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5 Phrases Every Cuban Kid Knows


Author - Evelin

Note for parents and teachers: this post is designed to inspire an exercise for your students or friends in a multi-cultural setting, inviting kids of different cultures and languages to share some of the expressions that are unique to their background.

Hi, all! Growing up in Havana, Cuba, we have our own unique language that may not sound like the same version of Spanish that kids from other Spanish-speaking countries use. Cuba is a very warm, colorful, and lively island - and our expressions reflect that.

When I play with other Spanish-speaking friends, they’re sometimes surprised at some of the expressions I use and ask me what they mean. So, in the spirit of letting you in on the language of kids in Cuba, I thought I’d share 5 of the expressions we hear and use a lot - and what they mean.

What about you? What expressions are often used in your culture or country?

Chao pescao!: I don’t know exactly why we say this, maybe because it rhymes well - but it’s our way of saying “bye,” or “adios.” We’re like that…lighthearted and always finding a way to smile more!


"Radio Bemba”: There’s a girl in my class that loves to follow singers like Enrique Iglesias and Juanes, and talk about what she reads or hears about what they’re doing, who they’re performing with, if they’re coming to Cuba, etc. In other words - she’s a bit of a gossip. So we call her “Radio Bemba.” Literally, it means Lip Radio - but it’s our way of saying that she likes to talk about other people a lot. Do you have a Radio Bemba in your class?


Tremendo arroz con mango”: My grandma says this sometimes when she sees me playing, or when my brother and I are trying to help in the kitchen. It means “a huge rice with mango” - and it really just means “what a mess!” We don’t really eat our arroz (rice) with mango, but that’s another story :)


"A mal tiempo, buena cara": We’re an upbeat bunch on my home island - we always look for the silver lining. So when anyone is faced with a challenge - a bad day at school, a difficult test at school, or something that makes you feel scared or sad - my family always uses this expression. It means we put on our best face for a bad time - we face a challenge with a smile, and get through it. I love that expression because it always reminds me to be brave and positive. And you know what? It works!


“Me tienes hasta el ultimo pelo”
Okay, so this one is usually spoken by your mom, dad, grandparents, or teachers. It literally means “you have me up to the last hair” - but it really just means that you’re driving someone crazy. So, when my brother and I are fooling around, playing and talking loudly, my mom might say “me tienes hasta el ultimo pelo” - and then my brother and I know we need to reel it in ;)


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