Language in Peru

Language in Peru

Speaking Spanish in Peru

¿Habla ingles? Language in Peru

Peru's official languages are Spanish, Quechua and Aymara, although several other indigenous languages have some degree of official status. However, although many people around Lake Titicaca have Aymara as a mother-tongue, and you'll hear plenty of Quechua spoken on the streets of Cusco, Spanish is spoken by just about everybody you're likely to meet.

Obviously all our guides and representatives will speak excellent English, and you'll find English-speakers in most hotels and restaurants as well, but we do give all our customers a special Peru language guide, and we'd also recommend taking a dictionary or downloading a dictionary app to your phone: it can be really useful if there's something you particularly want to buy but a shop assistant doesn't speak any English, or if you want to make sure of what you're ordering...

Peruvian Spanish English
Aji Peruvian Chilli Pepper
Anticuchos Beef-heart Kebabs
Bacan! Great!
Ceviche Fish/seafood cured in lime juice
Chau! / Chaufa! Bye!
Coco US dollar
(una) Chela (a) Beer
Chevere! Cool!
(una) China (a) girl or a 50c coin
Choclo Corn on the Cob
Cuy Guinea Pig
Jerga Slang
Juerga Party
Lomo Saltado Beef and red pepper stir fry
(una) Luca (a) Sol
Mate de Coca Coca tea
Misio Broke (skint)
Rocoto Large, slightly spicy pepper


Of course, we'd also recommend just having a go at some Spanish, and if you've picked up any Spanish on holidays in Europe then you'll find it works just as well in Peru. The only major difference between Peruvian Spanish and 'Spanish' Spanish is that you can drop the lisp: the letters 'c' and 'z' are pronounced like the English 's' rather than the Iberian 'th'. Apart from that, pronunciation is pretty similar and the great thing about Spanish is that it is almost always pronounced as it's written, so don't be afraid of having a go at words on menus or in guides.

Peruvian Vocabulary

Where Peruvian Spanish can be a bit different is in vocabulary, just like American English vs British English. In fact, in the same way that American English contains what are actually archaic 'British' words (eg: Sidewalk for pavement), Peruvian Spanish contains many archaic Spanish words. So Peruvians will say 'manteca' and mean butter whereas in modern Spain it means 'lard' and they use 'mantequilla' for butter.

Aside from the odd example, most vocabulary is the same and frequently any differences are also the same in other South American countries. However, there are a few bits of vocabulary which are uniquely Peruvian, so in this table we've given you a few bits of Peruvian Spanish that you probably won't find in your dictionary!

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