Learning Spanish in Argentina: Be prepared for change

I was approched by this Spanish language school about putting up a guest post about learning Spanish in Argentina. I agreed since I thought it was an interesting subject. I also don’t mind giving them some publcity. I am hoping that this can lead to further cooperation with them or with other language schools for LingQ.

They said would look at creating some Argentinian Spanish language content for LingQ. Here follows the guest post. Please note that these are not my words.




?? ?? ??Argentina is one of the world???s most popular Spanish language learning destination. The combination of high quality Spanish schools, relatively cheap prices and inspiring culture (not to mention the best steak you???ll find anywhere in the world) means there???s many reasons to choose Argentina over other destinations. However, anyone booking their language trip to Argentina is likely to be warned of a few language pitfalls in Argentina both in pronunciation and grammar.


Here???s Expanish Spanish School???s guide to the things to look out for???.

Accent and pronunciation

One of the first things people notice when they hop of the plane and arrive in Buenos Aires, is the Argentine accent. Some of the characteristics include?????

  1. Speed – Argentine???s tend to speak a fair bit faster than their Latin American neighbors, a challenge at first but the ear becomes accustomed fairly quickly??
  2. Lack of lisp – People who are familiar with Spanish from Spain will notice there is no lisp present in the Argentine accent
  3. Italian twang ??? Due to lots of Italian heritage (due to widespread immigration from Italy in the 1900s), Argentine Spanish sounds strangely a little bit Italian
  4. ???Sh???- One key thing that confuses first time visitors to Argentina is the pronunciation on double L (ll) and J. Instead of the ???y??? sound, Argentines pronounce them ???sh???. So ??como se llama???? would be pronounced ?????como se shama???? and ???Yo??? would be pronounced ???sho???. Sounds confusing but in reality, it doesn???t take long to get used to.

Grammar ??? vos the problem with t???

A little bit into their trip to Buenos Aires / Argentina, people will begin to pick up on another subtle difference???Argentine???s use of the informal second person singular pronoun as vos instead of t??. Vos is more or less the equivalent to ???thee??? in English, which can give you a nice Shakespearean twang, should you use it in Spain. But there???s good news. The conjugation of vos is actually simpler than t??, as there are no irregular verbs to deal with other than ser, which changes to sos instead of eres. For example:

  • Dormir: t?? duermes ???> vos dorm??s
  • Venir: t?? vienes ???> vos ven??s
  • Mostrar: t?? muestras ???> vos mostras
  • Ser: t?? eres ???> vos sos

Vos is used across the country, and it is perhaps the most noticeable difference to foreigners hearing it for the first time. However, Argentineans will accept t?? with only a mild sense of amusement. If you really want to fit in though, vos has to become your staple.

Slang -Time

Porte??os love their slang. If you find yourself on the wrong end of a sentence you don???t understand, don???t worry too much, it???s probably just a few made up words and with hand gestures constructed on a whim. There are over 650* unofficial words in regular use in Argentina, most of these circulating within Buenos Aires, with many more being created every time somebody mispronounces an actual word. However, here are some of the more popular ones that you may need to know:

  • Che ??? roughly used as ???hey!???, especially when Porte??os are angry.??
    • ?????Che! ??Dame mi dinero!???
  • Tacho – Taxi??
    • ?????Me voy, llamame un tacho!
  • Quilombo ??? A mess/disaster (literal translation is brothel, careful with this one)??
    • ?????Tu habitaci??n es un quilombo!???

*not in any way based on facts, do not quote me on this figure.

Other Useful Words

  • Strawberries ??? It???s frutilla. Not fresa, not Godzilla.
  • Peaches ??? It???s duraznos, not melocot??n.
  • Juice ??? It???s jugo. It???s definitely not zumo. And even that wouldn???t be with a lisp.
  • Computer ??? Computador. Much easier to use than an ordenador.
  • Potato ??? Papa ain???t your daddy, it???s a potato.
  • To take ??? Tomar. Por favor, no coges el bus. Hay mujeres y ni??os adentro.
  • Tortilla ??? The Mexican flatbread, not that whole Spanish omelet fiasco.
  • Nightclub ??? Boliche. Discoteca sounds lame.
  • Sandwich ??? Sandwich


Language and culture

Language and culture are at the core of education, or should be. With all the debate about language learning methods, the definition of “linguist”, input versus output versus grammar, the role of the Internet etc. it is sometimes useful to take step back.

What is the most useful thing we learn at school and in life? Language and culture. If we have a deep understanding of our own language and culture we feel secure. If we read well, and are good listeners, with a wide range of vocabulary and general knowledge, and if we express ourselves confidenty, in our own language, we will do well in the tasks that we face as life long learners.

If we can do the same in one or more foreign language and culture, we expand our range of experience,?? increase our knowledge of the human condition, and make friends of people from many more backgrounds and origins.

So it is not a matter of technology or method. It is a matter of acquiring advanced skills in language and culture. Like so many other things, this boils down to interest and motivation.

I have never been that interested in learning Arabic, or learning about Arab history. I mean we can only do so many things. I have acquired skills in the language and culture of China, Japan, Russia and various European countries. But I have just finished a very interesting book called The Great Arab Conquests by Hugh Kennedy. Fascinating. I had a sense of the Roman Empire, the Russian Empire, the development of China, the modern history of Europe, but I had little exposure to the storied saga of Arab expansion and the development of this international cultural space. Now I have a start. Can the language be far behind?