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The Beginner's Guide to Argentine Spanish!

Updated: May 20, 2020

It doesn’t take long to hear how distinct Argentine Spanish is from rest of Latin America or Spain. To some it sounds like bastardized Italian and it differs considerably from the Spanish spoken in other countries of Latin America, mostly because of the accent, the use of ‘voseo’ and differing vocabulary. I will go through the history of our Spanish, and what makes it different!

History Formally known as "Rioplatense Spanish", also known as Argentine-Uruguayan Spanish; Argentinian Spanish has a few quirks that makes it stand out! While Argentines call it ‘Castellano’, it is only done to delineate it from other languages also spoken on the Iberian Peninsula, such as Basque, Galician and Catalan. Until the influx of immigration in the 1870s, the language of the Río de la Plata had virtually no influence from other languages. Argentines often state that their population comprise people of relatively recent European descent, the largest immigrant groups coming from Spain and Italy. Although Europeans slaughtered the indigenous people before 1810 several of the native languages have left visible traces. Words from Guarani, Quechua and others were brought into the Argentine Spanish we know today! One very South American word is from Quechua: guacho or guacha (orig. wakcha "poor person, vagabond, orphan”). This is also the origin of the word "gaucho", the term for the native cowboys in Argentina. Another word is the Argentine word for popcorn. Pochoclo (pop + choclo, from choqllo, corn) in neutral spanish, and pororó -popcorn in some Argentine provinces stemming from Guarani, tribes from modern day Paraguay.

Intonation The first thing you will notice when arriving in Argentina, is the intonation of our Castellano. We share some patterns that resemble those of Italian dialects, because of our large Italian ancestry. The big wave of Italian immigrants was in the early 20th century, before that, the porteño (of Buenos Aires) accent was more similar to that of Spain. Verbs One thing that is very noticeable in Argentina is that the second person (you) verbs remove the “r” from the infinitive, replacing it with an “s”, and stressing the final syllable. Therefore, hablar becomes hablás, comer becomes comés, and venir becomes venís. The ONLY exception to this rule is “sos”, the conjugation of ser. "Vos sos" And vos is Argentina’s unique second-person pronoun, which for all intents and purposes completely replaces tú. Only in these three countries is the use of vos standardized across the population and in the media. Once you get past this particularity, things seem to be very manageable!

Pronunciation Argentine Spanish is very unique for its “sh” sound used to pronounce “ll” and “y” letters, pronounced as a “ye” sound in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world. Calle for instance—ordinarily pronounced “caye”—becomes “cashe” in Argentine Spanish. The same goes for “y” sounds. Tuyo (yours)—normally pronounced as written—becomes “tusho.” This may take awhile to adjust to but once you do, the beauty of Argentine Spanish starts to shine through! Now that we’ve gone over some basics, here are (a few) great examples of Argentine slang!

Che – hey. The most common way to get someone’s attention. Be aware, though, that “che boludo” is very informal, and could be rude in some contexts—so only use this with your best friends or in informal situations. As in, “Che boludo, ¿me pasás la última empanada?” (Hey dude, will you pass me the last empanada?). plata- money As in, “Yo necesito más plata para la semana ” ( I need more money for the week) En pedo – drunk. As in, “Estuvo en pedo anoche” (He was super drunk last night). Birra – beer (taken from the Italian). As in, “Vamos a comprar unas birras” (Let’s go buy a few beers). Boliche – nightclub. As in, “Pasan música electro en este boliche” (They play electronica a this nightclub). Quilombo – a mess. As in, “Qué quilombo es tomar el Mitre” (Taking the Mitre train is a mess). Copado – cool. As in, “Es muy copado el chabón” (That guy is really cool). While these are just a few examples, I will cover more examples in future posts! I hope this gave you a better idea of how Spanish differs in Argentina.


~ If you enjoyed this article please check out my website and give me a like on facebook! I’m a Spanish teacher based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since 2007 I have been exclusively teaching Spanish to foreigners from all over the world. Whether looking for an online Spanish tutor, or in person while visiting Buenos Aires, please reach out to me with any questions you might have!~
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