Feb 16

Su Merced, is Colombian Spanish the Best in the World?

Spanish in Colombia, como es?
Spanish in Colombia, como es?

As anyone learning Spanish will know, it’s a language that changes a great deal in tone, style and even lexicon from country to country. Don’t be surprised, for example, to find yourself uncapable of understanding Argentinian Spanish if you learnt the bulk of what you know in Spain.

We already posted a bunch of vocabulary you need to know in Colombia, but today we want to look at the language more generally, and to give you some hints and tips on how you should speak when on a vacation in Colombia.

Colombians are extremely proud of their Spanish and rightly so – it’s widely considered the clearest, best Spanish in Latin America. It’s worth noting, however, that certain areas of Colombia are extremely difficult to navigate linguistically. As a general rule, you’ll find the surrounding areas of Bogota very clear, Antioquia clear but with a fair amount of slang and the coast pretty much impossible.

Did we wake you? Que pena con usted
Did we wake you? Que pena con usted

Colombians are effusively polite and you’d be prudent to brush up the ‘usted’ form of address if you skipped over it like I did. Almost everyone, aside from close friends, uses this way of speaking. In addition, addressing people as ‘señor‘ or ‘señora‘ is extremely common. Colombians are generally raised to address their parents in this way and are scolded if they don’t hear something and respond with ‘que‘? As such, among friends you’ll hear people call each other ‘señor‘ or ‘señora‘ as quickly as ‘marica‘. Sounds strange to my British ears, but you don’t ask questions.

As well as this formal address, you’ll also hear a great deal of politeness as you walk around the street. The words ‘que pena con usted‘ are probably four of the most common you’ll hear in Bogota. They don’t have any chicken left? Que pena con usted. Someone bumps into you? Que pena con usted. Taxi driver doesn’t fancy going the way you’re going? Que pena con usted. Girlfriend arrives one hour later than she said she would? Que pena con usted.

Locals relaxing before getting a coffee (probably)
Locals relaxing before getting a coffee (probably)

On the flip side, if you ask for anything expect to hear an enthused ‘con mucho gusto‘ (with pleasure). Take me to Parque 93, please sir. Con mucho gusto. I’ll have the soup, please madam. Con mucho gusto. Could you tie my shoelace please? I’m feeling lazy. Con mucho gusto. Ok, maybe not all of those would work, but the excessive politeness in every day speech is something very unique to Colombia.

If you’re planning on going somewhere to learn Spanish, Colombia is a great place to come as it’s universally understood wherever you visit. Equally, if you’ve learnt Spanish you’ll most likely find Colombians extremely easy to understand. Just remember, politeness and formality is the key and you’ll fit right in.

That is, of course, until you ‘ir a la rumba‘, when all the niceties are forgotten in place of a big bottle Aguardiente. Que chevere.


12 thoughts on “Su Merced, is Colombian Spanish the Best in the World?

  1. Valentina on

    Afortunadamente para Paul, su novia nunca llega tarde 🙂

  2. laura on

    @paul Sin duda en muchos otros países latinos hablan mejor español. Incluso los vecinos venezolanos hablan y entienden mejor que los colombianos.


      JL on

      Hola Laura! Discrepo contigo , naci en Peru y he vivido en casi toda Latinoamerica y para mi el Colombiano es el acento castellano mas claro y agradable de escuchar ( y su vocabulario cotidiano el mas amable sin duda 🙂 ) , pero como dice Paul, al final es cuestion de gustos. Un Abrazo!


      ALEJANDRO on

      Hi Laura
      I just know that most of the call centers, from companies that operate in all LatinAmerica, are located in Colombia ,, guest why ??? it is more clear and neutral and off course polite than other latin countries

  3. Carolina on

    Good article Paul!! I am a Colombian girl living in London and do get told similar comments about my accent every so often. Adding to your comments, it also seems we do have a very sweet tone :).

  4. laura on

    evidentemente el mejor castellano o si lo quieren llamar “español” se habla en España, cuna del idioma :S


      Paul on

      Jaja, como ves en el articulo, dije que es el mejor espanol en Latino America… Soy de inglaterra, he tenido esta conversacion con mucha gente con respecto al ingles!

      Seguramente, no hay un ” mejor” lugar en ningun idioma, es una cuestion de gustos!


        Edinson Ramírez on

        Déjala que hable lo que quiera, igual hay gente tan ignorante que no son conscientes de que al momento de la colonización de los españoles, el idioma “español” apenas se estaba formando, así que sería supremamente ignorante aseverar que un acento o tipo de español sea mejor que otro. al menos yo no me atrevo a decir eso. Lo que sí digo es que soy colombiano y de que estoy muy orgulloso del idioma que hablo y de la manera en que lo hablo, y de la manera en que fui formado para ahcerlo, pues claro está que no todos hablamos iguales y existen algunos que lo atropellan constantemente aquí y en cualquier otro país.

        Por otro lado me encantó tu reseña acerca de mi patria, tanto así que la usaré en mis clases como lectura.
        Gracias y bienvenido a Colombia las veces que quieras.

        Edinson Ramírez

  5. JL on

    Great Article! Colombian Spanish is by far much more respectful than my native Spanish, I love it ..are you sure about that ” Girlfriend arrives one hour later than she said she would? Que pena con usted.” bit ? You’re gonna get in trouble Paulie 😉


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