You might assume we speak Spanish in Asturias.

But don’t be surprised if, once you arrive, you overhear conversations in which you don’t understand a thing. What you’re hearing sounds like Spanish but is, in fact, Asturian, which, though it doesn’t have official status (like Catalán, Basque, and Galician do), has its own rich literary tradition and is still spoken by much of the local population.

In Asturias, most people use expressions, turns of phrase, or even grammar that draw from both Asturian and Spanish. Known as amestáu, or chapurriáu—Asturian for “mixed” or “hybrid”—our way of speaking reflects a culture that is proud of its land, its way of life, its history and customs, yet risks losing its language if we don’t fight for its official status and protection.

Here are a few phrases that might help you get around Asturias:

ho (OH): Short for hombre (Spanish for “man”). It’s an interjection Asturians often use to end their sentences and often expresses disbelief, happiness, surprise. Sort of like “dude” in English. It’s similar to the way other Spaniards use tío (uncle) at the end of sentences. We also sometimes say ne, an abbreviated form of neña (Asturian for “girl”).


prestosu (pres-TOH-soo): To be pleasing, agreeable. In Asturias we don’t say me gusta (I like). We say me presta, which in most Spanish-speaking places translates to “I borrow.” If you like something, you’ll say it’s prestosu (or prestosa if the noun is feminine). Though the dictionary defines it as “something that produces satisfaction,” it’s so much more than that. It’s an untranslatable mix of joy and recognition. If you enjoy your visit, the food, and the people of Asturias, you can say that Asturias te presta.

ye lo que hay

ye lo que hay (yeh lo kay AI): It is what it is. The expression is very similar to the Spanish es lo que hay. It’s used when there is nothing left to do or nothing can be done. Sometimes it’s used in a humorous context, reflecting a mix of resignation and stoicism in the people of a region that has been subject to the harshness of the sea, the mines, and the countryside.

orbayar (or-ba-YAR): To mist. Every drizzly, rainy place has several words for its precipitation. Orbayu, known as calabobos or chirimiri in other parts of Spain, is the fine droplets of water that fall for hours, chilling you to the bones. Yes, Asturias is green and fertile, and it’s because much of the year its residents live beneath a gray sky and a penetrating, soul-molding orbayu.

fatu, faltosu, babayu (FAH-too, fal-TOH-soo, ba-BA-yoo): To different degrees these are local insults and roughly mean “pretentious,” “rude,” and “idiot.” Sure, any traveler will learn quickly to avoid any such uncouth behavior, or babayadas.


chigre (CHEE-greh): Cider houses, bars, or popular restaurants where cider is everything. You’ll recognize them by the sawdust on the ground and the loud cheers in the air.

arrogante (arr-oh-GAN-teh): Beware false cognates! In Spanish arrogante means, well, “arrogant.” In Asturias, however, it means “generous” or “splendid.”

This article was translated from the original Spanish.