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Depending on the country you are in, the Spanish language can differ in many aspects. Accents, common words, usage, etc. can change quite drastically from continent to continent, country to country, and even from places within the same country. Honduras is not exempt from this phenomenon, and while the countries in Central America are very much similar, there are differences you should know.
Regional Definition Differences
Some words that are offensive in one country may be perfectly acceptable in another. One example of this is the word chucha. In Honduras this word means dog [female], and is used quite commonly. However, if you were to use it in Costa Rica, Ecuador, or some other countries, it would be considered very offensive. The best way to learn these irregularities is to ask questions, and remember when someone tells you not to say something.
(In the MTC they will teach you that the word for lazy is flojo. That word does not mean lazy in Honduras, and rather means someone that is free with themselves; or someone with loose standards. This word is derogatory, especially when used to describe a woman. Instead, to call someone lazy, you should use the word perezoso.)
In Spanish there are many ways to say the same thing, even more so then in English. This can make it hard at times, as people will use a word you haven't learned yet causing you to become lost in the conversation. The word pig for example, may be referred to as: cerdo, chancho, coche, marrano, cochino, or jabali. (However some of those words describe certain varieties of pigs, and cannot necessarily be used interchangeably.)
There are also many words used to denote children in Honduras. Their usage is usually dependent on location. Niños, cipotes, güirros, chamacos, chigüines, patojos (Guatemala) are the most common variances used.
Hondurans often use the "Vos" form of Spanish between family or very good friends, especially amongst teenagers. Generally speaking, present-tense verbs take the endings of ás added to the root of -ar verbs, és for -er verbs, and ís for -ir verbs. Because the accent is on the final syllable, you also will not find the stem changes that you do when tú is used. The present-tense, second-person familiar form of tener (to have), for example, is tenés instead of tienes, the present-tense form of vivir is vivís instead of vivis, and the present-tense form of poder is podés instead of puedes. Among the irregular forms is sos for ser. Therefore, "vos sos mi amigo" is the equivalent of "tú eres mi amigo," or "you are my friend."
In the Imperative or Command form the stressed syllable is the last. For example: callate vos, instead of cállate tú; hablá (hablámelo), instead of habla (háblamelo); etc.
Latin Americans as a whole use a lot of hand motions and body language to communicate a point. You could say that motion is essential for their language. In Honduras it is considered very rude to point at anything with your finger. The way they point in Honduras is with there lips. This may be very odd to get used to at first, as you will think they are trying to kiss you, or come on to you. However, you will become accustomed to it, and find yourself "lip pointing." Watch out when you get home though, because although it may seem natural to you, those around you will find it strange.
Latin people also snap their fingers a lot, but not like we do it here in the states. They do the following. They place the tips of their thumb and middle finger together firmly, with the index finger relaxed they shake their hand up and down. As the relaxed index finger hits you middle finger a snapping sound is created. The Latin people do this when they are happy and excited, when they have burned themselves slightly, and even when they laugh.
When giving the height of something, for instance a person or a dog or any object, you must signal correctly with your hand. To give a person's height you must hold your hand like you would to say stop in the United States and height of the person is measured from the base to the palm to the ground. To tell the height of an animal or inanimate object you just keep you hand level.
Along with hand gestures, if a person's hands are full or dirty when greeting someone, they will offer their elbow or wrist for you to shake.
Beside their proper Spanish names, Central Americans also have names that they use for people from each country in Central America.
Slang / Other Interesting Words
In Honduras there are many colloquialisms that are used to mean something other than their original definition or that simply do not exist in other countries. Because of the number of such words we will not make a list of them on this site. However, if you wish to find more information on these words you can find some sites on the Links page that can give you examples.
There are a few words that do deserve some recognition here. They are found below.
This word means worthless, of poor quality, terrible, cheap, etc. (or basically "sucks"). I was told that this saying started some years back when the Shasta company was in Honduras selling their soft drinks. During that time, they had a promotion where you could trade a certain number of bottle caps in for a free watch. This became very popular, and you could see "Shasta watches" all over. However, these watches were very inexpensive, and of poor quality, and therefore broke easily. So when you finally got a decent watch, people would tell you "Hey, you got rid of your Shasta." From that the connotation "chasta" evolved, and was brought into common usage, although not to denote the soft drink company. Needless to say, Shasta does not have any business in Honduras anymore. The word is pronounced more chasta than shasta, although I've been told you can spell them either way.
As far as I know this is mission slang only, and would not be understood by many except missionaries and some members. It is used to roughly describe a girl (or guy for the Sisters) who flirts with missionaries. A guíper is more interested in the missionary than in the message. They can be members, or non-members, and in general are usually in their later teens, although there are exceptions. (Note: Avoid them!)
Although Belize is no longer in the mission, information regarding the country is still presented here due to the historical relevance of the country in the mission.
There are at least 15 different Creole Languages in the Caribbean, 10 in Africa, and another 10 elsewhere in the world. Creole Languages are formed by the forced contact of two or more languages. They are called French-lexifier, Hindi-lexifier, Dutch-lexifier, or Arabic-lexifier Languages. 'Lexifier' means that the majority of the vocabulary comes from that language. Belize Creole is an English-lexifier Language, but it also has words from numerous African languages, the Miskito language of Nicaragua, and various dialects of English, Spanish and Maya.
Belizean Creole is almost exclusively a spoken language, and while it can be written, Belizeans who speak Creole almost always write in English. Also, Belize Creole differs depending on location (rural/urban), although usually not to a great degree. The rules described below are meant to be a brief linguistic overview, and should not be considered all-extensive. Words and sentences in Creole will be written according to the rules organized in 1994.
One needs to also remember that Belize is very multi-cultured. Spanish, English, Creole, Maya, Garifuna, and a few other languages are spoken within the country. Most Belizeans will understand you if you speak English, although you might not be able to understand them. However, the national language is English, so you should be able to read all signs and directions.
A Short Grammer of Belize Creole*
|Subject Pronouns||Verbs in the Present Progressive Tense|
|/ I||/ We||Wat yu di du?||What are you doing?|
|/ You||/ You [plural]||Wat unu di du?||What are you [guys] doing?|
|/ They||Wat ih di du?||What is he/she doing?|
|Wat wi di du?||What are we doing?|
|Wat ah di du?||What am I doing?|
|Wat dehn di du?||What are they doing?|
Spoken Creole does have a proper grammatical structure, although it may not seem so to the casual listener. The examples given below are listed to help give a better understanding of the grammatical structure used in Belize Creole. However, they do not represent a thorough, nor completely accurate, description of Creole, and are only used to show some of the structures employed.
I ate my rice and beans.
|Past Habitual (completed) Tense
He/She used to always suck his/her finger.
I will eat my rice and beans.
|Past Conditional Tense
I would have gone but I didn't have enough money.
|Imminent Future Tense
I'm going to town.
|The Primary Equative Verb - "to be"
He is a farmer.
|Present Progressive Tense
I am eating my rice and beans.
|The Equative Verb in Future Tense
I want to be a teacher.
|Past Progressive Tense
They were dancing all night.
|The Locative Verb
I am right here.
|Past Completive Tense
I already ate my rice and beans.
|The Locative Preposition
He/She is at school.
|Past Habitual Tense
I used to go to the village every week.
|A Passive Construction
The wood has been chopped.
*Some information for the Short Grammer of Belize Creole section was taken from the Bileez Kriol Glassary an Spellin Gide, published in 1997 by The Belize Kriol Project.
Various Examples of Belize Creole
|Ih layad.||He's untruthful. / He's a liar.|
|Ih only layad.||He only lies.|
|Ah no like yu.||I don't like you.|
|Ah di try.||I'm trying.|
|Kungo. / Lesgo.||Let's go.|
|Wat di gwaan?||What's going on? / What's up?|
|Yu alrite?||Are you alright? / How are you?|
|How moch aklak?||What time is it?|
|Weh-paat yu liv?||Where do you live?|
|How ole yu?||How old are you?|
|Shee twelv yaaz ole.||She's twelve years old.|
|Lesgo go study!||Let's go study!|
|Wi gwine da yu hous.||We're going to your house.|
|Gimmi sohn a dat.||Give me some of that. / Can I have some?|
|Ah miss yu.||I miss you.|
|Weh Dehn deh?||Where are they?|
|Dehn deh da Cayo.||They're at Cayo (a city in Belize).|
|How yu feel?||How do you feel?|
|Wi mi-di daans.||We were dancing.|
|Hu da deh?||Who's there?|
|Hu dat?||Who's that?|
|Shee da mi galfren.||She's my girlfriend.|
|Shee wahn be mi galfren.||She will be my girlfriend.|
|Weh-paat yu kohn frahn?||Where are you from?|
|Gimme yu fone number.||Can I have your phone number?|
|Ay mi-di read wen yu call mi.||I was reading when you called me.|
|For hi sister look gud.||His sister is good looking.|
|Ah hungry, ay waana...||I'm hungry, I want...|
|Yu want something fi eat?||Do you want something to eat?|
|Di dog no dead yet.||The dog's not dead yet.|
|Ih mi-di wahn doctor.||I was a doctor.|
|Weh yu eat?||What are you eating?|
|Wi wahn mark a chapter make yu read.||We will mark a chapter for you to read.|
|Dat mi mi birthday Wednesday.||It was my birthday Wednesday.|
|Mi name di...||My name is...|
|Ay don mi wahn missionary.||I was a missionary.|
|Wen deh wahn kohn bak?||When will he/she come back?|
|Yu ma di home?||Is your mom here [at home]?|
|Kohn, kohn ya pikni!||Come here [child]!|