Episode 10: Jopara!

In most parts of Paraguay, Spanish and Guaraní are as inseparable as pig fat and ground corn. Sometimes when I ask people if a word is Spanish or Guaraní, they have to think for a minute. They’re so used to just using them together without thinking about where one language ends and the other begins.

Today we’ll talk about how you can use the both languages together. There’s a system for using Spanish verb cars in the Guaraní trains. So if you already know Spanish it’s going to be a big boost. Some Spanish verbs have all but replaced their Guarani counterparts. Although somewhere out there there’s probably a Guaraní word for it, almost no one knows it or uses it.


The first Spanish verb we’ll look at is the word for “to practice”, which is practicar. If you asked someone how to say “to practice” in Guaraní, they’d probably just shrug and say, Practica no más, like, "Just use the Spanish." So let’s say we want to use this word to say in our Guaraní Jopara, "I’m practicing." On the front end, what you’re going to do is simply add the driver car. For I, che, it would be the a, right?

On the back end, you’ll notice that all verbs in Spanish end in an “r.” That “r” is going to be karate chopped off and left to die in the river. So now we have Che apractica. And then you can just add on whatever caboose you want.

"I’m practicing." Che apractica hína.
"I want to practice. Che apracticáse.
Nde repracticátapa. “Are you going to practice?”

Another word used like this is the word vender, which means "to sell". Let’s practice using this to say, "You all sell pizza." Take vender and add the driver car we need, which for you all is pe. Then we’ll karate chop off the r, and we have Pevende pizza. So how would you ask, using piko, "Do you all sell terere?" Peẽ pevende piko terere. How would you say “I sell terere?” Che avende terere. How about “They sell pizza." Ha’ekuéra ovende pizza. And what does this mean: Ñande ñavende y. “We sell water.” There you heard that ña, because vender has an n in it, so it’s considered nasal.

Moving on we got cocinar, "to cook". “I will cook tonight.” Che acocinata ko pyhare. “You all will cook today.” Peẽ pecocinata ko’ára. And what does this mean: Nde recocina ra’e keuhe. “Did you cook yesterday?”

Something you should be doing a lot of is studying. “To study” is estudiar. If the Spanish verb starts with a vowel, it kind of gets eaten up by the Guaraní beginning. So "I study" is Che astudia. "You study" is Nde restudia. “Are you all studying?” is Peẽ pestudia piko.

Another good one is “to change”, which is cambiar. So how would you accusingly say to someone, “You changed.” Nde recambia kuri. How about, “They will change.” Ha’ekuéra ocambiata. And what does this mean: Ore rocambiase. We want to change.

Other commonly mixed Spanish verbs:
English → Spanish → Guaraní

  • to read → leer → lee
  • to eat dinner → cenar → cena

  • to iron → planchar → plancha
to cross → cruzar → cruza
to rent → alquilar → alquila
to invite → invitar → invita
to accompany → to acompañar → acompaña
to pay → pagar → paga

Other ways in which Guaraní and Spanish are mixed:

A lot of times a Guaraní caboose is just latched on to a Spanish word. This happens a lot with question cabooses. You’ll hear, for example, Quépa. Which is the Spanish qué, for "what", and the question caboose, pa, to mean, “What?” Or you’ll hear Quién piko, with the Spanish quién, for “who” and the question caboose piko. *Another good one is sipa? Which is si, "yes" in spanish, and the question caboose -pa. Kind of like Right? Yeah?*

Another thing that is tacked on is that -pe, which means in, to or at. "At school" would be escuelápe, with the Spanish escuela for school. "At the corner" would be Esquinápe, with the Spanish esquina for corner. And here’s where things start to make me crazy. Esquina has an n in it, so you’d think it was nasal and that you would use -me, but people just don’t. They use -pe. That’s all I have in the way of explanation.

Also, you’ll never hear the days of the week in Guaraní. But you will hear that -kue ending, for example, to say, on Saturdays. "On Saturdays I go out." You would take the Spanish word for Saturday, which is sábado, and add the -kue. Sabadokue asẽ. "On Saturdays I go out."

Let’s go over the days of the week and save you a Google search.
Monday is lunes.
Tuesday is martes
Wednesday is miércoles
Thursday is jueves
Friday is viernes
Saturday is sábado
Sunday is domingo.

"On Mondays they work." Monday being lunes, you would say, Luneskue omba’apo. You can use this as well to say something like, "Monday afternoon." That would be Lunes ka’aru. "Thursday night." Jueves pyhare.
Also, when you want to say you’re going to do something during a certain month, you would use the month plus -pe, again -pe whether or not they have an m or n.

Those Spanish months are:
January: enero
February: febrero
March: marzo
April: abril
May: mayo
June: junio

July: julio
August: agosto
September: septiembre

October: octubre

November: noviembre
December: diciembre

So Ahata Brazilpe enerope is “I’m going to Brazil in January.”

One more thing is that you will use Spanish for numbers higher than 5, but we’ll have to go over those another time.

Sometimes the word will be in Spanish, but they’ll just pronounce it with the Guaraní accent. What is that? In Guaraní, words are stressed on the last syllable, unless there’s an accent in another part of the word. For example, the word for table in Spanish is mesa. When you want to Guaraníze the word, it becomes, mes-A (accent on that last a). Another word that is Guaranízed is vaca, which in Spanish is cows. In Guaraní, it’s vaka, and the c turns into a k. This happens a lot in Jopara.

Another letter that changes is the h. In Spanish, you don’t pronounce h’s. The word for "sister" is hermana, and it begins with an invisible h. When this word get’s Guaranízed, it’s ermána, without the h. Because in Guaraní, you pronounce h. So to keep the pronunciation, they take off the h. Also, an accent appears over the middle a, so that it’s not hermanA. The placement of accent marks is about the last thing you need to worry about, but just know that if a word doesn’t end with an emphasis, there’s an accent mark in there somewhere. While we’re on the subject, you should know that the word for "brother" is ermáno. 

And here are two words that are just Spanish Spanish, mixed in. The first one is for "but", like “I wanted to eat ice cream, but my stupid brother ate it all.” This kind of but is just pero in Spanish. I wanted to eat ice cream, pero my stupid brother ate it all. Let’s say in Guaraní, “Julie says yes, but Marcos says no”. Julie he’i héẽ, pero Marcos he’i nahániri. How about, “I want to eat sushi, but you want to eat pizza”. Che ha’use sushi, pero nde re’use pizza. And what does this mean: Añe’ẽse Oscarpe pero ohoma. “I want to talk to Oscar but he went already.”

Another good one is the word for “because,” which is porque. Why are you going to the kitchen? Porque ha'use pizza. "Because I want to eat pizza."

Another word you will use is the word for "the". In Spanish, this can be feminine, la, or masculine, el. In Guaraní, you just use the feminine la borrowed from Spanish. You’ve said this before in Mba’e la pórte. La pórte is "The situation". So Mba’e la pórte is “What’s the situation?” or “What’s up?”

There aren’t strict rules about it, but I think you can just hear when you should put in the. Like if you were planning on cooking a pizza and you wanted to ask, "Did you cook the pizza?", you would use it. Nde recocinama la pizza.

But continuing the the "Me Tarzan, you Jane" kind of sound, you can use the la or many times just leave it out.

There’s this other set of words that are almost like Spanish, but I think they were Guaranízed farther back. It’s not just one letter that’s changed, but it’s almost like someone who speaks Guaraní trying to speak in Spanish. 

Here’s an example. The word for "shoe" in Spanish is zapato. The word for shoe in Guaraní is sapatu. I doubt the Guaraní people were saying sapatu for shoe before the Spanish Conquistadors came, but now it’s considered part of the language. “I want to use your shoes” would be Che aiporuse nde sapatu. You’ll notice they don’t put a plural on this for shoes, shoe or shoes is sapatu. “I have one shoe” would be Che areko peteĩ sapatu. What would be, “Where are my shoes,” using piko as the question word. Moõ piko oime che sapatu.

Another is the Spanish word queso, which means "cheese", and is kesu in Guaraní. "I want to eat cheese" would be Ha’use kesu. "Do you want to eat cheese" would be Nde re’use piko kesu. How about, "My cheese is all gone?" Opa che kesu. 

For one last word, let’s talk about how they say Paraguay in Guaraní. When you want to say the country of Paraguay, it’s Paraguai, and you change the ending y to an i. They do use that spelling with the y, but it’s the name for the capital city, Asunción. And since it ends in y, it’s pronounced Paraguay (with the ug). To say, "in Asunción", it’s Paraguaýpe. "I’m going to go to Asunción" is Ahata Paraguaýpe. "They will come to Asunción tomorrow." is Ha’ekuéra outa Paraguaýpe ko’ẽrõ. What would be, “We go to Asunción on Saturdays,” using the ore form? Ore roho Paraguaýpe sábadokue.

Ok, let’s practice.

1. I practice Guarani on Mondays.

Che apractica Guarani luneskue. 

2. I want to change my shoes.

Acambiase che sapatu.

3. He knows how to make cheese.

Ha’e ojapokuaa kesu.

4. I’m going out with my sister Saturday. 

Asẽta che ermánandi sábadope.

5. Just us are going to study on Mondays. 

Ore roestudiata luneskue. 

6. Pecocinakuaa piko?

Do you all know how to cook? 

7. Ore rojapo pizza vierneskue. 

We make pizza on Fridays.

8. Revendetapa nde vaka enerope?

Will you sell your cow in january?

9. Mba’épa acocinata ko viernes pyhare?

What will I cook this friday night?

10. Moo piko jahata Paraguaýpe?
Where will we go in Asuncion?

Here's a conversation:

Mba’éichapa Oscar.

Iporã. Ha nde. Mba’éichapa reiko.

Aiko porã. Mba’e rejapo. 

Ahata amba’apo. 

Ha upéi? Mba’e rejapota ko ka’aru. 

Aterereta, ha upéi amopotĩta. Ahatama.
Jaterereta ko ka’aru. 


That was:
“How are you doing Oscar?”

“I’m good, and you?”

“I’m good. What are you up to?”

“I’m going to work.”

“And then? What are you going to do this afternoon?”

“I’m going to drink terere, then I’m going to clean. I’m going now, see ya!”

“See ya. We’ll terere this afternoon.” 


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