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Guatemalan Spanish: the survival guide

Guatemalan Spanish: the survival guide

November 7, 2016
Guatemalans have a particular accent, just like any other latin american country...

Guatemalans have a particular accent, just like any other latin american country, despite the fact that they speak the same language, there are words that belong only to guatemalans, mexicans or colombians, for example. In Guatemala’s case, there are many words that are used daily and have their origins in the different mayan languages spoken in the country. Everyone who is interested in experiencing and exploring guatemalan culture must know some of the basics of guatemalan spanish. Here we share with you a survival guide, so you can learn more about the famous “chapinismos”. Go ahead!


Second person

In Guatemala when approaching someone there are three different ways to do it: tú, vos and usted. How to use them? Actually, the key is on thinking how close you are to the person you are talking to, and how they react or talk back to you. Guatemalans use the three forms in their daily life in the following way:

para referirse a una persona no hay solo una forma, sino tres. ¿Cómo utilizarlas?


  • Vos: it is used among close friends, they have more familiarity in their interaction. This way is very common in the country, and it can be used like the “vos” used in Argentina, but in a lower and more friendly tone.
  • Tú: it is also very common, it is a bit more formal and it is used between couples, some friends, coworkers, etc.
  • Usted: this one is different, it represents a more respectful and formal treatment. It is used to talk to elderlies, parents, bosses, professors and people you don’t really know.


Some common words you will hear and its meaning

  • Muchá: used to address a group of people, close friends, it means “you all”.
  • Shute: it refers to a nosy and gossipy person.
  • Canche: someone with blonde hair.
  • Chumpa: a thick jacket.
  • Ishto o patojo: kid, teenager, someone younger than the person talking.
  • Chamusca: small foot ball game, it takes place on the streets or yards.
  • Poporopo: popcorn.
  • Chish: it is an expression used to show disgust.


These are some of the words guatemalans use, knowing them will help you understand guatemalan spanish better. It may be hard at the beginning, but in the end it will come naturally to you. Good luck!
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