[#005] Dulce de leche

This should be reason enough for you guys to devote all of your free time to learning Rioplatense Spanish. And I’m being serious (and biased). Let me introduce you to… ¡el dulce de leche!

Dulce de leche

It is too bad you can’t taste it on the screen, but if you have a sweet tooth, I’m sure you’ll definitely love dulce de leche. This is sometimes translated as “caramel”, but it is not quite that. This is actually sweetened milk. Just milk and sugar, cooked and stirred for a while until it starts getting darker and the water in the milk gets evaporated. That’s roughly the basic procedure for preparing dulce de leche.

It is worth pointing out, though, that this is not only found in the River Plate area. You can eat dulce de leche all over Argentina, and in other countries too, like Chile and Uruguay. But this is anyway something that rioplatófonos generally eat, so here it is. In terms of popularity, I guess we could say that dulce de leche would be the Argentine equivalent to Nutella in many European countries or North America.

And for those of you who might be wondering how we eat dulce de leche, well, you can always eat it by itself. You just grab a (big) spoon, try a bit, say “that’s enough”, try a bit more, and then keep going until it’s all gone. But there is in fact an infinite range of options and you can add dulce de leche to virtually anything. And this is where I stop writing, because we all know that pictures speak louder than words…




Ok, the first step is done: you already know about dulce de leche. Now you’re supposed to come here, give it a try and fall in love! 🙂 What are you waiting for?

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[#004] Shh… ¡Callate!

Shh… This is a sound you’ll hear very often coming from the mouths of rioplatófonos. But don’t take it personal. We are not actually telling you to shut up or keep silent. We are just pronouncing our letters “y” and “ll”.


Shh...

These two letters are not always pronounced the same way through all the Spanish-speaking communities. But in español rioplatense, when they are followed by a vowel they sound both this way: “sh“, as in “she”, “shoes” or “ash“. I will not use the actual phonetic symbols, but here are some examples of the way some sentences would be pronounced in the River Plate area:

¡Callate!
>¡Cashate!

>>Shut up!

Yo me llamo Yamila.
>Sho me shamo Shamila.

>>My name is Yamila.

Este llavero dice “Calle: Lavalle 123”
>Este shavero dice “Cashe: Lavashe 123″

>>This key ring says “Street: Lavalle 123”

It’s not that difficult, right? It just takes some time until you get used to it, but you’ll end up loving this special feature of Rioplatense Spanish, trust me!

  • Do all rioplatófonos pronounce it like that?

In general, yes. But if we get a little more technical here, these letters can actually be pronounced in two similar —yet different— ways in Rioplatense Spanish.

Have a look at these English words: “pleasure”, “genre”, “seizure”, “vision”. In these cases, the “sh” sound is heard a bit different, right? To mark the difference, we could spell that sound “zh”. What is actually happening here is that there is vibration of the vocal cords when these sounds are produced. Try this little experiment, touch your throat with the tip of your fingers and pronounce the following:

    Shhhh, she, shoes, ash…

You will notice in these cases that you feel no vibration when pronouncing the “sh” part of those words. The vibration starts or ends only with the vowels. Now, try doing the same with the following examples:

    Pleasure, genre, seizure, vision…

In these cases, every time you pronounce the “zh” part, you should be feeling the vibration on your throat. If you do feel it, congratulations! Your vocal cords work just fine! 🙂

This new sound represented by the spelling “zh”, with the vibration of the vocal cords, is another way in which the letters “y” and “ll” can be pronounced in castellano rioplatense. It is often associated though with elderly and/or higher-class people, and there seems to be a tendency for it to disappear, whereas the “sh” pronunciation keeps expanding among the younger generations.


Ok, enough theory already. Let’s practise now! Here you are, have a random, full-of-nonsense tongue-twister:

    Al llegar la gallina a la silla, chilla la ardilla llena de orgullo: “¡Pero qué maravilla! ¡Ya no llueve en Sevilla!”

Oh, hmm… That’s a lot of “sh” sounds you’re making. I get your hint… You want me to shut up now, right? 😦 Ok, fair enough!

[#003] Me gustas tú

Have you ever listened to “Me gustas tú” by Manu Chao? It’s a song from 2001. If you pay attention to the lyrics, the singer is basically saying he likes pretty much everything. But above all things, he makes it particularly clear that he likes YOU. And he does it all the time. That’s even the title of the song.

But this blog is still about Rioplatense Spanish, so let’s leave music aside for a moment and let’s focus on the topic of this entry: the use of the pronoun ““.

” is a second person (singular) pronoun, typically used in informal situations.

Yo, , él/ella
I, you, he/she/it…

If you have studied Spanish as a foreign language, I’m quite positive this is the pronoun you’ve been taught to use. And as you can see, it works just fine. Manu Chao also uses it, just like you! Alas, rioplatófonos don’t.

In español rioplatense, personal pronouns go like this:

Yo, vos, él/ella

There’s no ““; it’s always “vos“. The use of this pronoun is called “voseo“, as opposed to “tuteo“. So yeah, we use a different pronoun to refer to the person we are talking to, but I’m afraid that’s not all. You might probably know already that when you conjugate verbs in Spanish, their endings change according to each personal pronoun. So you see where this is going, right?

New pronoun, new verb endings.


Voseo rioplatense


No need to worry too much about “vos“, though. This is quite simple, and here is one big tip: the stress always falls on the last syllable of the verb. Sometimes that’s all you have to do, just move the stress to the last part of the word. Here are some examples:

cantas / Vos cantás (You sing)
miras / Vos mirás (You look)

comes / Vos comés (You eat)
debes / Vos debés (You must)

In some other cases, other changes are necessary. Here are some example of verbs that belong to the -IR group:

vives / Vos vivís (You live)
subes / Vos subís (You go up)
pides / Vos pedís (You ask for)

You might have noticed that it’s actually quite straightforward. When verbs are conjugated for the pronoun “vos“, they behave like regular verbs, and the endings can only be -ás, -és, -ís. The only exception I can think of right now is the verb “ser“:

Tú eres / Vos sos (You are)

If you’ve studied español ibérico (the variety spoken in Spain), you will probably be familiar with the pronoun “vosotros” and you will realize that, although not exactly the same, the endings for “vos” and “vosotros” are relatively similar. So associating these two pronouns may help you remember the conjugation, but don’t forget that “vos” is a singular pronoun, whereas “vosotros” refers to a group of people.

  • So is it just you rioplatófonos the crazy ones who use this pronoun “vos“?

No, the use of “vos” is not only restricted to Rioplatense Spanish. There are many other countries in Latin America where this pronoun is also used. In some places it may have only a restricted use for certain contexts or a certain register, but you will anyway find it in other countries like Costa Rica, Paraguay, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and some parts of Colombia and Ecuador.

And remember that Rioplatense Spanish is not spoken all over Argentina, but mainly in the River Plate area. This means that you will also find the pronoun “” in some Argentine provinces. In Santiago del Estero, for example, you can find a very interesting phenomenon: people combine the use of the pronoun “vos” with the conjugation pattern for the pronoun ““. Crazy, huh?


Oh, well… After all this mess, I hope you are really confused now! lol Just kidding. The important thing in the end is that if you ever meet a rioplatófono, you won’t really need to worry about this. Just be prepared to hear us use “vos“, but whatever pronoun you use, we will definitely understand you!

So just relax and go ahead, sing “Me gustas tú” as it is. No need to change it into “Me gustás vos“. 😉

[#002] Colectivo

How would you say in castellano rioplatense “to catch the bus”? For example: “Hurry up! We have to catch the bus!”

 

I received this comment on the first blog entry, where we discussed how to say “take a taxi” in Rioplatense Spanish. Since the topic is related, I decided to answer straightaway.


Colectivo

If you are familiar with the word “autobús“, that’s fine. Rioplatófonos will certainly understand that term. But in español rioplatense we have a special word to refer to a bus that runs in urban areas. We call it “colectivo“, and its driver is referred to as “colectivero“. These are common, everyday words. But we also have an informal word to refer to these buses, and that word is “bondi“. If you want to have a laugh and learn more about bondis and public transportation in Buenos Aires, I suggest having a look at this funny website called De bondis. You will find lots of Rioplatense expressions there, too!

Now, if the bus you have in mind is a long-distance one, then we will not probably use the word “colectivo” or “bondi” in that case, but “ómnibus” or “micro” instead.

  • But how do you say “to catch a bus” then?

Well, as we’ve seen in the previous entry, in this case we wouldn’t use the verb “coger” at all. We can simply say “tomar el colectivo” or also “agarrar el colectivo“. The latter conveys this idea of catching the bus or having little time to take it with more precision.

In fact, the verb “agarrar” translates better as “to grab”, and if you look at its internal structure, you will spot the noun “garra” in it, which means “claw”. Rioplatófonos don’t really have claws, of course. But hey, we do not need to be Wolverine to use this verb, right? 😉 Anyway, it may be easier for some people to remember the word “agarrar” by making this connection, so that’s why I’m pointing it out.


So, in a nutshell…

    “Hurry up! We have to catch the bus!” = “¡Apurate! ¡Tenemos que agarrar el colectivo!”



[#001] ¿Dónde puedo coger un taxi?

We’ll start this blog with this simple (but potentially dangerous) Spanish word: “coger“.

This verb is very common in the Spanish-speaking world and it can generally be translated as “to take“. So if you want to say something like “where can I take a taxi?”, it seems that you can simply resort to a phrase like “¿dónde puedo coger un taxi?


Taxi


And yes, that’s just fine. That looks pretty innocent, right? But be careful. As we say in Spanish, las apariencias engañan (appearances can be deceptive).

This meaning of “taking” or “catching” can be found mainly in Spain, and in some parts of Latin America, like Colombia. However, this innocent-looking word means something totally different in español rioplatense, as well as in some other varieties of Spanish. Its one and only meaning in Rioplatense Spanish is “to have sex/to fuck”.

Therefore, if you’ve studied the European variety of Spanish (español peninsular o ibérico), you will have to pay special attention to the way you use this word in the River Plate area. Imagine everything you can take, carry, catch or pick up in your everyday life. Now imagine yourself having sex with all those things. Well, don’t blame me! That’s exactly what comes to the mind of any rioplatófono when we hear people use this word, because that’s its only meaning for us. Of course we understand the original meaning intended, but the verb “coger” is just never ever used that way here.

  • So what do you guys say instead?

There are many words in español rioplatense which can replace “coger” in this sense of “taking” or “grabbing”. The most common ones are probably the verbs “agarrar” and “tomar“.

For example, in castellano rioplatense, a question like “¿Dónde puedo coger un taxi?” actually becomes “¿Dónde puedo tomar un taxi?“. We never grab or “cogemos” a slice of pizza, but “la agarramos“. If we catch a cold, instead of saying “coger un resfriado“, we normally say “agarrarse un resfrío“. An expression like “coger un chiste” (to understand a joke) can be “cazar un chiste“. And the list of examples could go on and on forever.

So if you need to use the word “coger“, my advice to you is to make sure first that this verb is actually used the way you want to use it by the local community around you. Just ask for the meaning of the word before using it, and you’ll avoid all the possible laughs and jokes… Or don’t ask anything. Risk it. And if it makes people laugh, just laugh with them! 😉