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Cashing in on the Colombian accent

Dubbing movies is big business in Bogota. So are call centers. All because it's easy to understand Colombian Spanish.

But homogeneity proved impossible thanks to the proliferation of indigenous languages, the slave trade, foreign invasions, immigration and regional quirks.

“We all speak the same language but there are many, many dialects,” said Jaime Bernal of the Colombian Academy of the Spanish Language.

That’s why a stupid or lazy person is a "boludo" in Argentina but a "guevon" in Colombia.  That’s why something that’s "padrisimo," or great, in Mexico is "chevere" in Panama.

Mexican Spanish has been heavily influenced by the Aztec Indians who spoke Nahuatl. An influx of Old World immigrants helps explain why the Argentine accent sounds faintly Italian. Chileans are known for their rapid-fire cadence and, like many nations, have adopted American words — like “man” instead of hombre.

Oddly enough, the Spanish spoken in Spain can be the most confusing because the “s” and “z” are pronounced as “th.”

“We should be the best Spanish speakers, but we’re not because we’ve lost a lot of words and we’ve got lots of Arabic influences,” said Iglesias, a Spaniard. “The purist Spanish is found outside of Spain.”

Many linguists identify Bogota as ground zero for good Spanish.

Located high in the Andes Mountains far from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the isolated Colombian capital was for centuries cut off from foreign and national immigrants. Bogotanos, in turn, rejected local indigenous groups and viewed Europe as the embodiment of high culture.

In addition, a series of Colombian presidents were poets, novelists and writers who took great care to speak and promote correct Spanish. One former president, Miguel Antonio Caro, founded the Colombian Academy of the Spanish Language.

So, it’s not surprising that the book “Correct Spanish for Dummies” was written by a Colombian, a university professor and linguist named Fernando Avila.

“At international meetings, if there’s a Colombian in the mix they always have us write up the minutes,” Avila said in a recent interview, “because they say our Spanish is the best.”