Why Spanish is Cooler than English

I’m now rounding off my 7th month of speaking Spanish. I learned the basics in Guatemala, living with Spanish speakers and taking a few Spanish classes. At the moment, I like to think I’m “refining” my language ability here in Colombia. I’ve now come to love the language so much that I actually prefer it to English. Why?

Mexican graffiti San Cristobal de las Casas

from respect, love is born - San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

Tell Me You Love Me

Spanish is a much more emotional, feeling-based language than English. There are many ways to convey one feeling based on the level of its intensity. For instance, there are tons of words and phrases to express like and love: me gustas, te quiero, te amo, te adoro, estoy embobada, estoy enamorada; these are just a few ways that I know of. You can also apologize or say “excuse me” in more ways: permiso, perdón, disculpa, que pena, lo siento, or lo lamento.

What’s My Name?

If someone is trying to get my attention in English, depending on age and social situation, they are likely to use something like: “ma’am” (yuck, makes me feel old); “miss” (I’m not your 6th grade teacher); or maybe “hey girl” (can be a bit rude). In my day-to-day life in Colombia, I’m called flaca (skinny); mi amor (my love); mi vida (my life); mi reina (my queen); princesa (princess); mi cielo (my sky); linda (pretty); and the standard señorita. At first I thought it was a little telenovela, but I’ve come to appreciate all these pet names.

Everything Can Be Cute and Little

“One moment, please,” says the telephone operator on the other end. Brrr – how cold! “Dame un momentito.” Well of course I will! Con mucho gusto! The diminutive in the sentence was added to momento (moment) to make it sound shorter and nicer than a moment. Diminutives are added to the end of words to make them smaller, cuter, nicer, or softer than their regular counterparts. Using an above-mentioned pet name as an example, flaca would become flaquita, making it a bit more endearing and friendly. Kids often call their friends amiguitos instead of amigos. In Colombia, I might order a tintico* (black coffee, from the word tinto) or an arepita (from the word arepa, a delicious Colombian tortilla-type food). Someone humbly speaking about their house might refer to it as a casita. You can literally change any noun or adjective to make it sound cute, without raising the pitch of your voice like you have to in English when you see a puppy and squeal, five octaves higher, “Awwwwww, so cuuuuuuute!”

*Notably, Colombian Spanish is different in that they use “-tico instead of “-tito

Are you bilingual? What are your favorite parts about each language you speak?

13 Comments
  • Dave the Belize Real Estate Guy
    September 30, 2010

    Here in Belize most of the resort owners call their little cottages “casitas” although some call them “cabanas”.

    So because I’m male the hispanics call me “flaco”…but they’ve never called me “flacocita”!

  • jasminewanders
    October 1, 2010

    You should correct them!

  • Dave the Belize Real Estate Guy
    October 2, 2010

    I asked a Hispanic friend here what would be an appropriate cute name for “flaco” and they say it’s “flacocito” not flacocita….so now I’m real glad no one has called me “flacocita”!

  • Tom
    October 2, 2010

    Muy buen artículo, creo que entenderás este mensaje. Me hace sentir espectacular que te agrade nuestro lenguaje.

    This whole article was SO CUTE. HEll, yeah.

  • Christy - Ordinary Traveler
    October 2, 2010

    So true! Spanish and Italian are such beautiful languages and so much fun to speak. I’m curious, do you feel like you are fluent in Spanish after 7 months of immersion?

  • jasminewanders
    October 3, 2010

    @ ER I can’t wait to learn Italian! When I was in Italy I heard a couple having a screaming match in the streets of Rome… I thought it sounded so sexy :)

  • jasminewanders
    October 3, 2010

    Gracias Tom! Me alegre que te gusto mi articulito (?) ;)

  • jasminewanders
    October 3, 2010

    @ Christy Fluent, not yet… though I do think I underestimate myself quite a bit. I struggle a bit when I’m in a group of Spanish speakers, but I have jumped over all the other hurdles like speaking Spanish in the morning, understanding conversations I’m not intentionally listening to, etc.

  • Jcliberatol
    October 17, 2010

    actually diminutive of flaca is flaquita, not flacita,, flacocita sounds weird lol

  • Kyla
    June 8, 2011

    “Cielo” also means “Heaven”. :)
    In Spain, other terms of endearment include: cariño, peque (from pequeño/a, mostly for children), guapa, corazón, and preciosa. But in Spain they’d never say “flaca” or “gorda” (as in some Latin American countries) as a term of endearment.
    I love that it’s fairly common for people in the market to say, “Hola guapa, ¿qué te pongo?”

    And with the diminutives, it’s also pretty common when referring to, say, puppies and other small animals for someone to say, “¡Qué cosita!” meaning “Aw, he’s so cute and little!” Or when exclaiming over babies, you might say, “¡Qué carita!” (What a cute little face!) or “¡Mira que manitas tan pequeñitas!” (Look at his/her tiny little hands!).

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    June 8, 2011

    Yeah I wouldn’t really be feeling someone calling me “gordita” haha… also in Colombia, it’s a term of endearment to refer to someone by their skin color, like negrita. Not something you’d say in English but here it’s used a lot.

  • Phillegitimate
    July 12, 2011

    I started reading this post because of the picture of the San Cris street art. Such a great city for learning Spanish just by looking at what’s written on the walls.

    Anyway, I agree with you that I like all the Spanish ways of saying something simple-yet-difficult (although English has plenty: infatuated, smitten, head over heels, enamored, enchanted…), but I also like how economical the language is. Even though it’s confusing, it also makes sense to change words instead of making whole new ones… parar and pararse, despedir and despedirse, etc etc. I guess part of it is that English has always borrowed freely from everywhere, while Spanish is more self-contained (apart from espanglish).

    Anyway very nice post!

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    July 14, 2011

    You’re right, I never thought of all the words you just mentioned… maybe they’re used less frequently than in Spanish, or in my own vocabulary. Thanks for dropping by :)

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