Like Water for Chocolate? Learn Spanish Idioms from Latin America

Dec 20, 2017 10:00:00 AM / by Lydia Koehn

A cup of hot chocolate.Heading south for the winter? Or looking to spice up your Spanish conversations with local lingo? Be sure to brief yourself on common sayings from Latin America so you can avoid misunderstandings and get a better handle on local cultures.

It’s one thing to learn words and phrases in another language; but if you want to take your language learning to the next level, try incorporating a few idioms into your everyday vocabulary. An idiom is an expression that is unique because its meaning is different from the combined meanings of its various parts. So the literal translation of an idiom or colloquialism is usually different from the culturally understood meaning. We’ve compiled a list of common Spanish idioms across Latin America to give you some cultural insight to spice up your conversation in the new year!

 

Sale pa’ pintura

Even though this Colombian phrase literally translates to ‘it’s out for paint,’ you can use this phrase the next time you complete a project. For example: Ya casi terminamos el proyecto. ¡Falta hacer el reporte y sale pa’ pintura! [We almost finished the project. All that’s left is to do the report, and it’s ready!]

A car with fresh paint.

Estar salado

This Ecuadorian phrase literally means ‘to be salty,’ but you can use it when nothing seems to be going your way. For example: Estoy muy salado esta semana; todo me sale mal. [I am very unlucky this week; everything is going wrong.]

A bowl of salt.

Bajar un cambio

This Argentinian phrase literally means ‘to lower a change,’ but you can use it when your bestie is stressing out. For example: Baja un cambio y respira. [Calm down and breathe.]

A sports car.

Estoy pato

This Chilean phrase literally translates to ‘I am duck,’ but you can use it when explaining to your friends why you can’t go out to dinner with them. For example: Ya es fin de mes y estoy pato. [It’s the end of the month, and I am broke.]

A duck.

Soy piña

This Peruvian phrase literally translates to ‘I am pineapple,’ but you can use it for those times when the whole universe seems to be against you. For example: ¡Qué piña soy! ¡Olvidé las llaves en la casa! [How unlucky I am! I forgot the keys in the house!]

A pineapple.

Estoy como agua para chocolate

This Mexican phrase literally means ‘I am like water for chocolate,’ but you can use it when your family drives you crazy over the holidays. For example: Estoy como agua para chocolate porque mi hermano no lavó los platos. [I am very angry because my brother didn’t wash the dishes.] Be careful using this phrase in Colombia — in that country, this phrase means that you’re perfect for each other!

A cup of hot chocolate.

Interested in learning more about the Spanish language and Latin American cultures? Learn to confidently speak Latin American Spanish like a local wherever your adventure takes you — whether to the Ciudad Perdida [Lost City] in Colombia, or to the Yucatán Peninsula — you won’t get lost with Mango’s Latin American Spanish course.

Log into Mango or start your free trial by creating a profile to track your personal progress throughout the course.

 

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Which idiom are you most likely to use on a daily basis? Share your favorite idiom with us in the comments section below!

Topics: Language Learning and Culture

Lydia Koehn

Written by Lydia Koehn

E aí, tudo bem! A lively lexicologist, Lydia loves munching on alliterative morsels almost as much as she enjoys swapping tales of travel adventures.

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