Paraguay – Spanish Language and Culture
Population: 6.3 million (UN, 2009)
Area: 406,752 km² (157,048 sq miles)
Currency: Guarani (PYG)
National Holiday: 15th of May
Calling Code: + 595
Time Zone: GMT – 4
GDP: Total – US$ 14.95 billion (2009)
Per Capita – US$ 2,350
The Spanish Language in Paraguay
Most Paraguayans speak both Guarani and Spanish. In fact, it is the only Latin American country where the majority of the population is bilingual. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Spanish spoken in Paraguay has strong influences from Guarani, especially in syntax. Intonation is not as strong and marked as in the Spanish spoken in neighboring Argentina and Uruguay, but some similarities can be noted such as the almost exclusive use of ‘voseo’. Some typical characteristics are the replacement of pronouns ‘la’ and ‘lo’ by “le” or the pronunciation of ‘f’ as an ‘h’-sound (fuego = huego).
Special words and expressions
- ella anda por su cabeza – she does what she wants / feels like
- estoy kaigue – I am lazy, I don’t feel like doing anything
- estamos con los perros – we are with our buddies/friends
- garufa – party
- achuchar – to shiver
- apolar – to sleep
- ella es una bagre – she is very ugly
- zarpado – amazing, extraordinary, big
Some common Guarani words or expressions used in Spanish :
- “na” – please
- “Aijue lete!” – used to emphasize, as a strong exclamation
- “Ani kena” – please don’t do that
- Aina ndee” – expression of pain or sorrow Guarani saying
- “Anike re pyru yaguarete ruguaire” – don’t step on the tail of the tiger (be aware, be careful)
Other languages spoken
- Guarani is an official language along with Spanish; it is understood by over 90 % of the population. Close to 20 additional Amerindian languages are still spoken in Paraguay
- German – There are some 25,000 German-speaking Mennonites living in the Chaco region.
- Groups of Italians and Ukrainians (over 25,000 speakers for each language), as well as smaller groups of Russians, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, and Arabs, have settled in Paraguay and maintained their respective languages.
Spanish dialects and variations
- Only 7% of Paraguayans speak only Spanish; most of the population is bilingual, giving their Spanish a strong Guarani influence.
- Differences can be noted in the dialect and the degree of influence from Guarani depending on the geographic location and social class.
- Regions found along the borders with Argentina and Uruguay have a dialect very similar to Rioplatense.
Geography and Climate
Separated by the large Paraguay river, the terrain is made up of wooded slopes netted with rivers and lakes to the east and vast semi-arid planes to the west. The climate in the west is tropical but subject to drought and flooding. The east is more humid with a large amount of rainfall year-round.
History & Politics
The first Europeans to inhabit Paraguay were Jesuit priests whose mission was to convert the indigenous populations to Catholicism. Paraguay gained independence from Spain in 1811 but was devastated in the War of the Triple Alliance against Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, which lasted five years and finally came to an end in 1870. Over half of the Paraguayan population was lost in this war along with huge tracts of land, causing Paraguay to remain an entirely land-locked country with a population consisting of only about 15% men. In 1954 Paraguay entered a thirty year period of dictatorship that left the country in deep political instability.
¿Sabías qué….? The Paraguayan flag along with the national flags of Moldova and Saudi Arabia are the only national flags with different emblems on their obverse and reverse sides.
The media represents a wide range of political views, including those of the opposition. However, subjects concerning corruption or political unrest are still often considered too risky for journalists and media sources as they are liable to face harassment and intimidation from powerful figures and parties.