Lost in Translation: Essential Words to Know for Your Peru Trip

Whether you are planning your vacation in Peru and taking a Cusco city tour or embarking on a Machu Picchu tour, an exciting journey promises a world of culture, history, and thrilling adventures. But amidst the breathtaking landscapes and bustling streets, get ready for a few linguistic surprises that might sprinkle some extra fun into your experience! Just remember, even if you literally translate these English to Spanish words, there might still be some quirky differences. But don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with a friendly guide to some essentials you’ll want to know while exploring Cusco:

  • Menu: In English, “menu” typically refers to a list of dishes available in a restaurant. However, in Spanish, “menu” can mean both “carta” (the full menu) and “menu almuerzo” (a set lunch).
  • Water: Most people know that “water” in Spanish is “agua,” but did you know that in certain situations such as public places, “water” might indicate the location of a toilet or restroom?
  • Cartel: In English, “cartel” often refers to a criminal organization, particularly involved in the drug trade; however, in Spanish, it simply means sign as a synonym of “letrero.”
  • Atención: While “attention” is straightforward in English, in Spanish, “atención” can also mean “horario” or schedule.
  • Lonche: In English, “lunch” denotes a midday meal, but in Spanish, “lonche” refers to a light dinner.
  • Cobra: In English, a “cobra” is a venomous snake, but in Spanish, “cobra” means to charge or demand payment.
  • Frozen: In English, “frozen” typically refers to something that has turned into ice. However, in the context of drinks, in Spanish it can also describe a particular type of beverage with ice blended like a slushie.
  • Marco/a: While “Marco” can be a name in both English and Spanish, it also means “frame” or “mark” in Spanish.
  • Mayor: In English, the “mayor” is someone who holds a position of authority. In Spanish, it can mean “older than” when referring to age.
  • Danza: In English, this looks like the word “dance,” but in Spanish, it can specifically denote traditional dance forms.
  • Gas: In English, you fill your car up with “gas.” In Spanish, they usually say “combustible” at the gas station.
  • Face: While in English, the word “face” refers to the front part of the head, in the age of social media, it’s often associated with Facebook when speaking in Spanish.
  • Planta: In English, this looks like the word “plant,” but in Spanish, it can also refer to the sole of the foot (“planta del pie“) or the upper floor of a building (“planta alta“).
  • Metro: In English, the “metro” is commonly associated with subway systems, but Peruvians may be referring to the supermarket called “Metro.”
  • Colegio: In English, this looks like the word “college” as in a higher education institution, but in Spanish, it means “school” or “high school.”
  • Preservativo/Conservativo: In English, these words might suggest food preservatives, but in Spanish, they actually refer to “condoms”!
  • Efectivo: While this looks like the word “effective” in English, in Spanish, it commonly means cash.

With these language tips in your back pocket, you might be able to connect with locals and soak up the vibrant culture with ease during your Cusco trip. As you dive into this colorful blend of language and tradition, may your journey be filled with unforgettable moments and exciting adventures. 

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