Learn How Shockingly Different Spanish Is In Argentina

By James A. Smith • 7 minute read

Spanish in Argentina isn’t the same as in the rest of the world. But, it’s truly wonderfully unique. If you’re learning Spanish, and you plan to visit Argentina, it’s crucial to know the differences to avoid embarrassment. Learn all about Spanish and Argentina, and what differences you need to look out for.

You might have already guessed that Spanish in Spain and Latin America are very different. But, the Spanish they speak in Argentina is even more so. There are key differences in pronunciation, conjugation, and vocabulary between Argentinian Spanish and the rest of Latin America. Not the mention the crucial social differences.

Discover the key differences to learn more about how amazing Spanish is in Argentina.

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Learn How They Pronounce Spanish Words in Argentina

Argentinians have a unique way of pronouncing certain letters.

An example of this is the Argentine Spanish pronunciation of double ‘L’ in words such as “pollo” (chicken) and “bombilla” (light bulb). In the vast majority of Spanish accents, the pronunciation of the common double ‘L’ is a ‘y’ sound.

These words are, therefore, usually pronounced as “poy-yo” and “bom-bee-ya”. Instead, in Argentina, the pronunciation is “po-sho” and “bom-bisha”. This is a major difference between Spanish in Argentina and the rest of the world.

Intonation in Argentine Spanish vs. the Rest of the World

Spanish in Argentina has a different intonation. This kind of intonation is almost entirely unique in the Spanish-speaking world. The only other country where they speak Spanish like this is Uruguay.

In Argentina, the stress of the verb in several conjugated forms is placed on the last syllable of the verb, as opposed to the second-to-last syllable, (as is the case in most Spanish forms). This unique shift in intonation makes Argentinians noticeable in many other Spanish-speaking countries.

You may wonder why Spanish in Argentina developed a different intonation. The main reason for this lies in the country’s history of immigration. Between 1870 to 1960, approximately two million Italians immigrated to Argentina, undoubtedly influencing and altering the accent of Spanish in Argentina.

This influx of Italians changed the demographics of Argentina for years to come. Today, over 30 million people in Argentina claim some kind of Italian heritage. That’s over 66% of the country’s population.

Pope Francis is also from Argentina

Personal Pronouns in Argentina Are Different Than Spain

Before we dive into the conjugation differences between Spanish in Spain and Argentina, you need to learn about this crucial difference.

In Spain, the second person singular (you) pronoun is “tú”. In fact, “tú” is the most common second person singular pronoun in most of the Spanish-speaking world. The only places where this is different is Uruguay, Central America, and Argentina. In Argentine Spanish, the word for “you” is “vos”.

Similarly, in Spain, the second person plural (you plural) pronoun is “vosotros”. Meanwhile, in Latin America, plural you is “ustedes”. So, in Argentina, it’s also “ustedes”.

Argentinian Spanish Conjugation Is Different

When conjugating ‘you’ in the singular form, Argentinians stress the final syllable, placing an accent on the last ‘a’ for AR verbs, the last ‘e’ for ER verbs, and the last ‘i’ for IR verbs. For example:

  • AR: ‘tú hablas’ (you speak) becomes ‘vos hablás’
  • ER: ‘tú comes’ (you eat) becomes ‘vos comés
  • IR: ‘tú vives’ (you live) become ‘vos vivís

This also changes the pronunciation of the verb quite remarkably.

Fortunately, if you learn Spanish in Argentina, you won’t have to worry about stem-changing verbs in the ‘you’ singular form. For example, look how Argentine Spanish conjugates these common verbs that are usually stem-changing in the rest of the world:

  • AR: ‘tú encuentras’ (you find, from the verb encontrar) becomes ‘vos encontrás
  • ER: ‘tú tienes’ (you have, from the verb tener) becomes ‘vos tenés
  • IR: ‘tú vienes’ (you come, from the verb venir) becomes ‘vos venís

Learn Spanish Slang in Argentina

Of course, every country has its own set of national and regional colloquialisms. It’s no surprise that Argentina is no exception to this rule. If you spend time in Argentina, you’ll definitely learn a lot of new Spanish slang from the locals.

The two most importantly universal Argentine Spanish slang words you need to learn are “che” and “boludo“.

Argentinians use “che” as a way to grab someone’s attention. Just like “hey” in English. You’re welcome to use it just like that:

  • Che, pasáme la cuchara! – Hey, pass me the spoon!

“Boludo” is a common Argentine, but it’s a little bit less common as “che”. It’s literal translation would be “big-balled person”, which could be insulting without context!

But, Argentinians use “boludo” amongst friends. Just like Americans say “dude”, or British people say “mate”.

Learn Lunfardo to Understand Slang in Spanish in Argentina

Another element of the Spanish language entirely unique to Argentina (and parts of Uruguay) is “lunfardo“. This is a type of slang that you need to learn if you speak Spanish in Argentina. It’s also sometimes called the “dirty” slang in Argentina.

Originally, lunfardo was a way for 19th-century working-class people to make up new words. They rearranged the letters of common words to create their own slang.

For example, the word for coffee in Spanish is “café”. But, it became “feca” in lunfardo. The word for doctor in Spanish is also “doctor”, but in lunfardo it’s “tordo”. And the verb “pagar” (to pay) is “garpar”.

Although lunfardo was local to the Buenos Aires region in Argentina, certain words are common throughout the country. This gives you a taste of the country’s rich and diverse linguistic history. Still, you should learn a bit of lunfardo to understand Spanish in Argentina.

The Unique Vocabulary of Spanish in Argentina

Argentinians have developed a unique set of words for specific objects. These aren’t like slang and local colloquialisms. These words are well and truly embedded into Spanish in Argentina, and you should definitely learn them if you’re there.

For example, in most countries, the word for ‘T-shirt’ is ‘camiseta’. In Argentina, they use ‘remera’. Another example is the word for ‘car.’ In Spain, it’s ‘coche’, while many other Latin American countries use the word ‘carro’. But, Spanish is Argentina is different. Instead of either, Argentinians use the word ‘auto’ for ‘car’.

The same is true for food, particularly fruit and vegetables. Here are some examples of how the vocabulary for fruits differs between Argentina and the rest of the Spanish-speaking world.

  • pineapples: piñas’ in Spain, ‘ananás‘ in Argentina
  • strawberries: ‘fresas‘ in Spain, ‘frutillas’ in Argentina (pronounced fru-tishas)
  • avocados: ‘aguacates’ in Spain, ‘paltas’ in Argentina
  • peaches: ‘melocotones’ in Spain, ‘duraznos’ in Argentina

These are just a few examples, but the list of Argentine Spanish vocabulary unique to the countries dialect is extensive. 

Hand Gestures Are Important in Argentina

Learning a language is so much more than learning vocabulary and grammar. Sometimes, you also have to learn about the culture. Hand gestures in Argentina are crucial. Argentinians are very expressive people and tend to talk with their hands. Much like the vocabulary they use, the gestures which accompany them are also unique.

For example, you can accompany the phrase ‘I don’t know’ by scratching the underside of your chin and then extending your arm. Also, you need to keep your thumb and index finger together.

Here’s another example of expressive and nationally understood body language. If you point to one eye and pull down your lower eyelid using an index finger., you’re saying ‘watch out’ or ‘keep a lookout’. People in Argentina often use this gesture in dangerous situations. 

Learn Spanish in Argentina

The intonation, the vocabulary, and the grammar all have their unique versions in Argentine Spanish. But, this isn’t a bad thing. It really comes to show how special and diverse Spanish in Argentina is.

If you are fortunate enough to spend time in Argentina, then enjoy the variations of Spanish you will come across whilst doing so. Understanding national and regional colloquialisms will make your life a lot easier when talking with locals, it will help you integrate faster, and explore the country like an Argentinian.

But, you definitely need to learn Spanish before you get to Argentina. Use the OptiLingo app to learn Spanish effectively!

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James A. Smith

James is a language enthusiast, a lover of travel and founder of the online language blog travel-lingual.com. He is an online tutor of English, Spanish and French. James is currently learning German and Japanese.