The Matrix – Spanish Word Comparisons

This is a guest post by Jared Romey of | Real World Spanish

Jared is the go-to guy for anyone learning or considering learning Spanish, and he’ll blow you away with how much he knows about the Latin American varieties of the language. He has a fantastic website with insight and knowledge of the Spanish language that I’m sure you won’t find anywhere else online.

Speaking ArgentoIf you’re a hardcore Spanish learner or intending to travel to certain parts of Latin America, Jared’s also authored dialect-specific grammar and speaking guides (paperback and Kindle) that have received some great reviews on Amazon. Make sure to check them out.

About Jared Romey (in his own words):

Suffering a typical 9-5 existence, my foray into lunch-hour Spanish shook up my mundane life.  I quit my job, stopped by briefly to school, and then left my country…for 14 years.  Early stumblings in Real-World Spanish taught me that a cola isn’t just a soft drink, bicho doesn’t always mean a bug, and boludo may be heartfelt or middle-finger felt.  Nine Spanish-speaking countries, three startups, two bestsellers and a Puerto Rican wife later I am still confounded by how many Spanish words exist for “panties.”  My quest is to discover all those words.

Jared Romey

The Matrix

Here’s the thing about learning Spanish. Most teachers lie to you from the first day. Hola bursts through their lips. It may be implicit lying, but they have hidden the truth. And not the little-white-lie type of lie. It is a major, life-threatening kind of lie. You see, they claim they will teach you Spanish.

Oh, of course they tell partial truths. “It will take time for you to learn…You may never speak like a native…verb conjugations are difficult…for native English speakers, masculine and feminine nouns will be tough.” Partial truths are the best way to skillfully lie.

But they leave out the most important truth. The one REAL truth.

If you have already started learning Spanish, you may have even felt they were lying to you. Did you ever ask how to say cake? Maybe when it was someone’s birthday in class? Maybe just because you can’t resist a chocolate cake and want to know how to order one for your first abroad visit “in country.” Four simple letters to translate and even if the teacher answered, it was a lie.

Your teacher lied right to your face. Did they tell you that cake translated as bizcocho, queque, torta, pastel or some other word? Well which was it?

And just when they answered, you felt something wrong. The teacher perhaps hesitated before answering or maybe even stammered “It depends, but generally you say…”

In that instant, you knew you were right. Something was wrong. They hid the REAL truth.

So here The Matrix reveals the REAL truth. All those words mean cake. Yep, every single one. It’s just that each means cake in a different country.

You got it. You bet. Spanish is not one language with one translation from English to Spanish. It is several. The vocabulary changes so much, it may not be useful as you switch countries.

Don’t believe me? Let’s try again.

Popcorn. Well, there’s pochoclo, pororó, poscorn, palomitas, cabritas or canchita. Take your pick.

Still can’t believe? Bus. Micro, colectivo, bondi, autobus, guagua.

Sandals. Playeras, chancletas, ojotas, chalas, sandalias, chanclas.

Drinking Straw. Pajita, sorbeto, sorbete, bombilla, popote.

It goes both ways. Taco. That famous Mexican food, a woman’s high heel, traffic jam, a small square of paper, a pool stick.

This is important so will be repeated. Spanish changes from one country to the next. Step from Chile to Argentina and sure you will be understood. Until you are not. Lapiz pasta, volantin, corchetera. Pen, kite, stapler. All regular Chilean words. All useless when you cross the border.

Puerto Rico to Mexico? China, chiringa, mahon. An orange, kite, jeans. Useless in Mexico.

The truth is Spanish changes so much from one country to another some vocabulary you learned may not help.

The solution to this is to embrace The Matrix:

Cake Popcorn Bus Sandals Straw
Argentina torta pochoclo bondi/colectivo ojotas pajita
Chile torta cabritas micro chalas bombilla
Mexico pastel palomitas autobús chanclas popote
Peru canchita sandalias
Puerto Rico bizcocho poscorn guagua chancletas sorbeto
Spain tarta/pastel palomitas autobús chanclas pajita

The Matrix is alive. The Matrix never ends.

This is the one REAL truth.

Check out for more from Jared.

This was written by Jared Romey.

Help both Jared and myself by sharing this post using the buttons below. Please Retweet, Like and Share this with people on your lists.

Gracias! :)

Comments: If you’ve got something you’d like to add to this or some constructive criticism you can do that at the bottom of this page. Just please be respectful. Any abusive or nonsensical comments will be deleted.


Why I Love Rhinospike and Forvo (And How They Differ)

One of the the many challenges that stuck-at-home language learners (people who for whatever reason can’t travel) face is that they miss out on necessary, vital error-correction from native speakers and exposure to correct forms – something that comes often when learning through speaking in an immersion context.

In my time abroad, I’ve always had native speaker friends to correct me when I say something wrong, or help me fix up sloppy pronunciation in conversation.

I remember a friend mocking me years ago over my use of the Arabic word, ghabi (غبي) (stupid in English). For some reason I picked it up incorrectly and had been pronouncing it as ghobi which resulted in me sounding very ghabi to everybody who heard it. Through my friend’s well-intentioned ridicule, I started speaking it correctly. Error-correction like this is a natural and vital part of the language learning process.

People at home unfortunately miss out on this kind of input.

When we’re stuck at home, perhaps working a 9-5 job or attending college, we aren’t always able to readily consult native speakers.

And it’s not just about consulting either – it’s about being around them long enough that they’re exposed to your language level in many different conversational contexts, and therefore have opportunities to correct your errors (and of course for you also to be exposed and to correct yourself).

Now, obviously Skype and various other voice chat options are extremely useful but let’s face it, finding native speakers who are willing to spend enough time with you over chat software can also be difficult. Unless these people are real friends or have some other reason for investing time with you (i.e. money or language exchange) it’s not easy.


This is where Rhinospike and Forvo are indispensable tools

These tools both have essentially the same goal in mind: you, the learner, submit a piece of writing and native speakers will say it for you. It gives you a chance to hear exactly how it should be said, and they can correct you at the same time (Lang-8 has a similar goal but for writing rather than speaking).

Here’s where Rhinospike and Forvo differ:




  • It allows you to request anything from a word to a block of text to be read out by a native speaker. You could, theoretically, ask for a letter, conversation or short story to be read.
  • By helping others in your native language, you “bump” yourself up the queue for having your own requests responded to.
  • It has an excellent feature to request a transcription of an audio file or YouTube video. If you’ve ever watched a foreign language video or listened to a radio segment and haven’t been able to ‘catch’ what’s being said, this is a really useful option to have.
  • At the time of this writing, it boasts 10462 recordings in 51 languages, with very few recordings in less common, more exotic languages.




  • Forvo is for word pronunciation specifically, so the option to submit large blocks of text isn’t there. It does however allow you to submit multi-word terms and phrases.
  • It has a nifty search function so you can search for a word you’re unsure about and quickly find a native-spoken submission.
  • It also lists words in categories which makes it easier to find what you’re looking for.
  • At the time of this writing, Forvo boasts 1,172,633 words, 1,222,657 pronunciations and 281 languages.
  • Its list of languages contains a lot more less-common ones than Rhinospike does.


Combine them both for maximum advantage

I use both of these excellent tools together where I’m able to.

Forvo is good for a quick reference, as it has such an enormous database of words available. Using the search box, you can usually find what you’re looking for (sometimes you have to play around with different word forms to get the right results).

If you have time to wait, Rhinospike is good to hear exactly what you need (though most of us don’t like waiting). You can browse through previous submissions however and sometimes you’ll get lucky and find exactly, or close enough to what you need.

These are both fantastic, completely free tools and especially useful to the stuck-at-home language learner.


What are your thoughts? Any similar sites out there that you’d suggest?

This was written by .

If you liked this article or found it useful, show your support by sharing it using the buttons below.

Comments: If you’ve got something you’d like to add to this or some constructive criticism you can do that at the bottom of this page. Just please be respectful. Any abusive or nonsensical comments will be deleted.

How To Learn A Language That Has Really ‘Hard’ Grammar Easily

March 18, 2014 – 4:58 am

How To Learn A Language That Has Really ‘Hard’ Grammar Easily

Happy Spring time, all
It’s been about 8 weeks now since I moved to Russia and started immersing myself in the Russian language.
Despite all the bad news coming out about the whole Russia/Ukraine thing, everything’s fine.
I was actually…

Language Immersion In Russia – First Impressions After 1 Month

February 14, 2014 – 4:27 am

Language Immersion In Russia – First Impressions After 1 Month

Behind me and my new friend there is the Qolşärif mosque at the Kremlin in Kazan. It’s a nice place to visit even when it’s freezing cold.
G’day all!
I’ve already been living in Russia for about a month,…

Guest Post: The Only Real Language Learning Hack

February 5, 2014 – 5:31 pm

Guest Post: The Only Real Language Learning Hack

Today’s guest post is from Olly Richards, an accomplished polyglot from the UK who is currently living in Qatar (jealous!).
Olly runs a blog called I Will Teach You A Language where he shares some really sound and helpful advice,…

Every Time You Fail It’s A Stepping Stone On The Path To Fluency

January 21, 2014 – 4:33 am

Every Time You Fail It’s A Stepping Stone On The Path To Fluency

Привет from freezing (currently -23 °c) Tatarstan!
I’ve now been in Russia for just over a week and so far it’s been a great move coming here.
As an Aussie from the coast of sunny Queensland where I pretty much…

About The Mezzofanti Guild

Learning another language or want to? This site is aimed at offering you unique foreign language learning tips, travel advice, anecdotes, encouragement and providing another handy place for language learners to connect.

Click here to read more about The Mezzofanti Guild.

Like this blog?