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Peruvian Spanish

Updated: Jan 18


Peruvian Spanish | Woman In a Hat With an Alpaca

Peruvian Spanish, like all varieties of Spanish, has its own unique characteristics and features distinguishing it from other varieties of Spanish. While it shares many similarities with the Spanish language as a whole it also has a number of notable & distinct differences. This includes what is often referred to as “academic Spanish”. “Academic Spanish” is a Spanish more closely related to the language spoken in Spain and used to teach Spanish in American schools.


Knowing these differences and how to incorporate them when transforming your writings to a Peruvian audience can elevate your writing’s impact. Our translators at Language Concepts are skilled in localizing your content to specific Spanish countries and dialects.


The first difference is that Peruvian Spanish has a distinct set of vocabulary and idioms. Many words used in Peruvian Spanish are not used in standard Spanish and vice versa. For example, the word ‘guapo’ can mean either ‘handsome’ or ‘brave’ in Peru, whereas in standard Spanish this word would only mean ‘handsome’.


Another example would be the word ‘chancar’, which can mean either ‘crush’ or ‘study hard’, whereas in standard Spanish this word would only mean ‘crush’. The word, ‘jalar’ means ‘to fail an exam’ or ‘pull’ in Peruvian Spanish , whereas in standard Spanish this word would only mean ‘pull’.

Like all varieties of Spanish, Peruvian Spanish has borrowed words from other languages. It Includes indigenous languages such as Quechua, as well as English expressions and other languages.


One of the most distinctive features of Peruvian Spanish is its borrowed vocabulary words from indigenous peoples of the area. These borrowed words, known as "loanwords," have become an integral part of the Peruvian Spanish lexicon. These are often used alongside more traditional Spanish words.


Some examples from Quechua words that have become a part of Peruvian Spanish:

  • ‘Cura’ means ‘priest’. This comes from the Quechua wordkuraka’ o ‘kuraq’, a term used to name the chief of a community in the Inca empire.

  • ‘Cancha’ means ‘court’ or ‘field’. This word is commonly used in Peru to refer to a sports field or court, especially for soccer or basketball.

  • Chacra’. This word is used to describe a farm, or an area of land used for growing crops. It comes from the Quechua word ‘chakra’ which means ‘small piece of land for farming’.

  • Chullo’. This word denotes a Andean hat with with earflaps, made from vicuña, alpaca, llama or sheep's wool. It comes from the Quechua wordch'ullu’ that means traditional Alpaca hat.


Peruvian Wearing an Alpaca Hat & Playing a Stringed Instrument

  • ‘Poncho’. This word is used to describe an Andean cover up that is usually made of wool. It comes from the Quechua word ‘punchu’.

  • ‘Pucho’. This colloquial word is used by young people to refer to a cigarette. It comes from the Quechua word ‘puchu,’ which refers to the stub of the cigarette.

  • "Tambo" meaning ‘inn’ or ‘hostel,’ this word is commonly used in Peru to refer to a place where travelers can rest or stay overnight.


These are just a few examples of Quechua words that have become a part of Peruvian Spanish. But there are many more, reflecting the strong influence of Quechua on the language and culture of Peru.


Another difference between Peruvian Spanish and standard Spanish is the pronunciation of certain words. For example, the letter ‘z’ is often pronounced as an ‘s’ in Peru, whereas in standard Spanish it is pronounced as a ‘z’. For example, the word ‘zapato’ (shoe) in Peru is pronounced ‘sapato’, whereas in standard Spanish it would be pronounced ‘zapato’.


Some of these pronunciation differences over time have resulted in spelling differences. So it is important for translators and localizers to know these differences. Doing so allows your writing to read naturally to native speakers or a local audience.


Peruvian Spanish also has a number of unique idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms that are specific to the country. These expressions and colloquialisms often come from fruits and vegetables:


Examples:


‘Cocos’: Besides the refreshing fruits that come from palm trees. ‘Cocos’ is also used to refer to a ‘a six pack abs’ or ‘dollars’.


‘Lechero’. This Word is not only used to refer to someone that sells milk, but it also means ‘to be lucky’. Example: ¡Qué lechero eres, te encontraste dinero en la calle!

‘Papaya’: This fruit, which is mainly used for making a juice, is also used in many Peruvian colloquial expressions. Examples: ‘Qué papayita’ or ‘Qué papaya’ to mean that something is easy to get done.

‘Palta’: This Word means ‘guacamole’ in other countries. Besides, using it for salads or other dishes, Peruvians use the following expressions: ‘¡Qué palta!’ or ‘¡Qué palta siento!” meaning ‘this is embarrassing, or I am embarrassed!


‘Piña’: besides the sweet and juicy fruit, this word is used in Peruvian Spanish to describe someone who has bad luck. Example: ‘¡Qué piña eres!’ or ‘¡Más piña!’.


‘¡Qué yuca!’ or ‘¡Está muy yuca!’ meaning ‘it is difficult’. Yuca is actually a is a woody shrub of the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae, native to South America.


Overall, Peruvian Spanish is a unique and varied form of Spanish which differs from standard Spanish speakers in several ways. These differences include its vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, syntactic structures, and idiomatic expressions. All of which contribute to the rich and diverse nature of the spoken language.


It has a distinct set of vocabulary and idioms, a different pronunciation of certain letters, and a more relaxed grammar. It’s important to understand the differences between Peruvian Spanish and standard Spanish in order to be able to communicate effectively in Peruvian contexts.


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