Think you’ve got fluent Spanish down? When you land in Buenos Aires, you’ll find how much different the street language is. Rioplatense is an intriguing mix of Spanish and Italian (due to the big influx of Italians immigrants). Puzzle over the hand gestures thrown in for good measure. If you’re going to impress the locals, have a go at picking up some of these useful phrases. You’re not going to learn these in any Spanish class back home.
Lunfardo, the name for Argentine street slang, was born in the early 20th century. At that time the lower classes adapted words to keep their shady dealings secret. Over the years, the language started to permeate all walks of life, in part due to its use in tango and art. Today the slang is thriving and has spread across to Uruguay and even as far afield as Chile and Paraguay.
In Lunfardo, many of the words’ syllables have their order reversed thereby changing their meaning. The perfect example of this is “hotel” which changed to “telo” refers to one of the seedy pay-by-the-hours motels. When you swing into a coffee house, instead of asking for a “café”, try saying “feca” instead and check out the server’s reaction.
Try these words when you’re on the streets of Buenos Aires
“Che” – an informal way of saying hello and used daily. A good one to start with.
“Boludo” – a little like “man” or “dude”, use sparingly with friends and people you know. Try “Che boludo”.
“Como andas?” – Translates to “how’s it going?”
“Birra” – a mighty useful one to pick up instead of these classic “ceveza”.
“Boliche” – you’ll likely hear the sounds of chuckling if you use “discoteca”, around these parts, it’s considered a little geeky.
“Porteño/a” – a name used to describe the people of Buenos Aires.
“Plata” – you might know money as “dinero”, but in Argentina, it’s “plata”, best used as “no tengo plata”.
“Chino” – though it might not sound PC, it’s acceptable to call a shop a “Chino” in Buenos Aires, a reference to the number of Chinese immigrants who own stores.
“La posta” – if something’s “la posta”, it’s the best of the best.
“Copado” – the coolest way to say cool in Argentina.
“Gordo/a” – you won’t get looked at funny if you called your partner “gordo/a” meaning fatty, it’s a charming way to greet them.
“Barbaro” – if you use this handy word, you’re referring to something awesome.
“Quilombo” – use when you’re in a real sticky situation, a complete mess. Hopefully, you’ll never have to utter this one!
“Mala muerte” – translating to “bad death”, you’d use this phrase if you want to describe somewhere awful.
“Un montón” – commonly used to describe a lot of something.
Want to practice your lunfardo on the streets of Buenos Aires? Get in touch with one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here to start planning your adventure.