I thought I spoke Spanish

I thought I spoke Spanish

When I moved to Bogota I knew that there are some words in my Spanish learnt in Spain that should not be used in Latin American countries. I knew that some of the commonly used words in Spain, are insulting or vulgar in some of the Latin American countries, so they should be avoided and other words should be used instead.

I also considered that my Spanish was very fluent since I worked in Spain, I attended meeting in Spanish and I prepared reports in Spanish. I was confident making myself understood and I had a wide vocabulary.

I lost my confidence upon our arrival to Bogota. The receptionist and I, we tried to say 8:45 in two different ways and weren´t able to understand each other. She said ‘a quarter to nine’ while myself, in my Spanish from Spain I used to say ´´nine minus quarter of an hour´´ (las nueve menos cuarto).

One of the funniest situations that happened to me was in the airline office, when I went to book infant flights. As we booked our tickets with points (earned with flying), and it was not possible to buy the infant ticket online I had to do it in the office. I showed our flight details to the lady at the counter and once the infant reservation was ready she asked me ´´Como lo quiere cancelar´´ (How do you want to cancel it). The only meaning of the word CANCELAR I could deduce was the word ‘’CANCEL’’. Slightly surprised I answered – I don’t want to cancel, I want to buy the ticket. I started to realize that our flight that costed almost nothing will be cancelled when the lady asked again: ´´Y como lo quiere cancelar? ´´ (And how do you want to ´´cancel´´ it)? Completely confused I started to wonder why I am here, when the lady added ´´cash or credit card´´. I gave her my credit card straight away and realized that ´´CANCELAR´´ simply means ´´to PAY´´.

Another word that caused us a funny situation was:

English Spain Colombia
Car Coche Carro
Stroller/Pram Carro Coche


Most of the time at the beginning people couldn’t understand if I was coming by car with the kid or with a stroller. And I couldn’t either.

My beginnings trying to speak Spanish in Colombia (being already very fluent!) were quite frustrating. The way of Speaking in Colombia is so much different to how the Spaniards speak. But now whenever I meet Colombians I proudly switch to their way of speaking 😉

And when I started to have a good ‘’command’ of the Colombian Spanish I met some Mexican girls who are good friends until now but unfortunately my knowledge of two versions of Spanish does not help sometimes to understand each other 😉

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