7 junio, 2024

Colloquial language: what it is, characteristics, examples, importance

What is colloquial language?

He colloquial language It is the one we use in everyday conversations with our family, friends or school or office colleagues. The adjective «colloquial» is derived from the noun «colloquium», which means conversation.

It is a spontaneous, improvised language, which is not the product of conscious elaboration, but rather springs from the heat of immediate emotions and impressions.

For this reason, it is full of repetitions, incomplete sentences, inaccuracies, youth slang words, and when compared to written language, which is usually the product of analysis and organization, we find it somewhat chaotic.

Colloquial language is mainly oral; however, it is not only used in that type of communication, but also in text messages, on instant messaging platforms and on social networks.

The most recent expressive resources, such as emoticons or gifs, also belong to the colloquial or informal dimension of communication. In literature, likewise, there are many stories and novels where we can find colloquial language, either in the dialogues between characters or in the narrator’s voice.

Colloquial language characteristics

It presents numerous repetitions and redundancies.
It is mostly oral, and its transcription is sometimes difficult and laborious.
It is common to all social classes and educational levels, that is, it does not matter if you have formal education or not, in a family context people tend to speak simply.
Sentences are usually short and grammatically simple.
Sentences often remain unfinished, as it is not necessary for the speaker to feel expressed and the listener to understand what he meant.
In colloquial language, intonation is of great importance, which underlines the emotional tone of the content expressed by the words, and, in the absence of graphic question marks or exclamation marks, it is the only way to know if the speaker is asking a question or making a statement.
It is imprecise from the lexical point of view. This means that, instead of using the appropriate name for each object, wildcard words such as “thing” are used. Something similar happens when actions are expressed: instead of using the precise verb, most actions are expressed with “do”.
Many words are used in their shortened form: profesor – profe; math – math; small – small
The augmentative, diminutive and appreciative suffixes are used very frequently: Carlitos, partidazo, altote.
Interjections are also frequently used, which are words or expressions through which a state of mind is expressed: watch out!, bravo!, go!, olé!, go!, etc.
In oral language, profanity and other profane expressions are frequently used.

Examples of colloquial language

1- Well, nothing. That Sunday arrives, and the night before I moored next to Tío Nico and in front of Pasión after walking in there for three or four days… without reading a newspaper, or listening to the radio, or seeing Father Apeles on TV or seeing TV itself, that is, total Martian. And I land on Sunday, as I say…, and I tear off the cabin and also hose down the deck. And then I give it to myself, I carry dirt and salt even on my DNI, and I shave my face, where, by the way, I have more and more gray hair in my beard.

2- With my children it happened to me. They were sitting there on the… on the bench. My eldest son’s girlfriend comes and she says to my mother:

– Will you give me Fran’s papers on the motorcycle? Which is that she has been punctured and the police, since she does not have her papers, they want her papers, which they believe she was stolen.

3- I call the phone number and a lady appears. She told me from shameless to everything that can be said to a person. Until you see that she put on someone else and says: ‘Look, he’s from here, from headquarters,’ she says, asking for so-and-so. I mean, well, that’s not me.

4- But the thing was as follows: they bought the numbers on Friday, threw them on the office table and on Monday when they went to work they didn’t find out anything.

5- He doesn’t even look, he picked up the phone, and says: «Jesus is not here, nor is his f… mother.» And I: «Vincent, for God’s sake.» He says: “Neither Vicente nor Saint Vincent, but what have they believed tonight”.

6- I saw it, yes, sir. I saw it all. Anyway, the usual, a young boy, with nothing on his mind. I saw him coming. And I warned: ‘That kills’, I said. I grabbed a lady and moved her out of the way. It can be said that she saved her life from her. And then came the mess. Everybody asking: ‘Who is he?’, ‘Is he dead?’.

7- Pass me the thing that is on top of the table, that, yes, no, the one next to it.

colloquial language words

Colloquial language is not the same in all Spanish-speaking countries, but rather varies considerably according to the particular history and customs of each nation.

Below you will see examples of colloquial vocabulary in three countries: Spain, Argentina and Mexico.

In Spain

Molar (that likes or likes); Majo/a (nice and attractive person); I work (work); How cool! (Great, cool); To be covered (to have a lot of money); It sweats me (I don’t care, I don’t care).

In Argentina

Being in the oven (getting into trouble); Jewel (great, stupendous); Birra (beer bottle); sandpaper (hunger); Put on your cap (speak with seriousness or authority); Estar de la gorra (to be crazy, insane); Go to work (go to work).

In Mexico

Chavo (boy, adolescent); To give him that it is mole de olla (to do something in a hurry, in a hurry); Get him off his balls (calm down, calm down); From a staple (which is free).

Importance of colloquial language

Colloquial language serves above all to promote interpersonal relationships, lower tension in more formal situations and feel relaxed. It also serves to establish a more direct communication with others.

Linguistic competence will help us to know where, when and how to use colloquial language.


Online Encyclopedia (2018). Colloquial language. Taken from encyclopediaonline.com.
Hidalgo Navarro, A. (). The commentary of colloquial oral texts. a didactic approach to the analysis of colloquial conversation. University of Valencia. Taken from cervantes.es.
Language materials (nd). colloquial register. Taken from materialesdelengua.org.
Porroche Ballesteros, M. (1997). Analysis of colloquial texts in the teaching of Spanish as a foreign language. Congress memories Teaching Spanish as a foreign language. from past to future.

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