Talking about voting– all the vocab that’s fit to print

Ever feel at a loss for words in Spanish? Do you long to be able to move beyond mere pleasantries and discuss an actual topic? Have you learned all the connecting phrases and snappy answers to make your Spanish sound smooth but lack the nuts and bolts to actually connect and snap at? You should talk about voting. No, really. It’s timely (Colombia held local elections on Sunday, and the 2012 US presidential elections are just around the corner), it usually provokes impassioned discussions (where you can listen and glean lots of useful vocabulary), and, best of all, it’s easy. Many of the words you’ll want to use when talking about voting are extremely similar to their English counterparts. Others are words you probably already know. And, inevitably, there are a few you’ll just have to commit to memory. Slip these fancy words oh-so-effortlessly into your political discourse and then coyly bat your eyelashes as if to say, Who, me? Fluent?, leaving the other foreigners behind to eat your dust.

Easy                                                                                  You know that now is the time when several candidatos are in the middle of their campañas for the elecciones in 2012. Although there are several partidos, we generally tend to categorize them by whether they are liberal or conservador. In the US, the main parties are the Republicanos and the Demócratas. One good way for votantes to learn more about the candidates is by watching a debate. Officials must always be vigilant about the possibility of fraude electoral. If it seems that there were problems with the official count, there may be a recuento.

Más o menos                                                                                                                                        Each candidate knows he or she will have one of two possible final outcomes: either ganar or ser derrotado. They know this from the moment they decide to lanzarse a la presidencia/la gobernación/la alcaldía/al senado/al congreso/al concejo. If you want to know what the public thinks of the candidates who are aspirando, you should check the latest encuestas. When it’s finally time to ir/acudir a las urnas, each voter will report to their local mesa and will be given a tarjetón where they indicate their choices and then deposit the ballot in the urna. If they are not satisfied with any of the candidates, they also have the option to votar en blanco. Hopefully there were no campañas negras/campañas de desprestigio to make the race ugly.

Ganar–to win

Ser derrotado/a–to be defeated

Lanzarse a– to launch one’s campaign for… / to decide to run for…

la presidencia— president  la gobernación–governor  el Senado–senator      el Congreso–congressman  la alcaldía–mayor  el Concejo–city council

Aspirar a–to run for a position

Encuesta–opinion poll

Ir/acudir a las urnas– to go to the polls (newspaperese)

Mesa–polling station

Tarjetón–paper ballot 

Urna–ballot box

Votar en blanco–to cast a vote of “None of the above” (if this option wins more than 50% of the vote, new elections will be held)

Campaña negra/campaña de desprestigio–smear campaign, mudslinging

Blow them away                                                                                                                               After all the speeches and propaganda to gain the aval of the voters, the long contienda comes to an end on election day. After the comicios are over, everyone keeps a close eye on the news to learn the results. One boletín at a time, the TV news stations report the results according to the mesas informadas. When nearly all the votes have been escrutados, the winner can finally be declared. It’s always interesting to see how many curules each party has lost or gained. It’s also interesting to find out about the afluencia to see how many citizens decided to exercise their civic duty.

El aval–backing, support


Comicios–elections (newspaperese)

Boletín–every new update containing the latest results

Mesas informadas–polling stations that have reported their results

Escrutar–to count votes

La curul–political seat

Afluencia–voter turnout

_______________________________________________ Non-natives, what’s your experience with these words? Had you heard them before? How have you heard them used? Where? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with?


9 responses to “Talking about voting– all the vocab that’s fit to print

  1. That was a VERY useful one. It’s always good to know such words and expressions. You never know when this subject turns up in a conversation, an article or a news report! Muchas gracias :)


    • Hi Piotrek,

      I’m so glad you found this post useful. I guess it was high time I write about something not particular to Colombia that you can use over there in Europe! I think that curul and tarjetón aren’t used everywhere. You should be good to go with the rest though.

      Since you’re my most vocal reader so far (and by far!), please share any ideas you might have on what you would find most useful. The blog is obviously still in its infancy, but with time I hope to get more feedback on what readers (or potential readers) most need and want. In the meantime, I’ll just share things I find interesting and helpful. People should cherry-pick what they like and not worry about the rest :)


      • Actually, when I was reading your today’s post I was thinking about what topic I could possible suggest. So far I haven’t come to any conclusion at least as far as the Spanish language is concerned. Are you also planning to write here about Colombia itself or only about Spanish?


  2. A layout revamp?


    • Yep. Improvement?

      Don’t worry about suggesting topics. I have miles and miles of material, fortunately. I just hope that what’s interesting to me coincides with what interests other poeple eager to beef up their Spanish. We shall see. The stats will tell all.

      I’m going to keep the focus on language, naturally weaving in experiences and observations with the words.


  3. I guess I just have get used to the new layout.
    As to the possible topic suggestions, I’ve already mentioned the one about “coger”. It would also definitely be a good idea to write an entry or a series of entries focusing on differences between what you were taught at school and the “real” Spanish, in other words “textbook Spanish vs the real thing”


  4. Timely and educational – love it! Being from Chicago I’ve gotta ask…. What’s the coolest way to say, “Vote early, vote often!” in Colombia?


  5. Just discovered your blog Katie, and I’m more than a little excited about it! Perfect way for my to keep in touch with Colombia and it’s beautiful language from afar. Still thinking of Medellín and plotting a way to get back there. Hope things are good! Michael


  6. Bradley,

    I’m sorry to report that I don’t know the coolest way to say that. Not even the lamest way! Give me a few more years here, and I should know all the insider slang on such unsavory topics.


    Thanks so much for the enthusiasm. Can’t wait to see you again in Medellín. Keep rocking the Latin love out there in Australia :)


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