Colombia – Spanish Language and Culture

Official Name: República de Colombia

Population: 45.7 million

Capital: Bogotá

Area: 1.14 million km² (440,831 sq miles)

Currency: Peso (COP)

National Holiday: 20th of July

Calling Code: + 57

Time Zone: GMT -5

The Spanish Language in Colombia

Colombia is said to have one of the most beautiful forms of spoken Spanish in South America. It is characterized by an almost musical intonation and clear pronunciation. There are many different dialects of Spanish throughout the country; all have been influenced by the diverse ethnic background of Colombians. General characteristics include the extensive use of the second person singular pronoun “usted” for formal and informal situations (“vos” is also common in some regions) as well as the diminutive “ico”. (Chico – chiquitico).

Special words and expressions

  • ella anda muy mosca – she is grouchy/in a bad mood
  • estoy midiendo calles – I have no job / I am not doing anything
  • está dando lora – she/he is being difficult, loud (trying to attract attention)
  • torear – to provoke (make someone angry)
  • Sapear – to snitch/to betray/to give away
  • ¡que oso! – what a shame!
  • pasar por la galleta – to ignore an order, to disobey
  • abrirse – to leave
  • darselas de perro – to think you are better than everyone else
  • ¡está caballua! – it is very complicated
  • mono/a – blonde
  • engatuzar – to swindle, to cheat
  • ¿y eso quien pidió pollo? – (“and who asked for chicken?”) Colombian pick-up line
  • ¡nanay cucas! – no way!
  • Children are often called by their parents “papito”(daddy) and “mamita” (mommy).
  • It is not uncommon in a Colombian family that the wife will refer to her husband as “mijo” (mi hijo= my son), and the husband to his wife as “mija” (my daughter)

Other languages spoken

  • Over 60 indigenous languages are still spoken in Colombia today. The government recognizes the languages of ethnic groups as official within their respective territories.
  • Vlax Romani – the largest dialect of the Gypsy people is spoken by around 75,000 people in Colombia
  • Islander Creole English – a Creole language spoken by some 15,000 people on the Islands of Providencia and San Andres in the Caribbean. Its vocabulary originated from English but has been strongly influenced by Spanish, African and Caribbean dialects.
  • Pelenquero – a Creole language based on Spanish with strong influences from African
  • languages. It is spoken by some 3,000 people in San Basilio de Pelenque.

Spanish dialects and variations

  • Among all the different Spanish dialects there is a strong distinction between highland Spanish, Pacific Coastal Spanish, and Caribbean Spanish.
  • Andean or interior Spanish has a distinct pronunciation and has retained many similarities with ancient Castilian.
  • Spanish spoken on the coast has much stronger influences from African languages as well as from English in some areas.
  • “Parlache” is an argot that developed in the suburbs of Medellin but influenced slang throughout the country.

Geography and Climate

Colombia is one of the “17 megadiverse” countries and has landscapes ranging from wild jungle to barren highlands to beautiful beaches and islands in both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Because of its place near the equator, Colombia has no seasons and its hot tropical weather varies little throughout the year. As the altitude increases the temperature decreases.

Destinations in Colombia


  • Cities – Bogota, Medeillin, Cali (architecture, salsa, music, gastronomy)
  • Zona Cafetera (coffee region)
  • La Vieja River, Barragan (rafting, fishing, rock climbing…)
  • Beaches and coast- Valle del Cauca, Catagena, Providencia Island, San Andres, Chocó (scuba-diving, snorkeling, whale-watching…)
  • River cities (Salto, Fray Bentos, Paysandu)
  • Cultural destinations –Baranquilla Carnaval, Medellin Flower Fair, Wayuu culture festival, Christmas and religious celebrations
  • Amazon Jungle (adventure travel)

History & Politics

Under Spanish rule, Bogotá became the capital of the Viceroyalty of Granada. Independence from Spain led to the establishment of Gran Colombia with Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama, which disintegrated in 1831 (with Ecuador and Venezuela breaking off). Civil war marked the rest of the century and in 1903 Panama became independent. After a period of relative stability, conflict started again in the 1940’s and in the 1960’s various guerrilla rebel groups appeared including the largest actual one; the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). Funded by the drug trade, these rebel groups control large areas of rural Colombia. Over the past years violence has decreased importantly and talks have been held with the rebel groups through the mediation of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

¿Sabías qué….? Colombia is recognized as the oldest democracy in South America and it is also the source of 95% of the world’s emeralds.

Famous People


Gabriel García Márquez(Nobel Prize in Literature)

Fernando Botero (artist)

Fernando Vallejo (writer)

Andrés Caicedo (director, writer)

Juan Pablo Montoya (race car driver)

Laura Restrepo (writer)

Carlos Valderrama (soccer/football player)

Faustino Asprilla (soccer/football player)

Shakira (musician)

Juanes (musician)

Carlos Vives (musician)

Catalina Sandino Moreno (actress)

Sofía Vergara (actress)


Colombia has a longstanding culture of freedom of the press and many different views and opinions are published. However some censorship does exist and Colombia is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, especially when dealing with subjects such as drug-trafficking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s