By Cat Gaa
On my first visit to Seville, I hopped in a cab with a friend and directed the driver towards the train station. He grumbled something unintelligible, and I asked for clarification.
Another grumble, and a confused look from my friend.
I had been studying Castilian Spanish in Valladolid, one of the cities with the distinction for speaking clear, textbook ‘castellano.’ I was embarrassed, to say the least, that I couldn’t understand him.
Two years later, I moved to the Andalusian capital, found a roommate from Cádiz and began dating a local. In no time, the grumbling became my way of communicating in Spanish, too.
Andalusians are, in general, an affable folk who like to joke around. Their local dialect is characterized by dropping the last consonant, changing og /l/ to /r/ in the final syllable, and the ‘ceceo,’ in which /s/ and /th/ sounds are interchangeable. This is not an all-extensive list, of course: Andalusians can usually tell what province your from just by speaking with you!
While not known for being anything less than sociable and outgoing, Andalusians sometimes speak in one-word sentences.
Vale /va-lay/: generic term for ‘OK’
Without a doubt, ‘vale’ is one of the most common words you’ll hear while in Southern Spain. As a noun, a ‘vale’ is a voucher or coupon. As a verb, ‘valer’ means to be valued for. Most commonly, ‘vale’ is used to agree to a proposition, or as an adverb meaning fine or good or OK.
Venga /vein-guh/ or /bain-guh/: generic term for ‘come on’
Like ‘vale,’ ‘venga’ has many uses. More often than not, it’s used to animate someone or to give them a kick in the pants when they’re being slow. You’ll often hear it towards the end of phone conversation and pronounced with a /b/ sound.
Aro /R-O/: of course
Aro is not the word for of course; ‘claro,’ the correct term is often shortened to just the last syllable. Incidentally, ‘aro’ is also the word for hoop!
For speaking about food:
Food is an integral part of social interaction in the South, and it comes with its own vocabulary.
La sobremesa /la so-bray-may-sah/: the conversation around the table during a meal
Lunchtime is the largest meal in Spain, often spanning a few hours. While food digests, many have a coffee or after-meal drink while engaging in lively conversation, known as the ‘sobremesa.’ It’s not only a noun, but also a social phenomenon!
When this sort of conversation is held at a bar, it’s often called ‘tertulia.’
Tapear /tah-pay-R/: the act of going for tapas
Tapas, the small plates of food synonymous with Spanish cuisine, are a staple in Southern Spain. Many cities still give patrons a free ‘tapa’ with a drink order, and Seville claims to be the Tapas Capital of the World. When rounding up ‘amigos’ for a meal, you’ll often hear, ‘vamos de tapas?’ (Shall we go for tapas?) or the verb meaning the same.
Un finito, por favor /oon fee-neat-o pour fah-boar/: a dry sherry, please
Sherry wine is made and imported from Southern Spain, and it’s a typical drink to have before a meal. Just tell the waiter you want ‘un finito,’ or a dry variety typical in occidental Andalusia. No need to name a brand or origin – the waiter will know!
Un sabor mu andaluz:
Quillo, quilla /key-yo/ for males, /key-ya/ for females: slang term for guy or girl
Andalusians have many names for their close friends, even going so far as to call them their cousins. Calling someone ‘quillo’ or the female version, ‘quilla,’ is commonplace between friends, as well as out of frustration, similar to an American ‘dude!’
‘ta luego /’sta loo-eh-go/: see you later
Contrary to what your high school Spanish teacher taught you, ‘adios’ is not the way to say goodbye. ‘Adios’ has finality to it, whereas saying ‘see you later’ implies you’ll see the person sometime in the future.
Curiously, if you see a friend on the street, you may have them greet you with a ‘see you later’ rather than hello if you don’t stop to talk.
Mi arma /me R-mah/: literally, my soul
Another common pet name in the South, particularly in Seville, is ‘mi arma,’ which is ‘my soul’ with the Andalusian adoption of /r/ in the accented syllable. This phrase is sometimes used to poke fun at a friend who is complaining (or at least in my household).
Bonus: La madre que te parió /lah mah-drey kay teh par-ee-o/: literally, the mother that birthed you
Just for fun, when you want to tell a friend that he’s too much or very funny, you bring his mother into it.
What’s really great about the Andalusian dialect is the love that its speakers have for it. You’ll see hands flying and eyes light up when you speak with an Andalusian…even if you don’t understand him.
Cat Gaa left the skyscrapers of Chicago for the olive groves of Andalucia in 2007. When not working as a teacher, she writes about expat life in Seville at Sunshine and Siestas. Her Andalusian Spanish expression is ‘te quieres ir ya?’