How to speak Guatemalan #1

Guatemalan Spanish is absolutely a language on its own. When I started learning Spanish about two years ago I thought that the language was the same in every country. And although a Guatemalan can most likely understand someone from Colombia, their Spanish has a lot of differences. I really love the Guatemalan language because it has so many cool words that I would never learn in a classroom. It’s also a little scary to write a blog about a language that is not my own, so forgive me if I make any mistakes. I am only a foreigner trying to learn. Welcome to part one of ‘How to Speak Guatemalan’, also known as Guatemaltequismo or chapinismos.

1. ¡A la gran!

This is by far my favorite thing to say here. With the right timing and the right emphasis it’s the perfect expression of surprise or frustration. It’s somewhat similar to oh my god and you can hear it everywhere!

For example: “Dejé mis llaves en el carro…” – “A la gran, Hector! En serio?”
(“I left my keys in de car…” – “Oh my god, Hector. Seriously?”)

2. V’a
The Guatemalan way to say right or okay. There won’t be a conversation here where they don’t use the word v’a at least ten times. V’a is an abbreviation of the word verdad, which actually means truth but it’s used to ask for confirmation. In questions it is kind of the same as the Dutch word toch?. When you are not focussing on it you might not even hear it, but when you do… you will most likely adopt the word too. Just make sure you through your pretty Spanish accent in it and pronounce the V as a B: ba.

For example: “Te recogeré en tu casa.” – “V’a.”
(“I will pick you up at your house.” – “Okay.”

3. ¡Cabal!
I didn’t even notice that Guatemalans use this word until a week ago, but now I hear it all the time and everywhere. Cabal means something like exactly or you’re so right.

For example: “Esta comida huele como calcetines sucios.” – “Ayy, ¡cabal!”
(“This food smells like dirty socks.” – “Ayy, you’re so right!”)

4. Patojo
Patojo is the Guatemalan equivalent of boy. The word is used in a lot of other countries in South and Central America and even in Spain, but in these countries patojo means someone who is lame or limping. Only the people in Colombia use the word to refer to a young boy. The female version of the word is patoja, girl.

For example: “Yo jugaba al futbol cuando era patojo.” (“I played football when I was a boy.”)

5. Muchá
Also one of my favorites! It’s an informal way of calling out a group of people, often friends. It can be translated as hey guys!

For example: “¡Muchá!  ¿Todavía vamos al cine esta noche?” (“Hey guys! Are we still going to the movies tonight?”)

6. Chilero
Simple and easy way to say cool. It is one of the first Guatemalan words I learned and I still use it a lot, even though I don’t practice my Spanish as much as I should.

For example: “Mis padres vienen a Guatemala para visitarme en solo cuatro semanas.” – “Oh, qué chilero!”
(“My parents are coming to Guatemala to visit me in only four weeks!” – “Oh, that’s so cool!”)


7. Pues sí?
“Where were we again?” Great way to restart a conversation when you got interrupted. It can be translated to well, where were we, right or yes.

For example: “Pues sí, ¿de qué estábamos hablando?” (“Well, what were we talking about?”)

8. ¡Chish!
Used to express disgust, so it can be translated to eww or gross. Can be used for anything!

For example: “Me encanta comer frijoles.” – “¡Chish!” (“I like to eat beans.” – “Eww!”)

9. Púchica
This word has a lot of different translations and I am still not actually sure if it is appropriate to use. Probably not. First of all: it is pronounced as POO-chica and not as Pu-CHI-ca. A lot of people say that it is a less hurtful way to say “whore”, but here in Guatemala people use it more often to say shit, damn or oh crap or something like that. It is often combined with a la granpara agregarle más salsa a los tacos. To put more salsa on the tacos. Which is another Guatemalan expression to say ‘to make it a bit stronger’.

For example: ¡Púchica! ¡Se me quemaron las papas!” (“Shit! I burned the potatoes!”)

10. Calidá
Just like every other language, Guatemalan Spanish has a lot of ways to say cool. There are more than 30 words in Central and South America to describe something cool and two of them are typically Guatemalan: chilero (no. 6) and calidá.

For example: “Esta playa es tan calidá.” (“This beach is so cool.”)


Tune in soon for part 2!




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