Colombians speak more than 37 major languages. However, the most spoken language in Colombia is Spanish. It is safe to say that Colombians speak the Spanish language. The country has a population of over 45 million people and is one of the most populated countries in Latin America. Of these people, more than 99% of people speak Spanish.
When we talk of Latin America, the language that clicks in most people’s minds is Latin or English. Though English has an official status in different islands in the country, it isn’t the dominant language in the country. Colombia is a South American country and has additional territories in Central America. Colombia has an ethnically and linguistically diverse population no wonder they speak more than 100 languages altogether.
What is now called Colombian Spanish is a group of dialects spoken in different regions in Colombia. This makes the term Colombian Spanish more of a geographical term than it is linguistic. When we talk of Colombian Spanish, people refer to it as the standard dialect spoken in Bogota. It is a dialect or group of dialects well known for being the easiest Spanish to learn and understand.
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The Official Language of Colombia
Being the most spoken or the most popular language in Colombia, Spanish is the official language. However, Colombians don’t speak the same Spanish spoken in Spain or other Spanish speaking countries. The Spanish spoken in Colombia is a specific dialect known as the Colombian Spanish. There are other regional Spanish dialects spoken in different parts of Colombia. Colombian Spanish is one of the Spanish dialects in the world which has gained a lot of popularity between non-native speakers who are now more than ever willing to learn and improve the language.
The Spanish spoken in Colombia is unique as it has an almost musical intonation and crystal clear pronunciation. Were it not for the musical intonation, maybe it would have been the best Spanish dialect. The language is used in all official functions in the country and by most of the media outlets. There are parts of the country with an official language apart from Spanish. However, Spanish is the most dominant and it is a mandatory subject in schools. In the other regions where Spanish isn’t an official language, bilingual education is a must.
Historical facts of the Spanish Language of Colombia
Spanish explorers settled in Colombia in 1499 and in the early 16th century, they began colonizing the country. Before the Spanish invasion the land which is now the modern-day Colombia was ruled by different Amerindian tribes who established their own civilizations and traded among themselves. The main tribes during this time were the Muiscas who were based in the highlands around Bogota and the Taironas who settled in the Caribbean. Up to today, the indigenous people descending from the Taironas live in Tairona National Park.
Colombia was named after Christopher Columbus and has existed in its present form from the 1800s. as the country now stands, the Spanish colonizers coupled it with the modern-day Venezuela, parts of Brazil and Central America, and Ecuador calling them the New Granada which they ruled from Europe.
The Evolution of Colombian Spanish
Even for native Spanish speakers from other countries, it can sometimes become overwhelming when they visit Colombia. The varieties of Spanish spoken in the country can have you rethinking about learning Spanish. There are various diverse number of accents and speaking ways that are different in every region. A good example is, in Bogota, the polite form ‘usted’ is used for ‘you’ while in the Caribbean coast, they use ‘tu’ a more down to earth term of ‘you’. When you cruise over to Medellin, they have a tripartite system for ‘you’ where they interchange between ‘vos’, ‘usted’ and the Antioquian ‘vos’. To Spanish speakers especially in Spain which might be considered as the original Spanish language speaking country, this might be too much for one language.
Colombian Spanish has been affected even by gender disparity. For example, in Colombia, women have a conservative linguistic behavior but once they migrate to a city like New York, they turn to be innovators and get more susceptible to unique ways of speaking the language. The analogy of this is that someone living in a place like Barranquilla might assimilate once they move to a place like Bogota. This is because they are required to function in a social-linguistic environment that is totally different from the one they have left behind.
Most Popular Phrases in Colombian Spanish
- ‘dar papaya’ is one of the most popular Colombian Spanish phrases which means to give papaya. It refers to crime or safety. If one is given the opportunity to take something, one will. This means don’t leave don’t leave your wallet lying around carelessly in busy areas.
- ‘que pena con usted’ is a phrase used by the Colombians to say sorry and is used with the same frequency as I am sorry in the US which makes it more of a habit than a sincere apology.
- Want someone to leave you alone maybe because you are angry? Say “Largate” meaning get out of here.
Funny Facts About Spanish
- Did you know that Spanish is considered to be a romance language? Well, not all the dialects but when spoken by a native speaker, the romance comes out amazingly.
- Castellano and Espanola are two names for the Spanish language. Which other language do you know that has two names?
- Spanish is the third most used language on the internet.
- Spanish was the only democratic language in the world before the 18th century
- According to experts, it will take you 24 weeks to become proficient in the Spanish language, dialects aside.
- Colombian Spanish is the easiest to learn and speak compared to all other Spanish dialects. It is the clearest as well and it’s not spoken in Spain.
Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world today having more than 444 million speakers followed closely by English. Mandarin Chinese is the top with more than a billion speakers.