Spanish is Colombia's official language. Colombians speak a
traditional form of Castilian Spanish. Colombian academics work to keep the language
as traditional as possible but colombianismos or local terminology and phrases
are common. Although Spanish is the language of commerce and education, some Europeans
in the larger cities also speak English. English is part of the school curriculum,
but many Colombians frown on its use and feel that the Spanish language and culture
should be preserved and promoted.
Colombian Spanish differs slightly in pronunciation from the Spanish spoken in Spain. In Colombian Spanish "ll" is pronounced as a "y". In Spain it is pronounced "ly". As in French, nouns in Spanish are masculine or feminine and there are both formal and casual ways to address people. Spanish pronunciation, however, is straightforward, since each letter is always pronounced the same way.
Greetings in Colombia have evolved into an elaborate ritual. The short Spanish hola or hello has been replaced by a variety of expressions and all of them mean something between "Hello" and "How do you do?" Some of these include "Cómo está?", "Cómo ha estado?", "Cómo le va?", and "Qué me cuenta?" These greetings reflect regional variations.
Some indigenous tribes maintain the use of their own language. There are 200 indigenous languages, most of which belong to the Arawak, Carib, Chibcha and Tupi-Guarani language groups. The large Guajiro community speaks an Arawakian language. Arawakian words that have entered the English language include canoe, tobacco and hammock.