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Deciphering Spanish Phrases by Context in Latin America

Published February 12, 2022 in Learning Spanish & Portuguese , Mexico - 0 Comments

While I’ve been studying or speaking Spanish for maybe 13 years roughly (going back to high school), there are still phrases or words I don’t know.

And, truth be told, I obviously didn’t take all 13 of those years seriously (especially in high school as I took it much more seriously by college).

But, on top of that, I can continue on with Spanish for the rest of my life (likely will) and there’ll still be words or phrases I don’t know.

And the funny thing is that I can live in a country – like Mexico – where certain slang is used often but yet it doesn’t come on my radar until years down here.

When I first began living in Mexico for example, certain expressions that Mexicans used were weird to me at first.

Like how people say “buenoooo?” when answering the phone or say “mande?” right before being asked a question.

Whenever a Mexican that I knew – like my last girlfriend or some friends – would say “buenoooo?” after answering the phone, I could never help myself from responding “maloooooo?”

Because, to me, why are they saying “buenoooooo?”

If I had to guess, maybe it’s because they’re shortening a phrase that would look something like “can you hear me OK or good?”

Or maybe it’s “I hear you gooooood.”

Who knows.

Similarly, there’s this random stranger on some Facebook group that I’m part of that posted a comment saying that he needs help and feels lonely. Wants someone to talk to. 

I sent him a message.

In order to be funny to lighten up the mood, I played around with words as you can see here. 

He said “a poco” which is a Mexican phrase.

And I responded “a muchoooo.”

As you can see, he didn’t get it.

In the famous words of Arthur Flick here: “I’m a comedian!”

Arthur Watching Himself On TV Joker

Or I so hope so….

And you know what?

I didn’t actually understood what he meant by “a poco” what he said that.

It wasn’t until literally a day or two after that conversation where I finally understood what it meant.

Waiting for the Gorditas

Soon after, I found myself sitting down on some cheap stool in front of some local lady making me some gorditas in a Mexico City neighborhood known as Pedregal de Santo Domingo.

Truth be told, I’d fuck her.

Ever since I’ve been going to her street food table, I’ve always felt some weird sexual chemistry between us.

Still, when it comes to people who are making me food, I try to keep it civilized.

Not to mention her mom has this weird vibe that I don’t get. She’s nice but I think she’s caught on that her daughter likes me and has suspicions of the White Man.

Anyway, on another day as I said, I’m sitting down in the blazing heat waiting for her to cook my gorditas.

And we make some small talk.

She’s asking me questions.

“Do I live here? Where do you live exactly?”

“What do you do for work again?”

“How do you pronounce your name again?”

“How do you say this expression in English?”

And, during the conversation, I responded to some question she had – whatever it was – and she responded back with that phrase of the suicidal man above “a pocooooo.”

Thanks to that depressed dude, I knew ahead of time that my “a muchoooo” joke wouldn't have gotten much laughter from her so I didn't try it this time. 

But, in that moment, I realized or had a strong suspicion of what “a pocoooo” meant.

Even though I’ve lived here in Mexico for years now, I’ve oddly enough never learned this specific phrase until now.

Cut me some slack. I take forever to get things done.

It was in the context of the conversation anyway where I figured it out.

Didn’t even ask her what it meant.

In the context and how she said it, it sounded like she was saying the English version of “really?” or maybe “no way?”

In the moment, I did want to ask her though what “a poco” meant.

But, being the strongest and wisest and richest and wealthiest and most humble Alpha Chad you have ever met, I didn’t want to give her the impression that, as a Man, I didn’t know something.

After all, how else will she give me that number if I have doubts about the world?

She must be wet from my confidence.

So I kept my mouth shut.

At any rate, we continued the small chat with her asking me a million questions right before I paid her 50 pesos (2.5 USD) for 2 gorditas that I took home with me.

Then I went home, ate my food and, due to my curiosity, I was actually interested in knowing what “a poco” meant and if I was right.

As you can see here, the definition of “a poco” is similar enough to what I guessed it to mean after hearing her express it the way she did in that conversation.

The Point

There’s a few points to drive home either for those learning Spanish and/or thinking of living in Latin America.

For one, never kick yourself for not knowing everything in the Spanish language despite years or even over a decade of learning it.

I’ll be honest in saying that even I don’t feel 100% comfortable that I don’t know literally every word in the Spanish language.

Granted, how many people know every single word in their own native language?

Still, for this reason primarily, I always push back against my sister’s idea of “working as a translator” because I just know there’ll be words out there that I don’t know and wonder if the theoretical employer would fire me for one too many minor mistakes.

 At the end of the day, if something like the expression of “a poco” needed investigation, obviously there’s plenty to learn for me.

As, if I had to guess, there always will be given that it’s not my native language and you’ll always have new words or expressions to pick up.

Second, the fact though that I was able to decipher what “a poco” meant by just the context alone I guess is a good sign of my language abilities.

When I was new to Spanish, there wouldn’t have been anyway for me to do that as I’d have been stumped on most of the words in any sentence.

I suppose that’s another point – the more you learn the language, the more you’ll be able to “wing it” when it comes to guessing what certain other phrases mean mid-conversation or when reading a book as you’ll better be able to decipher the mysterious word or phrase given the context that it is expressed in.

Third, always be humble. There’s always something new in the Spanish language or even in Latin America (or anywhere in the world) that you don’t know and can learn.

Fourth, I still can’t believe that Mexican dude didn’t catch my “a muchoooo” joke.

It’s a good joke!

Fifth, another point is that expressions change by the country as I said in other articles.

Though I actually don’t know if “a pocooo” is a Mexican phrase, I’ve only ever heard it in Mexico.

Certain phrases do change by the country.

At any rate, that’s all I got to say.

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Leave any comments below.

And thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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