When I moved abroad to Chile, I landed in the middle of “txtng cntrl;” the nation currently has more cellphones than people. With cell-to-cell calling rates of more than fifty cents a minute on a prepaid phone, many cell-phone using Chileans are master texters.
And while you may (like me) not favor the secret-agent/word game quality of the abreviaturas, if you want to communicate with people on chats, forums and/or SMS in Spanish and need to descifrar what people are saying, you’re likely to need at least an elementary handle on of some of these terms.
Here are examples of 20 commonly-used expressions throughout the Spanish-texting world, with a more detailed explanation of the rules that underlie their formation, so you can decode them as you go along si quieres, if you like. Many phrases can be spelled in a variety of different ways, depending on individual texters and which rules are applied.
Netspeak in Spanish: The Basics
|Because / why?||Porque / por qué?||pq / pq? OR xq / xq?|
|LOL||(sound of laughter)||jajaja / jejeje / jijiji|
|Kisses||Besos / besitos||muak / muac / bs / besi2 / bx|
|Also, me too||También||tb|
|Greetings / farewell||Saludos||salu2|
|Please||Por favor||porfi / porfis|
|Good evening||Buenas noches||bnx|
|No comment||Sin comentario||5comentario|
|Doesn’t matter / Makes no difference||Da igual||d=|
|Wait a sec||Espera||pera|
|Do you smoke?||Fumas?||fu+?|
|What’s up?||Que tál?||ktal|
|Then, so||Entonces||ntnc / tonces|
How to Form Spanish Netspeak
After several years of mostly unintentional study, I’ve come up with the following eight somewhat flexible rules that describe how Spanish SMS is formed. They may be applied in isolation, in tandem or to such a great degree that only careful parsing will reveal just what is going on behind the SMS letter-salad.
1. Letter Disappearance
The most commonly dropped letters are the initial “e” or “es” or the “d” found between vowels.
Examples: estoy → toy / toi, espera → pera, todo → too
2. Letter Replacement
The most common letter replacements are the hard “c” and “q,” which become “k,” “y” is replaced with “i,” and “ch” becomes “x.”
Examples: quiero → kiero, quién → kien, eschuca → kuxa (double letter replacement AND letter disappearance).
3. Siglas – Initials
This is similar to the English-based AFAIK (as far as I know) or IMHO (in my humble opinion). The first letter of each word in a well-known phrase or syllable in an often-used word is used instead of the whole word/syllable.
Examples: te quiero mucho → tqm / tkm, te amo mucho → tam, también → tb
4. Rebus – Letters that “Say” Their Names
Here there is a play on the fact that in addition to a sound (or two), each letter has a “name,” also seen in English with the letter b used to connote “be.” Once you know the names of the letter in Spanish, this one becomes fairly easy.
Examples: bebé → bb, eres → rs, encontrar → ncontrar, cadena → kdena
5. Numbers & Symbols
This is similar to the rebus above, where numbers are pronounced and mathematical functions are called by their names: x = por, + = mas, and – = menos.
Examples: saludos → salu2, recién → re100, besitos → bsit2, porque → xq, al menos → al-, demasiado → de+sia2
6. U Dominance
The combinations bu or gu lose their initial consonant, and leave you with a u sound, written as a w.
Examples: bueno → weno, buena → wena, guapo → wapo, guapa → wapa
Spanish is a gendered language, where the male form of a word is used when both males and females are present. Some people will use the arroba (@ sign) to replace the final vowel, so it is both an “o” and an “a” to show inclusivity.
Examples: amigos/amigas → amig@s, todos/todas → tod@s
8. English Loans
This is the use Spanish phonetic spelling to communicate English words. Sometimes when you just can’t make out what something means, you have to say it out loud to yourself, pronouncing each letter like it would be said in Spanish, to see if you can make sense out of it.
In the following common examples you’ll find a greeting, birthday wishes, an apology and a request if you can decipher them: jelou, japibirdei, sorri, plis.
The rules above are often applied in combination, which can make the whole thing quite nreda2 (enredado, tangled/confusing). But if you keep just a few basic expressions in mind, you should be able to hold your own, for a few minutes anyway. Qs3! Que estrés!
If you’re interested in learning more Spanish Netspeak, the most complete online dictionary (entirely in Spanish) is a compliation and public-sourced site at diccionariosms.com.
Matador has recently launched an all Spanish site that includes original features as well as translations of some of the network’s most popular articles. Check it out here: Matador en Español.