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Argentina is largely a country of immigrants and is distinguished from its Latin American neighbors by its mainly European ethnic roots: according to the CIA’s World Fact Book, 97% of Argentines consider themselves to be of European origin. The majority of immigrants to Argentina, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, hailed from Spain and Italy, while Germans, Slavs, French and others also contributed in significant numbers. Buenos Aires served as a linguistic as well as ethnic mixing pot, leading to the creation of a distinctly Argentine form of slang, called lunfardo. Many lunfardo terms are adaptations of Italian or French words, others are simply unique creations, and others employ a strategy of syllable reversal in which tango becomes gotán and café becomes feca. This slang is spoken primarily in Buenos Aires, and is featured heavily in some tango songs and certainly among the city’s hip population.
Lunfardois often unintelligible to Spanish speakers from other countries, let alone to the Spanish student innocently seeking linguistic immersion in one of Latin America’s most esteemed capital cities. I myself faced the challenge of lunfardo when I spent six months studying in Buenos Aires. Arriving a bit cocky about my language abilities after having communicated with ease during a previous study abroad stint in Mexico and in high-level college courses, I was quickly put in my place. The porteño (adjective meaning “from Buenos Aires”) accent was difficult enough to comprehend; coupled with lunfardo,I felt a bit like I had landed on an alien planet.
The following are some of the most common expressions, although you can find an extensive lunfardo to Spanish dictionary at <a href=”http://www.elportaldeltango.com.ar/lunfardo/p.htm”http://www.elportaldeltango.com.ar/lunfardo/p.htm Be careful with its use, however, because as with most slang, not all words are appropriate for use in all social situations.
|la fiaca||la pereza||laziness|
|el laburo||el trabajo||work|
|la mina||chica, chava||chick, girl|
|el pibe/pebete||el niño||boy|
|la piba/pebeta||la niña||girl|
|la plata/guita||el dinero||money|
|el quilombo||el desorden, el caos||mess, chaos|
For the advanced Spanish speaker, take a look at the lyrics to Mario Cécere´s tango Milonga Lunfarda, sung by Eduardo Rivero. The entire song is a lesson in lunfardo. Suerte!