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Colombian Spanish Street Slang: 7 Phrases and Their Surprising Real Meaning

Colombian Spanish

It is often said that Colombian Spanish is the clearest, or easiest to understand for non-native speakers. However, with so many different accents within the country this is not always true. Despite the different cadences and slang words used across the different regions of Colombia there are certain Colombian Spanish street slang phrases that remain the same throughout the extent of the country, so they are quite useful to know if you’re traveling to the land of coffee and emeralds.

Colombian Spanish Street Slang: 7 Phrases and Their Surprising Real Meaning

1. ¿Qué más?
This one often perplexes even native Spanish speakers from other countries. It literally means “what else?,” but in Colombia it is used as a greeting meaning “how are you?” or “how’s it going?”

2. Que pena:
In most Spanish-speaking countries this expression means “what a pity”, but in Colombia it means “sorry” or “excuse me.”

3. A la orden:
You will hear this everywhere you go, especially from street vendors or shopkeepers trying to get your attention. It literally means “at your service” although it is sometimes used to mean “you’re welcome” after you say thank you or business is concluded. “Con mucho gusto” (“with pleasure”) is also an expression often used in these occasions.

4. Listo:
This all-purpose word and be used as a question and an affirmation. Its literal translation is “ready,” which is also used, but it can also be used to ask or affirm whether you understand or agree with something. It’s basically the Colombian version of OK. “¿Listo? -¡Listo!”

5. Fresco or fresca:
In some countries it means to be disrespectful or insolent, but if a Colombian tells you to be “fresco” it just means “don’t worry.”

6. ¡De una!:
This enthusiastic expression roughly translates to “let’s do it!,” so if you happen to say it, it means you’re down for whatever.

7. Todo bien:
Also acts as both a question and an affirmation. You can ask someone “¿todo bien?” in lieu of “¿cómo estás?” or “¿qué más?”, or answer those questions with a “todo bien” yourself.

If you want to learn more Colombian Spanish check out the book Quick Guide to Colombian Spanish.

Featured photo credit: Luz Adriana Villa A. via photopin cc

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