Posts Tagged ‘language’

How to talk like an Ecuadorian

I’ve been living in Ecuador for 8 months now, and have noticed a few features about Ecuadorian Spanish to work into my speech:

Use terms of endearment liberally, especially when talking to women (mi princesa, mi corazon, mi vida, mi hija, etc.).

Use articles when referring to your friends.

El Diego, La Cris, El Esteban, La Steph, La Cristina

Use diminutives whenever possible.
una agua  –> una aguaita (a tiny bit of water)
2 dolares 
–> 2 dolaritos (2 small dollars)
un momento  –> un momentito (one teeny moment)
mi princesa  –> mi princesita (my little princess)
los pasos lindos  –> los pasitos linditos (the pretty little dance steps)
Stephanie –> Stephi (they never change my name to Stephanicita; there’s probably an orthographic/phonemic rule for that which I have not yet discovered)

Use any of the following words.
chévere = awesome
que bestia = How great!  (This is often used sarcastically.)
un ratito = one moment
chuta = mild expletive, similar to “shoot” or “darn”
fresco/a = cool/neat
una guagua
= a baby (This is actually Quechua.)
los manís = peanuts (because cacahuates is soooo Mexicano)
la frutilla = strawberry (they rarely use fresa here)
una chompa = jacket
no seas malito/a = pretty please, I’m begging you
una chapa = disrespectful term for a cop (like “pig” in English)
miercoles = literally, Wednesday.  Ecuadorians sometimes say this as a polite substitute for mierda, just like we might say “sugar” or “shoot” instead of “shit.”

When stressing the last word in a phrase, use a higher than usual pitch jump.  Okay, this won’t make a lot of sense to you non-linguistic types.  And I can’t for the life of me find an audio example to include here.  So you’ll just have to ask me to demonstrate this for you the next time we talk.  🙂



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Taxi talk

Taxi drivers have been one of my most common conversation partners for practicing the Indonesian language.  Our talk is usually me-centered (where I’m from, how long I’ve been in Indonesia, why I’m here, etc.) which is great for a beginner-level speaker like me.  I’ve gotten really good at these predictable topics, although my conversational ability drops sharply whenever a new or unexpected subject comes up.  Often the drivers are excited to be able to talk to a foreigner so they don’t seem to mind my language limitations too much, or keep speaking to me regardless.  This recent conversation is fairly typical of a taxi chat:

(roughly translated from the original Indonesian, with my commentary in parenthesis)

DRIVER:  What country are you from?  The Netherlands?  (They usually guess I’m Dutch first and Australian second, very rarely do they guess I’m American.)

ME:  America!

DRIVER:  Oh, America.  You speak Indonesian?

ME:  Yes, a little.

DRIVER:  America likes soccer.

ME:  Oh, really?  (This was kind of news to me, as I think Americans are not really soccer fanatics when compared to other countries.)

DRIVER:  Yes.  They will go to South Africa.

ME: Oh, really?  (I have not been following the World Cup AT ALL.)

DRIVER:  Yes.  And also Mexico will go to South Africa.  Very good.

ME:  How about Indonesia?

DRIVER: Ahhhhh!  (He then clutched both hands to his head to express his disgust at how awful the Indonesian team is.  I kind of wanted him to put at least one hand back on the steering wheel, but I didn’t know how to say this in Indonesian.)  Indonesia is not good!  They are horrible!

ME:  Oh.

DRIVER:  Horrible!  Elek!  That is “horrible” in Javanese.

ME:  Oh.

DRIVER:  Do you also speak Javanese?

ME:  Not yet (said in Javanese.  Indonesians LOOOOVE it when I throw in a couple words in Javanese.  They absolutely LOVE it.)

DRIVER:  Ahhhh!  You are already fluent!  (He then proceeded to say something in Javanese.)

ME:  What?

DRIVER:  (speaking more Javanese)

ME:  I only know a couple words in Javanese.  “Not yet” and “how are you.”  I don’t speak Javanese.  I speak Indonesian a little bit.

DRIVER:  Oh.  “Horrible” in Javanese is elek.

ME:  Elek?

DRIVER:  Yes, elek. I can teach you Javanese.

ME:  Oh, Javanese is very difficult.

DRIVER:  Yes.  It has the normal form and the polite form.

ME:  Yes, very difficult.

DRIVER:  Ha ha ha, difficult.  What do you study here?

ME:  I’m a university lecturer.

DRIVER: Oh, where?

ME:  Diponegoro University.

DRIVER:  What department?

ME:  The English department.

DRIVER:  Oh.  Do people in America speak American?

ME:  (I’m never sure how to answer this question, and yes, I have been asked this question before.)  Uh, they speak English in America.

DRIVER:  Oh, is that so.

ME:  So I am an English teacher and you are a Javanese teacher.

DRIVER:  Ha ha ha, yes.  When you need a ride home, you call me.  I can teach you more Javanese.

ME:  Oh, okay (I never actually do this even though taxi drivers sometimes want me as a repeat customer.)

DRIVER:  Yes, ask for car 227.

ME:  Oh, okay.

DRIVER:  Do you live alone?  (This is a really common question and not nearly as creepy as it sounds.)

ME:  Yes.

DRIVER:  What?  No friends?  No roommates?

ME:  Yes.  This is normal for Americans.  I know it is not normal for Indonesians.

DRIVER:  You live alone?  Alone?

ME:  Well, I have friends nearby.

DRIVER:  Oh good.  If you are sick it is not good to be alone.  You need friends.

ME:  Yes.

DRIVER:  (upon arriving at my destination) Ok, when you go home you call and ask for taxi 227.  I will teach you more Javanese.

ME:  Oh, okay.  Thank you (said in Javanese, cuz I knew he would like that).

DRIVER:  Ha ha, same to you (said in Javanese).

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