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Talk Like a Native: Words Said Differently in Various Parts of the Spanish-Speaking World

by Cynthia Lopez


Posted on April 29, 2014 at 12:00 AM.


In today's segment of "Talk Like a Native" what words Spanish speakers can't agree on.


The United States is a big country and across the country there are different ways of saying the same things. Words like pop and soda mean the same thing in some areas of the US, but so few Americans even know that the word pop can also mean soda. Overall the Spanish language in Latin America is fairly similar, with the exception of differences in accents and a few words here and there. In this blog post I’ve composed of list of 5 of the most common different Spanish words in different countries.

1. Cake
In Spanish the word cake in most countries is torta. However, in Mexico the word torta has a completely different meaning. Torta in Mexican Spanish means sandwich. A torta (sandwich) is a bit different from American sandwiches; a torta is made with bolillo bread, it sort of looks like small baguette bread with three vertical humps. If you’re ever in Mexico and you’re craving a slice of cake then use the word pastel.

 2. To get
In Spanish there are different ways of using the verb to get. Latin Americans will understand the different variations of to get, but some specific ones are more commonly used in different countries. Coger is used in some parts of Latin America and Spain. However, in Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay and some parts of Central America the word coger isn’t commonly used as the verb to get. oger. Instead it's considered a vulgar term and it means to have sexual relations, so make sure to remember that when you’re in Mexico or you’ll get some pretty disgusted faces. The used in these countries for the term to get is agarrar

3. Umbrella
The word umbrella is under word that’s used differently in different countries of Latin America. There are two different words for umbrella, there’s la paraguas (paragüas) and la sombrilla. In Mexico, the most commonly used word for umbrella is paraguas. Para in Spanish mean to stop, and aguas or agua means water; so it’s a water stopper. You already know what the first part of this word means and the second part is sol, which means sun. So parasol means sun blocker. Sombrilla comes from the word sombra, which means shade. Sombrilla is most commonly used in Colombia and Spain. Quitasol is another way of saying umbrella in Spanish, but it’s very old-fashioned and never used. 

4. You
There are different ways of saying you in Spanish, there’s the formal you and the informal you. We used the formal you to address people who are significantly older than you or in a higher-ranking position than you. The informal you is used for everyone else, peers and people younger than you. In most of the Spanish-speaking word is used to express informality, and usted is used to express formality.  However, in countries such as Argentina and Spain people don’t commonly use and usted. Instead they use vos and vosotros. Vos is used to express informality and vosotros is used to express formality.

5. Potato
Potato originated from South America; they are native to the Andes Mountains region. Because of this you see many traditional South American dishes with potatoes. One of my favorites and a very popular Peruvian potato dish called papa rellena, it's means stuffed potato. Check out Top 5 Latin American Foods You Don't Know - ¡Ya Tú Sabes! for more tips on which dishes to try in Latin America. Potatoes are found in many Latin American dishes and when European explorers first sent them back to Europe they became an instant hit. One way of saying potato in Spanish closely resembles it’s English counterpart, it’s patata. The term patata is primarily used in Spain, while in Latin America the term papa is more commonly used in Latin America. Another produce that’s said differently in Spain and Latin America is peach. In Spain the word melocotón is used when referring to the word peach, while in Latin America durazno is the term used.  

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to leave questions or comments. 


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