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Spanish references that’ll make you an insider when speaking with Latinos

Learn These Spanish References That’ll Make You an Insider When Talking to Latinos

Amigos, when you’re talking to a Latino friend or people in your community, you’ll often hear them make weird references you don’t understand at all:

ACTOR 1
Estábamos en la fiesta y cuando el tío Alberto empezó a poner Vicente Fernández, ahí supe que era hora de irse. ¿Me entiendes?
(We were at the party, and when uncle Alberto started playing Vicente Fernández, that’s when I knew it was time to leave, do you get me?)

ACTOR 2 *confundido*
¡Claro, te entiendo!
(Sure, I get you!)

Or something like this:

ACTOR 1
No entendí nada de lo que me dijo, así que le pregunté a María si su amigo era árabe o chino. ¿Pues adivina qué? ¡ERA CHILENO JAJAJA!
(I didn’t get anything of what he said, so I asked María if her friend was Arab or Chinese. Well guess what? HE WAS CHILEAN HAHAHA!)

ACTOR 2 *confused and faking he understood*
¡JAJAJA CLARO, QUÉ RISA ME DA!
(HAHAHA OF COURSE, IT MAKES ME LAUGH SO HARD!)

I’m Juan from Spring Spanish, and if you didn’t understand these references, you’ll always remain an outsider when talking to Latinos. But don’t worry: in this video I’m going to explain the previous two references and many others Latinos make all the time in conversations, so you can finally join them! ¡Acompáñenme!

So let’s say you get together with a friend, so you can practice some Spanish: 

ACTOR 1
Hola, ¿cómo estás?
(Hello, how are you?)

ACTOR 2
Bien, ¿y tú? ¿Cómo está la vaina?
(I’m good, and you? How’s everything going?)

Ok, first one:even though the literal meaning for this expression is “how is the sheath or the envelope”, vaina is a word mostly used in Panamá, Colombia and Venezuela and, depending on the context, it can mean many, maaany things (trust me). In this case, asking ¿cómo está la vaina? Is an equivalent to “how’s everything going”. 

ACTOR 1
¡Bien, bien! ¿Qué me cuentas?
(Good, good! What are you up to?)

ACTOR 2
Aquí aburrido en el trabajo. Esto está más solo que la una. 
(Here, bored at work. This is lonelier than 1 o’clock.)

Más solo que la 1 literally means lonelier than 1 o’clock. And it refers to the hour 1 o’clock which is very lonely.  

ACTOR 1
Ah, ok. Qué mal escuchar eso.
(Oh, ok. That’s unfortunate to hear.)

ACTOR 2
Sí, pero pa’ lante. ¿Qué onda contigo?
(Yeah, but moving forward. What’s up with you?)

Ok, so the expression pa’ lante means something like “moving forward”. It’s short for “para adelante” and it’s a way Latinos say good times will come soon even if you’re having a bad moment and all you have to do is darle pa’ lante (move forward).

Now, the expression ¿Qué onda contigo? literally means: what wave with you.  It roughly means what’s up with you. Saying qué onda is pretty common among natives to ask about something. Continuemos:

ACTOR 1
¡Yo estoy bien! Estoy aprendiendo español con un curso y me gustaría que me ayudes a practicar. 
(I’m good! I’m learning Spanish with a course, and I’d like you to help me practice.)

ACTOR 2
¡Claro panita!  ¡Practicar conmigo te va a ayudar a entender a latinos en todo el mundo! Eso sí, no te prometo nada con los chilenos, ¿eh? Jajaja.
(Of course, my friend! Practicing with me will help you understand Latinos all around the world! I can’t promise you anything about Chileans though, hahaha) 

Two expressions in this last line: Cuando entres en confianza con un latino (When you get close to a Latino) you’ll hear expressions like cuate, panita, batería or carnal quite often. Because this is how we refer to our close friends. 

The second thing you’ll notice here is the thing about Chileans. Now, for some reason, the rest of Latinamerica makes fun of the Chilean accent. This is because my good southern friends use a lot of slang, and they have a very fast and peculiar way to pronounce some things. 

ACTOR 1
¡Jajaja! Estoy seguro de que los demás exageran, no debe ser tan difícil entenderlos. 
(Hahah! I’m sure they’re blowing it out of proportion, it shouldn’t be so hard to understand them)

ACTOR 2
Bueno, practiquemos un poco: te conté que le empecé a echar los perros a una jeva, ¿no?
(Alright, let’s practice a little: Did I tell you I started throwing the dogs to a girl, right?)

Ok, calm down, your friend is not involved in animal cruelty. Echar los perros or lanzar los perros is a common expression used by some Latinos to say you’re hitting on someone. Likewise, jeva means lady, and sometimes it means girlfriend as well. Bottom line: Your friend is flirting with a special lady.

ACTOR 1
No, no sabía. ¿Y cómo te va con eso?
(No, I didn’t know that. How’s that going for you?)

ACTOR 2
Bueno, al principio pa’ atrás, como el cangrejo, pero después mejoró. ¿Quieres que te cuente lo que me pasó en la primera cita?
(Well, at first backwards like the crab, but then it got better. Do you want me to tell you how I did on the first date?)

Yes, again with the animal references. Pa’ atrás como el cangrejo means that something is going so bad that it’s not moving forward, but backwards. Do you know who walks backwards? The crab! 

ACTOR 1
No, ¿en serio te fue tan mal? A ver, cuéntame.
(No, seriously it went that bad? Let’s see, tell me.)

ACTOR 2
Bueno. Empezamos a hablar por celular y nos mandamos muchos mensajes. Pasaron como tres semanas hasta que la invité a salir.
(Okay. We started talking on the phone and we sent each other many texts. 3 weeks or so went by until I asked her out.)

ACTOR 1
¿Tres semanas? Eso es demasiado. ¿Le tenías miedo, acaso?
(3 weeks? That’s too much. Were you afraid of her, maybe?)

ACTOR 2
¿Tenerle miedo? No vale, ni que fuera la chancla de mi mamá. 
(Afraid? Of course not dude, it’s not like she’s my mom’s flip-flop.)

Ah, yes. La temida chancla materna (the fearsome motherly flip-flop). It is well known how popular of a learning method it is in Latinamerica, and Latin moms throw their flip-flops with incredible Robin Hood-like accuracy. So if your Latino friend is afraid of something ever, that is, his mom’s chancla.

ACTOR 2
Lo que pasa es que esas semanas me pasaron miles de cosas: se me rompió el auto, perdí las llaves, me robaron el celular… estaba más salao que trapo e’ barco.    
(What happened was that in those weeks a thousand things happened: my car broke down, I lost my keys, I got my cell phone stolen… I was saltier than a ship's mop.)

In most Latin countries, estar salado (being salty) is a synonym of having bad luck. So the unluckier you are, the saltier you get. Imagine how salty a ship’s mop can be. Yeah, that’s a lot of bad luck alright! 

ACTOR 1
Ah… ahora entiendo. Bueno, espero que esto tenga un final feliz amigo. ¿Qué pasó cuando la invitaste a salir?
(Ah… now I get it. Well, I hope this has a happy ending, my friend. What happened when you asked her out?)

ACTOR 2
Bueno, la invité al cine a ver mi película favorita. Llegué a buscarla a su casa dos horas antes de la función, pero me dijo que pasara un minuto para conocer a su familia, y llegamos media hora tarde al cine.
(So, I invited her to watch my favorite movie. I went to pick her up two hours before the start of the movie, but she told me to come in for a minute to meet her family, and we arrived half an hour late to the movie theater.)

ACTOR 1
¿Llegaron tarde? ¿Pero por qué? ¡Si llegaste tan temprano a su casa!
(You arrived late? But why? You arrived so early to her house!)

ACTOR 2
Bueno, entré a su casa a saludar a su familia… ¡y resulta que era mexicana!
(Well, I went into her house to say hi to the family… and it turns out she was Mexican!)

And as a final expression you might not get: us Latinos usually have very big families. So that poor fella went into that home thinking he was gonna take a minute to say hi to mom and dad, but he probably had to give a kiss to the abuelitas, las tías por parte de papá, las tías de la mamá, (grandma, dad’s aunts, mom’s aunts), say hi to los primos y las primas (the cousins), introduce himself to the cuñados y los tíos de los papás (brothers-in-law and parents' uncles), probably tell his full name to the padrinos (godfathers) who raised her when dad was working abroad and la vecina que también es como de la familia y la mamá dice que es la hermana, más los hijos de la vecina que son como los primos de la much… (the neighbor who is also like family and the mom says that she is the sister, plus the children of the neighbor who are like the cousins of the gir…) anyway.  Big, huge, families are a thing in Latin America.

ACTOR 1
Ah no, sonaste. Bueno, ¿y qué tal les terminó de ir esa noche?
(Ah, you’re screwed. Okay, so how did the night end up?)

ACTOR 2
Bueno, por suerte, luego de saludarlos a todos e ir a ver la película, quedamos para otra cita hoy a las ocho en punto.
(Well, luckily, after saying hi to everyone and watching the movie, we are going to have another date today at 8 sharp.)

ACTOR 1
¡Me alegra escuchar que todo salió bien! Seguro no vuelven a llegar tarde a una pelíc.. Espera, ¡son las 8:10!
(I’m glad to hear everything worked out in the end! I’m pretty sure you guys will not arrive late anymore to a mov.. Wait, it’s 8:10!)

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