While most of the Latin American countries share the same Spanish language, some of the words and phrases can have a crucial difference in meanings. In this article, I’ve compiled a list of the 28 most common Latin American Spanish phrases, which you will not learn in an ordinary Spanish course or textbook.
Most of us learn Spanish in our home countries, and more often than not, we learn formal aspects of the language, such as basic Spanish vocabulary, conjugations, grammar, etc.
And while it’s possible to travel knowing only the most common Spanish phrases, learning local expressions will surely enhance your traveling experience.
When you travel to a Spanish speaking country, the best way to befriend a native Spanish speaker is to show some knowledge of their local slang.
Imagine a surprise on their faces when you use their local slang with ease!
I tried to include the most common Latin American Spanish phrases that you will most likely hear from younger people when you travel to Colombia, Mexico, or Peru. Some of the sentences will be understood even in other Latin American countries.
Note that you shouldn’t use any of the slang words from the list in formal settings.
9 Mexican Slang Words Every Spanish Learner Needs To Know
Mexico is the most populated Spanish speaking country in the world and one of the most influential in terms of literature and movie industry.
So if you are going to learn the most common Latin American Spanish phrases, Mexico might be the best country to start with.
Qué chido! / Qué padre!
By Chido people in Mexico mean “Cool“, “Beautiful“, “Very good”, “Awesome”. So if you hear someone in Mexico say “Qué chido!” you will know that it means “That’s cool!”
The phrase “Qué padre” is The other variation of saying ‘How cool” or “How nice” in Mexican slang.
If you are traveling to Mexico and plan to spend some time socializing with locals, you won’t be able to escape the phrase “¿Qué onda?”.
If you try to translate this phrase, the literal translation would be “What wave”, but it doesn’t sound as it adds up too much, does it? The real meaning of this expression is “What’s up?”, a pretty common greeting in Mexico.
Most of us know that agua means water in Spanish. However, if you hear a Mexican person shouting “Aguas!” most probably they don’t just shout the word “Waters”. This expression in Mexican slang is being used to tell a person to watch out or to be careful. So if you hear someone saying “Aguas!” to you, be sure to be alert and to give a quick heads up.
This is a polite way of asking people to repeat themselves either because you didn’t hear what they said or because you didn’t understand it correctly.
It is a more polite version of saying ¿Que?
This expression you can use when you are impressed, something like ‘Wow”. For example, if you want to say “Wow, I really like your bag!”, you can use ¡Órale! instead of “Wow”.
There are other different meanings for this expression, for example, you can use Órale instead of these phrases in English:
-Sounds like a plan.
-Let’s do it.
The direct translation is “How embarrassing” or “What a shame!”. However, in Latin America people use this expression during sweltering and humid weather, which might be typical for Mexico. During the hot summer, you can hear Mexicans frequently exclaim: “¡Qué bochorno!”, which will mean “It’s HOT!”
Estar hasta las chanclas
There is not literate translation to this phrase. In Mexico, this phrase means to be very drunk. So you can say, for example, “Mi amigo están hasta las chanclas” which means “My friend is so drunk”.
Irse de Peda
Since we started talking about drinking, we can point out another phrase that you might want to learn if you are planning to party in Mexico. “Irse de Peda” is a Mexican expression for drinking, or hanging out with one primary purpose…to drink a lot!
“Me fui de peda anoche”
“I went to drink last night”
13 Colombian phrases every local uses
Even if you are not planning to visit Colombia shortly ( you really should), learning the Colombian slang can be quite fun, especially if you meet a Colombian (or another Latino person) and want to impress them with the words only locals use.
Here is the list of 13 widespread Colombian phrases you should know.
In Colombia, you can often hear people greeting you “¡Hola! ¿Qué más?”. At first, you might think it sounds weird, because the translation is: “Hi! What more? ” But it’s actually a local way of saying “Hey! What’s up?” Colombians use this phrase a lot. You can reply:
“Muy bien, ¿y tú?”
“I am good, how about you?
The Colombian variation of saying “How cool” or “That’s great”. So instead of always saying “muy bueno” when you are impressed or when you like something, you can use one of these two widespread Colombian Spanish phrases.
Parce / Parcero
The most common Colombian word for a friend or a buddy. You can’t use it with people you have formal relationships with, because it will sound rude. You can use “Parcero/Parcera” for male or female friends, or Parce for both.
¿Qué has hecho?
Common way of asking what you have been up to.
The “Vecino” in Spanish means “neighbor”. However, people in Colombia also use this word to greet people, who work in neighbor stores or mini markets.
Quite interesting that when Colombians buy something in the store or mini-market, they say “Me regala..”, which literally translates into “Would you gift me…”. It might be strange even for people from other Spanish speaking countries if you ask them to give you a bottle of water as a gift, but Colombians use this phrase all the time when they buy anything or if they ask for favors. Don’t forget to add por favor at the end.
¿Vecino, me regala unas manzanas por favor?
Literate translation: “Could you give me the apples as a gift, neighbor?”
Real meaning: “Sir, could I have some apples?”
Almost every Colombian uses the expression “Dar papaya” at some point. The exact translation is “To give papaya”, however the real meaning of this famous expression is “don’t put yourself in a position that people can take advantage of you or make fun of you.”
The Colombians will tell you “No des papaya” if they see that you are putting yourself in a dangerous or vulnerable position.
“Parce, cierra tu bolso en la calle, no des papaya.”
“Bro, close your bag in the street, don’t put yourself in danger”
Rumbear / Farrear
Both of these words mean “To party” in Colombian slang. So if you hear “vamos de farra” this will mean “let’s go to party”.
“Rumbear” is also very common not only in Colombia, but also in Venezuela.
Colombians use this word when the situation turns out badly or something about to get the wrong direction. The translation could be something like “Too bad”, “bummer” or “someone is screwed”.
Sometimes, when they say “Paila” they point out at the neck at the same time with one hand to show as if you are dead.
“No, pailas parcero, eso ya no Funcionó”
“No, forget about it, my friend, it doesn’t work”
The excited way of saying “Yes, absolutely”, or “Yes, let’s do it” .
It’s used to express that you are up for anything.
6 common slang expressions that you will definitely hear in Peru
There’s a reason why Peru ranks so highly among many travelers. Whether it’s Machu Picchu or hiking Rainbow mountain, learning the most typical Peruvian slang words will surely help you make new friends when you are socializing with locals.
As the paragraphs above about the most common Mexican and Colombian Spanish phrases, we will start this one from the equivalent of “cool”.
Another way to say “cool’ is Chévere, which is the same in Colombia and Venezuela.
Al toque means right now in Peruvian slang, you can use it when you need to do something immediately.
“Tengo que ir a su casa al toque”
“I need to go to her house right now.”
In standard translation to English, “pata” means paw or a leg of an animal. But in Peru, you can use this word to refer to a friend, buddy. It’s a replacement to the word “amigo/amiga”. Note that the word “pata” always ends with a in the end, no matter if you talk about a male friend or female friend.
Chamba means a job in Peruvian jargon. You don’t have “trabajo”, you have “chamba“.
We all know what is Coca-cola, but in Peru, you can hear this word as an adjective which means “To be going crazy”.
This is not as much slang as an important traditional drink that you must know if you are going to speak with anyone from Peru. It’s brandy, which is made from grapes.
If you are going to any of the Latin American countries or Spain, you should also check out the Spanish travel phrases cheat sheet. It’s a collection of the most useful phrases to remember before traveling.