the similarity to local Spanish). English is compulsory in school and is generally understood at least at a basic level in tourist areas. German and French are understood and partially spoken by small parts of the population. There are native speakers of Welsh in a few places in Patagonia, near Rawson. Words borrowed from indigenous languages include Quechua, Guarani, Mataco, Che, Mate and others.

The interjection “che” is very common and has much the same meaning as the English “hey! It can also be used as an expression when you know someone whose name you cannot remember. E.g. “Escucháme, Che, ….Sometimes it is used in speech, a bit like the English expression “yo”, as in “What’s up, yo? Nevertheless, communication will not be a problem for any Spanish speaker.

Argentines communicate with each other using lunfardo, a street dialect or slang. It is used in conjunction with Spanish by replacing nouns with their synonyms in Lunfardo. This does not change the original meaning, but only makes the expression more colourful. An important aspect of lunfardo is that it is only spoken. For example, you know the word dinero (money), but you can use the word guita to mean the same things. Lunfardo has about 5,000 words, many of which are not in the dictionary.

Hey Big Balls

¡Che boludo! (badly translated in the title) Che (used as an injunction, the root is native) is used a lot in slang …between friends. That’s why Cubans gave Ernesto Guevara the nickname “Che Guevara”. It’s a typical Argentine habit. Well, some Chileans use it, a bit differently, “Che huevón”.

Don’t be surprised if you hear creative animal names on the street. It’s not uncommon to call your friends boludo (“big balls”, which is a misnomer) or loco (“crazy”). If you read a bit of Lunfardo history, you start to see that Argentines like to play with language and use nicknames. An essay by Santiago Kovadloff explains it well: an overweight or fat person is simply called “flaco” (thin) by his friends ... a smart person with a great talent for earning the respect of his peers is “un hijo de puta” (son of a bitch, which is a misinterpretation). This may seem counter-intuitive to some, but friends do it as a term of endearment. There is something for everyone. Negro (which has no negative connotation in Spanish) is a popular nickname, regardless of the colour of the person’s skin. Loco is used interchangeably with Boludo. Boludo can be compared to the way bollocks is used in Ireland: to a stranger it is an insult; to a friend it is a term of endearment.

This kind of rough talk is considered normal in Argentina. Try to take it lightly, as it is not usually intended to be offensive, but do not copy it. It takes time to understand the nuances of colloquial language.


Although there is a community of descendants of Welsh immigrants in the Pampas, as well as Scottish and Irish communities, it is not these impoverished emigrant communities that have had the greatest influence in Argentina; they are wealthy investors who had the financial means to send their children to English boarding schools and universities.

Commonwealth English, although not an official language, has historically been the variety most used by the educated elite in Argentina.

Through groups such as the Argentine British Community Council (ABCC), it is possible for British expats to feel more at home in Argentina than in Britain. Constantly organising truly ‘British’ events such as car boot sales, village parties, races and fundraisers, the ABCC sees it as its duty to respect the British tradition of saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and being on time! Argentina is the country with the largest British community in Latin America. Many cities were founded by Britons and 80% of public schools in Buenos Aires are British. Argentina was perhaps the fourth country in the Southern Hemisphere to be colonised by the British, along with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa!

Buenos Aires was once home to the only Harrods shop outside Britain and still has the largest and oldest English newspaper in Latin America, the Buenos Aires Herald. Some of the towns founded by British settlers in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina: Hughes, Rawson, Hudson, Hurlingham, Temperley, Banfield, O’Higgins, Brandsen, Parish, Fair, Barker, Bunge, Tornquist, Roberts, Gunther, Gahan, Abott, Anderson and Warnes.

Few things are as quintessentially British as the immaculately manicured polo fields of the Hurlingham Club or a football match between St Andrews School and Balmoral College. The Anglophile can achieve the ultimate in afternoon tea while quietly reading the local news in the Herald.

How To Travel To Argentina

By airAerolíneasArgentinas and LAN Chile operate flights between Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport and many cities in South America, as well as in North America, Europe and Australia. Air New Zealand operates direct flights from Auckland. Qantas no longer offers direct flights from Sydney to Buenos Aires, but instead...

How To Travel Around Argentina

By trainIn recent years, the government has encouraged the reintroduction of long-distance passenger trains, although most lines still operate at low frequency (one or two departures per week). The rail network is very limited, and intercity buses offer better service and faster journeys. Train tickets are very cheap -...

Visa & Passport Requirements for Argentina

Passport holders from the following countries do not need a visa to enter Argentina if the purpose of the visit is tourism for a maximum of 90 days: Andorra, Australia*, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada*, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador,...

Tourism in Argentina

Argentina has a vast territory and a great diversity of climates and microclimates, ranging from tundra and polar climate in the south to tropical climate in the north, a vast area of temperate climate and natural wonders such as Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas,...

Destinations in Argentina

RegionsNorthwestern Andes (Catamarca, Jujuy, La Rioja, Tucuman, western parts of Salta and Santiago del Estero)Chaco (Chaco, Formosa, eastern parts of Salta and Santiago del Estero)Cuyo (Mendoza, San Juan, San Luis)Mesopotamian (Corrientes, Entre Rios, Misiones)Pampas (Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires City, Córdoba, La Pampa, Santa Fe)Patagonia (Chubut, Neuquen, Rio Negro, Santa...

Weather & Climate in Argentina

Buenos Aires and the Pampas are temperate; cold in winter, hot and humid in summer.The deserts of Cuyo, which can reach temperatures of 45°C, are extremely hot and dry in summer and moderately cold and dry in winter. Spring and autumn often experience rapid temperature changes; several days of...

Accommodation & Hotels in Argentina

There is a wide range of accommodation options in Buenos Aires and the rest of the country, from student dormitories to luxurious palaces and modern five-star hotels, as well as cosy guesthouses and trendy boutique hotels in the city. There are also many beautiful lakeside lodges in Patagonia and...

Things To See in Argentina

For many travellers, Argentina as a country has the same seductive appeal as the tango for which it is famous. Like this iconic couple's dance, Argentina embraces you, constantly moving to the rhythm of the streets and improvising with every step.Urban atmosphereIts major cities are all full of life....

Things To Do in Argentina

HikingBuenos Aires offers a number of walking tour options. These include the typical tours that can be found in any city, as well as interesting options such as free guided tours, downloadable MP3 tours and even guided running tours.SportsThe most popular sport in Argentina is fútbol (football). If you...

Food & Drinks in Argentina

Food in ArgentinaArgentine breakfast is a little light compared to what travellers from English-speaking countries are used to. It usually consists of a hot drink (coffee, tea, milk) accompanied by some toast, medialunas (croissants, literally "half moons") or bread.Hotels usually offer a free buffet of coffee, tea, yoghurt drinks,...

Money & Shopping in Argentina

CurrencyThe official currency of Argentina is the peso (ARS), divided into 100 centavos. Coins are issued in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50 centavos and 1 and 2 pesos. Banknotes are issued in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pesos. Be prepared to receive change in...

Internet & Communications in Argentina

By telephoneYou can get a prepaid SIM card from Movistar/Claro/Personal for a few pesos/free in phone shops, you only pay about 20 ARS (about 5 USD) for your starting balance. Inserting the SIM card into your unlocked mobile phone should work, but you may need to enter your passport...

Traditions & Customs in Argentina

Successive peso crises have left many Argentines bitter towards certain authorities and institutions. Although many shops will accept payment in US dollars or euros and even offer you a better exchange rate than banks, try to adapt elsewhere. Keep a supply of pesos on hand for shops that don't...

Culture Of Argentina

Argentina is a multicultural country with significant European influences. Its cities are largely characterised by the predominance of people of European origin and the deliberate emulation of European styles in fashion, architecture and design. Modern Argentine culture has been strongly influenced by immigrants from Italy, Spain and other European...

History Of Argentina

Pre-Columbian eraThe earliest traces of human life in the area now known as Argentina date back to the Paleolithic, with further traces in the Mesolithic and Neolithic. Until the time of European colonisation, Argentina was relatively sparsely populated, with many different cultures with different social organisations, which can be...

Stay Safe & Healthy in Argentina

Stay Safe in ArgentinaThe road death rate in Argentina is 12.6 per 100 000 inhabitants. This compares with 10.4 and 2.75 for the United States and the United Kingdom respectively. In Argentina, drivers kill 20 people a day (about 7,000 a year), and more than 120,000 people are injured...



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