Welcome to the native guide on how to speak Argentinian Spanish, or español rioplatense. This guide includes a step-by-step of the three basics, some good resources to learn Argentinian Spanish, and YouTube videos to help you with pronunciation.
To speak Argentinian Spanish, you need to learn the three main distinctions between it and Standard Spanish. First, the local forms of the ‘vos’ and ‘ustedes’ pronouns. Second, how to pronounce “LL” and “Y” as “sh” and rolling r’s. And third, incorporate the local lunfardo slang.
But first, I’ll answer a question a lot of people have:
can I learn Argentinian Spanish if i don’t know Spanish from Spain?
Short answer: yes. Because they’re the same language. The biggest change is the vos form instead of the tú form that the Spanish use. But if that is important for you, I’d recommend you to learn that form of Spanish first and then add the vos form into your vocabulary.
Every native Spanish speaker will be able to understand you no matter which one you use. If you’re planning on moving to Argentina or Uruguay, start directly with español rioplatense.
Argentinian Spanish 101: the basics
I definitely believe that if you master this three basics, you’ll be set. Learning how to conjugate verbs in the vos form that we use is the most important thing. Later, make sure to add the sh sound that is so characteristic to our accent. And last but not least, don’t forget to add some slang words.
STEP 1: CONJUGATION
As I’ve already mentioned before, in Argentina we don’t use the tú form to refer to the 2nd person singular in the grammatical form you. Instead, we use vos. The same way, instead of saying vosotros like Spanish do for the 2nd person plural, we use ustedes. Like this:
|Spanish (Spain)||Argentinian Spanish||English|
We therefore conjugate verbs in these two different forms differently:
The rule is very simple. In the great majority of verbs, it is as simple as adding an accent mark in the last vowel of the verb. Let’s look at it:
- Dormir (to sleep) –> tú duermes –> vos dormís
- Comer (to eat) –> tú comes –> vos comés
- Hablar (to speak) –> tu hablas –> vos hablás
- Bailar (to dance) –> tu bailas –> vos bailás
Ser and estar are a bit tricky:
- Tú eres (you are) –> vos sos
- Tú estás (you are) –> vos estás
The same way, verbs in the 2nd person plural, ustedes, are different from vosotros. In Spanish spoken in Spain, verbs with vosotros typically end with -is, while in verbs with ustedes, the -is is replaced by an -n ending.
- Vosotros estáis (you are) –> ustedes están
- Vosotros jugáis (you play) –> ustedes juegan
- Vosotros trabajáis (you work) –> ustedes trabajan
STEP 2: PRONUNCIATION
Once you’ve learnt the rules above, you’ve got most of it covered. Now you only need to learn how to pronounce and add some slang words.
The most important thing to learn is the sh sound, that we used to replace the letters LL and Y. It sounds exactly like when you’re shushing someone. Some common words are:
- Yo (me) pronounced sho
- Calle (street) pronounced cashe
- Llamar (to call) pronounced shamar
- Amarillo (yellow) pronounced amarisho
- Lluvia (rain) pronounced shuvia
However, the letter Y is not always pronounced with a sh sound. When it’s alone, like in the word y (and), or at the end of the word such as hay (there is), estoy (I am), or muy (very), the pronunciation is the same as a regular i in Spanish.
Another important step it Rs rolling. Although is true that if you can’t role your Rs everyone will still understand, strong Rs are very characteristic to the Argentinian accent. Take a look at this video in English that explains how to do it:
One more tip and something that people don’t think about often is S and Z pronunciation. We tend to pronounce them interchangeably. So let’s say, for the word zapatillas (sneakers), the pronunciation is the same as if it’d start with an S. Although don’t forget to write it with a Z!
STEP 3: LUNFARDO
Lunfardo stands for slang language. It’s very characteristic to every Latin American country, and where we as native speakers have a lot of fun, because words that mean something in one country can mean something completely different in another one.
Here are some characteristic lunfardos from the Argentinian dialect. But first I need to clarify this, don’t use this words until you’ve built a bit of trust with the person you’re talking to (it won’t take long anyways).
Also, we tend to insult a bit too much, so even though it might seem shocking at first, don’t worry, people might not be insulting you at all, it’s just we’re over expressive sometimes.
- Che/eu (hey) –> used between friends and acquaintances to call them. Che, me pasás la sal porfa? –> hey, could you please pass me the salt?
- Porfa (please) –> short for “por favor”. Apurate porfa, que llego tarde. –> hurry up please, I’ll be late.
- Plata/guita (money) –> we use plata instead of saying dinero. Uh, no tengo plata. Me prestas porfa? –> I don’t have any money, can I borrow some please?
- Piola (cool) –> this is not the exact translation, but we use it when something is nice/cool/pleasing. Ayer conocí a Mica. Me pareció re piola!
–> I met Mica yesterday. I thought she was very nice!
- Re (very) –> we use this a lot. It just emphasises something, like very in English. We use it interchangeably with muy. Está re frío afuera. Llevate una campera –> It’s really cold outside, take a jacket with you.
- Quilombo (mess) –> I love this word. It’s used to say something is messy and it applies in many situations. Mirá la cantidad de autos que hay! Qué quilombo! –> Look at all this traffic! What a mess!
- Ortiva (unfriendly) –> this is kind of the opposite of piola. There’s not an exact translation but it’s used to describe a person that is maybe not in their best mood or was a bit rude to you. Estás re ortiva hoy. Te pasó algo? –> you’re very rude/unfriendly today. Did something happen?
I’ll make a separate post about this because there are a ton of words and expressions. Take a look at this video that has a lot of them too:
How to learn Argentinian Spanish?
After you’ve mastered the three steps above, you can get some practice with this very easy and fun three ways to learn Argentinian Spanish.
MAKE AN ARGENTINIAN FRIEND
This is definitely the easiest one. You don’t live in Argentina? Don’t worry, We’re everywhere. Literally everywhere. You don’t know any Argentinians in your area? Don’t worry. Just enter Facebook and type “Argentinians in (insert the name of the place you live)” and you’ll find a group. Type a message telling them you’d like to learn “their Spanish”.
Done. You’ve made yourself a friend that will greet you with a kiss in the cheek and share mate with you.
Also, when we live abroad, we tend to be “protective and proud” of our culture so we never miss an opportunity to tell a foreigner friend everything about our country. And teaching someone our funny Spanish is a perfect way to make a new friend.
watch argentinian movies and series
This a great way if you want to take a look at the accent and understand it before you start conversations with others.
These are available in Switzerland, but in your country you could probably find classics such as Relatos Salvajes or El secreto de sus ojos, which are amazing movies.
do italki lessons
Italki is a platform I recommend and that I’ve been using for a while. In there you can have one-to-one conversational or grammar lessons with professional teachers or community tutors (who are not professional teachers but have experience teaching this language to others).
Lessons are very flexible because you choose the day and time according to your and the teacher’s availability, and they vary in duration so you can choose shorter or longer ones depending on what you want and need.
I love this for learning dialects or accents, because there’re many Argentinian native tutors and even professional teachers that will focus more on the grammar. It works great to complement with the talks you have with your new Argentinian friend ;).
Extra: this podcast episode tells the story of lunfardo, the Argentinian slang.
I hope you have enjoyed this guide, because I certainly enjoyed making it.
Let me know in the comments if there’s something else you have used to learn Argentinian Spanish and how it helped you.