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Medellin Language

 
infolang

Basic Info

Spanish is the official language of Colombia. There is not a lot of english spoken in Medellin. Few locals are bilingual, however you will find some signs written both in spanish and in english, especially in the more touristy areas such as El Poblado.

 

The most english speakers you will find are in those same areas, like Parque Lleras and other parts of El Poblado. The international hotel chains and some of the foreign owned hotels and restaurants will usually have some bilingual employees also.

 

Once you venture outside of those tourist areas you will find very little to no english spoken. If you can’t speak and understand at least basic spanish you will have a difficult time even doing simple things like taking a cab, going to a restaurant, asking directions, etc.

 

The paisas are very friendly and very helpful and if you at least make an attempt to communicate in spanish they will try to help you. Having said that it is recommended that someone in your group should be able to speak some spanish when you head out to see the sights.

 

Learning Resources

For those that want to learn some spanish prior to going or are motivated to improve their spanish because they like Medellin so much they want to spend more time there, there are numerous resources both free and paid.

 

There are many spanish courses for students at all levels. Some are free and some cost money. Some can be very expensive. But as in life, you don’t always get what you pay for so be careful before you lay out big bucks for some thing you’re not sure of.

 

We’ll give you a few resources, of both the free and paid variety, that we know and use to get you started. But first we would like to highly recommend one program, that both of the admins and many of our friends have used and have found particularly effective.

 

The name of the course is Learning Spanish Like Crazy. It is not free, but is reasonably priced, and it is excellent for beginners through advanced students. It made a dramatic difference in my and many of my friends ability to speak and understand spanish.

 

The website is a little weak, but don’t be put off by that because the quality of the lessons are excellent. You can download a few trial lessons for free.

 

 

 

Another option is of course to take spanish lessons in Medellin. There are private tutors for 1 on 1 lessons, private language schools for group lessons, and many of the local universities offer spanish as a second language classes (although you may need a student visa to enroll in some). Prices vary but are generally very reasonable.

 

Medellin Slang

Every country and city in the world has its own street slang, but Medellin seems to have more than most. Some of these words wouldn’t even be recognized in other parts of Colombia.

 

Unless you really know what you are doing and understand how to use them it is advisable that a foreigner refrain from using many of these expressions. While some are benign others can be very tricky to use.

 

They can be vulgar in nature depending on the context in which they are used and also can tend to denote condescension or a sort of cultural insensitivity, again depending on usage and context.

 

It is highly recommended that foreigners be very careful if they choose to use some of these words or expressions, as they can be taken to mean something you don’t intend and that can get you into real trouble in a hurry.

 

¡Hagale! – Often used in the expression “hagale pues”. Translated literally as “Do it then!”, it may seem rude and abrupt to Americans, but is usually meant as warm and welcoming in Medellin. It can, however, be used in other contexts.

 

Pilas pues – pay attention, be on guard.

 

¿Que mas? – What’s Up? Taken literally it means “What else?” This can be confusing to newcomers. Treat it as a rhetorical question.

 

Gonorrea – A harsh term used for commentary on something or someone that is particularly ugly, nasty, evil, loathsome or just generally bad.

 

Chichipato – A cheapskate. Paisas usually accompany this word with a disappointed tap of the elbow, as another word for cheap is “codo”, which is Spanish for elbow.

 

¿Bien o que? – Translated directly as “Good or what?”, this is a commonplace greeting across the city. Like “Que mas?” it is more rhetorical as you never hear an answer in the negative.

 

Parcero/Parcera – Bro, or buddy, usually shortened to parce. If you ask your friend “How was last night?”, a common answer would be “Una chimba parce!”

 

Marica – Literally means “faggot” but it is a very common expression. It’s used as both a curse word or as a friendly greeting to a parcero. However – pilas pues – to call someone a marica directly – i.e. “Juan es una marica” – is not a good thing at all and is highly frowned upon. Like most languages, it’s all about tone and context. Depending on the tone of voice, it can be understood as a friendly greeting or an insult.

 

Maricón – is a harsher, less friendly variant of marica. NEVER, EVER call anyone “maricón” as that is genuinely offensive and may get you into a world of trouble.

 

Pa’ las que sea – This is such a Paisa expression that even Medellins alcohol of choice, Aguardiente Antioqueno, has it as its billboard slogan. Translating into English is not too clear: “For those that are”. Roughly in Paisaspeak it means “anything goes”. A friend might point out a drunk and over friendly girl in a nightclub and say “Mira – Ella esta pa’ las que sea” – She’s up for anything…

 

Bacano – Not sure if there’s a literal translation for this, but it means ‘cool’.

 

Guayabo – If you’re enguayabado, or you have a guayabo, then you’ve probably been sucking back the aguardiente the night before and are recovering in bed, or looking for the aspirin or advil. You, my friend, are hungover.

 

Huevón – A little like parce in its usage, except huevón can also be used as a friendly put down. Literally means “big balls” can also be use for “lazy” or “dumb ass”. Sometimes used between men to express sympathy and solidarity: ¡Ay huevón!

 

Mono/a – Think you have brown hair? Think again. Here in Colombia you’ll be called a ‘mono’, which means blonde (or monkey). Kind of strange to be called blonde when you categorically are not blonde, but it is what it is parce.

 

Tinto – Everyone’s favorite wake me up in the morning, a small cup of Colombian coffee… black of course.

 

¡Qué pena! – Sorry! Or in some dialects it means “What a pity!”

 

¡A la orden! – Something you’ll hear a lot when near shops and the like. It’s kind of an “At your service!” way of getting your attention to lure you into shops, but also a way to conclude business and a kind of “thank you!” that you hear very commonly after paying a taxi driver for example.

 

Pues – Will appear at the end of many sentences when talking informally. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Kind of like the stereotypical valley girl “like”. ¡Hágale pues!

 

Rumbear – for time to party.

 

Chimba – Pussy (slang for female genitalia). When it is used as an object of comparison it denotes an extreme attraction to something (attractive/cool). Example: Eso es una chimba de carro (“That is a cool car). Its use can be considered obscene or not depending on context, and it is heard frequently in Medellin. It can be intensified by the prefix re-: ¡Qué rechimba! – “How awesome/cool!”

 

Está chimba/chimbita – When a girl is hot.

 

Chévere – cool, admirable.

 

Gamín – Literally means “naughty child”. Usually used to denote a homeless person or street person. Sometimes used to describe a person who has no manners.

Category: Info

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