While Colombian Spanish is very similar to Spanish spoken in other parts of Latin America and has the same basic structures and nuances, there are certain words or phrases that are used in Colombia that may or may not exist or have the same meanings as they would in other varieties of Spanish.
Perhaps the most Colombian word you may hear in Colombia, “chévere” is a very useful and popular word that you should definitely know if you are going to be hanging out with Colombians or visiting their home nation. Chévere is a versatile adjective that is used to describe something that is “really good,” “cool,” “awesome,” “amazing,” or the like. You could say for instance that someone is una persona chévere, meaning they are a “cool person,” you could say that a movie you saw was chévere or even that the trip you took to Bogotá during your spring break was chévere. No matter how or when you use it, it’s a must-know word if you are dealing with Colombia or Colombians.
2. “¿Qué más?”
Equally as Colombian as chévere, ¿Qué más? Is a phrase you will hear time and time again when interacting with Colombians. Where in other places you might hear ¿Cómo estás? ¿Cómo vas? or ¿Cómo andas?, in Colombia you will hear more frequently “¿Qué más?” Most commonly used to mean “how are you?” ¿Qué más? can also be used to mean “what else?” to keep a conversation moving. For example, when you are having a conversation and there is a silence or you are not quite sure what else to say, you can feel free to throw a “¿Qué más?” out in the conversation to elicit more information from the person you’re talking to. Be prepared, though, as you may also have a ¿Qué más? thrown your way at some point, too.
Used in almost the same fashion as chévere, bacano is an adjective that is also very popular in Colombia and is used to mean “nice,” “cool,” “good,” etc… You could use it to describe a person, a thing, an experience—anything, basically, that you think is of good quality!
4. “Me haces el favor…” “Hazme el favor…”
Most Colombians, especially in the interior departments, pride themselves on good manners and politeness and always insist on saying “me haces el favor,” “do me the favor of…” or “hazme el favor” (“do me the favor of…”) before asking someone to do something. For example, when ordering a coffee at Juan Valdez or a beer at Bogotá Beer Company, you may hear someone say “Hazme el favor y me vendes un café,” (Do me a favor and sell me a coffee) or “Me haces el favor y me traes una Cájica,” (Do me the favor of bringing me a Cájica). You’ll be sure to show off your good manners with this phrase!
Whereas traditionally “listo” means “smart” or “intelligent,” in Colombia you can also use and will also hear “listo” used to mean “ok,” “done!” or “understood!” For example, if someone says, “let’s go to dinner with Juan tomorrow at 7pm,” you could say, “Listo!” Most often used when making plans or to show you agree with something being proposed, “listo” is a very handy term to have in your Spanish vocabulary bank when in Colombia.
Paige M. Poole
About the author:
“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com