Languages of Argentina
Argentina is the fourth largest Spanish-speaking country (after Mexico, Spain & Colombia), but the dialect is slightly different from the Spanish you will hear in other parts of Central or South America. At the beginning of the 20th century, Argentina received a wave of Italian immigrants that greatly influenced the language. As they settled, a new tongue evolved. When traveling through Argentina, it would be helpful to learn to speak like the porteños – the “people of the harbor”.
The most easily identifiable sound is the “sh.” A porteño, instead of pronouncing words with “ll” as “y”, pronounces them with a “sh” sound. Pollo (chicken) would be “posho” instead of “poyoh”.
Another important difference is the usage of “vos” instead of “tu” (you) when speaking. Known as “voseo”, Argentina is one of the few Spanish-speaking countries that use it. Other countries that use it, are neighboring Uruguay, El Salvador, and Honduras.
While traveling through Argentina, you will also come across their special slang, called “lunfardo”. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the lower class segments of Buenos Aires. It contains elements of not only Spanish and Italian but also Portuguese and other languages. A common way to speak in “lunfardo” is to reverse the syllables of a certain word. For example, café, becomes “feca” and tango becomes “gotan”.
Other popular words that are not in reverse are:
- guita – money
- mina – young woman, girl (comes from the italian femmina)
- mango – an Argentine peso
While Spanish is the dominant language in Argentina, there are many other languages spoken in Argentina. They include Italian (second most spoken language in Argentina), Quechua (mainly spoken by Bolivian immigrants who settled in Northern Argentina) and Guaraní (mainly spoken in the province of Corrientes).
Today, there is a lot of access to language learning. If you are a carrier of a smartphone, we recommend downloading the Duolingo app. Duolingo offers lessons in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and more. If you don’t have a smartphone with access to language apps, we recommend taking a “Spanish for Travelers” class at your local community center, or with a software program such as Rosetta Stone. Many travel guidebooks include brief language sections. Study up before you go to familiarize yourself with basic Spanish. With some studying and a little bit of practice, you may be able to show off your language skills with the locals!
In most hotels and tourist destinations, the staff will be English-speaking and all of our guides are English-speaking.
A few phrases for meat lovers in Argentina:
- bien jugoso – rare
- jugoso – medium-rare
- a punto – medium
- bien cocida – well done