Ecuadorian Spanish

Spanish is one of the most popular languages in the world. It’s estimated that it’s a native language for more than 400 million people and 470 million people have native competences in Spanish.

Spanish speaking countries and territories (Wikipedia, public domain)
Spanish speaking countries and territories (Wikipedia, public domain)

Because it’s widely used in different countries in South America, a number of dialects or versions emerged. The main differences is the accent or pronunciation and the vocabulary. Let’s see what the characteristics of the Ecuadorian version of Spanish language are.

Usted vs. tu & ustedes vs. vosotros

The first thing that makes South American version of Spanish different from its European predecessor is the usage of pronouns. In South America you will address most people in more official way, using the word usted instead of Usted has – technically speaking – the form of the third person, but it doesn’t mean he or she. It means you, even if it joins the verb in third person. Examples:

English Spanish (tú – informal) Spanish (usted – formal)
You are a teacher. Tú eres un maestro. Usted es un maestro.
What’s your name? ¿Cómo te llamas?¿Cuál es tu nombre? ¿Cómo se llama?¿Cuál es su nombre?
You wrote a book. Tú escribiste un libro. Usted escribió un libro.
Don’t touch me! ¡No me toques! ¡No me toque!

So, when you talk to a stranger, your neighbor, a clerk or generally to somebody you don’t know, you use the form usted. What is interesting though, some couples talk one another using the form usted or even parents use the form usted when talking to their children! Such a formality among the family is something hard to understand, I guess.

Generally speaking, younger persons seem to use the informal form tu more often and in most of situations. Elder people, however, may feel offended when addressed in such a way.

The situation with formal and informal you (plural) is simpler. In South America you don’t use the informal form of you in plural. You just don’t. Some people will not even understand the verbs related to informal you. Or when you ask them, they will admit this form existed, but now it’s not used and it sounds ancient (it’s doing quite well in Spain, though). 😉

When addressing a group of people you will always say ustedes and you fill always pick the third plural form of the verb as if you were talking about them. In other words ustedes have the same verb forms as ellos/ellas. Examples:

English Spanish (ustedes – formal)
You are teachers. Ustedes son maestros.
How are you guys doing? ¿Cómo les va?¿Cómo están (ustedes)?
You guys wrote a book. Ustedes escribieron un libro.
Don’t touch me! ¡No me toquen!

Having only formal ustedes is actually a good news, as you will have to remember one verb form less than if you spoke in Spain.

Bien vs. muy

Ecuadorians tend to use the word bien (Eng. “well”) to describe the extent or the level of something. It is someway equivalent to the word muy (Eng. “very”). You can, for instance hear:

Estoy bien cansado.” – “I’m very tired.”

Está bien bonito.” – “It’s very beautiful.”

Bien barato.” – “Very cheap.”

It doesn’t seem bien confuso, does it? 😉

Bien mal

Everybody is your neighbor (or son/daughter)

This is actually funny. When you do shopping or visiting a doctor or just saying hello, the people will call you vecino (or vecina if you’re a woman). This literally means “neighbor”, but what’s interesting, you don’t have to even live close to be somebody’s neighbor. If you visit same shop once or two, you’re automatically vecino! 🙂

Vecino, vecino

The shop owners or doctors sometimes call their customers mi hijo, mi hija (“my son”, “my daughter”). Now, I don’t have to explain this doesn’t have anything to do with being or not being family. It’s just what they call you. 🙂

¿Que mas? Bien, no mas.

We’re getting more and more Ecuadorian in the list. This one is considered to be very typical for Ecuador. When you meet a person you know, you obviously need to exchange questions such as “How are you doing? How is it going?”, etc. etc.

In Ecuador, instead of a standard Spanish question like: “¿Como estás?” or “¿Que tal?” you can easily say:

¡Hola! ¿Que mas?

And a typical answer would be:

Bien, no mas.

Which you can translate to: “Hi, what’s more/new?”, “Good, nothing more/new“. Or less literaly: “Hi, what’s up?“, “Nothing…“. You want to impress an Ecuadorian? Go for it!

¡Siga no mas!

The absolute number one on the list, it’s kind of famous:

¡Siga no mas!

It doesn’t get any more Ecuadorian than this. Neither Colombians, nor Peruvians use that expression. It’s purely, genuinely an Ecuadorian invention! What does it mean? Well, you can translate it simply to “Carry on!“, but it may mean more than that. You can hear that in the response to questions such as “Can I use your bathroom?”, “Can I come in?”, you can be rushed by somebody with it, or you can be dismissed with it when for instance you want to sell something to somebody. Really useful!

Keep calm and siga no mas!

Have you already started to learn Spanish? If not, ¡siga no mas!