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Learning To Communicate With The Locals In Argentina – Some Tips For Expats

There are over 40 languages spoken in Argentina, of which Spanish is the most dominant. English is the second most commonly spoken language, followed by Portuguese, Italian and French. The accent varies according to geographical location, and there are extreme differences in pronunciation within the country.


Although Spanish is the official language of Argentina, it is very different from the type of Spanish spoken in Spain. Spanish in Argentina has been affected by many of the European languages, especially Italian, which is why it sounds very similar to Italian. The most prevalent dialect is Ripolatense, which uses ‘voseo’ instead of ‘tu’ (the familiar “you”).Lunfardo is a Spanish dialect that originated and developed in the lower classes in Buenos Aires. In time, it spread to nearby cities as well as cities with a similar socio-cultural environment. The lyrics of tango music were generally in Lunfardo, which is how it gained popularity, and today it is common across all social strata and classes.

English is widely spoken throughout the country, especially in cities and urban areas. English is mandatory in all state schools, and it is the language of business. Learning English is considered crucial, as most citizens see the need to align with more stable international economies, given Argentina’s economic turmoil.

A few Spanish words and phrases

Cómo andás? – which can be translated as “How are you doing?”. Although the common Spanish phrase would be “Cómo estás?”, Cómo andás is the preffered version. The appropriate response to this would be “Todo bien, vos?” meaning “All good, you?”.

Yo me llamo – which can be translated as “My name is?”. The pronunciation of ‘y’ and ‘ll’ is not the traditional Spanish ‘ya’ sound but rather a ‘sh’ such as in the words ‘shame’ or ‘shape’. This means that your response would sound something like “Sho me Shamo”.

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Dale – which can be translated as “Okay?”. This is used to agree with someone and is most often used when replying in the affirmative about social plans.

Cole – which is short for colectivo or Bondi: which can be translated as “bus”.

Pucho (a slang term) – which can be translated as “cigarette”. The phrase “tenes un pucho?” would mean “do you have a cigarette?”.

Pasa que – which can be translated as “the thing is”. This is generally used when you have to decline an invitation by saying that you would love to go but unfortunately (the thing is) you have already made prior plans.

You can also use a language exchange website where you will get to interact with native speakers and learn the language. Many of these sites offer practice sessions on Skype, Whatsapp and Google+ so you can choose the method that suits you.

Communication styles

When it comes to conversations, people in Argentina express themselves freely and even a little forcefully. Remaining uninvolved during a group discussion is not the best idea, as it will often be perceived as disinterest. Conversations often lead to heated debates, but even though people attack each other’s opinions, the relationship does not sour. During the course of the conversation, people often interrupt each other to disagree with what is being said, but these boisterous arguments are viewed in a positive light as they indicate engagement. In general, the manner of speech in Argentina is direct and to the point. Argentineans will often crack jokes at each other’s expense, but this is considered to be normal and no one takes offense to it.

Argentines’ non-verbal communication reflects their good nature and interactive culture. People often stand close to each other and maintain direct eye contact, which can be intimidating to people of other cultures. It is considered normal for people to have plenty of physical contact during a conversation, such as a pat on the arm or an arm draped casually over the other person’s shoulder.

Topics of Conversation

Argentines are well informed on a wide variety of topics, and are happy to discuss everything from cultural affairs to religion. However, the favourite topics of conversation are sports (especially football) and politics. People in many western countries prefer to avoid confrontation, and so tactfully avoid topics when they know that the other person has opposing views. In Argentina however, opposing views are welcomed, and there is respect for people who have strong opinions, even if those opinions differ from one’s own.

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