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Can Learning Spanish Feel Like Sex, Gambling, And Chocolate?

What is the link between gambling, chocolate, sex and…learning Spanish? You might be surprised to hear that the same part of the brain’s reward centre activates in response to all four stimuli, but that’s what scientists in Barcelona recently discovered. Participants in an experiment were encouraged to decipher new words in a foreign language whilst experts measured the chemicals in their brains. The results lead scientists to claim that those who felt more rewarded from learning new words were able to learn more. In other words, participants who naturally feel good when they learn, are more likely to learn more!

6 Ways To Turn Your Vacation Into A Spanish Learning Venture

Traveling to a Spanish speaking country has always been the single biggest motivator to Spanish students; in fact, it’s perhaps the only reason most of us decided to even start learning the language. After all, what good is a language skill if you never wish to be where it’s spoken! It’s a shame how so many of us consider it a divine right, as English speakers, to be understood everywhere we go, be it Mexico, Mongolia or even Mars. Now, traveling abroad is a costly affair and not all are lucky enough to make it. But what if you are? Well, then you really are lucky since one such trip can accelerate your Spanish learning like nothing else can.

6 Alien-Sounding Spanish Verbs In An Instant

Etymology is an incredibly wonderful tool when it comes to acquiring new words. Dig deep enough into the history of any language and words that seemed utterly alien and unrelated until now suddenly start to appear familiar. This works best when the language in question shares genetics with your native tongue. Fortunately, Spanish and English share a stronger ancestral bond than many acknowledge, which makes learning new words easier than it seems. Let’s see how etymological mapping can help us learn some of the most commonly used Spanish verbs that, on face value, seem to have little semblance with their English meanings.

Easy Trick To Learn The Spanish For Your Clothes

You could be out on vacation shopping for some items of clothing in a Spanish-speaking country or perhaps you just want to flaunt your Spanish to a bunch of native speakers. No matter what your motivation, learning to name what you wear everyday in Spanish is a cool skill to have. And, if you know the right way to learn, it should take you no more than a few minutes to conquer them all and reproduce them “on the fly” without having to fiddle with mental translations. If cramming up words after words is your forte, we’d recommend saving that skill for something harder as this one calls for hardly any efforts on your part!

The Cause-Effect Trick To Remember Your Por And Para

Be it Spanish or any other language, the most painful aspect invariably turns out to be the appropriate usage of its prepositions. To us English speakers Spanish prepositions might seem way too unruly and chaotic but that’s how the Spanish speakers feel about English too. Try explaining to them, for instance, why you live “in” the house but are “at” home! Grammar rules, more often than not, defy all logic. Fortunately, when it comes to the Spanish por and para, there still exists enough logic to save your day. Mastering this logic is key to proficiency in Spanish as these prepositions are just too damn indispensable.




Spanish In The Streets – Local Words For “Boy”

During my early days of learning Spanish, I would often wonder if there were any way to understand the various Spanish words for the English word, “boy”. Per my sketchy knowledge of this language at that point in time, niño was one way to refer to a male child. But then, it turns out there is a whole jargon of Spanish colloquialism that represent the regional and cultural variations in the way young men and women are referred to in different parts of the Spanish-speaking world, niño being just one of them. A study of these subtleties make for an interesting insight into how local culture impacts the language on the streets.

11 words in Mexico City alone!


Waiters of all ages are often addressed as jóven in Mexico
Waiters of all ages are often addressed as jóven in Mexico
Photo credit: Kris Keller licensed CC BA-SY 2.0
A dear friend of mine from Western DF (Distrito Federal, the local name for Mexico City) once explained to me the finer subtleties prevalent in her neck of the woods as summarized below:

niño – As expected, this word is often used for a male child here just as it would be elsewhere, but in Mexico City only, it is also used for grown-ups in quite a few contexts.

muchacho – This one is kind of outdated if used for a young boy; more often used for a male housekeeper (or muchacha for maid) in modern usage.

jóvenJóven is sometimes used for strangers out of respect regardless of his age and also used by academics while addressing pupils but otherwise, quite outdated; also used almost as a vocative for a waiter, again, regardless of age.

vieja/chava – These are the most commonplace words for women amongst youngsters regardless of the subject women’s actual age.

chavo/cuate/tipo – These are the most commonplace words for guys amongst youngsters, chavo being considered slightly sub-standard.

Escuincle is a bit dated and rural
Escuincle is a bit dated and rural
Photo credit: Arantxa licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
chamaco/escuincle – These, escuincle (or escuincla for females) in particular, are a tad outdated and rural but often used for bratty kids or street urchins. Escuincle comes from the Classical Nahuatl word for dog, itzcuīntli. That should tell you well enough that this is not the word to be used without due consideration.

chico – Although often used by non-Hispanics as a clichéd stereotype for a young Mexican boy or man, this word is hilariously dated, leastwise in Mexico City; only used by the members of the older generation.

güey – Now this one is iconic; nothing unites Mexicans like this alien-looking word, rich and poor alike. It comes from the word buey which refers to a castrated bull in Spanish. Originally intended as an insult (meaning “fool”), an extremely high frequency of usage in a wide range of contexts over time has meant that it has lost much of its offensive nature today. In case, you are still wondering, it roughly translates into the vocative “dude” or “buddy” of modern American English.

While the usage of güey transcends social and regional barriers, it is still considered uneducated and hence confined among friends and acquaintances. It is also considered in poor taste for a teenager to use this term for someone older. In popular culture, while Mexican television and cinema are replete with this slang, more formal programming such as news steer clear of words like güey.

Rest of Latin America


Outside of DF too, there’s an entire range of words Latinos use for boys and men, young and old alike. Here are some, if not all, of them:

cipote – Roughly means “kid” in “hey kid” in the streets of El Salvador

pibe – The Argentinean version of cipote, used for boys usually under 20; particularly commonplace in Buenos Aires

chico – Heavily used instead of niño in Argentina

chibolo – The most common Peruvian word for boys in their teens

muchacha – Mostly used for a live-in maid regardless of her age in parts of the Guatemalan Highlands and Peru and not considered polite, chica being the more polite version

In Guatemala, bratty kids are often called ishtos
In Guatemala, bratty kids are often called ishtos
Photo credit: justinknabb licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
tipo – In parts of Mexico, a “guy” or a “fellow” (usage: “Vamos a preguntar a ese tipo alto de la clase de cocina” – “Let’s ask the tall guy from the cooking class”), however, slightly offensive in Guatemala

ishto – A common Guatemalan term for a bratty kid, not different from the Mexican escuincle

It is no surprise that there are many more words that could make this list if I had the time and resources to research solely on this subject alone. Given that Latin America is home to hundreds of indigenous tongues with unique vocabularies of their own that have nothing in common with either Spanish or even each other, such richness should be a given. In fact, it is no surprise that this kind of regional variation can be seen in almost every aspect of the Spanish vocabulary – even something as inconspicuous as a “bus!”

And finally, Europe


Spain, too, has its own street lexicon used to express the equivalent of the English “guy”. The word, chico, for instance is more common in Spain (except for the Canaries and the south) than it is in Latin America, though still not very formal (not rude either). Chico is also heard in the streets of Cuba in the sense of “hey man” or “buddy”, similar to the way it is meant in Spain. Another word Spaniards are frequently heard using is chaval which essentially means “youngster” or “kid” but often refers to another person of the same age-group as the speaker who usually happens to be a youngster himself. Spain also used the Spanish for uncle, tío , to mean a range of expressions including “fellow” or “buddy” mostly referring to young boys.

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1 comment

  1. For those who would like to similarly learn about the local words for "girl", there's no less than 41 over here: http://www.speakinglatino.com/spanish-slang-for-girl/

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