Wednesday, June 24, 2015

¿De tela o chócolo?

In this post I'm going to continue sharing my Spanish languages adventures in Medellín, Colombia.  If you missed the first installment, no worries, you can read it here:  Holo bebé, ¿qué más pues?

One of the first things I tend to do when I get off the plane is exchange money and grab a bite to eat.  Exchanging money is usually a pretty straight-forward transaction.  I'll have to blog about it so that when you have to do it completely in Spanish for the first time you won't feel lost.  In the meantime, you can find plenty of helpful phrases for changing money and everything travel related in general in my favorite Spanish Phrasebook for android, called My Spanish Phrasebook.  Alright, I digress, let's get to it.

In México I've had to show a passport to exchange money on occasion, but this time I had to let them take a huella, or finger print of my dedo índice (index finger).  Not a big deal, it just took me by surprise.  By the way, if you want to know what the other fingers are called, then read my post Pulgar Arriba

So after getting some Colombian Pesos in my pocket (I'll show you what those look like in a later post) checking into the hotel was up next.  I won't go into detail about that, you can read my post ¿A qué hora es la hora de entrada? to learn how to check into a hotel.  After that it was time to get to one of my favorite past times, eating.

So I headed downtown and came across a food stand selling arepas de chócolo.  


I didn't know what chócolo was, and it didn't look like any arepa I had ever seen, but it did look tasty, so I ordered one.  And it turned tenía razón (I was right), it was delicious!   

What is chócolo you ask?  Nothing but good old-fashioned maíz.


Now that we know what chócolo is, we can figure what an arepa de chócolo is.  It's what we might call sweet corn cake.  


You may have noticed the above photo is missing that white triangular stuff that was on top of arepas in the first picture.  And if you're wondering what that was, it's queso cuajado.  I'm not a cheese guy, so if it isn't a slice of Kraft American cheese I can't help you, but the definition of queso cuajado is curd cheese. 



The combination of an arepa and queso cuajado is something you have to try.  I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, but I fell in love with it.  

Here's a little chócolo humor for you if you want a good laugh and a have just a little over a minute to spare. Click here to watch it in Youtube if you can't see the link.


OK, now that you've had a chance to put those Spanish ears to work let's keep going.

There's actually more than one type of arepa served in Medellín.  The other one is called an arepa tela.  I have to admit, I didn't like these quite as much, but they weren't bad. 


While Medellín has a variety of foods, the most famous dish you have to try is the Bandeja Paisa.


As you can see by the photo, that's quite a bit of food.  Arroz, frijoles, chicharron, huevo, aguacate, carne and plátanos maduros.  Bandeja Paisa is a hearty meal for sure. 

I think that's going to wrap this post up.  Stayed tune for the next one where I'll share a little more Colombian Spanish and tell you about a quaint little place called Pueblito Paisa and more.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

¿Hola bebé qué más pues?

I've been traveling again, but this time I went to a new destination:  Medellin, Colombia.


Let's talk about some of the Spanish I heard.

As far as greetings (saludos) go, I heard the typical buenos días, buenas tardes and buenas noches, but what I also heard a lot of was simply buenas.  I heard it a lot.  If you aren't familiar with buenas, it's an informal greeting that you can use anytime of day. 

There was another greeting I heard quite a bit, and as far as I know, it is uniquely Colombian. Watch the video.  It's all of 6 seconds, so it won't take long.  If you don't see the video, click here to watch it on YouTube.



Didn't catch that?  Here's the transcript:

¿Cómo tu saludas a los niños de tu jardin?
How do you say hi to the kids in your Kindergarten class?


¿Hola bebé qué más pues? 
Hey baby, how are you?


She's so cute, I couldn't help but share that video with you.  Now, you may not hear the word "bebé" from just anybody, but without a doubt you'll hear "¿Qué más?" or "¿Qué más pues?".  It's really just the Colombian version of "¿Cómo estás?".

Did you notice that pues on the end?  It doesn't really mean anything, it's just a word paisas attach on the end of words, like, all the time.

Here are some examples:  Chao pues,Vamos pues


I took that photo from the top of the stairs, which is why the sign says baja.

Oh, remember that word paisas you just saw?  If you're wondering what a paisa is, let me give you the short version.   A paisa is a person from Medellin, a rolo is someone from Bogotá, a caleño is from Cali, and the people from the coast (e.g. Cartegena and Baranquilla) are costeños.   And that my friends, is my 1 minute, over simplified and very incomplete lesson on who is who in Colombia.   I recommend you talk to your Colombian friends to get the real deal on Colombian geography and demographics.  What I just told you will barely help you squeak by.


Other expressions that  are nearly impossible to miss are A la orden and con gusto.  Let's take a look at these.

It all started the first time I told someone gracias.  The response  I expected was de nada, but instead I got a la orden.  I heard that a few times and thought, I got this, no problem.  Then one more gracias later the response was con gusto.  Let's take a closer look at the context I heard these in.

From what I recall, I heard con gusto more in restaurants.  The mesero or mesera would bring me something and I'd say gracias,  and they would reply con gusto.  In my hotel if I said gracias to a staff member, the typical reply would be a la orden.  Except the bartender.  I'm pretty sure I heard him use both.  If I asked for something or asked someone to do something for me, like call a cab, they would also reply a la orden.

Now, we're not quite done with a la orden.  I also heard this walking past shops when the proprietors wanted to get my attention.   In this context it's more like "May I help you?".  I have to say it's a nice change from hearing "Pásale amigo" in Mexico.

If you think you're going to Ir de fiesta (go partying) in Medellin, forget it.  In Medellin you Ir de rumba! Medellin has a great night life, with no shortage of places to rumba in.  And rumba means party if you haven't guessed that by now.

Brain, what are we going to do this weekend?
The same thing we do every weekend, Go partying.


And that is enough for this first installment of my Colombian experience.  In the next post I'll talk about some more Colombian Spanish, food, and a few of the places I visited.

By the way, if you're looking for a good Spanish phrasebook for your android phone to help you out when you travel, check out My Spanish Phrasebook, it certainly helped me out of a jam a couple of times this trip.  It was written by me, so you can rest assured it's got all the Spanish you need to help you navigate your way around a Spanish speaking country and communicate with the locals.

¡Chao pues!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pásale Amigo, Pásale

When you're walking up and down Tijuana's most famous street, Revolution Avenue, or La Revu as it is affectionately called by los tijuanenses, you'll hear the word pásale a thousand times.  It's said by the shop owners trying to convince you to come in and take a look their goods.

Pásale Amigo, Pásale
Come in my friend, come in

And if you happen to be walking in the direction of the border (la frontera), also informally called la linea, you'll hear "Taxi amigo?".  Actually, it doesn't matter which you're going, virtually every taxista you see is going to ask you if you want a cab.

There are a lot of other things you're going to hear when you walk up and down the streets of Mexico and start talking to people, and that's what this post is about, some of the interesting Spanish (well, interesting to me) I heard on my latest visit to Mexico.  Some of the things I heard weren't exactly PG, but they are words and expressions used everyday, and if you expect to understand and be understood, these are things you need to know.

Let's get to it.

We all know what this ugly little creature is.


The photo alone gives me the creeps.  But I digress.  The dictionary translates mosquito as mosquito.  That's the word I knew.  Easy, right?  Life is good and that's one less Spanish word to learn.  Well, life was good until someone threw out the words  zancudo and mosco


This one really threw me for a loop, the verb ocupar.  Oddly enough I heard it used in the context of "to need":

Cuándo ocupes taxi no hay, y cuando no ocupes hay taxis por todos lados
 When you need a taxi there aren't any, and when you don't need a taxi they're everywhere

This wasn't first time I heard ocupar used that way, but it stuck out like a sore thumb this time.  And if you're wondering why I find this so odd, it's because nowhere in the definition of ocupar does it say it means "to need".  And based on my research so far, Nothern Mexico seems to be the only place that uses ocupar in this way, but I'll write more about that another time.


While I was having margaritas at an old friends restaurant (yes, two of those were mine) we were talking about unusual and unpleasant jobs people have, and he threw out the phrase Hay que sacar la papa.  I had no idea what he meant by getting the potatoes out, so I had to ask.

Basically it means, at least in this context, to make a living.  And while I didn't realize it at first, I've heard the verb sacar used in a related, but slightly different fashion before:


Que onda wey, ¿saca las chelas no?
What's up dude, you're buying the beers right?


Agarrar la onda is another expression I heard. While it wasn't my first time hearing this, it was the first time I heard it in a context that helped me figure out what it means.

Agarrar la onda, to catch on, get the hang of things. 

Estás agarrando la onda
You're getting the hang of things


My daughter asked me for a few things, so I found myself shopping at the swap meet in Tijuana.  Yes, they have swap meets in Tijuana and I presume in all of Mexico as well.  Don't feel bad, I was as shocked as you.  Anyway, as I was walking through the maze of passageways a vendedor tried to get my attention by shouting out:

Que tranza holmes

Surprisingly, It wasn't the que tranza that got my attention.  I've heard that expression before, it's a very colloquial, and I assume Mexican, way of saying what's up.  Holmes, on the other hand, I haven't heard since the 90's.

Ruca is a word you'll hear frequently, at least in a conversation between guys talking about women.  It started off referring to an older woman, una antigua, but now it's just a way of referring to a woman.

Vieja is used the same way.  Although with vieja, you can use it to refer to your mom, wife or girlfriend as well.  Keep in mind that they may not appreciate that, but if you're talking with friends it's OK. 

Fodongo is another word I heard pop up a few times.  I wrote about it a few years back.  Take a look.

Simón is a very informal way of agreeing with someone.  It's the equivalent of yeah.

Carnal is something like bro and used when you consider someone a good friend.  It can also mean brother, as in your real brother.

Your Spanish book will tell you ¿Cómo? is the proper way to ask some what they said, but in Mexico what you're going to hear instead is ¿Mande?  Honestly, I think I was the only person in the entire country using cómo. 

Nothing says Mexican like the word Órale.  If you plan on spending a lot of time in Mexico or talking to Mexicans, you'd better get a good handle on this word.  I've written about órale as well.

There's a great little place to have breakfast in Tijuana right off of Revolution Avenue.


I've forgotten exactly what it was I ordered, but when I was paying the bill the gentleman at the caja (register) asked me ¿Te late?.  To be honest, I wasn't really paying attention and what he said didn't click until a few hours later.

Te late is a very informal way of saying te gusta.  He was asking me if I enjoyed my meal.  But you can use te late anytime you want to ask someone if they like something.

¿Te late la comida mexicana?
Do you like Mexican food?

This next one isn't really polite, but you'll hear in it conversations with real people in Mexico.

Eres puto


If you know what the word mujeriego means, then you'll have no problem understanding this usage of the word puto.  It's a way of calling a man a womanizer, or player.  He messes around with a lot of women.  A friend of mine was the "victim" of this phrase but it was a fun conversation and we got a lot of laughs out of it.  You can also use the word golfo.

I blogged in detail about the word puto in one of my sister blogs,  No Seas Pelangoche (all about bad words in Spanish), because even though this usage is innocent enough, it's still a bad word and has several other meanings, which is why it belongs on No Seas Pelangoche.  By the way, if you're easily offended No Seas Pelangoche is not for you, because I give you the most accurate translations possible, in very frank and direct language.  Otherwise I think you'll find it a fun and interesting site.

Take a look at this picture.



In Spanish this beautiful bird is a called a cotorra, or parrot in English.  And we've all heard the expression about people who talk like a parrot.  Apparently our Spanish speaking friends have heard this one too. 

Tengo una amiga catorra
I have a friend who's a chatterbox

I wouldn't say that's a literal translation, but it certainly conveys the spirit of the word.

Wey is another high percentage word you'll hear on the street, which means dude.  I don't think I could possibly count the number of times I heard this a day.  Read my post on the word wey

Cabrón is another word you'll hear which has a variety of meanings depending on the context of the conversation.  It's another one of those words that's not exactly for polite company but highly used between friends and in very informal conversations on the street.  Yeah, you guessed it, I wrote about cabrón before too, you can read about it on No Seas Pelongoche


Pinche is basically the equivalent of the F bomb in English.  You'll very often hear it combined with the word weyPinche wey.  And yeah, you guessed it, you can read about it on No Seas Pelangoche if you want more detail.

I think we've covered enough bad words and you've probably figured out where to go to learn more.  Let me close things out with an interesting phrase I picked up.

¿Cómo estás?
Bien, en lo que cabe

Bien, en lo que cabe translates to something like "given/under the circumstances",  "as well as can be expected" or "considering".  It implies that the person is having some degree of issues or problems, but outside of that is doing just fine.

Well, that's it! I hope you found this post helpful and gave you a little more insight into Mexican Spanish.  I'll leave you with this list of books in Amazon on Mexican Spanish.  I have them in my collection and found them really helpful.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ya colgó los tenis

Nobody likes it, but tarde o temprano, we have to talk about someone who's "in a better place".  Not my favorite topic, but it's something you should know.

The a very common way to refer to people who have died is with one of two verbs, morirse or fallecer.

La actiz se murió
The actress died

Se murío is rather direct and to the point.   Fallecer is what you'll hear on the news.

La actríz falleció
The actress died

But in all honesty, you've probably seen those in your Spanish book.  We're here to learn about a few of the more creative ways to talk about el fallecido (la fallecida for a woman), so let's get to it.


Se colgó su tenis

Colgar los tenis literally means to hang up your tennis shoes.  Figuratively it means someone died.

Oye, hace mucho tiempo que no hablo con Pedro, ¿Cómo está?
Uyyy, ¿no sabias?  Pedro se colgó los tenis hace un año.

Hey, it's it's been a long time since I spoke with Pedro, how is he?
Oh, you didn't know?  Pedro died a year ago.

Colgó los tenis is very informal, so if you need to break the news to someone gently, this probably isn't the expression you want.

You can also say ya colgó los tenis.

Here's a fun one, ponerse el traje de madera.

If you don't have a clue as to what Pijamas de madera are, here's a hint.


Wooden pajamas refer to a coffin, or ataúd in Spanish.

Se puso el pijama de madera
He put on his wooden pajamas

Estirar la pata is generally accepted as the best translation for the English phrase to kick the bucket.

Ya estiró la pata
He kicked the bucket

Entregar el equipo is useful if you want to use a sports related phrase.

Ya entregó el equipo
He turned in his equipment

And remember, you shouldn't use any of the above expressions when you need to be caring and sensitive.

There are actually many more ways to talk about death, but why not hear them from real Mexicans with your own ears?  Here's link to some guys who run a YouTube channel called ZMG for U, and they give the run down on everything you should know, including a few cultural tips to help keep you out of trouble.



Let's close out today's post with something fun.  Here's a phrase we use all the time in English.

¿Que traes en la bolsa, una cadáver?
What do you have in your purse/bag, a body?

You may be tempted to use cuerpo instead of cadáver, but don't. 

Well that's it for today.  Don't forget you can also follow this blog on Facebook.   Also don't forget to check out my sister blog, Helping You Learn Spanish where I take a stab at simplifying the textbook side of Spanish so you can learn more faster without all the grammar double-talk.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

¿Pichas las caguamas?

If you don't know what a caguama is, let me help you out:


It's a species of sea turtle.  And since we're on the subject of creatures that live in the water, let's talk about one more, a ballena.




Yep, a ballena is a whale.

Yeah, I know, you're thinking, "Rodney, where are you going with this?".  OK, vamos al grano (Let's get to the point).

A caguama in Mexico is not just a sea turtle:




A caguama is any brand (marca) of beer that comes in a botella (bottle) of roughly 900-1000ml, or 33oz.  Carta Blanca is just one brand of beer that sells caguamas, but there are others.  Here are a couple of corcholatas (bottle caps) from Sol and Tecate.


If you're thinking "that's a lot of beer", well, you're right.  If you're thinking "well that's a good start", then you'll be happy to know that there's something bigger than a caguama, which is a caguamón.


A caguamón has roughly 1200ml, which hopefully is enough to quench your thirst.  Let's put the difference between a caguama and caguamón in perspective.



Wow.  That's a lot of beer.  I'm pretty sure most people know the word for beer in Spanish is cerveza, but in Mexican Spanish you have a few other ways to refer to a cerveza.

Vamos por unas chelas
Let's go get some beers

¿Qué me toca pagar las chelas?
What do you mean it's my turn to pay for the beers?

There's also the word cheve.

Vámonos a echarnos unas cheves
Let's go have some beers

This next one is universal.

Quiero una fría
I want a cold one

Know any colloquial words for beer?  Share them in the comments.

We're almost done, the only thing we have left to talk about is the word ballena.

A ballena, aside from being a whale, is just another name for a caguama when it comes to beer.  And a ballenón is the same as a caguamón.



And again, let's put things in perspective.

By the way, we still have to cover the title of this entrada (post).

 ¿Pichas las caguamas?

Pichas comes from the verb pichar, which means to treat or to pay for.  With that in mind, let's translate our phrase.

 ¿Pichas las caguamas?
 Are you buying the beers?

Regarding the verb pichar, I need to leave you with a word of warning.  It can have more then one meaning among Spanish speakers.  You can read about it's meanings at Así Hablamos.  Remember, know your audience.

Whew, that's finally it.  I'll leave you with one last thing, a video of what I think is is a pretty impressive feat.  Personally, it would take me a week or more to finish a caguama, much less a caguamón.  This gentleman puts it away all at once.  And on top of that he does it with no hands.



Here are a few other posts related to chelas.

1.  Pisteando en mi casa con mi kerida
2.  ¿Por qué estás chiquiteando wey?

Now go forth and (responsibly) have a few cheves.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

El Caló Mexicano, Parte 2

Not too terribly long ago I wrote about El Caló Mexicano, or Mexican slang.  Rather than write yet another top 10 list, I decided to write about some very common Mexican slang that your average gringo probably isn't aware of.  Today I'm going to fulfill the promise I made about writing a part two.

Let's cover a few greetings first.

You've probably heard of the expression Qué onda, which means what's up, but here's a couple that might have escaped you.


¿Qué tranza?

¿Qué show?

¿Qué pex?

I don't know that any of these have a direct translation, they're just additional ways to say what's up.  These are very slangy and will most likely shock your Mexican friends when they hear you say this.

¡Que oso!

Literally speaking, this means what a bear.  But if you're not having a conversation about bears then this means how embarrassing.

That's embarrassing.  I don't know you.


We know these as a Volkswagon.  But in Mexican Spanish you'll probably hear it referred to as a vocho.


 You'll hear people talk about dinero (money) all the time, but they may be doing it with words you aren't familiar with.  Feria and varo.

No traigo varo wey
I don't have any money dude

Prestame una feria wey
Loan me some money dude

While not uniquely Mexican, there are other ways to talk about money.  I blogged about this a while back - Más minutos menos lana.

Let's keep going.


In standard Spanish to say you don't like someone you can use caer bien or caer mal.  But in Mexican Spanish you say....

Ese wey me cae gordo
I don't like that guy

If you really like someone then you can say...

Tu amiga me cae a todo madre
I really like your friend

And keep in mind with the expression caer bien we're talking about if you like someone, not if you like like them.  For that you need gustar.

If you find yourself flipping a coin, you can say Águila o sol - Heads or tails

Here's a good one.  The next time someone asks you cómo van las cosas (How are things going), you can reply....

Atole con lo mismo 
The same as always

And finally, when your friends ask how you know all of this , you can tell them...

Porque soy más mexicano que el chile
Because I'm more Mexican than the chile

And that's it for today.  Make sure you subscribe via email or follow the blog and keep reading for more Mexican slang and other great posts!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Quiero dos con todo

Once again, we're going to be talking about one of my favorite subjects, food.  Somehow my Spanish has become inexplicably tied to food, but I love both of them, so no me voy a quejar (I'm not going to complain).

If you've never had a genuine Mexican taco, then you haven't lived.  And one of best places to experience the joy a great Mexican taco can deliver is in the city of Tijuana.  If you happen to be in San Diego, it's very easy to get to there, you just cross the San Diego border and there you are.

Taco stands are everywhere in Tijuana, it's hard to turn a corner and not see a taco stand of some sort.

There are basically two kinds of places to eat tacos, those that are more like restaurants with fixed locations.   You walk up, pull up a chair or sit at a table and then order your tacos and enjoy.



And there are the taco stands (puestos de tacos), that sit on a corner and get wheeled in and out everyday.   The photo below is of my favorite taco stand. 



 Let's take a look at how these puestos work.  As you can see by the photo above, there are lots of people just standing around.  Why you ask?  Let me explain.

Once you've chosen the puesto you want to eat at, you simply walk up to the puesto. You may have to navigate your way to the front of the puesto with your best con permiso (excuse me), but once you get there, this is what you'll see:


Then all you do is place your order with the cook:

Quiero dos con todo
I want two with everything

 Of course you can order as many tacos as you want, I typically start with two and end up having eaten 3 or 4.  They're more tasty and addictive then you think.   Now, you may be wondering what is a taco "con todo"?  

You're average puesto de taco will typically have a collection of condiments that looks like this:


There's limón (Even though your Spanish book says limón means lemon, you'll get a lime when you ask for one) , some form of salsa (which is almost always spicy),  rábanos (radishes),  pepinos (cucumbers),  cebolla (onions) and cilantroCilantro is the same in word in Spanish.  You can just add whatever condiments you like to your taco yourself.

Here's a bit of Spanish you might need.

If you want to know how spicy the salsa is you can ask:

¿La salsa es picante?
Is the salsa spicy?

If you want to sound a little more Mexican, then you can say?

¿La salsa pica?
Is the salsa spicy?

You'll get one of two answers back:

Sí pica
Yes it's spicy

Or 

No, no pica
No it's not spicy

It's the second answer you need to be worried about.  Sometimes when they say the salsa no pica, it really doesn't.  Sometimes it means the person you asked doesn't consider it to be spicy.  Big difference.  You've been warned, let's move on.

When I order I keep my tacos pretty simple.  

Dos de carne con cebolla y cilantro
Two beef tacos with onion and cilantro

Here's the end result:


Another condiment I nearly forgot about is aguacate (avocado). Aguacate is practically a staple in Mexico, but I'm not a fan of it.

Now that you've got your taco, you simply take a step back and enjoy.  You can eat them right there in front of the puesto.  Take your time, there's no rush, they even offer refrescos (sodas).   Still hungry?  Order a few more. That's why you always see so many people standing around.


Once you're all done, you pay for your tacos (roughly $1.25 each) and get on on with the rest of your day.  Or night.

Ah, there's one other thing I forgot to mention.  Aside from tacos de carne, you can order tacos al pastor.


Do you see that big hunk of meat?  That is the where tacos al pastor come from.  When you refer to tacos al pastor you're referring to roasted pork.   The pork is being cooked on what's called a trompo, which you can think of as a rotisserie.

Here's a closer look:



The meat is sliced off of the trompo into the tortilla:




And when all is said and done you have a delicious looking taco:


Most taco stands offer only carne or al pastor, but there are stands that offer other types of tacos.


A close look at the sign reveals that you can order pechuga de pollo (chicken breast) and cabeza de res as well.  Cabeza de res is the meat that comes off the skull of the cow.  Typically you'll see more of a variety of tacos in the restaurants that serve tacos, like tacos de ojo (eye) or de tripa (intestines).   I don't think I'll be reporting on the specifics of those anytime soon.  Well, more like never. 

If you've been intrigued by the street tacos of Tijuana, you're not alone.  In fact, you're in very good company.  Rick Bayless has talked about how great the tacos of Tijuana are as well.


There you have it, everything you need to know to enjoy street tacos in Tijuana or any other part of Mexico.

There are few more things I want to share with you about the street food of Tijuana, so stay tuned.

Lastly, if I haven't mentioned it before, you can finally follow this blog on Facebook

¡Hasta la próxima!