Monthly Archives: June 2008

Chef Taryn’s Culinary Adventures in South America

A Canadian chef, Taryn Wa, stayed in our loft in March. She wrote a post, “Eating Out, Porteño Style,”  on her blog, Buen Provecho, about the culinary treats she found while traveling in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Food is definitely one of the reasons to come to Buenos Aires. I love how Taryn describes the porteño approach to dining.

(Thanks for linking to our blog Taryn. Hope you’ll come back to BA soon!)



Filed under argentina, buenos aires, culture, restaurants

Che, Ponete las Pilas!

Yes, this post is long overdue. Let’s switch things around this time and start off with some expressions for entertainment. And, since we’ve had a lot of demonstrations (peaceful pot banging mostly), strikes (the ongoing farmers strike), and disagreements (the decidedly inept government of the Kirchners), we’ll use that as the theme. 

First off, our title. The ubiquitous che! Che can come at the beginning or the end of a sentence as a simple interjection, or to avoid saying a person’s name. It’s like calling them “mate” or “dude.” But it is often used as a filler, a meaningless interjection just thrown in there.

  1. che – hey, hey you, man, dude, mate.
    “Che, que esta pasando?”
    “Looks like there’s another demonstration.”         

     “Man, Cristina has really dropped the ball.”
    “Te parece, che?”

  2. quilombo – a mess, chaos, commotion.
    “Che, que quilombo.”
    “No kidding. I’m heading out to the streets to bang pots with the protesters. Wanna come?”
    “Ni en pedo.”
  3. enquilombado – a complicated situation
    “Estamos enquilombados!”
    “You said it. The whole thing’s a complete mess.”
  4. quilombero(a) – a person who creates a mess
    “Ella es una quilombera total!”
    “Well, either she is or her husband is. Either way, it ain’t pretty.”
  5. piquetero(a) – protesters
    “Viste cuantos piqueteros habian?”
    “I saw them and heard them. Pots were banging all night!”
  6. ponerse las pilas – (literally, put in your batteries) get a move on, take charge
    “Can she solve the problem?”
    “Si, si se pone las pilas.”

There are some great sites covering Argentinean slang. Try the Argentine Spanish Slang Dictionary, El Castellano’s Dictionary, or Wally’s Dictionary. The last two also have sound files.  

Pronunciation: ll and y

The second most important aspect of Argentine Spanish to learn before you get here is the pronunciation of the ll (as in calle) and y (as in yo). Typically, they are both pronounced like a y in other Spanish dialects. 

Standard Pronunciation 

  • calle -street (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the standard pronunciation)
  • yo – the pronoun I (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the standard pronunciation)

The pronunciation of both the ll and the y change depending on which part of the country the speaker is from. We’ll look at how the porteños pronounce them, since most people will be visiting Buenos Aires and this pronunciation is the one that confuses.

ll and y are both pronounced as “sh” (for example, shop). So, the word calle becomes “cashe” and yo becomes “sho.”

Argentinean Pronunciation

  • calle – street (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation)
  • yo – the pronoun I (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation)

Here’s a short dialog to get you used to it. Click here to download the mp3 file of this dialog and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation of ll and y.

  • A:     Te llame ayer.
  • B:     Yo tambien te llame, pero me tuve que ir a la calle Ayacucho.
  • A:     ¿Para que?
  • B:     Un juego de llaves.


  • A:     I called you yesterday.
  • B:     I called you too, but I had to go to Ayacucho Street.
  • A:     What for?
  • B:     A copy of my keys.


Filed under argentina, culture, customs, language

Vos vs Tú: A Los Pedos

So you’ve been listening to your Spanish lessons as you drive to work or as you exercise at the gym. You practice rolling your r’s in the mirror every morning. You’ve stuck stick-it notes on the items in your house to help build your vocabulary.  As you open the refrigerator, you mouth out the items: leche, agua, huevos, queso, jamon, yogur, uvas, manzanas. You make it a point to say “Hola” and “gracias” to your Latino neighbors. And then you land in Buenos Aires and realize they don’t speak Spanish here. 

It’s Castellano, or Rioplatense Spanish, a dialect of Spanish spoken in the areas of the River Plate, and it can be quite different. Mostly the pronunciation is different, but there are different words too. To me, Castellano has an Italian rhythm with a Brazilian Portuguese softness. Overly romanticized? That’s very possible, after all, we are talking about language, which ranks up there in my top three favorite topics.

So how can you prepare? Maybe we can help.

Vos vs  

In most Spanish-speaking countries, the pronoun for you (informal) is . In Argentina, they use vos. Whether the vos comes from Brazil’s você or from Spain’s vosotros isn’t clear, but don’t worry if you use , Argentines will still understand you. You only need to know that when they use vos, they’re talking to you.

Conjugating with Vos

It would be much easier if all one had to do to speak Castellano were change the  to vos. But as luck would have it, the verbs are also different. For example, in most Spanish-speaking countries to ask where a person is from you would say “¿De donde eres tu?” In Castellano it’s “¿De donde sos vos?” Notice that the two verbs–eres and sos–are completely different. 

There aren’t too many verbs that change so drastically. In most cases, it’s the accent and maybe a missing vowel that accounts for the difference between verb forms and vos verb forms. Actually, the vos verb forms are easier. Drop the final -r on the verb, add an -s, and put the accent on the final syllable. Simple.

Verb                                           Vos                                           Tú

ser (to be)                                   vos sos                                     tú eres

estar (to be)                                vos estás                                  tú estás

tener (to have)                            vos tenés                                  tú tienes

querer (to want)                          vos querés                               tú quieres

venir (to come)                           vos venís                                  tú vienes

decir (to say)                              vos decís                                  tú dices

pensar (to think)                        vos pensás                               tú piensas


Castellano a los Pedos

In our next blog post will cover the major pronunciation differences, but to have a little fun before getting serious again, let’s talk about the colloquialisms. 

Argentines have a very particular slang and they absolutely love to use it. Slang makes for some hilarious misunderstandings and that’s half the fun of learning another language. 

For example, a friend of mine got a new job. I called her after her first day to see how it went. She said it was fine, she spent the entire day al pedo. Pedo literally means fart. I had an image of my friend sitting at her new desk with nothing to do and farting all day. People would walk in and think, “boy, the new girl really stinks” or “I wonder what she had for dinner last night.” 

She’s a close friend, so felt I could ask her if her job was so dull that she spent the day forcing farts out to make the time pass faster. She explained that al pedo means something was a waste of time or effort. I still kind of like the image of her there in her new job farting away. In the end, I wasn’t that far off.

Other Pedo Expressions

  1. ni en pedo – no way
    “Hey, want to come with me to the laundromat?”
    Ni en pedo.”
  2. de pedo – by chance
    “So how did a guy like that get a girl like her?”
    De pedo.”
  3. a los pedos – very fast (literally it means to the farts which gives a nice visual)
    “He’s a crazy driver.”
    Siempre a los pedos.”
  4. cagar a pedos – to lecture or chew out (literally it means to shit farts, another visual but not so nice)
    “Did he yell at you when he fired you for farting all day?”
    Si, me cago a pedos.”
  5. al pedo – something that is a waste of time, money or effort
    “That guy just doesn’t get that you aren’t into him. What’s up with all the gifts?”
    Si, el está al pedo.” 

    “Want to come with me to Uruguay tomorrow?”
    Si, se estoy al pedo.” 


Filed under argentina, culture, customs, language