- You: In Spanish you have the standard tú for you familiar and usted for you formal, like the french tu/vous. Here people also have vos which is even more familiar so between friends or partners and is conjugated differently, I am still getting the hang of it (replaces the tú completely in Argentina, for example). However, here people use usted for their parents/children which I find so difficult to get used to. So within our house, my boyfriend says tú to me, usted to his parents, his parents say usted to their son and I, and vos to each other. It is insanely confusing and I cannot understand how people can say usted to their own family, and even with babies, since in standard Spanish it is formal. Also, since there is the same thing in french with vous it would sounds so odd to say vous to your parents or children as it's normally for people you don't know well. I am getting there though!
- Hi: In Spanish, like in most languages there are lots of ways of saying hello/hi/good afternoon etc. Now, in Cali, the most common way of saluting someone informally is by saying 'que hubo?' which literally means 'what was there?', or 'what happened?'. I can get on board with this except for they don't say it like that, what they say sounds more like a phonetic 'Q-bo'. Most of the time if someone says that to me I just smile politely as I feel like it it a rhetorical question as it is more of a salutation than an actual question but replying with hola or buenos dias would be far too formal.
- Mami/papi: These mean mum and dad but here, they are not confined to parental relationships and you can often hear people calling their friends papi, parents often call their young children it and even between married couples can call each other mum/dad. Given that in French, mami/papi mean grandma/grandpa, this is very confusing for me!
- Sorry: This is less of a Colombia thing, than just a Spanish language thing. There are so many ways to say sorry in Spanish that I often need a couple of seconds to figure out which one is appropriate before saying it and by that point the moment has passed and I just look rude! Here are some examples: 'Que pena' is I think more of a Colombia or Latin America phrase, not used in Spain. It is used a lot for example on the Mio buses when people push past you in a rough way so they say que pena to excuse them having pushed you a little. It literally means 'what shame', however, I find it very amusing because they aren't actually sorry because they continue to do it while saying it so, to me, it's a bit like saying sorry while you are continuously punching someone, it doesn't really count. 'Perdón' is the more official, formal sorry or forgive me. 'Lo siento' would be for a more emotional sorry like if you offended someone or lost/broke one of their possessions. 'Disculpa' is like excuse me in the sense of excuse my actions i.e. bumping into them or if you want someone's attention to ask a question i.e. a police officer or local (but then it would be 'disculpe' in the usted form).
- Diminutives: The Spanish language as a whole uses a lot of diminutives in order to denote small size or to make a word less harsh sounding or more affectionate, for example, casita (small house), perrito (little dog or beloved dog if it is big). However, I have noticed that here it is used a LOT more frequently for example with ahorita (right/just now), gentecita (meaning there were some people). Also, some common words simply do not come without it. For example, you never hear abuela (grandma), only abuelita, pajarito, never pajaro (bird), agüita never agua (for ordering water). Some seem quite paradoxical, for example with grandecito (big with diminutive so it sounds like a little bit big).
- Girl/boy/woman/man: Goodness me, how many words are there for these?! The standard Spanish words would be niño/a for boy/girl and hombre/mujer for man/woman. However these are rarely used here and instead they use some of these for girl/boy: pelada/pelado, nena, muchacha/muchacho; and these for man/woman: tipo, man, caballero, vieja, dama, señora. Granted in English and French there are several ways of saying these terms, but I feel like we mostly use the standard ones of man/woman, homme/femme, girl/boy, fille/garcon, whereas in Colombia the alternative ones are more common and mixed up so it can be difficult to pick one based on the context of the conversation.
- Your/her: In standard Spanish the possessive your is tu and of his/her is su. However, here in Cali/Colombia these are rarely used and instead they would say, for example Como va la mamá? ('how is your mum'). So instead of saying your they say 'the'. It gets confusing though because this is exactly the same sentence as for how is his/her mum as they avoid using possessive pronouns altogether and replace them with a 'the', regardless of who they are talking about. As an extension to this, instead of saying within the context of a conversation about someone else, 'how is her mum?', they may say como va la mamá de él or de John? Literally, 'how is the mum of him' or 'of John'. I find this really odd since it is a long-winded version of saying his/her/their. This extends to object possession too i.e. saying 'this is the car of him or of Sam' instead of saying 'this is his car'. They do, however, use the 'my' possessive pronoun and do not say 'this is the house of me'. Thank God.
During my Spanish degree, I enjoyed learning about all the little differences and funny parts of the language. Those are now more or less normal to me now, however, here in Cali I am learning new local differences which I thought I would share.