Key words for the reading:
- Porteño: citizens of Buenos Aires (due to the port area)
- Lunfardo: a way of talking of the porteños
- Malandra: a person living dishonestly
- Rioplatense: from the Rio de la Plata area, the river of Buenos Aires
One of the first things you’ll notice after arriving to Argentina (specifically to Buenos Aires) is the peculiar sound of Spanish when coming from a porteño. You’ll hear them pronouncing calle as “cashe,” zapatos as “sapatos,” and zapallo as “sapasho.” If you’re familiar with Spain’s Spanish or other Latin American Spanish, it might sound weird at first, but the charming intonation will probably win your heart in no time.
The Rioplatense Spanish is a dialect that has three notable characteristics:
- The yeísmo involves the pronunciation of the letters ll and y as “sh” (calle as “cashe”).
- The seseo is where the z pronunciation sounds always, as an “s” (zapatos as “sapatos”).
- The voseo is a grammar peculiarity. Instead of “tú”, vos is used as the second person singular pronoun. The voseo exists in other areas of Latin America, but it’s mixed with “tú”; in Buenos Aires, no one uses “tú”.
Another quality of Argentinian Spanish is the use of the words che and dale. Probably you know Che Guevara, who was not Cuban but Argentinian, and Che is not his real name. He was called Che, because he was Argentinian, and like everybody in that huge country, he used to say “che” all the time.
Che is used as an interjection to call a person, to attract their attention, and also in case of surprise or astonishment. Dale is a very useful word which means “ok,” “right” or “good,” and is the equivalent of Spain’s vale.
There is a good deal of distinctive traits to this dialect, which you will get to know while living in Argentina. Even with its uniqueness, the Rioplatense way of speaking is understandable for speakers of every other Spanish dialect. It’s also very fun to learn given its picaresque features.
Maybe you’ve heard about lunfardo. El lunfardo is not a dialect but an ensemble of words (adjectives, verbs and nouns) that many Argentinians use every day when speaking. Because of the social context in which it evolved, the lunfardo has come to be mistaken as a low way of speaking, stuff of malandras, a sort of share code that just a group understood. But it takes little time to realize that this argot, originally from low classes and very present in tango (that nostalgic music and dance that Argentina is known for), belongs to no one. Everyone, from a supermarket cashier to a huge company CEO, uses this slang.
Some of the most used words of lunfardo are:
- Chamuyar: to lie / chatting, usually in order to achieve something or with “love” goals
- Pilcha: clothes
- Amarrete: stingy
- Piola: smart / interesting
- Bocho: head / smart
- Cacho: piece
- Dale: come on! / all right (agreeing)
- Bondi: bus
- Posta: truly
This is a really small list. You can find more lunfardo vocabulary searching the web or reading some tango lyrics like “Malena,” “Caminito,” “Sur,” Mano a mano,” Balada para un loco,” or even better, come visit Argentina for many, many more!
This post was contributed by AIFS in Buenos Aires Resident Director Bárbara Franconi.
Learn more about opportunities to study abroad in Argentina and other top-rated study abroad programs around the world with AIFS.