Gringo Lingo, Learning Spanish in Buenos Aires

Helpful Phrases in Argentine Spanish

Kristin Dean

By | September 13, 2010 | 1 comment

No matter where you travel, you’ll notice differences in local lingo. Buenos Aires is no exception.

Upon my arrival, I quickly realized that the Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires is a different monster. At first I blamed Lunfardo, but I was wrong (at least partially). After a while, I came to realize that much of that which I was not quite catching onto was a series of words and phrases that, when directly translated, didn’t make much sense. Once I recognized that these were common phrases that required a more loose translation, I quickly noticed an improvement in my ability to communicate and understand.

To help all you lovely readers get over that initial hump of comprehension, here’s a list of these phrases, and their varying uses.

1. Often times, che is used in the same way that English speakers use the words buddy, dude, man or mate. “¡Che! ¿Qué pasó anoche?” (Dude, what happened last night?)
2. Equally often, che is used to get the attention of another during a conversation, in the same manner that English speakers use “hey” or that other Spanish speakers use “oye.” “Che, dame los llaves.” (Hey, give me the keys.)

Todo bien
1. When greeting a friend or a friendly portero (doorman), it is common to say “¿Todo bien?” and then reply with the same, “Sí, todo bien.” In Buenos Aires, this greeting is used often, replacing the “How are you?” Think more in terms of “Everything good?” or “All’s well”

1. This word is used all the time in Argentina. Of course, it is used in the more canonical manner in order to say that something is good.
2. Often, bueno is also used to mean “well,” or “alright.” “Bueno, salimos a las once” (Well, let’s go out at 11)
3. “¡Que bueno!” can be used to replace the English expressions, “How great!” “That’s awesome!” or “Right on!”

Tal cual
1. Another one of the most frequently heard phrases here in Buenos Aires, tal cual is a real doozie. In conversation, it is used to mean “I agree,” “yes, exactly,” or “I couldn’t agree more.”
Buenos Aires es la ciudad mas linda del mundo; !Sí, tal cual!” (Buenos Aires is the most beautiful city in the world; Yea, I couldn’t agree more!)

1. Don’t bother looking it up in the dictionary, this one is confusing. In Buenos Aires, most of the times you hear “dale,” it will be used much in the same manner as English speakers use, “ok.”
2. Sometimes, dale can also be used to hurry another person along. “Bueno. Dale, dale!” (Come on. Hurry, hurry!)

Often this will be accompanied with a gesture near the eye it means “Be careful!” or watch out for something. “Ojo! Hay algo pasando en la esquina.” (Careful! There’s something going on at the corner.)

Mira vos
Mira vos is used in the same way that English speakers use “Wow!” “Go figure!” or “No shit!” “Ayer gané mil dolares!” (Yesterday, I won a thousand bucks; Wow, no shit!”)

Pasa que
This one is common and it’s best just to sink it into your memory and use it all the time. Meaning, “The thing is…,” you’ll find it useful when making statements such as, “Quiero salir esta noche. Pasa que no tengo plata.” (I want to go out tonight, but the thing is I don’t have any money.)

Keep your ears perked, you’ll hear these phrases sooner or later!

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  1. jovan paolo mendez ciccarelli

    12/12/2010 - 12:21 am

    i think it was pritty good except for the fact that,they dont only speak like that in buenos aires but also in alot of others cities like rosario where alot of the lunfardo also comes from,dont let people from buenos aires fool y they have a saying in argentina i dont know if u heard it while being there it goes ”dios esta en todas parte pero recide en buenos aires”god is everywhre but he recides in buenos aires meaning that people from bs as usally think they are better then anyone else i grew up in argentina but otherwise excelent stoyr