Tango

Spanish words Tango

20 most common Spanish words in tango, explained

20 most common Spanish words in tango, explained

For us the non-native-Spanish speaking tangueros, learning Spanish for tango seems to be a daunting task. The belief we will need to learn a ton of new vocabulary before we’d understand the lyrics is overwhelming and often holds us back from learning Spanish.

The process in fact simpler than you thought! GOOD NEWS:

You will only need to learn the 20 most common Spanish words in tango to start understanding the lyrics.

Thank to the study by Hernán J. González, who has ran an analysis of 13314 words extracted from 765 tango songs and come up with a list of most common Spanish words in tango. You can read his article here.

In this post we will explain the 20 most common Spanish words in tango, plus an example of how they form a part of the song. Given the prevalence of these Spanish words in the tango world, by learning just these 20 Spanish words in tango you’ll make a great leap in understanding tango lyrics, and get a first feeling of what the tango is about when you catch these words in the song!

Without further ado, here’s the list of the most popular Spanish words in tango and their explanation, and examples of songs that contain the word (and link to the song for you to listen):


1. Amor

Amor (love) ranks the top of the list, which shouldn’t be a surprise for us.

We can easily find the Spanish word Amor in the name and also as in the lyrics of many tangos. One example would be the song Todo es amor (It’s all love), which the lyrics, as implied by the name of the song, is all about amor:

Todo es amor,

(It’s all love,)

la brisa y tú

(the breeze and you)

jugando en el rumor,

(rejoicing in its murmur,)

y el ruiseñor

(and the nightingale)

cantando en una flor

(singing upon a flower)

buscando amor, amor…

(searching for love, love…)


2. Corazón

Corazón (heart) ranks second on the list, which perhaps again not a surprise. How can one love without a corazón?

We can find “corazón” in the song “Pocas palabras” (Few words):

Después de tanto vuelvo a hallarte

(After so long, I find you again,)

y que emoción siento al mirarte,

(I feel so much emotion as I look at you,)

siento un loco palpitar en mi viejo corazón...

(I feel my heart pounding like crazy...)


3. Vida

Tango talks about life all the time, so it’s natural that Vida (life) would rank third on the list. There is a load of tangos dealing with life which we can tell straight from their names:  La vida es corta (The life is short); Cómo nos cambia la vida (How the life changes us) and some song writers even go about mirroring tango to life in songs such as  La vida es una milonga (The life is a milonga).


4. Noche

Milongueros are nocturnal creatures and almost everything in tango happens at night, so noche  (night) is another Spanish keyword you must know for tango.

Esta noche de luna” (This moonlit night) is a beautiful song that describes a romantic moonlit night for a couple:

...Y en los abismos

(And in the abysses)

De esta noche de luna

(of this moonlit night,)

Sólo quiero vivir

(I only want to live,)

De rodillas a tus pies

(On my of knees at your feet)

Para amarte y morir…

(To love you and to die.)


5. Alma

Alma (Soul) is another big Spanish word in tango. How can you feel all the emotion in tango without a alma?

Desde el alma (From the soul) is a beautiful val encouraging a broken soul to put things in the past and move on.

Alma, si tanto te han herido

(Soul, if they have hurt you so much)

¿Por qué te niegas al olvido?

(Why do you refuse to forget?)

¿Por qué prefieres

(Why do you prefer)

llorar lo que has perdido….

(to cry for what you’ve lost…)

...Vives inútilmente triste

(You live needlessly sad)

y sé que nunca mereciste

(and I know that you never deserved)

pagar con penas

(to redeem with sorrow)

la culpa de ser buena

(the blame of being good,)

tan buena como fuiste, por amor.

(as good as you were, for love.)


Want to learn more Spanish for tango? Book a class with our Argentine teacher for USD7!


6. Dolor

Tango has known to be melancholic, and we have songs talk about all kind of dolor (pain): pain of separation; pain of betrayal; pain of lost…

One song in which we can find the word “dolor” is the song “Cantando” (Singing):

...Cantando yo le di, mi corazón, mi amor,

(...Singing I gave him, my heart, my love)

Y desde que se fue, yo canto mi dolor,

(and since he has left, I sing my sorrows)

Cantando lo encontré, cantando lo perdí,

(singing I found him, singing I lost him,)

Porque no sé llorar, cantando he de morir…

(because I don´t know how to cry, singing I will die…)


7. Ojos

Ojos (Eyes) play a big part in tango, all the dancing in milongas would not happen without the exchange of glances between the males and females.

Praising the dazzling eyes of a woman is a common flattery trick of Argentine men, and legend has it that Francisco Canaro went all the way to write “ Yo no se que me han hecho tus ojos” (I don’t know what your eyes have done to me) as a love song for Ada Falcón, a tango singer of his orchestra who is famous for her beautiful large green eyes.

...Yo no se que me han hecho tus ojos

(...I do not know what your eyes have done to me)

que al mirarme me matan de amor,

(that their looks kill me with love,)

yo no se que me han hecho tus labios

(I do not know what your lips have done to me)

que al besar mis labios, se olvida el dolor.

(that in kissing my lips, the banish pain...)


8. Triste

Most tango are sad, so there’s no surprise we can always find the word Triste (sad) in the songs.

In the tango “Lejos de Buenos Aires” (Far from Buenos Aires) the lyricist laments for his nostalgia of Buenos Aires:

Con la mueca de pesar

(With a grimace of grief)

Viejo, triste y sin valor,

(old, sad and worthless)

Lento el paso al caminar,

(slowing down my step as I walk,)

Voy cargando mi dolor,

(I am carrying my pain)

Lejos de la gran ciudad

(Far from the great city,)

Que me ha visto florecer.

(That witnessed my flourishing.)

En las calles más extrañas,

(In these strange streets,)

Siento el alma oscurecer.

(I feel the darkening of my soul.)


9. Día

The Spanish word Día means “day”. You can find the word in “Indiferencia” (Indifference)

Yo también, como todos, un día

(I also, like all others, once in the past,)

Tenía dinero, amigos y hogar

(I had money, friends and a home,)

Nunca supe que había falsía

(I had never known that there was falsity,)

Que el mundo sabía también traicionar.

(That the world also knew how to betray.)


10. Querio

Querio” (I like; I want) is the first person form of “querer” (like; want), it also forms a part of the most killing romantic expression in this world—“Te quiero” (I love you)!  

It’s also a word that you'd use a lot for asking for something, for example:


Querio un vaso de aqua.

(I’d like a glass of water)


You can find the Spanish word querio in the tango “Cantando”:


Si es pecado querer tanto en esta vida,

(If it is a sin to love so much in this life,)

Yo te pido, de rodillas, tu perdón

(I am asking you, on my knees, for your forgiveness)

Yo lo quiero tanto y tanto que me muero,

(I love him so much, but so much that I would die,)

Si me faltan las caricias de su amor.

(If I don’t have the caresses of his love.)


11. Voz

Voz means voice, and you can find the Spanish word voz in the tango “Cristal”:

...Tus sueños y mi voz, y nuestra timidez,

(Your dreams and my voice, and our shyness,)

Temblando suavemente en tu balcón,

(Shaking softly at your balcony,)

Y ahora sólo se, que todo se perdió,

(And only now I know, that all was lost,)

La tarde de mi ausencia.

(The afternoon that I left…)


12. Viejo

The Spanish word viejo functions as an adjective meaning  “old” (the feminine form would be “vieja”). It’s also often used as a noun referring to “an old man”, or “father” (The female form is again vieja).

We can find the word “viejo” in the lyrics of “Lejos de Buenos Aires

Con la mueca del pesar,

(With a grimace of grief,)

Viejo, triste y sin valor,

(Old, sad and worthless…)


13. Pobre

Tango originated in the grassroot society of Buenos Aires so there should be no surprise many songs would mention about the life of the pobres (poors). Pobre can also be use an adjective form of poor, but watch out for the difference in the meanings when we place "pobre" before or after the noun it modifies:

Una familia pobre

(A poor family (without sufficient financial resources))

Un pobre familia

(A miserable family)


You can find the Spanish word pobre in the song “Alma en pena” (Soul in sorrow):

...Esa voz que vuelvo a oír, un día fue mía,

(That voice that I hear again, one day it was mine,)

Y hoy de ella es apenas, el eco el que alumbra,

(and now it's just her echo that shines,)

Mi pobre alma en pena, que cae moribunda,

(my poor soul in sorrow, that falls dying,)

El pie de su balcón.

(at the foot of her balcony.)


14.  Pena

Tango is full of pena (sorrow, pity) and regret.

You can find the word in the song's title Alma en pena (Soul in sorrow):

Alma...que en pena vas errando,

(Soul…, that you wander in sorrow)  

Acércate a su puerta, suplícale llorando,

(get close to her door, plead with her whilst crying,)

Oye...perdona si te pido,

(listen...forgive if I ask you,)

Mendrugos del olvido, que alegre te hace ser.

(scraps of oblivion, that makes you happy…)


15. Tango

There should be no surprise that “Tango” is one of the most common words in the tango lyrics!

Claudio Frollo, a prominent lawyer and judge of the Buenos Aires high courts, who was also a ​milonguero (tango dancer who frequent milongas), wrote the lyrics for “Danza Maligna​" (Wicked dance, a song that glorifies tango, naming the orchestras as the altars and the bandoneon as the priest:

...Placer de dioses, baile perverso,

(Pleasure of the gods, this perverse dance,)

El tango, es rito y es religión,

(The tango, is a ritual and is a religion,)

Orquestas criollas son sus altares,

(The native orchestras are the altars,)

Y el sacerdote, su bandoneón

(And the priest, is the bandoneon...)


16. Tengo

Tengo (I have) is the first person present form of “Tener” (to have), and one example of tango that contains the Spanish word “tengo” is Fueron tres años (Three years have passed):

...Aún tengo fuego en los labios,

(I still have fire in my lips,)

Del beso de despedida

(from the goodbye kiss,)

¿Cómo pensar que mentías,

(How could I think that you were lying,)

Si tus negros ojos lloraban por mí?

(If your dark eyes were crying for me?)


17. Querer

Querer” (to wish/ to want/ to like) is the infinitive verb form of “quiero” (I like/ I want ) (#10 most common Spanish word in tango).

You can easily find the Spanish word in many tangos, usually in the form of other variations of the verb form.


One example would be in “Lejos de Buenos Aires” (Far from Buenos Aires):

Nadie observa mi final,

(No one notices my ending,)

Ni le importa mi dolor,

(Nor cares about my pain,)

Nadie quiere mi amistad,

(Nobody wants my friendship,)

Sólo estoy con mi amargor.

(I am just alone with my bitterness.)

Here quiere is the third person form of “querer” in present tense.


18. Llorar & 19. Recuerdo


Llorar” means cry, and “​recuerdo” means memory.

You can find the both words in “Lejos de Buenos Aires


¡Tango que trae recuerdos!

(Tango that brings back memories!)

¡Mi Buenos Aires, quiero llorar!

(My Buenos Aires, I want to cry!)


20. Ayer

Tango always talks about memory and things happen in the past, so it’s no surprise that ayer (yesterday) often forms part of the lyrics.

You can find the word “ayer” in the all time classic tango by D’Arienzo “Paciencia” (Patience):

...Ni vos sos la misma, no yo soy el mismo

(Neither you are the same, nor I am the same)

Los años...la vida...quién sabe lo qué.

(the years...the life...who can tell what.)

De una vez por todos, mejor la franqueza,

(Once and for all, it’s better to be honest,)

Yo y vos, no podemos volver al ayer.

(me and you, we can not return to the past.)

Enjoyed reading this blog post. Learn these 20 most common Spanish words in tango and make a great leap in understanding tango songs!

Most of the tango lyrics and translation are adapted from “Tango words: Letras de tango. A Guide to Tango lyrics with English Translation” by Manuel Garber. You can find the book here.

Like our blog post and want to read more? Like our Facebook Page so you won’t miss our posts (plus you can find a load of FREE resources for learning Spanish for tango!)

Want more Spanish practice? You can book a 30-minute trial class for only USD7 with our Tango Spanish teachers who are tangueras living in Buenos Aires!

Going to Buenos Aires soon? Check out our books Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips and Tango Spanish: Essential Phrase Book For Tango Class (And Language Guide for Tango Shoe Shopping).

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel TipsTango Spanish Essential Phrase Book for Tango Class


Buenos Aires El beso

6 Tips on enjoying the first Buenos Aires milonga and getting more dances

Buenos Aires El beso

I always remember my first Buenos Aires milonga at El Beso 4 years ago. I sat in the third row of the lady section like a wallflower for hours, watching my neighbors being invited over and over. I never succeed in catching the eyes of any gentleman. Every time after my neighbors were out on the dance floor, I felt very exposed with only empty seats surrounding me. I left disheartened. Walking on the busy Avenida Corrientes, I kept thinking what was wrong with me.

Fast forward to 2 months ago, I went to the same milonga and things changed. I was still sitting on the third row, but I became the few tangueras who always got onto the dance floor first every time a tanda (a set of tango music) start. I left the milonga early not because I didn’t get invited, but because my feet were sore and the floor’s got too crowded to move. 

What has led to this transform? ​I have many hard-learned lessons over these years. I wish someone would have given me the following 6 tips earlier so I’d get a head start in milongas and saved many disappointed nights. 

So here I’m sharing these tips for having fun and getting more dances in Buenos Aires milongas, which some of them also apply for milongas, festivals and marathons in other places where you are new and don’t know a soul.

1. Go early/make reservation

I can’t stress enough the importance of the location of your seat. It affects how much you are seen and the ease of cabeceo (the use of sight for dance invitation) with others, especially for ladies. (For men, in Buenos Aires milonga you are allowed to stand up and walk around the room to widen your search for partner ). So try to make a reservation before the milonga, or go early.

2. Attend the class before the milonga

In Buenos Aires there’s often a tango class which the fee is included in the ticket of the milonga. Taking part in the class before the milonga is a good way to make friends, so at the start of the milonga it will be a cinch to get dances. The class will also help you warm up and know the place better and reduce the anxiety of dancing at a venue for the first time. 

3. Don’t take the first invitation

This may sound counter-intuitive, but what I am suggesting is not to take the invitation when you’ve just arrived the milonga and got an invitation from an unknown person. I often got the worse tanda of the night because I was rushing to the floor and didn’t observe the dance of my partner before taking the invitation. This might impact the invitation you get later on as milongueros would observe the dance of a new face before deciding to dance with him/her. If your first tanda is unappealing, and you are seen dancing in bad posture, you may end up getting fewer dances that night. 

 

4. Interact with your neighbors

In Buenos Aires milongas you’d often need to share a table with other milongueros/as. Be friendly and say “Hola! Cómo estás?”  (Hi, how are you?) or “Todo bien?” (Everything’s good?). Engage in small talks with them when they are not busy for cabeceo. Their friendliness and the advice offered to you would often surprise you. I have got many suggestions of the best milongas in town from my neighbors. They would be more likely to dance with you too- I have once danced with my neighbor who was a female leader, and that was the best tanda of the night. 

5. Dress for success

In Buenos Aires milongas people would usually dress classy to milonga. Even in an afternoon milonga such as Nuevo Chique, you would see old ladies wearing their satin or velvet dress and hair arranged in elegant updos, and old gentlemen dressing neatly in their suits. Keep your jeans and T-shirt in wardrobe and match into the dance hall in your best attire! However, it may not be a good occasion to show off your newly bought Comme il faut, as ​people might see you as a nouveau and rich tango tourist. It’s best to wear shoes that have been worn for some time, as they are more comfortable for your feet and would show to the others you are a seasoned dancer. 

6. Thanks the organizers before you leave

This is a point which many people may overlook. Organizing a milongas requires a lot of planning and coordination. By thanking the organizers you show your appreciation for their hard work. It’s also a good way to establish connection, so that when you return the next time, they may offer you a better seat.

Like our blog post and want to read more? Like our Facebook Page so you won’t miss our posts (plus you can find load of FREE resources for learning Spanish for tango!)

Want more Spanish practice? You can book a class with our Tango Spanish teachers who are tangueras living in Buenos Aires!

Going to Buenos Aires soon? Check out our books Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips and Tango Spanish: Essential Phrase Book For Tango Class (And Language Guide for Tango Shoe Shopping).

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips

 

Tango Spanish Essential Phrase Book for Tango Class

Taking tango class in Buenos Aires

4 ways for taking tango classes in Buenos Aires

Planning to go Buenos Aires to learn tango? In this blog post we will walk you through 4 common ways for taking tango classes in Buenos Aires. Finally we will offer a few tips on getting the best result of your learning in the mecca of tango!

4 ways for taking tango classes in Buenos Aires

1. Before milonga

Many milongas in the city would offer a free group class included in the ticket. This provides a great opportunity for learning. In August during the Mundial season you will find many of these classes taught by world renowned masters- a great bargain as it would be more expensive to take their classes elsewhere.

You can look for milongas with group classes on Hoy Milonga. For more accurate and updated information of the class, check the Facebook page of the milonga you are planning to visit.

2. Tango school

There are many tango schools in the city which offer tango classes back to back everyday. The 2 most well-known are DNI and Escuela Mundial de tango. It would be a more expensive option than the one before a milonga, but the classes are more commonly attended by tango tourists so the teachers are more prepared to teach in English.

3. Tango festival

If you fancy taking classes with big names, tango festivals would be a convenient choice. There are many festivals held in different period of time in the year, offering an intensive schedule of multiple classes everyday within one or two weeks by a variety of masters of different styles, so that you can take all your classes in one place without the need of traveling around the city.

Two regular Tango festivals that are held every year are: Cita (March) and Tango Salon Extremo (August).

4. Private classes

If you are very keen to learn with a particular master/couple, and have a bigger budget, taking private classes would be very beneficial for your learning—you will have full attention of the teachers, and they will be giving more specific advice on improving your tango.

One way to contact the teachers for private classes is to look for them on Facebook and send them private messages. However, some very popular teachers may have their inbox overflowed with messages . Another way would be approaching them after their group class or in milonga after their performance.

Final tips for the best result of your tango learning

1. Ask your “home teacher” for advice

Before your trip it may be a good idea to discuss with your teacher(s) in your city for recommendation of Argentine masters. Many tango teachers would have the experience of learning tango in Buenos Aires so they are good resources for advice.

2. Follow your favorite master(s) on Facebook

Many Argentine teacher would have a Facebook account dedicated for publicity where they would post information about their group classes and milongas in which they are performing, making it easier for you to approach and learn with them.

3. Try a group class before booking a private class

Many times a fabulous dancer might not necessarily be a good teacher, and vice versa. Before committing to a private class with a new teacher, it’s always good to take at least one group class with him/her so to experience the teaching and see if it suits you.

4. Don’t take too many classes from different masters

Very often foreign tangueros would find it difficult to resist the temptation of taking many classes with different masters, as the class fee is always a big bargain compared to that back home. However, taking too many classes with different masters often results in confusion, as each master has a different technique. It is not unusual for one master teaching one technique and another master teaching the exact opposite. It’s usually good to focus on learning with one or two master(s)/couple(s) at a time.

5. Set a realistic goal

Many people would go to Buenos Aires thinking the trip would help them to become advance dancers. While intensive learning would definitely be helpful, it will be unrealistic to expect the change to happen overnight. It takes time for your body to adapt to a new technique. The best approach would be taking notes (or videos, if the teacher allows) of the classes, and take time to practice the skills regularly so that they are incorporated into your body and become habitual.

Like our blog post and want to read more? Like our Facebook Page so you won’t miss any new post (plus you can find loads of FREE resources for learning Spanish for tango!)

Want more Spanish practice? You can book a class with our Tango Spanish teachers who are tangueras living in Buenos Aires

Going to Buenos Aires soon? Check out our books Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips and Tango Spanish: Essential Phrase Book For Tango Class (And Language Guide for Tango Shoe Shopping).

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips

 

Tango Spanish Essential Phrase Book for Tango Class

 

5 big questions to consider before going Buenos Aires to learn tango

5 Big Questions To Consider Before Going Buenos Aires for Your Tango Classes

Finally you are taking one step further in your tango learning—visiting Buenos Aires, the mecca of tango. You want to learn with the top Argentine masters, get the most out of the trip and come back with shiny skills and techniques—but wait, have you made a plan for your tango classes? Unless you have the luxury of staying in Buenos Aires for months or even years, otherwise the shorter the time you stay, the better the planning you should have made beforehand.

I remember 4 years ago in my first visit to Buenos Aires, I didn’t make any plans and just went with the flow. I rushed to the first tango classes I saw. I ended up wasting precious time on classes of wrong level or wrong topics which made me more confused. If I had known better how the tango learning works in Buenos Aires and planned more thoroughly, I would have made a better progress.

In this blog post we will first throw you some big questions to consider so to help on your planning.

5 big questions to consider

1. What is your goal?

Goal-setting is crucial for achieving a satisfactory result for any learning. It’s also a question that you’d probably be asked the first time when you are taking a private class with any master, so it’s worthwhile to ponder upon this question. Are you trying to become a better milonguero/a so that more people will enjoy dancing with you? Or you are working towards becoming a stage dancer? Or maybe you will be competing in Mundial de Tango (World Tango Dance Tournament) soon? Having a clear goal will be helpful for you to set up a plan for learning, deciding on the master who you’d take classes with, and for your master to understand your needs and work out a suitable plan for training.

2. When will you go?

If you are going after the big names, the best time to visit will be July-August when the Mundial de Tango takes place, as many renowned teachers and past champions who are always on tours in foreign countries would come back  to be judges in the competition. Another good time would be December-traditional time for family reunion in Argentina when many masters would return from abroad.

For the rest of the years there will still be many Argentine teachers around, they may be fabulous dancers and dedicated teachers but less well-known internationally, and are waiting to be discovered in various group classes in the city.

3. How long are you staying?

The period of time of your stay is another critical factor for deciding the approach of your class-taking. If you are staying only 2-3 weeks, the most efficient way to learn is to take many private classes with one or two masters. However, if you are staying a month or longer, you can afford to spend the first one or two weeks exploring—taking group classes with different masters experiencing their teaching styles and skills, then in the later period focus on your favorite one or two.

4. Do you speak Spanish?

Many foreign tango students are shocked to find out almost all group classes in Buenos Aires are conducted in Spanish, even in tango festivals which are mostly attended by foreigners. In fact, it’s natural to expect Argentine teachers teaching in their mother tongue on their native land, and it may also be difficult to find an exact English translation for some Spanish expressions. Some teachers may offer some English explanation, but often less complete than the original Spanish teaching.

Before your Buenos Aires trip it’s always a good idea to know some basic Spanish, as it will be crucial for your tango learning, as well as for your daily life and getting along with the locals. However if you don’t have enough time to learn, taking private classes would be more effective for your learning.

5. Are you going solo? Or with a partner?

Those who have a dance partner have an edge over the singletons: they have a regular class and practice partner, and can share the cost of private classes as well as other travel costs such as transportation, studio fee, etc. It’s also good to have a company to adapt to a new routine in a foreign city, which can be both exciting and unnerving.

However don’t be disheartened if you go by yourself-you may still be able to team up with other singletons you would encounter in group classes, plus there are many solo techniques classes which don’t require a partner. You can also take advantage of the cheaper private class than your own country. Anyway, the trip will be a great occasion for polishing your skills.

In our next blog post we will be covering four common ways for people to take tango classes in Buenos Aires. Like our Facebook Page so you won’t miss that (plus you can find loads of FREE resources for learning Spanish for tango!

Going to Buenos Aires soon? Check out our books Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips and Tango Spanish: Essential Phrase Book For Tango Class (And Language Guide for Tango Shoe Shopping)

Cover for book Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tip
Cover for Tango Spanish Essential Phrase Book for Tango Class

Want more practice? You can book a class with our Tango Spanish teachers who are tangueras living in Buenos Aires!

christmas

Trouble finding the perfect Christmas gift for your tango friends? Check these ideas!

You and your fellow tangueros share one truly special interest: tango. You may know their other likes and interests, but you’re certain they enjoy tango music and Argentine culture.

During the month of December there are tons of end-of-the-year celebrations, and surely, your tango school is having one. Some groups even play Secret Santa and you may need to buy a present for someone you don’t know well…but you do know their taste for tango!

Take a look at these recommendations to buy the perfect gift!

 

History of Tango – CD of tango music

Getting a cd with the greatest tango music in history is a nice and warm-hearted gift for a tanguero. This cd includes 102 tracks that trace the history of tango. The first cds include music from Astor Piazzola and the other two present the best of the Golden Age of Tango. You can buy it through Amazon. Check here.

 

Yerba mate and mate cup 

If you’ve met Argentine tango masters you’ve surely tried or been offered “mate”. If you haven’t, you can read more in this post (with a video explaining how to prepare it). It’s a typical Argentine gift, and your tango friends will love it! If they were hesitant last time they were offered, now with their own mate they will definitely try it! You can find many options on Amazon (like this one), but make sure it includes the herbs (yerba mate), the cup (mate) and the straw (bombilla) so that your friend has all he/she needs to prepare a true Argentine mate!

 

3. Martín Fierro – The most traditional Argentine book

This is the most well-known Argentine book, written by Argentine author José Hernández.

It’s a unique story about the life of gauchos in the Argentine pampas.

This is the review you can find on Amazon:

“The two poems which, together, are popularly known as the Martín Fierro form what is often regarded as the greatest single Spanish American work in creative literature. Appropriately, it draws from Spain the language and verse forms which have long been the vehicle of improvisation, the didactic folk wisdom of old Spanish proverbs, the Spanish interest in law whether formally codified in the fueros and the Siete Partidas or informally mocked by the pícaros in its practical application, and the Spanish emphasis upon individual worth and independence. Even more directly, the Martín Fierro is national in feeling, portraying the Argentine rural scene and the social aspirations, institutions and events of a great transition period of Argentine history. … Rooted in Spain, Argentine in content, universal in interest, the Martín Fierro is one of the world’s great books and should be more widely known abroad. … This edition is improved by the availability of original and translation on facing pages.” ― Madaline W. Nichols in Inter-American Review of Bibliography

We recommend this version as it includes the English translation, so you can give it to friends who speak Spanish, are learning or don’t speak Spanish at all!

 

Tango Spanish Books

These three Tango Spanish books, written by Jeanie Tsui, a tanguera, and her Spanish teacher Micaella Digenio cover tips and phrases for different situations a tanguero/a may need to face when taking tango classes, going to milongas or travelling to Buenos Aires. These are the best language guide books for tangueros, as they cover all the necessary tools to not only survive, but take full advantage, of a tango trip to Buenos Aires. Even if your friend is not traveling any sooner, he/she will be benefited from learning the essential Spanish phrases for tango classes and for appreciating the music at home.

  • Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips
  • Tango Spanish: Essential phrase book for tango class (and language guide for tango shoe shopping) Coming Soon (on Amazon)
  • Tango Spanish: Essential phrase book for understanding tango music and lyrics Coming Soon (on Amazon)

Tango Spanish Skype Lessons

If you’re thinking of getting a really original and valuable gift for your tanguero friends you can consider buying a package of Tango Spanish lessons via Skype with a native Argentine tutor who is also a tanguera. Master Spanish Now is specialized in providing these lessons to tangueros around the world who want to enhance their knowledge of tango culture and get ready for a tango trip to Argentina.

 

tango

A choosy lover

Tango doesn’t choose everyone.

 

Every year I walk into the master workshop, I see a new crowd of beginners with bright eyes and full of wonders about the dance. They are eager to try every new step. Girls are fascinated by the feeling of their leg whipping high up in the air; men beam with a satisfactory smile when they succeed at leading a new sequence. In the milonga they dance every song with everyone and they are never exhausted. The next year, the crowd disappears and is replaced by another. The beginners come and go like waves progress to the shore, then recede to the middle of the sea, vanish. I approach my Argentine masters, their eyes brim with joy. They open their arms and throw me a hug: “So good to see you again.”

 

Tango is a demanding art. Once you get hooked it devours all your time and energy. In the beginning every milonga is pure joy- you dance to every song, feeling your body carried by your partner and the music, until your feet are swollen. But soon you would realize your lack of technique- your legs wobble in the heels; your body arches back when you are doing the back ocho; your partner complains about you pulling and pushing his/her arm…you sign up for every workshop, take private classes with all masters, and sky’s the limit for the money you would spend on  improving your skill.

 

You see your progress starts leveling off and this is the moment your self-doubt kicks in: Do I lack talent in dancing? Why would I still repeat the error after practicing for so long? Should I continue if I see no improvement? In the milonga you watch others dance with elegance and ease with envy and self-pity in your eyes. You always feel you are not good enough.

 

You would likely have experienced some rejections too-maybe someone who always turns the face away every time your glance meet; or another person who is eager to dance with everyone in the milonga – except you. Your cheeks burn and you feel like a pariah. You hide at the dark corner until you can’t take it anymore and slip away from the door.

 

All the demand of money and time, emotional strain and insecurity about oneself push people away which make tango a choosy and hard-to-please lover. Only a handful of people with a wealth of patience and love can stay.

 

It might take you years to realize learning tango is a lengthy process, and accept bottleneck a stage which every dancer would have gone through. You would start to accept and respect the limits of your body, or you may invest in sports such as yoga and pilates to train the flexibility of your body, the strength of your core and muscles, and your body will thank you later.

 

You might start to see tango beyond purely aesthetic movements – an art that embodies the history, the thoughts, the sorrow and the dreams of Argentinians. If you don’t speak Spanish, you may start learning the language so to understand the poetry of the lyrics and to reach the essence of tango.

 

You may also realize the beauty of movements can sometimes be an illusion- a lady may have been on her autopilot and her partner might in fact, be confused about the dazzling embellishments she adds on her own; the man might have done all the fancy sequences at the expense of the lady racing around him. These dances are merely a showing off of techniques, a set of superficial movements void of connection, emotion and musicality.

 

The longer you stay in the community, the more respect you would gain from the others. People would see your persistence, the effort that you have invested on honing your skill. People who have been giving you cold shoulders may start to fancy dancing with you when your technique is more mature and your balance has improved.

 

Then you, with this newly gained confidence and understanding about the dance and yourself, become a real tanguero, the one chosen by tango.

 

Argentine tango

An essential element for becoming an advanced tango dancer

We all want to become an advanced tango dancer. Who doesn’t want to dance like the Argentine masters we watch in the festivals and on Youtube? Many of us would spend lots of effort and time in honing our technique and skill, but there’s one element that we often overlook which is crucial for us to become a real tanguero- Spanish.

 

Tango is a dance originated in Argentina, and with all the expressions, technical terms and lyrics in Spanish, it is impossible for anyone who doesn’t speak the language to fully understand the art.

 

In this video, Stella Missé, an Argentine tango master, will tell you why it is important to learn Spanish for tango:

 

There are at least 4 reasons for why learning Spanish is essential during your tango journey:

 

1. Jump-start your tango learning

 

 

I always remember how speaking Spanish helped in my earlier stage of tango: in the first month the teacher taught us how to do “ocho” and “lápiz“. Knowing the 2 Spanish words helped to form vivid images that sticked to my mind-“ocho” is the tracing of a “8” on the floor, and “lápiz” is drawing circles with your free leg imaging it is a pencil.

 

Later we were taught more complicated terms like enrosque and ocho cortado, and I saw that many other students had great difficulty memorizing them and they would stumble over the pronunciation even after years of dancing.

 

2. Essential for visiting Buenos Aires

 

Many devoted dancers would visit Buenos Aires-the mecca of tango, so to experience the tango culture and perfecting their skill. If you are one of them, then you should make sure you have learnt some basic Spanish before going.

 

Dancers who don’t speak Spanish often experience a lot of daily inconveniences traveling in the city: you would find everything – from directions in public transport to the menus in restaurants- are in Spanish. Most of the group tango classes would also be in Spanish. Even though some teachers may offer some English translation, it would usually be brief and not cover the whole teaching. Many times I would see  some fellow students coming to the class eager to learn, but left disappointed because they couldn’t follow the teaching.

 

3. Connecting to the mood of music

 

Many non Spanish-speaking dancers would find it easier to dance to instrumental tango because they have difficulty connecting to the emotion of a vocal tango. In fact, dancing to a song which you can’t understand the lyrics can be confusing. Some people may guess the mood of the song from the rhythm, but many times a rhythmical, seemingly lighthearted song may come with sad lyrics. So listening to the music without knowing the meaning of the lyrics may not always give the right judgement.

 

4. Crucial for interpreting of tango

 

What makes a performance by a couple of Argentine masters stands out from the others is often not only the technique, but the way how they interpret the song. In order to understand the sentiment of the song, you have to be able to understand the Spanish lyrics and sometimes the history and story behind the song.

 

This video shows Alejandra Mantinan and Aoniken Quiroga dancing to the song “Tormenta” (Storm). What makes their performance powerful and moving is that they have expressed the emotion of the song wholeheartedly through their movement and facial expression.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOfMquXfwy4

 

*“¡Aullando entre relámpagos,

(Howling between the lightnings,)

 

perdido en la tormenta

(lost in the storm)

 

de mi noche interminable,

(of my endless night,)

 

¡Dios! busco tu nombre…

(God! I seek your name …)

 

No quiero que tu rayo

(I don’t want your lightning)

 

me enceguezca entre el horror,

(blinding me in the horror,)

 

porque preciso luz para seguir…

because I need light to go on …

 

So how could we begin learning Spanish for tango?

 

One way to start is by taking Tango Spanish Skype classes  with Argentine teachers who are tangueras from Buenos Aires. They are experienced in teaching foreign students at all levels and would understand the special needs of tango dancers in learning the language.

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips

Also check out the book “Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel tips” in which you can find a method tailored for tangueros to learn Spanish, as well as tips and useful Spanish phrases for your next tango trip!

 

*Lyrics and English translation adapted from https://letrasdetango.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/tormenta/

 

Tangueros

Top 5 money and shopping tips for tangueros in Buenos Aires

 
Going to Buenos Aires soon and wonder where to exchange for Argentine pesos? Want to know how to bargain for discounts for tango shoes and clothes? And how to save on groceries? Read the following 5 tips about money and shopping from my recent tango trip just a few months ago!

1. Cash is king

Most travelers would bring foreign currency to exchange for pesos in Argentina. The most commonly accepted currency is USD, while some places may also take euros and pounds. If you are bringing USD, USD 100 notes would give you a better exchange rate than smaller notes.

Where to change your money for pesos? Changing at the airport would give you an inferior rate so we don’t recommend it. The best would be going to casa de cambio (changing house) in the city. When you arrive at your accommodation, ask your host for recommendations of changing houses near your place.

While it might be possible to use your bank card to cash out at ATM machines, there might be a pricey service charge so we don’t recommend this unless you are really run out of cash.

2. Can I use my credit cards?

A good news is that credit cards are now accepted in many shops and restaurants, even in some kiosks at the corner of the street. You would see some shops posting a notice explaining their obligation to accept credit card payment. There’s no minimum amount for payment with credit card if you see the notice, so this would be a good alternative if you are low in cash, or simply don’t want to go out carrying a large amount of cash.

Most shops would ask you to show documento (identity document) when you are using your credit card to prove your identity. While you can show your passport, they would also accept your ID card from your own country. They would also ask you to write down your document number while you are signing your receipt.

Spanish phrases you would need to know for using your credit card:

¿Puedo pagar con tarjeta?

Can I pay with credit card?

Su documento, por favor. (Usually by the shopkeeper)

Your document, please.

Firme (ud) /Firmá (vos) acá, por favor.

Sign here, please.

Escriba (ud) su/ Escribí (vos) tu número de documento, por favor.

Write (down) your document number, please.

Many shops would offer the option of cuotas (instalments) by credit cards. Unfortunately it’s limited to credit cards issued by Argentine banks.

3. Bargaining and discount

If you are shopping at street markets (e.g. The San Telmo Sunday market), or making an expensive purchase at a shop you may try to bargain for a discount.

When you are buying tango clothes and shoes, there is usually a difference in price between paying in cash and credit card (for example, a pair of tango shoes may cost 2500 pesos by credit card and 2100 pesos by cash).

Make sure to ask for the prices for credit card and cash before deciding on a purchase. Bring enough cash with you if you want the cash discount. If you are really low in cash, many owners would be willing to take a deposit for keeping your purchase, and you can pick it up later when you have enough cash.

Spanish phrases you would need for bargaining:

¿Podés hacerme un descuento, por favor?

Can you give me a discount, please?

(The literal translation of “hacerme” is “make me”)

¿Cúal es la diferencia en precio pagando con tarjeta y efectivo?

What is the difference in price paying by card and cash?

Depósito

Deposit

4. Where can I get cheap groceries?

Throughout the city you can find many chained supermarkets such as Disco, Carrefour and Dia. If you are new in town and speak little/no Spanish, you may feel most comfortable shopping in these supermarkets as you can find everything in one place, and you don’t need to speak much Spanish for the purchase, but it would be the most expensive option.

Another option that would give you a better price would be supermarkets run by Argentine Chinese. You’d easily find them on the street. They are usually well stocked and have more or less the same variety of goods of major supermarkets, and the price would be clearly displayed.

The Chinese shopkeepers usually speak some Spanish (and Mandarin, of course), but you don’t usually need to speak much to finish the purchase.

If you speak some Spanish you may venture into grocery stores on the street, where you would usually find fresher products at better prices than chained supermarkets, but you would need to know how to ask for the goods and the price.

Spanish phrases you would need for shopping:

“¿Cuánto cuesta/sale …?”

How much…

Darme (the product), por favor.

Give me…, please.

¿Algo más? (Usually from the shopkeeper)

Anything else?

Nada más.

Nothing more.

5. Where is the line?

Ticket dispenser Argentina
Ticket dispenser in Argentina

Sometimes when you enter a shop you would see many locals waiting for service, but there is no line. In Argentina many shops would have a ticket dispenser by the door from which you can get a ticket with a number. The shopkeeper would call out the number of people who are waiting to be served.

Finally, it’s best for you to do all your shopping from Monday to Saturday, as most shops would close on Sunday in Buenos Aires! You may also want to avoid peak hours when the shops are crowded, which are evenings in weekdays, when people are off from work; and midday and nights on Saturday when people shop for family gatherings and asados (barbecues) etc.

Traveling to Buenos Aires soon? Book a class with our Argentine Spanish teachers who are tangueras to help you to learn more Spanish and get more insider tips for the Buenos Aires tango scene!

Also read our book “Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires tips”!

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips

Stay safe in Buenos Aires

Top 7 tips for tangueros to stay safe in Buenos Aires

One thing that often holds tangueros back from visiting Buenos Aires is the safety concern. Indeed, many people would hear stories of theft and someone losing their phone or wallet during their tango trips. However, many of these unfortunate events are avoidable by being watchful all the time and being in the knows. In this blog post we have compiled 7 tips for you to stay safe, plus some essential Spanish phrases that you would need.

1. Choose a safe neighborhood for your accommodation

First rule of thumb to ensure your safety is to choose a good neighborhood for your tango house/hotel/apartment. Many first-time tango tourists would choose to stay in Palermo area which is a middle-class and relatively safe area, and close to 2 famous milongas: Salón Canning and La Viruta.  

2. Take a taxi when you are going/leaving a milonga late at night

Always take a taxi and avoid walking on quiet streets at night. You may call a uber or radio taxi before leaving your home. When you are leaving the milonga, go to a main avenue to get one, or you may ask the organizer to help you to call one.

“¿Pódes llamarme un taxi, por favor?”

Would you call a taxi for me, please?

Here we include a video for you to learn some useful expressions for taking a taxi in Buenos Aires:

3. Put your tango shoes in your own bag

Many tango shoes would come with a shoe bag with the brand name, and some people may carry them on their shoulders after leaving a tango shoe shop or on the way to a milonga/class. Don’t do this when you are in Buenos Aires, as you would be seen as a rich tango tourist and would easily become a target for criminals. Putting your shoes inside your own bag would also help you not to leave your expensive tango shoes behind in places like cafes.

4. Take only the money that you need for the day

Before you go out each day, make an estimation of the money that you’d need to spend (e.g. for the tango class, milonga, taxi, etc.) and take just a bit more of that amount of money for covering your expenses, so that if you unfortunately lose it you’d still have the big part at home.

5. Be alert when using your cell phone on the street

Recently there are incidents of people getting their cell phones snatched off by a motorcyclist on the street. When you are using your phone you are also less alert to the surroundings and become an easy target for criminals. To avoid this situation you should minimize the use of your phone on the street as much as possible. If you need to check your phone, do it near a cafe or a shop. You can also reduce the need of checking directions on your phone by copying the information onto a sheet of paper before going out.

6. Beware of pickpockets

Apart from the cell phone your wallet is a sure target for thieves! Always keep your wallet close to you. Some people use a secret wallet which can be hidden underneath clothes. Some locals do without a wallet and put the money in the pocket of their clothes. When you are in a milonga, it’s best to put your bag under the table or chair when you go out to dance. During your mealtime in a restaurant, keep your bag close to you and do not hang it on the chair. If  you are in a crowded place, carry your backpack at the front instead of at the back.

7. Buy a good travel insurance

Before getting on your flight to Buenos Aires, make sure you are covered by a travel insurance! If your valuables are being stolen or robbed, report to a police office (Comisaría) within 24 hours and get a report. Report to your insurance agency as soon as possible once you have returned to your home country or online.

Some Spanish phrases you might need:

Me han robado mi cartera/móvil.

My wallet/cell phone is being stolen.

Me robaron.

I have been robbed.

Quiero hacer un denuncia.

I would like to make a (crime) report.

Necesito un informe de policía para reclamar el seguro.

I need a police report for claiming insurance.

Like our blog post and want to read more? Like our Facebook Page so you won’t miss our posts (plus you can find load of FREE resources for learning Spanish for tango!)

Want more Spanish practice? You can book a class with our Tango Spanish teachers who are tangueras living in Buenos Aires!

Going to Buenos Aires soon? Check out our books Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips and Tango Spanish: Essential Phrase Book For Tango Class (And Language Guide for Tango Shoe Shopping)!

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips

Tango Spanish Essential Phrase Book for Tango Class
Spanish words for tango lyrics

7 essential Spanish words for understanding tango lyrics

7 essential Spanish words for understanding tango lyrics

 

When you are dancing in milongas, have you ever wonder what those tango lyrics you are listening to are about? While understanding the whole Spanish lyrics often requires a near-native level of Spanish, which we may not be there yet, knowing some words that frequently appear in the lyrics would definitely help us to get a feeling of what the song is about, and makes it easier for us to get into the mood while dancing to it.  

In this blog post we have compiled a list of 7 common Spanish words in tango songs, each with its explanation in English, and an example of a tango song in which the word appears.

 

1. Amor

Amor” means love, and perhaps the central theme of all tango.

One representing tango song that contains this word is “Hasta Siempre Amor” (Farewell, love) (Music by Donato Racciatti; lyrics by Federico Silva). The song has been interpreted by many different orchestras, such as D’Arienzo, Di Sarli, and Salamanca.

When we listen to the song, we will hear the phrase “hasta siempre amor” being repeated many times in the lyrics, for example:

 

“Hasta siempre, amor,

(Farewell, love,)

cuando sueñes conmigo

(when you dream about me)

en las noches de frío

(on cold nights)

ya no estaré…”

(I will no longer be there…)1

 

Click here to listen to the version by orchestra Juan D’Arienzo and singer Jorge Valdez.

 

2. Abrazo

Abrazo” means embrace, the essential element of tango. The verb form of the word is “abrazar” (to hug).

We can find the word “abrazar” in “Volvamos a empezar” (Let’s start over again) (Music by Daniel Álvarez; lyrics by Eduardo Maradei):

 

“Mirá…

(Look…)

Nuestro cachorros como ayer

(Our kids (puppies) are just as before (yesterday))

Mirá…

(Look..)

Como me abrazan otra vez…”

(How they hug me once again…)2

 

Click here to listen to version by orchestra Alfredo de Angelis and singer Óscar Larroca.

 

3. Despedida

“La despedida” (Farewell) is a recurring theme in tango.

The song “Fueron tres años” (3 years have passed) (Music and lyrics by Juan Pablo Marín) describes the heartbreak of a man separating from his lover:

 

Aún tengo fuego en los labios,

(I still have fire on my lips)

del beso de despedida.

(from the farewell kiss.)

¿Cómo pensar que mentías

(How could I think you were lying)

si tus negros ojos lloraban por mí?”

(if your dark eyes were crying for me?)2

 

Click this link to listen to the version by orchestra Jorge Dragone and singer Argentino Ledesma.

 

4. Mentira

Mentira” means lie, and “mentir” is the verb form (to lie).

The song “Y todavía te quiero” (And still I love you, music by Luciano Leocata; lyrics by Abel Aznar) tells the torture and pain of a man being repeatedly deceived by the one that he loved:

 

“Sin embargo… ¿Por qué yo no grito   

(But … Why I don’t cry)

que es toda mentira, mentira tu amor

(it’s all lies, your love is a lie)

y por qué de tu amor necesito,

(and why I need your love,)

si en él sólo encuentro martirio y dolor?”

(if in it I only find martyrdom and pain?)1

 

Click here to listen to how the song was interpreted by orchestra Di Sarli and singer Jorge Falcon.

 

5. Corazón

Corazón (heart) is an important word in tango. How can you dance without your corazón?

In the song “Corazón ”, the lyricist Hector Marcó told a story via the lyrics how a man talked himself (his heart) to get over from a girl who had betrayed him:

 

“Corazón,

(Heart,)

no la llames

(don’t call to her)

ni le implores—

(don’t beg her for anything—)

que de tus amores

(from the ones you love)

nunca has merecido

(you have never deserved)

tanta humillación.”

(so much humiliation.)3

 

The song was written by Carlos Di Sarli, let’s listen to how his orchestra and singer Roberto Rufino interpreted the song (Click here).

 

6. Adios

Adios” means goodbye, another frequently appear topic in tango lyrics.

In “El adios” (Music by Maruja Pacheco Huergo), the lyricist Virgilio San Clemente wrote about the sorrow of parting from a lover:

 

“El sueño más feliz,

(The happiest dream,)

moría en el adiós

(died in the goodbye)

y el cielo para mí se oscureció

(for me, the sky became dark…)1

 

We have selected “El Adios” (The Goodbye) by orchestra Pugliese and singer Jorge Maciel for you, a powerful and sorrowful interpretation of the song (Click here to listen to the song).

 

7. Dolor

Many songwriters expressed via tango lyrics their different kinds of “dolor” (pain) in life: the pain of losing a lover; parting from their family or being betrayed.

In this song “Lejos de Buenos Aires” (Far from Buenos Aires, music by Alberto Suárez Villanueva), the lyricist Oscar Rubens wrote about the pain of an old person recalling what he had abandoned: his family, his girlfriend and everything back in his native city Buenos Aires in order to chase after his dream, and at the end feeling lonely and regretful of staying on a foreign land where nobody cares about him:

 

“Lejos de la gran ciudad

(Far from the great city)

que me ha visto florecer,

(that witnessed my flourishing)

en las calles más extrañas

(in these strange streets)

siento el alma oscurecer.

(I feel the darkening of my soul)

 

Nadie observa mi final,

(No one notices my ending)

ni le importa mi dolor,

(nor care about my pain,)

nadie quiere mi amistad,

(nobody wants my friendship,)

sólo estoy con mi amargor…”

(I am just alone with my bitterness…)2

 

Click here to listen to the interpretation of the song by orchestra Miguel Caló, singer Raúl Berón.

 

Interested in learning Spanish for tango? Check out our Tango Spanish Course, or get a copy of our book Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips on Amazon!

 

 

References (Tango lyrics and translations)

The lyrics and translations of tango songs appear in this blog post were adapted from various online and published sources:

1. “Tango Lyrics page in Spanish with English translation” maintained by Alberto Paz: https://letrasdetango.wordpress.com/

2. “Tango words-a guide to tango lyrics with English translation Vol.1” by Manuel Garber: http://tangowords.com/

3. Poesía de gotán: The poetry of the tango”: https://poesiadegotan.com/2009/04/09/corazon-1939/