What languages are spoken in Argentina? 

What languages are spoken in Argentina? 

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated June 30, 2022

Argentina has a population around 45 million people. Almost all of them speak Spanish. Though there is no official language in Argentina, Spanish is the main language. At 1.4 times the size of Mexico, it is the largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world. If you have studied Spanish in another country, the Spanish you hear in Argentina may sound a little different. A dialect of Spanish called Rioplatense is spoken in most of Argentina. 

Many indigenous languages can also be found in Argentina. Also, immigrants from Europe have settled in Argentina so you may hear Italian, German, English and more.

In this article we’ll learn about the languages spoken in Argentina, the Rioplatense dialect and some differences between Spanish in Argentina and Spain.    

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What language do they speak in Argentina?

Argentina has a large indigenous population. There are 14 indigenous languages spoken by 39 indigenous groups in Argentina. Quechua is a language spoken in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador. 

Guaraní is an indigenous language spoken mainly in the north of Argentina, which borders Paraguay. It is one of the official languages of Paraguay. 

Another major indigenous language is Mapudungun. Mapudungun is spoken by the Mapuche people, an indigenous group living in Chile and southwestern Argentina. 

Europeans first arrived in present day Argentina in 1502 from Portugal. The Spanish arrived shortly after in 1516 and quickly colonized the region. Many indigenous people had been living in this region and indigenous languages are still spoken in Argentina. Due to the influence and control of Spain, Spanish became the prominent language. Spanish is spoken as the first or second language by most Argentinians. 

Argentina gained independence from Spain in 1816 and encouraged immigration. An estimated 7 million people immigrated to Argentina between 1870 and 1930. Many of those immigrants came from Italy. Italian is spoken by about 1.5 million people in Argentina. This may come as a surprise, but Arabic is spoken by about 1 million people. Many people from Syria and Lebanon immigrated to Argentina in the 19th century. You will also hear German, Yiddish and English spoken. 

How many languages are spoken in Argentina?

It is hard to say exactly how many languages are spoken in Argentina today. Between over 14 indigenous languages, Spanish, and other European languages, there are more than 20 languages spoken in Argentina.

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What’s the difference between Spanish in Argentina and Spanish in Spain?  

What is different about the Spanish Argentinians speak? In the chart you can see the different vocabulary used in Argentina and Spain. 

EnglishSpanish in SpainSpanish in Argentina
OkayValeDale
Guy / GirlChico / ChicaPibe / piba
WaiterCamareroMozo
HereAquíAcá
ThereAllíAllá
SkirtFaldaPollera
To driveConducirManejar
StrawPajitaBombilla
MoneyDineroGuita
RoadCarreteraRuta

What is Rioplatense?

Rioplatense is a variety of Spanish spoken in Argentina. This dialect is spoken in the areas in and around the Rio de la Plata basin of Argentina and Uruguay. Rioplatense is spoken in the media and in large cities in Argentina such as Buenos Aires, Rosario and Santa Fe. 

Some characteristics of Rioplatense Spanish:

  • Tends to borrow technical words from American English. Spanish spoken in Spain tends to borrow them from British English or from French.
  • Uses the voseo verb form. The pronoun vos (you) is used instead of (you, informal). 
  • Vosotros (you, plural) which is used in Spain is replaced with ustedes (you, plural). This is common in most Latin American countries
  • The double-L sound ll is pronounced like the English /sh/ as in “should” rather than as /y/ (yeísmo) which is common in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world. 

Rioplatense also has many words that differ from Spanish:

EnglishSpanishRioplatense
PotatoPatataPapa
PeachMelecotónDurazno 
Hot dogPerritoPancho
BowtiePajaritaMoño
Cell phoneMóvilCelular

Language diversity in Argentina

There are many unique languages spoken in Argentina on a daily basis. The Argentinian Spanish language offers you an opportunity to learn Spanish in a unique way. The vocabulary, grammar and accent are all individual. Just be sure to ask your moza (waiter) for a bombilla (straw)

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Czech and Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

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