Spanish proverbs: Los refranes

Posted on 25. May, 2016 by in Basic, Entertainment, Spanish Culture, Spanish Vocabulary

Popular wisdom usually takes the form of a proverb. All languages have them, and sometimes proverbs combine knowledge on a topic, with puns and rhythm. In Spain, there is a tradition of proverbs that go back to the epic poem Mio Cid

Let’s start with a proverb we use in English, “Spain is different“, coined by Franco’s minister of Industry during the dictatorship (1939-1975). People still use it when they try to explain what’s wrong with the country. In this link you have a list of slogans used by Spanish Tourist Agencies since the 1930s.


Spain is different


To this self-satisfied version of themselves, we can oppose “África empieza en los Pirineos“, which basically means Spain is not in Europe (and,therefore, does not follow European standards, does not have European wages or employment rates, nor European work ethics or even timetables).

For people who succeed outside their country, we we have another proverb: “Nadie es profeta en su tierra“, which has biblical origins and exists in almost all European languages.


These two are my best friend’s favourites: “Al que madruga, Dios le ayuda“. As you may know, madrugar means to get up early in the morning. The first proverb implies that doing so is rewarded by God, which could also be a metaphor for “trying to think ahead and being innovative can lead to success in plans and projects”.


al que madruga

There is a large list of synonyms for this proverb, meaning more or less the same:


Más ayuda la mañana que prima ni hermana

Quien madruga, halla el pájaro en el nido, y quien se duerme, hállalo vacío

Pide a Dios y a los santos, pero echa abono en tus campos

Si quieres tener buena fama, que no te halle el sol en la cama

On the contrary, “No por mucho madrugar se amanece más temprano” implies that it doesn’t matter if you get up the earliest: dawn will still take place at the same time, nature follows its own course. This proverb is less popular than the previous one, and certainly has less synonyms, but I find it more suggestive and intriguing.

Do you know any other proverbs in Spanish? They are a good resource to learn the language!

English Spanish Vocabulary – Nationalities Nacionalidades

Posted on 24. May, 2016 by in Basic, Learning, Pronunciation, Spanish Vocabulary

Today we are going to practice useful Spanish vocabulary related to Nationalities.

Hoy vamos a practicar vocabulario español útil relacionado con Nacionalidades.


Use the player below to listen to and repeat the pronunciation of the words in Spanish:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Nationalities – Nacionalidades

Part 1:

Americano/Americana: American
Europeo/Europea: European
Africano/Africana: African
Asiático/Asiática: Asian
Español/Española: Spanish
Estadounidense: US American
Británico/Británica: British
Inglés/Inglesa: English
Irlandés/Irlandesa: Irish
Norirlandés/Norirlandesa: Northern Irish
Escocés/Escocesa: Scottish
Galés/Galesa: Welsh
Australiano/Australiana: Australian
Canadiense: Canadian
Ruso/Rusa: Russian
Italiano/Italiana: Italian
Holandés/Holandesa: Dutch
Alemán/Alemana: German
Sudafricano/Sudafricana: South African
Cubano/Cubana: Cuban
Portorriqueño/Portorriqueña: Puerto Rican
Mexicano/Mexicana: Mexican
Colombiano/Colombiana: Colombian
Venezolano/Venezolana: Venezuelan
Argentino/Argentina: Argentine
Peruano/Peruana: Peruvian
Chileno/Chilena: Chilean
Neozelandés/Neozelandesa: New Zealander
Jamaicano/Jamaicana: Jamaican
Filipino/Filipina: Filipino
Afgano/Afgana: Afghan
Japonés/Japonesa: Japanese
Belga/Belga: Belgian
Malasio/Malasia: Malaysian
Birmano/Birmana: Burmese
Marroquí: Moroccan
Brasileño/Brasileña: Brazilian
Noruego/Noruega: Norwegian
Guineano/Guineana: Guinean
Danés/Danesa: Danish
Egipcio/Egipcia: Egyptian

Part 2:

Indio/India: Indian
Pakistaní: Pakistani
Polaco/Polaca: Polish
Francés/Francesa: French
Griego/Griega: Greek
Tailandés/Tailandesa: Thai
Iraquí: Iraqi
Iraní: Iranian
Turco/Turca: Turkish
Dominicano/Dominicana: Dominican
Boliviano/Boliviana: Bolivian
Ecuatoriano/Ecuatoriana: Ecuadorean
Paraguayo/Paraguaya: Paraguayan
Uruguayo/Uruguaya: Uruguayan
Lituano/Lituana: Lithuanian
Trinitense: Trinidadian
Indostano/Indostana: Hindustani
Haitiano/Haitiana: Haitian
Sudanés/Sudanesa: Sudanese
Singapurense: Singaporean
Guyanés/Guyanesa: Guyanese
Sirio/Siria: Syrian
Etíope: Ethiopian
Chipriota: Cypriot
Camerunés/Camerunesa: Cameroonian
Nigerino/Nigerina: Nigerian
Antillano/Antillana: Antillean
Ucraniano/Ucraniana: Ukrainian
Húngaro/Húngara: Hungarian
Sueco/Sueca: Swedish
Suizo/Suiza: Swiss
Finlandés/Finlandesa: Finnish
Panameño/Panameña: Panamanian
Rumano/Rumana: Romanian
Croata: Croatian
Islandés/Islandesa: Icelandic
Líbanés/Libanesa: Lebanese
Palestino/Palentina: Palestinian
Argelino/Argelina: Algerian
Luxemburgués/Luxemburguesa: Luxembourger
Libio/Libia: Libyan
Israelí: Israeli

6 Spanish Phrases You’ll Only Hear in Colombia

Posted on 23. May, 2016 by in Learning, Travel

One of the best things about the Spanish language is its diversity: the many dialects of Spanish spoken across Europe, the Americas, and Africa each have their own unique slang.

Mexican slang is among the most famous, but most Latinos have ironically addressed someone as tío before in gentle mockery of their cousins in Spain, and even Spaniards scratch their heads at what passes for everyday speech in Argentina.

colombian slang flag

Colombia is another hispanophone country that, despite being generally thought of as one of the ‘clearest’ varieties of the language in Latin America, packs a diversity of slang to match the human and natural diversity the country is famous for.

So today let’s celebrate the Spanish of Colombia, where 45 million Spanish-speakers are dancing salsa and drinking shots of aguardiente as their country marches toward peace. Here are six slang phrases that are quintessentially Colombian.

#1: Qué pena

In most of the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, qué pena is something more like “what a shame”. But in Colombia, it’s used a lot of different ways.

Mostly it means something like “excuse me” or “sorry”–someone bumps into you on the street and mumbles a quick qué pena without looking up from their phone, or a stranger interrupts your conversation with a qué pena to ask for directions. Sometimes waiters even use it, almost as if they were apologizing for showing up at your table to take your order: “Y qué pena señor, qué quiere tomar?

#2: Me regalas

Use the verb regalar anywhere outside Colombia and it tends to follow its dictionary definition, “to gift” or “to give as a gift”, but in this South American country its use is confusingly generalized. In Colombia, “Me regalas una cerveza?” is the normal way to order your beer at the bar, even though you’ll still be paying for it.

Spanish speakers arriving in Colombia might range from confused to offended by the range of things Colombians are asking to regalar them, but that’s nothing compared with the crazy looks unsuspecting Colombians receive on holiday in Spain or Mexico: “Regálame un plato de pollo a la plancha” works in the restaurants of Bogotá and Medellín, but anywhere else it just sounds like you’re asking for free lunch.

#3: Qué hubo?

Haber is one that trips up most learners to start with, which is why this common Colombian greeting can make you a little crazy if you don’t understand it.

Pronounced more like one word in Colombia–kyubo?–it means the same as qué tal or your generic “what’s up” greeting of choice, but it does so using the past tense form of haber, literally asking “what was there?”

It’s so ubiquitous in Colombia that it’s the namesake one of the country’s most popular online newspapers: Q’Hubo.

colombian spanish enguayabado

“Not sure if hung over / or still drunk”

#4: Ando enguayabado

Personally, I think this is one of the most ridiculous Colombian slang words, and giggle-inspiring as it is, I refuse to use such a cute and refreshing-sounding word to describe being hung over.

Literally “guava-ed”, this phrase uses the Colombian obsession with fruit to capture an image of a poor hung over soul sucking on a guayaba as they try to recuperate from the night before. When your Colombian housemates andan enguayabado, do your best to have some sympathy with their state, and maybe offer them a guayaba in a punny gesture of solidarity.

#5: Qué más, bien o no?

In Medellín and Antioquia Department, you’ll hear this greeting and variants of it spoken on and yelled across streets all day long.

Literally “What(‘s) more? Good or no?”, it captures in six syllables the typical Paisa way of speaking, in this region characterized by use of voseo and indirect, campo-style communication. “Qué más” is the standard greeting–it can be hurled at a familiar face as you walk by on the sidewalk with no response expected–but other times your neighborhood shopkeeper might just shout “bien” when you walk into the store, almost like a command: be well!

#6: Culicagado

Sometimes Colombians drop the pretenses and just go for efficient, colorful, hilarious communication. Culicagado, or, loosely translated, “crap-ass”, might be the apex of that.

Constructed from culo, a less-than-polite term for “butt”, and the verb cagar, another not-so-polite verb for going numero dos, this word packs a lot of imagery into one quick interjection that’s usually screamed at some misbehaving kids.

If you visit Colombia, save this one for the perfect moment when someone’s acting the fool at a party, and make sure you mean it, because as funny as this word is on its own, there’s nothing better than it coming convincingly out of a gringo mouth at the right moment.

colombian spanish culicagado

“They called me culicagada / so I gave them a little present”

Slang is one of the most fun parts of language learning, but also one of the most authentic. It’s how most people are really talking any given day out on the streets, and it can offer sometimes amusing insights into a culture’s sense of humor and creativity. Colombian slang is no different, and it’s one of the many pieces of the cultural puzzle that make the country one of the warmest, friendliest, and overall best places to learn Spanish.

What are your favorite Spanish slang words and phrases, and what countries are they from? Tell us about them in the comments!