Language, Buenos Aires
Spanish is the native language in Buenos Aires (and all of Argentina) and we found it quite easy to communicate with the locals as we both speak very good Spanish.
The Argentinians where quite impressed with our Spanish and would quickly ask us where we were from. I found that speaking to the Argentinians in Spanish made our travel experiences more wonderful as well as more memorable. I believe that because we spoke Spanish, the Argentinians we encountered where more comfortable which in turn made them friendlier to us (this is based on my experience).
You have no doubt heard that the Argentines speak somewhat "different" Spanish and you might be worried that the phrases you learned will be incomprehensible to an ordinary Argentine.
Worry not! All Argentines know standard Spanish.
In Buenos Aires they speak somewhat differently. They speak fast, they throw their hands all over the place and get all excited and it might seem that the more excited they get the faster they talk.
If you can learn a few words and phrases you should be fine. Most anywhere that deals with tourists will have people that can communicate in your language. A lot of Argentines are a bit nervous about speaking english because they are worried they don't speak it well enough. But don't be intimidated by their accent, they will understand you perfectly.
Here are a few words you can use
Buenos Dias/Buenas Tardes/Buenas Noches- Good Day/Afternoon/Evening
Gracias- Thank you
Cuanto cuesta- how much is it?
muy caro- too expensive
Me llamo (portenos will pronounce ll as a zh sound-it will sound like "me jamo"- My name is..
Mucho gusto- a pleasure
Donde esta- where is...?
Me gusta- I like it.
Me gustaria hacer- I would like to do ...
No puedo bailar (when they ask you to demonstrate how to dance tango)- I can't dance
a few things to get you started, buena suerte (Good luck)
Many people believe it's the influence of Italian immigrants that makes the Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires sound so different from Spanish everywhere else in Latin America. Whatever the cause is, the accent and sounds here are certainly different to Spanish you will here in Spain or other parts of Latin America.
The biggest difference is the "ll" sound which portenos pronounce like an English "sh", rather than like English "y" as is the norm. So a word like pollo (chicken), comes out as "posho" rather than "poyo" to an English speaker. This difference was originally confined to BA, but from our experience it seems to have spread to Uruguay, Paraguay and the rest of Argentina. The "y" sound in BA is also pronounced as an English "sh" in certain cases.
Another thing to look out for is the "Vos" form of verbs which is often used instead of the "Tu" form. This form has almost died out in Spain nowadays but it was used in the 16th century, and hence introduced by the Conquistadores. Argentina, unlike the rest of Latin America, has kept on using it. Just our luck to have picked BA as a place to learn Spanish!!
It's really common hear that Argentinians use the word "che" really often...
We only use it in an informal way with friends or people that we don't know to call their attention, it's like the -Hey in english,the Scusa (in italian) and Pardon or excuse moi (in French)
The word "Che" doens't have a translation
Differents ways of using "CHE":
Che, como te llamas? = hey what's your name?
Che, que hora es? = Hey, what time is it?
Che, prestame atencion! = Hey, pay attention to me!
Che Ma! a que hora esta la comida? = Hey mum, At what time is dinner?
Che, me prestas esa lapicera? = hey, could you borrow me that pen?
Hope this is usefull!
Hi! How are you? = Hola! Como estas? or Hola que tal? (more informal)
Thank you = Gracias
You're welcome = De nada
Sorry = Perdon (or just sorry)
Please = Por Favor
Where are you from? = De donde sos? (In spanish from Spain = De donde eres?)
What time is it? = Que hora es?
Cash = Efectivo
Credit card = Tarjeta de Credito
Debit card = Tarjeta de debito
ATM = Cajero Automatico
Bank = Banco
Exchange = Cambio
Meat = Carne
Chicken = Pollo
Potatoes = Papas
Ice Cream = Helado
Door Bell = Timbre
Door men = Portero or encargado
Floor = Piso (E.g.: 1st floor = 1er piso - first floor = primer piso)
Stairs = Escaleras
Elevator = Ascensor
Door = Puerta
Window = Ventana
Open = Abrir
Close = Cerrar
Pull = Tirar
Push = Empujar
Water = Agua
Sparkling Water = Agua con gas
lemmon = Limon
Wine = Vino
Red Wine = Vino tinto
White Wine = Vino blanco
Beer = Cerveza
Drinks = Tragos
Dessert = Postre
Waiter = Mozo
Asking bill @ a restaurant => The bill please = La cuenta por favor
If you like to know more words, please ask me and I'll update this tip!
I found that the vast majority of Portenos do not speak english. I did not hang out in hotels, tourist traps or tourist restaurants as I am sure the employees there probably do.
When in BA do as the locals do and learn at least the basics in Castellano (Spanish) and realize that the local accent is different than in other Latin countries 9bar Uruguay). I must say the locals sound so cute with their sh accent! Overall I found the portenos very friendly and helpful so a little spanish will go a long way.
Also most if not all local restaurants will not have english menus.
There are also a lot of differences in vocabulary, at least from what is taught in the U.S. as "standard" Spanish. These you'll learn as you go along. A couple random examples:
Pool: la pileta
T Shirt: la remera
Jacket: la campera
Sneakers: las zapatillas
City bus: el colectivo
Long-distance bus: el micro
Subway: el subte
Refrigerator: la heladera
Careful with this word in Argentina: If you want to say "to take" DO NOT use "coger," since it means "to f*ck."
If you talk to anyone at a conversational, familiar level, you'll notice a lot of slang words. Here are only a few of some of the more useful ones to know, since they might come up in everyday conversation:
Che: This is a very Argentine word. It's used almost like we use "hey" in English: to start a sentence, to get someone's attention, etc.
Boludo/a: One of the most common words used by younger people. And it's used a LOT, but ONLY amongst friends, because in some cases it's an insult. Its slang meaning is roughly "stupid," but in conversation is used to address someone. The only equivalent that comes to mind in English is the word "man," as in "What's up, man?" In Argentina you might hear something like "qué hacés, boludo?" Girls use it to address each other, too, but as boluda.
Gordo/a, flaco/a etc: Don't get offended if someone calls you gordo/a (fat) or any other term describing physical appearance. They're more like terms of endearment.
bondi: city bus
quilombo: a disaster/a mess
"Lunfardo" is practially a whole language of slang that developed in Buenos Aires and Montevideo beginning in the 19th century. It was used particularly among the lower classes of newly arrived immigrants, and it borrows words from many other languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Quechua, French, etc. Some of these words have made it into everyday slang (like quilombo and guita).