Listen to Episode 22 of "Coffee with Gringos" here or on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and Soundcloud.

Download the Episode 22 Transcript here!


Paige: You’re listening to Coffee with Gringos, I’m Paige Sutherland.

Mariah: And I’m Mariah Wika. Welcome back! Today on the pod, we have a special guest. Our friend Kyle is here with us today to tell us his story and also to chat a little bit about slang in English. Thanks for being here, Kyle!

Kyle: Thanks for havin’ me! Friend of the pod, glad to be here.

Paige: So, I know you’re an avid listener, but this is your first time on here, so listeners don’t know who you are… so tell us a little bit about yourself!

Kyle: Hey, yeah. So, my name’s Kyle Shepard, I’m from New York, and I moved here back in March. I guess a little bit more about me… I learned Spanish in University, I lived in Spain for a year, so moving to Chile’s been great. I’ve been able to travel, learn about another culture. Yeah, that’s a little bit about me!

Paige: And so, you went to college and majored in Spanish, right?

Kyle: Yeah, that was my major!

Paige: So, when you went to Spain, moved there - did you think, “I’ve mastered the language, I’ll be able to communicate, life here will be fine”?

Kyle: Yeah, let’s just say I was a little more confident that I should have been. So, yeah, having learned in the classroom, I felt that yeah, this is going to be easy or this is going to be okay. And when I got there, it was totally different… the slang, the way that people talked… how quickly they talked, their accent. Very, very tough to understand sometimes.

Mariah: So you have any examples when you first got to Spain of miscommunications or times when you felt completely lost with the language?

Kyle: Definitely. Yeah. To point to one specifically… when I first got there, I lived in a really, really small town South of Sevilla, Spain. And, I got in very late at night and, I guess the first thing that kind of blew me away was that the bus system didn’t run past 9 o’clock. So, I got in on the last bus, I’m stuck at the downtown bus stop, I can barely get to the hostel because I didn’t have like a phone or phone service. So, I’m trying to communicate with people at this local bar, I’m asking if I can use their phone, so I can get through that… but when they’re responding to me, I have no idea what they’re saying. So, that was a mess. So I ended up actually having to stay over at this guy and his wife… their house like right across the street from this bar. Because they went to the bar too, and they were like, “Oh you were on the bus, right? And you don’t know where you’re staying?” So, they actually invited me to stay at their house. I stayed over at their house. I had no idea what they were saying to me.

Paige: So, you met a stranger at a bar, and you just stayed at their house with all your luggage.

Mariah: What else was he gonna do?!

Paige: Get a hotel?!

Mariah: I suppose.

Paige: Or a hostel!

Kyle: I had the hostel, and they said the bus doesn’t run there… it’s like two miles away, you’re not gonna be able to bring all your luggage there, so they said: “You can stay with us tonight, it’s okay.”

Mariah: I would have done what Kyle did.

Paige: Really?

Mariah: Yeah, for sure.

Paige: I feel like, my mom’s voice would have come in my head, like: “This is a stranger at a bar! Do not sleep at their apartment!”

Mariah: Stranger danger instincts!

Kyle: To be fair, they were on the bus too. So I had spoken to them a little bit before, but yeah, it definitely was not a typical interaction.

Mariah: So, what did that feel like… because you spoke Spanish! You’d studied in university, that was your major. And all of a sudden, you found yourself in this situation where people were technically speaking the language you had learned, and you couldn’t understand anything.

Kyle: If I had to use one word… probably discouraging. I didn’t expect that to happen, and yeah, I guess it was silly of me to really just assume that 100% of the time I’m gonna understand everything.

Mariah: Right.

Kyle: So, yeah, I guess similar to my experience here that I’ve learned so far is there’s always a different dialect, there’s always different slang… the way people talk, the speed, the tone. So, similar to here, in that area they really, as they call it, “Se comen las palabras.” They cut off their words at the end, so y’know, it was very hard for me to just follow something as simple as that. After a few months, y’know, I got a handle it, but at first it was unbelievably difficult.

Paige: Obviously, you were in college, you were in an academic setting. You were probably learning the stereotypical vocabulary. Were there a lot of words when you were with your buddies, y’know playing paddle or out at the bar where you were like, “I have no idea what that word means.”

Kyle: Yeah, they had a lotta sayings and slang. I guess one of them, just thinking of it now, they don’t really say it here, but you understand it… is “A tope.” Which means like at the maximum, right, like you’re going to go all out in something.

Mariah: Which is also slang, go all out.

Kyle: Yeah, go all out, another slang term. So, yeah, that’s something they would use all the time. Like, oh, let’s play this game! We’re gonna go all out. That was something they threw out all the time. And at first, again, I was like: “What does that mean?!” So, I was that gringo just asking a lot of questions.

Paige: Were there any words that stuck out that you used often where you just couldn’t understand, like if they were trying to make a plan and they would say this phrase or…

Kyle: Yeah, so specifically, they had one, and I’ll try to think of the equivalent in English… it’s very specific. But they would say: “Mas verdad que el caleu.” Which is like, that’s truer than anything. Truer words have never been said, maybe is the translation.

Mariah: Yeah, truer words have never been spoken.

Kyle: But they would say that all the time, and I would be like: “Yeah, I know what that means!” I learned through context eventually… but at first, no idea.

Mariah: Yeah, that happens to me all the time here in Chile. Chile is famous for their slang, and their Chilenismos. Sometimes, I’ll be at a party or at a bar, and the people around me are speaking purely in Chilenismos… and finally after over a year, I can understand a lot of them. But every once in a while, I feel like there’s still some slang word that surprises me.

Paige: And you experienced that a lot when you arrived here, you have a book with 700 pages of Chilenismos.

Kyle: Yeah, I’ve gotten through 698. No, it’s um.. It’s a book called Chilenismos. Honestly, at first, it was tough looking through it just cus’ there’s so many words. I was like, “What do you people normally use?” or “What’s actually common?” I feel like just being here a little longer, I can navigate a little better and figure out like oh this is, y’know, you’ll hear this on the street or you’ll hear this at a restaurant or you know, getting groceries or something… whereas others, maybe not.

Mariah: I have a book called How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle.

Kyle: Yeah! Yeah, one of my students actually lent me that one too.

Mariah: Do you have a favorite Chilean slang word?

Kyle: Oh yeah, actually I do, so “altiro.”

Mariah: Altiro.

Kyle: I like that because honestly in English, there’s no quick way to say, “Yeah, I’ll do that immediately!” It just doesn’t roll off the tongue. So, “altiro.” I like that one.

Mariah: I like that too.

Paige: What is your favorite Chilenismo.

Mariah: I mean, it’s a classic, but I really like “cachai.” And, some of them, I feel awkward when I use them. I think that when you’re learning a language, you have to reach a certain point of comfort before you feel natural using slang. And, I feel like I can use “cachai” pretty naturally without sounding stupid. If I try to use, “ja po”, I feel dumb. So, when I use “po”, when I use “huevada”, I think I sound silly. But I think I can use “cachai” or “te cacho” pretty normally and naturally.

Paige: I don’t know if I have a favorite, I think what I like is with huevon, it’s kind of funny when you’re (listening) on the train… the different ways that it’s used. I’ve never seen a word have so many meanings. But you can tell their expression… like “huevon, huevon, huevon!” It’s their inflection, and so I always laugh on the train when I hear it because it’s always used in a different way.

Mariah: Right, it totally is. And I suppose, “la huevada” is similar, right? You can use it for any arbitrary thing. And so sometimes, when I’m having a day when my Spanish vocabulary is not very good, then I use huevada, like “pasame la huevada!” If you don’t remember the word…

Kyle: So dynamic.

Paige: You probably hear a lot in Paddle. Probably all swear words.

Kyle: Yeah, stuff you probably don’t wanna repeat. But absolutely.

Mariah: Not appropriate for the pod!

Paige: Well, shifting gears a little bit… I don’t think there’s quite as many in the US as there are here, but we do have quite a few (slang words). The most basic ones are ones where we just kind of don’t use proper English. Which kind of… my struggle is when you’re learning a different language, you’re very stringent on the rules. You wanna, you’re like, that’s not how it should sound… but we say things like “gonna,” which is “going to,” but we’re like, “Oh we’re gonna go here, we’re gonna go here!” Or we say something like “gotcha”, which is kind of like “cachai.” Where it’s like… “I understand you, I got what you’re saying.”

Mariah: I understand, yeah. One of my favorite ones to use, and I think Kyle, you use this a lot is “bummer.”  Like, “that’s a bummer.” And I don’t even know what that means, I don’t know what it’s origins are, but it’s like, “Oh, that sucks.” Which, again, is another slang word! It means…

Kyle: That’s terrible, that’s awful.

Mariah: That’s a frustrating situation. That’s not great.

Paige: There’s also a few where the direct translation doesn’t make any sense, like, when you’re talking with friends, you’ll be like, “Oh, you went skydiving this weekend?! That’s sick!” Which if you heard that as an English language learner, you might be like, “Are you sick? Are you not feeling well?” But it just means, “That’s really awesome.”

Mariah: Okay, Kyle, tell us about some of your most commonly used slang words.

Kyle: Yeay, I say “dope” a lot, which kind of means like “sick,” “awesome.” Like, “That’s dope!” Yeah, that sounds really cool, let’s do that… that’s dope.

Paige: I also use… it’s not really slang, but I feel like in texts, I always use: “Sounds good!” Like, “Oh yeah, let’s meet up at 11!” “Alright, sounds good!”

Mariah: It’s just like saying, “me parece” here, right?

Kyle: Yeah, exactly.

Paige: What about you, Mariah? What are some of your faves?

Mariah: Let’s see, one that makes me laugh and that my students never have an easy understanding is saying that somebody’s a “couch potato.” Obviously a couch is a sofa, the thing you sit on in your living room, right? And a potato is… a potato. And, it means a super lazy person… or you can say, “I’m being a couch potato today!” Like, I’m being lazy today. I have no idea why we say that. When you imagine a potato on a couch, it doesn’t make sense. But it’s a funny image, and it just means being really lazy. And I think we actually say that relatively frequently.

Paige: I think probably because it applies too much in the States. A lot of lazy people. I’m trying to think… another good one I like is “crash.” I say that a lot if I stay out really late or if I had a tough week. I’m like, “Oh, I can’t go out on Friday! I’m just gonna crash.” Meaning that I’m gonna go to bed really early, I’m so exhausted.

Mariah: Right. Or, I crashed at a friend’s house last night, which means that you just fell asleep at your friend’s house.

Paige: Right, exactly. Or a stranger’s house. That you met at a bar in Spain.

Kyle: That’s technically how you can use it too… yeah.

Mariah: How about “hang out”?

Kyle: Yeah, “hang out” is if you’re gonna spend time with friends or “pasar un rato,” for example. Yeah, it’s something we definitely use in texting or just in slang constantly, so, “Oh do you want to hang out?” Instead of saying, “Do you want to come over to my house?” or “Do you want to go to this restaurant and eat dinner?”

Mariah: Right, “Let’s hang out this weekend!”

Paige: And I feel like I use, instead of want to, I say “wanna.” Like, “Wanna hang out this weekend?”

Mariah: Right. Or, also we say, “grab a drink” or “grab a cup of coffee.” Obviously, the direct translation of that… it doesn’t necessarily make too much sense, but it just means to go out and get a cup of coffee or get a drink.

Kyle: Honestly, learning slang just allows you to connect to people more, so when you talk about immersing yourself in a culture, you can connect with people on a different level, so personally for me when I was in Spain, I played a lot of tennis, a lot of paddle. Similarly, I play paddle here too. It’s one thing just to talk to people, and it’s another thing to, y’know, before your match, maybe you say some jokes with them or you talk about their experience, and being able to talk in slang just gives you another way to connect with them on that level - personally. And yeah, say you’re talking about their family, like, oh yeah, I can connect with that too. Yeah, just obviously, telling jokes and keeping it casual.

Mariah: Right, actually using those informal expressions and not sounding like a formal robot. Pretty important. Well, fantastic. Thanks so much for joining us, Kyle!

Kyle: Thanks for having me!

Mariah: Thanks for listening, and we’ll talk to you soon.


Slang (noun) - informal and invented words in a language

Example: Every language has its own slang! Learning slang is important if you want to have informal conversations.

Friend of the pod (slang) - a person that supports a podcast

Example: Kyle likes to listen to Coffee with Gringos. He’s definitely a friend of the pod.

College (noun) - university

Example: Kyle studied Spanish in college.

Major (noun) - your academic concentration in college

Example: Kyle’s major in college was Spanish.

Tough (adjective) -  difficult, challenging

Example: It can be really tough to understand different accents and slang.

Get in (phrasal verb) - to arrive to a destination

Example: Kyle got in to the little town in Spain very late.

Blow away (slang, phrasal verb) - to be very, very surprised or impacted

Example: The first thing that blew me away was that the bus system didn’t run past 9 o’clock.

Stranger (noun) - a person that you don’t know

Example: I talked to strangers at the bar to find a place to stay!

End up (phrasal verb) - to finally be in a particular place or situation

Example: Kyle ended up staying at a stranger’s house his first night in Spain.

Stay over (phrasal verb) - to stay overnight

Example: Kyle stayed over at the strangers’ house.

Mess (noun) - a situation that is disorganized, confusing, or full of problems

Example: My first night in Spain, I arrived to my city late and couldn’t communicate with anybody. It was a total mess!

Gonna (slang) - going to

Example: I was gonna stay in a hostel, but I missed the bus.

Run (verb) - function, in the context of transportation

Example: I wanted to go to a small town, but the bus doesn’t run there at night.

Discouraging (adjective) - frustrating, causing someone to lose enthusiasm

Example: I was technically a fluent Spanish speaker, so it was really discouraging when I couldn’t understand all of the people in Spain at first!

Silly (adjective) - absurd or ridiculous

Example: It was silly of me to think that I would be able to understand all of the slang immediately!

Get a handle on (idiom, slang) - to understand and be able to do something

Example: With practice, Kyle got a handle on Spanish slang.

Go all out (slang) - to do something with maximum energy and enthusiasm

Example: Kyle and his friends go all out when they play paddle.

Every once in a while (phrase) - occasionally

Example: But every once in a while, I feel like there’s still some slang word that surprises me.

Cus’ or Cuz’ (slang) - because

Example: It’s tough learning the slang cus’ there are so many words.

Swear words (noun) - offensive, strong words

Example: Kyle has learned all of the swear words through playing the sport, Paddle.

Dumb (slang) - stupid

Example: Sometimes when I use Chilean slang, I feel like I sound dumb.

Shift gears (idiom) - to change topics

Example: Shifting gears from Chilean slang, let’s talk about English slang.

Stringent (adjective) - strict

Example: In general, when you’re learning a language, you’re very stringent with the rules. But in reality, it’s important to learn more than the rules. You need to learn informal language like slang too!

Gotcha (slang) - I understand

Example: I gotcha. That makes sense.

Bummer (slang) - an expression used to describe a frustrating, negative situation

Example: It was a bummer when I missed my bus.

That sucks (slang) - that’s a frustrating, negative situation

Example: You can’t go to the party tonight?! That sucks.

Sick (slang, adjective) - incredible, awesome

Example:  Oh, you went skydiving this weekend?! That’s sick!

Dope (slang, adjective) - awesome, cool

Example: Your shoes are dope.

Sounds good (phrase, slang) - that’s good for me, me parece in Spanish

Example: Sounds good! I’ll see you on Saturday!

Couch potato (slang) - a lazy person

Example: Sometimes I’m such a couch potato on the weekends.

Crash (slang) - to fall asleep when you’re very tired OR to stay at a friend’s house

Example: I was so tired on Thursday that I crashed at 9 PM. OR I crashed at Paige’s apartment last weekend.

Hang out (slang) - to spend time with friends

Example: Let’s hang out on Friday!

Wanna (slang) - want to

Example: Wanna hang out on Friday?

Grab a drink/cup of coffee (slang) - to go out and have a drink

Example: Would you like to grab a drink next week?

Download the Episode 22 Transcript here!