Peruvian Spanish: the Many Translations of the Word “Ok” . During my first few days in Peru, I realized that I used the English word “Okay” quite frequently. It only took a few more days to realize, however, that its many uses and innuendos have little meaning in Peruvian Spanish. Thankfully, in the last few weeks, I’ve discovered some handy Spanish words to use in place of my generic “Okay.” Here’s a brief guide of some words you can use instead of “ok” while you’re studying Spanish in Cusco or travelling in Peru.”
Okay = Chevere
“Okay” is often used as the positive response to a question such as “Would you like to come eat dinner with us?” You could simply say “Si.” But in order to express some enthusiasm, consider using the (Peruvian) word “Chevere”. It will communicate “Yes! I’d like to join for dinner, thanks for the invitation, and I’ll be planning accordingly.”
Okay = Más o menos
Now consider the event that someone bought you dinner and it was terrible. When your friend asks about it and you want to answer truthfully but with some tact, you might say, “Oh…it was ok.” In this case, in Spanish you could say, “Mmm, más o menos.” It shows that you are being sensitive to the fact that someone was nice enough to buy it for you, but that in the end, it wasn’t the best option.
Okay = Ya
When your coworker asks you if you can work for them on Thrusday night and your thought is, “Well, I can, and I will. But only because I’m not going to lie, and I can’t tell them that I’d rather sit and watch Netflix all night than help them out…” You’d likely say outloud, “Ok…” Here you can say, “Ya…” It means, “Yes, but not because I want to! Just because I’m a good person.”
Okay = Bien
Next time you see someone sitting by themselves, holding their phone, with a funny look on their face, you might be tempted to ask, “Are you OK?” To signify a similar interest and concern, without prying too much, consider using the question, “Está bien?” or “Todo bien?” This will give them the opportunity to reply with the negative “No,” a positive “Si, todo bien,” or the non-committal “Más o menos.”
So I have learned that what English-speakers use their tone to indicate, Spanish-speakers actually have a full vocabulary for.
Try some of these words and phrases out and see how much easier native Peruvians will be able to understand your reactions and questions!