Learn to speak like a porteño: 5 phrases you will hear all the time in Buenos Aires
Argentina,  Buenos Aires,  Latin America,  Spanish

5 Popular Spanish Words in Buenos Aires to Sound Like a Local

Argentina has fulfilled my eagerness to learn new words and phrases in Spanish. But it has also drawn my attention to a different use of words I already knew.

The porteños (e.g. the citizens of Buenos Aires), repeat the same expressions without even noticing. As if it was the most normal thing in the world because… Well, everyone else says it!

So, if you like me are new to the city, I have put together a little guide to how you can learn to speak like a porteños with 5 phrases you will hear all the time in Buenos Aires:

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A Language Guide to Spanish in Buenos Aires

#1 Mira vos

Literally translated, it means “look at you” but the meaning is not that you should take a look at yourself. It is better understood in the context where it is used.

Mira vos is used when a person is introduced to a new and surprising piece of information but don’t really know how to respond to it.

Like a sort of exclamation, and usually, it is said with a good amount of surprise to add a little more attention or drama to the conversation. It can also just be used as a way of showing that you are paying attention to what the other person is saying.

Mira vos would properly be best translated to English as something like “no shit” or “you don’t say so”. 

Of course, the use of vos is a particular and common Argentine way to address people which just makes this one so much more porteño!

If you want to brush your Spanish off before heading in Buenos Aires, consider finding a native Argentine Spanish speaker on italki.com. Click below!

#2 Qué sé yo

This phrase has to be pronounced in a slightly sprawling way with a strong emphasis on the last part: Qúe sé yooo. The English translation is “what do I know” which also is its porteño meaning.

Generally, it is used when a person is not too comfortable in his or her argument or wants to leave the conservation open for others to comment on.

In my classes at the university, I hear it a lot when a student has tried to make a statement but isn’t sure they got it right. Then they add a qué sé yo to sort of soften up their discourse. Equally, some of the teachers use it to make an opening for more debate.

#3 Qué buena onda

The word onda can best be translated as “vibe”. However, even when knowing that qué buena onda then will be “how good vibe(s)”, it does not make a lot of sense… So, better forget a bit about literal translations.

The expression is used when something is done with good intentions or in a good way.

It can be anything; how your boss reacted to the grade you got in an exam or the way the bus driver drove.

Whereas, on the other hand, qué mala onda is used when something is done in a negative way. Well, you can decide whether this blog post is buena onda or mala onda?

#4 ¿Viste?

¿Viste?, the guy in the bike shop says to me as he fixed my bike. Es fácil (e.g. it is easy), he added.

¿Viste? is used as a way of underlining your point of view, and translated directly means “do you see?”.

It is commonly used to end a phrase as a way of saying “do you see I was right”. It is a completely overused word in Buenos Aires, so you can be more than sure to hear it at least a couple of times.

#5 La puta que te parió

Let’s finish off with a bad one! In general, Spanish – no matter country or region – is filled with all kinds of phrases for swearing… And Argentine Spanish is no exception!

A favorite in the streets of Buenos Aires seems to be la puta que te parió. Literally translated “the whore who gave birth to you”. Truly, not a very nice phrase. And then it is just used for all kinds of swearing…

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    • Rebecca

      Oh, oh! How could I forget! Thank you so much for reminding me of this way too essential word when in BA, Dave! 😉

  • Pablo del Campo

    El último merece entrada en el blog aparte…pago por ver…

    Si querés mas expresiones miralo a Dustin (si es que no lo hiciste ya): un chico norteamericano que pasó un buen rato adaptándose al español que hablamos los porteños y sacó un vídeo que tuvo mucho éxito en su momento: https://youtu.be/8IpOfFlX8gc

    • Rebecca

      Mil veces gracias, Pablo!! 😀 Me alegro que te hayas gustado! Jaja, en realidad tengo los apuntes para escribir un post de “how to swear like an Argentine”, jaja, pero trabajo en proceso 😉

      Sí, sí, conozco a Dustin! Es buenísmo el video que hizo! Y increíble como habla este pibe! Gracias por compartir! Feliz día!

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