Aug 09

Colombinglés – The Colombia Travel Blog’s Definitive Guide to Colombian English

A Colombian in Cambridge: Globalisation
A Colombian in Cambridge: Globalisation

The Colombian dictionary is a colourful one, and one of the pleasures of staying here is trying to learn the intricacies of their slang – the way the formal Spanish used is interwoven with strangely ‘creative’ street talk. We’ve already delivered a guide to Colombian slang, as well as some phrases you shouldn’t translate literally in Colombia and some words you’ll only hear in Colombia. Today I have the plesure of bringing to you the definitive Colombinglés dictionary.

It will undoubtedly surprise newcomers to the country just how much English decorates the Colombian language, even if sometimes it’s not used quite right, but we live in a connected world and globalisation has its claws in all aspects of our lives. So, without further ado, let me present to you viejas and mancitos our – OMG – dictionary. We hope you find it muy cool.

Ronpoint (Round point)

Roundabouts in the mighty Stevenage (courtesy of http://www.copenhagenize.com)
A roundabout in the mighty Stevenage (courtesy of http://www.copenhagenize.com)

My girlfriend once explained to me when we were driving that for the circular junction we were about to approach, here in Colombia they oddly use the English word, ’round point’ to describe said junction. Confused, I took the roundabout and carried on driving.

Overol (Overall)

Overall, like overall or dungarees. Not too hard to grasp.

OMG

OH EM GEEEEE!!
OH EM GEEEEE!!

LOL hasn’t quite made it into the standard lexicon just yet, but OMG has infiltrated with a vengeance. You’ll also hear the full ‘oh my god’ at times, but OMG is surely the winner in the humour contest.

Postip (Post It)

Also sometimes ‘posty’.

Man

Kind of like ‘guy’, or ‘geezer’. ‘Este man tiene un gatico!’ ‘Pues, señor, ciertamente lo tiene!’

Heavy

Kind of like the way we might use it in English to describe a particularly ‘heavy’ party, or ‘heavy’ film. It can also be used to describe people that are particularly difficult.

Fashion

FASHION! This bag is from Bogotá designer Cami Miranda
FASHION! This bag is from the extreeeeemely talented Bogotá designer Cami Miranda

If something is ‘fashion’, it means it’s particularly hip or trendy at the time.

Look

Once again this is used much in the same way as we’d use it in terms of fashion. ‘I like your new look’, or ‘me gusta tu nuevo look‘.

Lonchera (Lunch-era)

I’m really confused by this one. For lunchbox, instead of calling it an almorcero or something similar they’ve adopted the English word ‘lunch’, and Spanish-ised it. Creative stuff.

In/Out

As in, ‘totally hot right now’, or ‘OMG they’re like soooo 200-late’. ‘Esos pantelones estan muy in/out’.

Chatear

Yup, you guessed it. To chat.

Hit

Just like we’d use it when something is ‘a hit’ in English, only it’s used perhaps even more frequently. Your jacket, for example, could be a ‘hit’.

Stalkear

Stalkeando...
Stalkeando…

Thank Facebook for this one. If you are stalkeando someone, you’re checking out their photos, posts and general life on Facebook.

Bitch

Doesn’t really need much in the way of an explanation…

Sanduich (Sandwich)

This seems to have no agreed upon spelling here in Colombia, with ‘sandwich’, ‘sanuch’, ‘sanuis’, and ‘sanuich’ all making appearances.

Brother

Used in the same way we’d use brother to refer to someone that is not your brother, kind of like how we use ‘man’.

Coffe (Coffee)

Many a coffee shop is adorned with the sign ‘coffe’, or ‘cofee’.

Pub

My gang in a pub
My gang in a pub

A popular word in Bogotá thanks to the ubiquity of pubs here, it’s kind of pronounced ‘poob’.

Japi Birtday Tu Yu (Happy Birthday to You)

Finally, perhaps the strangest of all. Before singing the traditional Spanish version of ‘Happy Birthday’, Colombians engage in a hearty round of singing ‘Japiii biiiirtday tuu yuuuuu’. It’s funny, it’s strange, but it’s great fun. Good old Colombia.

If you have any more suggestions, please let us know!

Paul

8 thoughts on “Colombinglés – The Colombia Travel Blog’s Definitive Guide to Colombian English

  1. Alfredo on

    In Colombia and Latin America, many people have trouble with some final consonants. Therefore words such as internet are difficult if you dont speak English. People here say: Internec or interne. Another very peculiar word in spanish is whatsapp which people pronounce someting like wasá. I sounds terrible.

    Reply
  2. Brighid on

    I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve worked on the difference between “beach” and “bitch” with my bachillerato students…

    Reply
  3. floor on

    It is a bit the other way around, but while sitting in the car listening to “damn you are a sexy bitch” a Colombian friend asked me: “why do they sing sexy playa?” she still doesn’t hear the difference between bitch and beach 🙂

    Reply
  4. Milton on

    A few observations:
    1. We actually say “rompoy” an “romboy”.
    2. The meaning of “bitch” is stronger in Colombia.
    3. We also say “sángüich” and “sánduche”. A lady I knew used to say “sambis”.
    4. It’s “Japi berdi tuyú”.

    Two more terms: ponqué (pound cake), guachimán (watchman).

    Great article,
    Milton.
    😉

    Reply
  5. Thomas on

    Haha true…except for the “ronpoint” which is totally a french word (rond-point).

    Reply

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