Episode 1: Greetings


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Greetings from Yataity, Paraguay. This is the first (notes for the) episode of a podcast I like to call Guaranime. In this podcast we will be learning how to speak Guaraní, the language of the beautiful country of Paraguay, where I am currently living as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I’m making this podcast as part of my service work, with future and current volunteers in mind, along with state department workers and any other english speakers who are crazy enough to take one the task of learning to speak like a crazy person.

Before I arrived I hadn’t heard one word of Guaraní. I also did not know much Spanish, so the transition was pretty tough. I’m hoping people can benefit from this by learning a little Guaraní before they come down. Also, I’m learning Guarani through Spanish, I really wish I had someone to teach me in English. So that’s something I’m hoping to provide.

So here’s how this podcast going to go down: I’m going to try to make a podcast about every two weeks, if I can and if it’s not raining and the internet is working and I don’t feel like drinking terere in my hammock instead. That’s how we roll in Paraguay. I’m going to aim for 10 new words every podcast. After I give a new word, I’m going to pause so you can repeat it. At the end, I’m going to have a native speaker say the words during the review.

Today we are going to talk about the idea of jopara and I’m going to give you some greetings for vocabulary. Then we are going to talk a little about how words are made up in Guaraní.

I am still a student for sure. I’m just now at the point where I can have little conversations. To make sure all the information is accurate in the podcast, I’m going to have these lessons reviewed by a trainer who speaks English and Guaraní.

But here’s a caveat about Guaraní, as long as we’re talking about what’s right and what’s wrong. Guaraní is an oral language that varies from region to region. The Guaraní that I know is right on my street in Yataity in the region of Guairá. There may be variations in different areas, so the best way to learn is really to practice with the people where you live. You will know that you’ve got it wrong when people point and laugh at you.

Nothing is more frustrating than when you study something and the first time you use it your friends say, “No one talks like that.” It may just be that people talk like that in Takuati, but not in Caazapa. So really, local public shame is going to be your best teacher.

Here’s you’re first major lesson in how people speak, which is the idea of jopara. In Paraguay, there is Guaraní and Spanish. When people say Guaraní Guaraní, they mean total Guaraní, which hardly anyone uses. More popular is jopara, which means mixture, of Spanish and Guaraní. Sometimes you’ll learn the Guaraní word for something, and the first time you use it, someone will be like, Just use the Spanish and you’ll feel like a total dork. And you throw another flash card in the trash. Unfortunately the best way to learn is trial and error, so prepare yourself for a lot of error.

Now it’s time for those 10 vocab words
Let’s start with greetings, because when people stare at you, if you look as foreign as I do, you’re going to want something to break the awkward silence.

Just like in English, there are quite a few ways to say hello.

The most formal, for strangers or older folk, is Mba’éichapa. For people who are your age, or with whom you’re friendly, there is Mba’etekoiko. And also Mba’e la pórte. For either one of these, your response is going to be Ipora, which means you’re doing well. You could also say Tranquilopa, which means everything is tranquilo or chill. There you see a little of the jopara, with the spanish tranquilo and a Guaraní word ending, pa, which we’ll get to later. (So my Guaraní tutor told me that when it's a jopara, in textbooks anything that is jopara is separated with a hyphen, like, tranquilo-pa, to emphasis that one is Spanish and the other Guaraní. But I think that's stupid and I've never seen it written that way in real life, so I will continue with the non-hyphenation school of thought on this one. I will not think different of you if you use the dash.)

After someone says how are you and you say fine, it’s nice to say, “And you?” For that you’re going to say, Ha nde. Most likely, if all is well, they will say Ipora avei. That avei means “as well.” As in, "I’m good as well."

Other less formal greeting are Ha upei? which literally means, And then? In the street, boys and men passing each other yell out Op!

And for one last word, we’re going to say good-bye, for which you can use Jajotopata.

So, there you have it, 10 words to study this week in Guaraní. Now I’m going to have a little conversation.

Mba’e la porte
Iporã, ha nde
Iporã avei.

Mba’etekoiko
Tranquilopa.

Mba’éichapa
Iporã ha nde
Iporã avei


Now, if you’re brain is fried already, pause and take a tv break. If not, let’s go on to talk about how words are made up in Guaraní.

At the risk of sounding a little too elementary schoolish, we’re going to say words in Guaraní are like trains. In Guaraní, you can add different parts to a word, different train cars in front and in back like on a child’s toy train set. Each one changes the meaning.

Let’s look at that long train that we just talked about, that word for good-bye: jajotopata.

In the middle there is the verb car, topa, which means, to find.

The Ja sound which starts the word is the car that carries the message of who is doing the verb. Ja means we do this verb. We find.

The Jo that comes after it, is the car that is reciprocal, meaning we’ll do it to each other. We find each other.

And finally, the caboose back there after topa is ta, which is the car that means the future, that someone will do this verb in the future. We will find each other. Is the literal translation, kind of like a “see ya soon” in English.

Don’t worry too much about this now. But as we go on, you’ll start to be able to pick apart words, to see each car that makes up the train.

Now let’s review!

1. What would you say to an older woman who you’ve just met for the first time?
Mba’éichapa

2. How about someone with whom you are friends?
Mba’etekoico or Mba’e la porte

3. Someone says Mba’e la porte to you, and it’s a totally chill day, relaxing in the hammock. How are you going to respond?
Tranquilopa

4. How about just saying “I’m good”?
Iporã

5. Then how are you going to ask them, “and you”?
Ha nde

6. You ask someone how they are. They say Ipora, ha nde. How are you going to respond?
Iporã avei

7. You’re riding your bike fast down a hill and zoom past a friend. What’s the quickest greeting you can think of?
Op!

8. You greet a buddy in the street and are about to go on your merry way. How do you say Goodbye?
Jajotopata.


That´s it! For more info on Paraguayan Peace Corps life, check out my blog at peacecorpsparaguay.blogspot.com.


  1. Mba’éichapa
  2. Mba’etekoiko
  3. Mba’e la pórte
  4. Tranquilopa
  5. Ha nde
  6. Iporã
  7. Avei
  8. Ha upei?
  9. Op!
  10. Jajotopata

8 comments:

  1. Hi!! I would love to hear your podcasts, but for some reason I can't download them -- I've subscribed, but would like to hear the previous ones as well -- is there a way to access them? Thanks so much

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  2. Hi! I am having the same problem downloading the podcasts that Julia is having. Would love to listen. Also wondering if there is a way to access them. Thanks so much for providing this wonderful information!!!

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  3. Hey... this is Fatima here! a native-spanish/guarani-speaker! I want to thank the person who create this. It just make feel so proud of it. I really appreciate what you have done here. Anything you need for help just let me know.

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  4. Hi!! I don´t know if you are still writing but I´ve just come across it and I love it!!! I´m argentinian and my boyfriend is paraguayan. I still live in Argentina and I love the language!! I really like your blog!!! :) Thank you :)

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  5. Bravo! A big congrats to all the people learning guarani via this blog. I'm Reinaldo (Rey) from Paraguay living in the Philippines. To be again acquaincted with my guarani perhaps, I should join you and re-start again my own language learning process. I lost vacabularies, fluency and I am not so confident to speak guarani as it was 20 years ago. - I speak, Spanish, Tagalog, and English of course Guarani, but I need to re-sharpen again. Happy Learning and Happy Holidays Too!

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  7. Hello Fatima,
    I am doing a project on Paraguay and would like to know some common slang used in Paraguay. So far I have haku and iporã but I need 3 more. Thanks!

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