This blog post is a from an email that I sent to my readers in August of 2008.
Here’s the email that I sent to my readers . . .
I know it has been a while since my last email. That’s because I have been busy traveling this summer. I left Medellin, Colombia, to visit some friends in Barcelona, Spain.
It was my first trip to Europe. I have always heard that Spaniards speak Spanish really fast. Even faster than Spanish speakers from the Caribbean. And it is true.
I have friends from the Dominican Republic and the Spaniards definitely speak faster than Dominicans.
And the Spaniards also speak faster than the Colombians from the Caribbean coastal cities:
Barranquilla and Cartagena
In fact, Spaniards speak faster Spanish than Cubans. Well, that’s my opinion.
About Barcelona . . .
One of the first things that I noticed about Barcelona is the diversity. There are lots of Colombians, Dominicans, Brazilians, Arabs and Africans in Barcelona.
I am learning Portuguese on my own now. And I became friends with some Brazilians while in
Barcelona. And not only did they help me out with my Portuguese but they also took me to a seaside resort and tourist center called Salou. Not far from Barcelona.
Salou seemed to have a “discoteca” (night club) on every corner and each “discoteca” was picked with tourists from all over the world.
By the way, Salou was once used as a port by the Greeks and Romans. And later it earned a reputation
for being a nest for Pirates.
Besides telling you about my trip to Barcelona, Spain, I am also writing you because while living in Medellin, I have noticed certain things that native Spanish speakers say that non-native Spanish speakers never say — and vice versa.
And this is something that you will probably never learn from a Spanish grammar or Spanish vocabulary book.
I call them “The 4 ways to spot a Gringo in Latin America.”
How To Say Ouch In Spanish
Here’s one. While in Medellin I remember seeing a couple in a “centro comercial” (shopping center). There was nothing unusual about the couple. The male spoke Spanish so well that I automatically assumed that he was a native Spanish speaker. And then for some reason, his “novia” (girlfriend)
or “esposa” (wife) pinched him.
I have no idea why she pinched him but but when I heard him say “OUCH!” I knew right away that he was a GRINGO.
That’s because native Spanish speakers don’t say “OUCH!” They say “AY!”
Here’s a second way to spot a GRINGO in Latin America. As Gringos, we often use the word “Oh.” I am NOT talking about “OH!” as in “Oh” following by an explanation point. In other words, I am NOT talking about “OH!”
I am talking about “Oh” without the explanation point. As Americans, we say “Oh” so much that
we are not even conscious of it.
Instead of saying “Oh,” native Spanish speakers say “Ah.” Occasionally, you may hear a native Spanish speaker excitedly utter “OH!” But that’s reserved for situations where a person wants to indicate true astonishment or surprise. Maybe at a “teatro” (theatre).
And here’s a third way to spot a Gringo in Latin America . . .
As Gringos, without even thinking about it we say “ummm,” especially when we are not sure
what we want to say next.
But when a native Spanish speaker is not sure what he or she wants to say next, they’ll say:
And now for my fourth and final way to spot a Gringo in Latin America . . .
When I was in college I had a friend, who always use the word “gross.” No matter what I did around her or what I said around her, she reacted with the word “GROSS.”
You won’t hear anyone in Colombia or any other part of the Spanish speaking world say “GROSS.”
In Colombia, they use the word “GAS” instead of “GROSS.”
So if you want to go undetected in Latin America and pass for a native Spanish speaker, you will certainly want to eliminate these four words from your Spanish-speaking vocabulary:
1. Ouch – replace it with “ay!”
2. Oh – replace it with “ah”
3. Ummm – replace it with “aaaa”
4. Gross – replace it with “gas” in Medellin, Colombia