Everything You Need to Know About Bolivian Spanish

Everything You Need to Know About Bolivian Spanish

Do you know that Bolivia is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Latin America?

And do you know what language is spoken in Bolivia?

Spanish language learners probably know, but if you don’t know, it's Spanish. In Bolivia, Spanish is the official language, among many others.

Bolivia is known worldwide for its hospitality. This may seem like a cliche but you won’t find such friendly and open-hearted people everywhere.

So, today’s post is about Bolivian Spanish. Where is Bolivia, are there different Bolivian Spanish variants, how different it is with Castilian Spanish, etc. 

A Little Bit About Bolivia

Bolivia is one of the countries in Latin America, located between Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, and Peru.

Back in old times, Bolivia was part of the Inca empire until the 16th century when Spaniards conquested Cusco and Asuncion, so it became one more Spanish colony.

During the colonization period, Bolivia became one of the most important Spanish colonization until the 19th century when the Bolivians raised their voices and fought for their independence.

Bolivia has two capital cities, Sucre, which is a judicial and constitutional city, and La Pay, which is the executive and legislative.

With a population of around 11 million people, Bolivia is listed as the fifth largest country in Latin America, and the 27th largest in the world. According to the population, the number of spoken languages is quite impressive.

Is Spanish The Official Language in Bolivia?

Bolivia is one of the Spanish-speaking countries where there are more than 64 different languages spoken. 

According to Wikipedia, in Bolivia, more than 34 different languages are listed as official, and one of them is Spanish.

The Bolivian constitution, on the other hand, recognizes 36 different official languages besides Spanish.

However, you should keep in mind that many languages that are spoken in Bolivia are indigenous, such as Quechua and Chiquitano, which are, interestingly, also official languages as well.

One thing is for sure: with those many languages spoken, Bolivia is one true linguistic treasure.

Bolivian Spanish Variants

Spanish is spoken by most Bolivians whether as their native or second language.

Just like in other Spanish-speaking countries, in Bolivia, there are different variants of Bolivian Spanish that can be divided according to the parts of the country.

The main Bolivian Spanish variants are:

Andean Spanish

This Spanish variant is spoken throughout the central Andes, which includes Bolivia, too.

This variant influenced Castillian, and mostly Andalusian Spanish, which is noticeable in bigger cities in this part of the country. In small towns and villages, indigenous languages are mainly spoken.

Camba Spanish

Camba Spanish is spoken on the Chaco-Beni plain and in the Santa Cruz valleys.

Like the previous variant, on Camba Spanish influenced Canarian and Andalusian Spanish, but this variant also accepted the influence of Portuguese and Arabic, as well as indigenous languages.

One of the typical characteristics of this Spanish variant is in the word ‘pues.’ In Camba Spanish, it is pronounced as ‘pweh,’ without saying the ‘s’ sound.

Chapaco Spanish

Chapaco is spoken in the regions of Santa Cruz, Chaco regions of Chuquisaca, Villa Abecia and Camarco.

The accent of Chapaco Spanish is similar to the one in Argentina, which is clearly seen in the word ‘voseo.’

Valluno Spanish

Valluno Spanish is a bit similar to Andean Spanish but differs in using idioms and intonation. It is spoken in the regions of Cochabamba and Chuquisaca.

One of the typical things you can recognize in Valluno Spanish is using ‘tuteo’ instead of ‘voseo.’

Differences Between Bolivian Spanish And Castellano

Even though Spanish is one language and it is mainly the same in every country of the Hispanic world, there are some differences in the countries it is spoken.

The reason for differences usually lies in historical and neighboring explanations because due to the influence of other, usually neighboring countries or indigenous languages, or trading with other nations, the language slowly changes, some words and phrases are being accepted and some other words are started being pronounced differently.

Not to be confused, but Bolivians and Spaniards can perfectly understand each other, no matter if both speak their Spanish variant.

But here are some main differences between Bolivian Spanish and Castilian Spanish:

Pronunciation

As we’ve mentioned, Bolivia was a Spanish colony, so when Spanish conquistadors came to Bolivia, they brought the language with them. At that time colonists were mainly from Southern Spain, so they brought their accent to their new colony.

That’s clearly heard in using the letter ‘c’ in the word ‘cerveza’ for example. In Castilian Spanish, this sound is pronounced like the English ‘th’ while Latin Americans hadn’t developed that sound, so it remained as ‘c.’

Vocabulary

A difference in vocabulary is expected. 

Just like there are differences in using words between British English vs. American English, the same is with Bolivian and Castilian Spanish.

Moreover, indigenous languages influenced a lot of Bolivian Spanish, so you can find many phrases that mix Spanish and some words from one of the indigenous languages.

In the following lines, you can see some words and phrases that are used in Bolivian and how they sound in Castilian Spanish.

  • Bolivian: chupar 

Castilian: beber

Translation: to drink, especially alcohol

  • Bolivian: tombo 

Castilian: la policia

Translation: police

  • Bolivian: cojudo 

Castillian: idiota, el tonto

Translation: idiot

  • Bolivian:estar camote 

Castilian: estar loco/a enamorado/a

Translation: to be crazy in love

Grammar

The difference in grammar isn't precisely between Bolivian and Castillian but in Spanish spoken on the whole Latin American continent.

There is one typical difference worth mentioning, especially because their speakers can recognize someone coming from Latin America or Spain.

It is in using informal conjugation in second person plural. While In Castilian Spanish, the verb ‘vosotros’ is used, in Latin America, and therefore, in Bolivian Spanish, too, the verb ‘ustedes’ the same as the third person singular is their favorite.

Final Thoughts

Mastering Bolivian Spanish isn’t hard but it is surely entertaining.

Sure, there are some minor differences you can learn in no time and then you can start using this amazing Spanish variant by talking to the locals.

They will be amazed to hear that someone wants to practice their variant with them and they will do everything to help you.

Besides, by practicing the language with the locals not only do you improve your Spanish conversational skills generally but you also learn many other things that concern their culture, customs, and who knows, maybe you succeed in learning some of their indigenous languages, too.

So, go ahead, improve your Spanish skills, buy the ticket, and off you go to Bolivia to meet that beautiful country and even more beautiful people!

Is Spanish the official language in Bolivia?

Bolivia is one of the Spanish-speaking countries where there are more than 64 different languages spoken. According to Wikipedia, in Bolivia, more than 34 different languages are listed as official, and one of them is Spanish. The Bolivian constitution, on the other hand, recognizes 36 different official languages besides Spanish. However, you should keep in mind that many languages that are spoken in Bolivia are indigenous, such as Quechua and Chiquitano, which are, interestingly, also official languages as well. One thing is for sure: with those many languages spoken, Bolivia is one true linguistic treasure.

What are the differences between Bolivian Spanish and Castellano?

Even though Spanish is one language and it is mainly the same in every country of the Hispanic world, there are some differences in the countries it is spoken. The reason for differences usually lies in historical and neighboring explanations because due to the influence of other, usually neighboring countries or indigenous languages, or trading with other nations, the language slowly changes, some words and phrases are being accepted and some other words are started being pronounced differently. Not to be confused, but Bolivians and Spaniards can perfectly understand each other, no matter if both speak their Spanish variant. But here are some main differences between Bolivian Spanish and Castilian Spanish: Pronunciation, Vocabulary, Grammar.

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