I was having dinner in a great little Mexican-Central American restaurant chatting with the owner. In fact, he actually thought I was Panamanian, I was flattered. I guess all my hard work is paying off. Everything was going well. That is, until he asked me...
Once again, I had the deer in headlights look. In fact, I couldn't even understand what he said, my gringo ears just weren't able to decipher those two simple words. Oh well, I'm used to that now, so let's just talk about what this means.
The first thing I learned is that "vas llegando" is incorrect, at least grammatically so. But let's remember that even though it's grammatically incorrect, it's important recognize common, colloquial speech. It should be:
Are you just arriving?
That's a literal translation, but I think it sounds more natural to translate it as:
Did you just get here?
It can also be interpreted as...
Are you on your way?
How do you know when to use which translation? Simple, context.
You're driving to visit your mom, and she calls and asks "¿Vienes llegando?" - Are you on your way?
You finally make it to your moms house and your brother walks in 5 minutes after you and asks you ¿Vienes llegando? - Did you just get here?
So with that said, let's revisit my conversation in the restaurant. To be just a little more specific, I told the owner that I was working locally and that I wasn't familar with the city, and that's when he asked...
In this context, "vas llegando" would be better translated as "Did you just move here?". One phrase, three possible translations. Don't you love Spanish?
Fortunately, the rest of the conversation went well and there were no more "deer in headlights" moments. Thank goodness, I try to keep them limited to one a day.
The actual phrase is "venir llegando", and in general means "to have just arrived (got here)". Here's a couple of examples:
I just got in.
He just got here.
Espero que te sirva.