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learning spanish

Quick note
Spanish has two types of “you” – the formal and informal ( and usted). While you are unlikely to cause offence using the wrong pronoun, we’ve stuck with the formal version throughout most of these phrases. This means you’ll come across as more polite and formal than if you were to use the informal version – a safe bet when you’re not sure.

Asking permission to do stuff

A large amount of your time will be spent asking people if they’re open, whether you can sit there, if you can have this, that or the other, and so on. Fortunately, a couple of catch-all phrases will help you out here, which have quite a broad meaning, but will make sense in context.

¿Se puede?
The mother of all permission-type phrases, se puede literally means “is it possible?”, or “can I?”. You can use it in all sorts of contexts – grabbing a spare seat, entering a bar, picking something up, whatever!

¿Le importa?
Literally “do you mind”, this is another one that can be used in different contexts. “Do you mind if…” I smoke, I pick this up, I sit here, etc…

¿Me deja?
Literally, “Do you let me”. Could you let me pass, will you let me in, will you let me out… Again, another phrase with multiple uses depending on the context.

¿Está libre?
“Is it free?” Could be a chair, a table, a space, or whatever. Note that free refers to “available”, not price (that would be gratis).

Me permite, por favor
“Will you allow me?” This phrase is a polite way of saying excuse me, and is most commonly used when trying to get past someone on a packed bus, for example.

 

Saying sorry for your clumsy blunders

You’ve just spilled your “jarra” (carafe) of oily Rioja over one of the locals’ crisp white linen suits. Or, you accidentally slammed a door in someone’s face. Or, you jumped queue without realising. Or maybe you’ve somehow offended the locals’ sensibilities with your crass cultural blunders. Either way, Spanish speakers are a pretty forgiving lot, so try out some of these phrases to get yourself out of any sticky situation:

¡Lo siento!
“I’m sorry!”. This literally means “I feel it”, as in “I feel your pain”!

Perdóneme, no le ví
For when lo siento seems overkill, try this one. It’s closer to “parden me”, and a little softer than lo siento.

¡Discúlpe(me)!
“Forgive/pardon me”. A good alternative for lo siento.

Fue un accidente
“It was an accident”. Useful to get you out of many a bind!

 

Greetings and introducing yourself

Clearly, a great way to strike up any conversation is to keep it simple and introduce yourself. Why bother with fancy chat up lines? In my experience, most Spanish people respond well to a simple introduction. So be brave, and strike up a few conversations with these phrases:

Buenos días/Buenas tardes/Buenas noches
“Good morning/Good afternoon/Good night”. When in doubt about the time, you can just use buenas.

Hola
Perhaps the most famous of all the Spanish words? It means “hello”, but don’t pronounce the silent h at the start – it sounds more like ola.

Me llamo …
“My name is”. The double l is pronounced like the “y” from “yellow”.

Yo soy..
“I am”. You could say your name, or any sorts of adjectives! “I am happy”?

¿Cómo se llama?
What’s your name?

 

Keeping the wolf from the door – food phrases

Depending on where you are, customs can vary in restaurants. However, one commonality is table service everywhere. Almost all bars and restaurants will have table service, so don’t feel awkward to just go and grab a spare seat. Of course, more formal places will have reservations, so we’ve included a few phrases for both of these scenarios. Once you’re in your eating establishment of choice, one of your first challenges will be to get the waiter’s attention. It doesn’t really matter what you say, but how you say it. Aim for loud and confident – Spanish waiters are very good at looking right through people.

Another challenge may be the lack of menus. Waiters will often reel off a long list of that day’s dishes, so be prepared to ask them for a menu or whether they will repeat themselves. Finally, getting the bill can be a bit of a drag too – you may find yourself asking several times in some of the sleepier restaurants!

¿Tienes una mesa para uno/dos/tres/cuatro?
Do you have a table for 1/2/3/4?

Tengo una reserva para uno/dos/tres/cuatro
I have a reservation for 1/2/3/4

¡Perdone!
Excuse me! [used to get attention]

¿Tiene una carta?
Do you have a menu?

¿Disculpe, puede repetir, por favor?
“Sorry, can you repeat, please?” Useful for when you can’t quite catch what the waiter’s saying, or he’s giving a long list of dishes at lightening speed.

La cuenta, por favor
“The bill, please”. Be prepared to repeat this one a few times, as it can often be slow to arrive!

 

Charming the locals

To really make the most of your time abroad, it’s always fun to try and mix it up with the locals. This is also the best way to learn as well – genuine communication with native speakers. Nevermind that you won’t understand a lot, you’ll start flexing your communicative muscles, and will be surprised at the language you pick up. Try these phrases to create a few sparks in your conversations:

¿Me puedes enseñar a bailar?
“Can you teach me to dance?” In Spain, this will be Flamenco, and throughout much of Latin America, Salsa. Always worth a try!

¿Qué piensas de los ingleses/americanos,etc?
“What do you think of the English/Americans?” Whether the response is good or bad, this is sure to be a conversation starter!

¿Pór qué me estás mirando?
Why are you looking/staring at me?

¡Me encantas!
Literally “you charm me”, or “I think you’re great”! A cheesy piropo (compliment) can get you anywhere!

 

Telling people you don’t understand them

And finally, perhaps the most important section! There’ll be many times when you have to explain to someone that you can’t understand them, that you’re not from that country, or simply whether they could speak a little more slowly. These are all useful Spanish phrases which could help you out in that situation:

Perdona, no le entiendo. No soy de aquí
“Sorry, I don’t understand you. I’m not from here.” Ok, a little bit of a mouthful, but this is well worth memorising.

¿Le importa hablar un poco mas despacio, por favor?
“Do you mind talking a little slower, please?”. Spanish speakers often talk at a lightening pace, so use this phrase to keep them in check and stay on top of the situation.

Lo siento, no hablo español. ¿Hablas inglés?
“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish. Do you speak English?”. I would encourage you to only use this phrase as a last resort, as it’s likely to kill any Spanish conversation dead. Use only in emergency!

 

Starting to get the hang of it? Take your Spanish to the next level at one of our 13 Spanish schools in Spain or Latin America!

Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world and is the official language in 20 different countries. There are an estimated 470 million Spanish speakers with native competence and 560 million Spanish speakers as a first or second language worldwide.

So if you are planning to travel some parts of the world, there might be a high chance that you visit countries, where people only speak Spanish, especially in Spain or Latin America.

Most of the Spanish speaking people appreciate it, if you try to speak their language. That’s why we provide you in this article with the bare essentials, the most common survival Spanish travel phrases that will set you up to get your point across.

Don’t worry about making mistakes. They will try their utmost to understand you and to make sure you understand them. Just try your best and they will be so happy with your effort.


  • Buenos días (bway nos dee ahs) = Good morning
  • Buenas tardes (bway nahs  tar days) = Good afternoon
  • Buenas noches (bway nahs  noh chayss) = Good evening
  • Hola (oh  lah) = most common phrase to say “hi”, you can say that with people you know.
  • ¿Cómo está? (coh moh  es tah) = How are you? ->  if you don’t know someone
  • ¿Cómo estás? (coh moh  es tahs) = How are you the person -> if you do know them.
  • If they ask you how you are, you can say “good, thank you” – “bien, gracias” (bee ayn, grah cee ahs) in order to show that your are a polite person. 🙂
  • Por favor (por  fah vohr) – Please
  • Gracias (grah cee ahs) – Gracias  These are VERY IMPORTANT words in Spanish. Well, in any language.
  • When you meet someone you say – Encantado (en kan tado) – which means nice to meet you and is a polite way of welcoming the other person
  • ¿Habla inglés? (ahblah  een glays)? – Do you speak English?  If you run out of resources talking Spanish, you can always try your luck with English. While it is never correct to assume that someone speaks English, you can ask if they do and they will like you so much better for asking in Spanish.

Now you know the basics, you’ll be able find your way to one of our 13 Spanish schools in Spain or Latin America!

1. You have dinner after 10pm.

2. You can’t say goodbye without exclaiming “VENGA!

3. Tortilla de patatas and pan con tomato is a perfect meal for any occasion.

4. You know that “Sangria” and “tinto de veranos” are the liquid fuel of champions.

5. You start complaining about days without clear sunshine.

6. Ordering tapas instead of a meal at the restaurant becomes natural.

7. Sandals replace your daily shoes.

8. Lunch time begins after 2pm, because evenings start to get longer.

9. You pick up abandoned furniture off the street for your flat.

10. Your speed of walking decreases.

11. Queuing at the supermarket without chafing at the salesperson becomes normal.

12. You start complaining (“Que frio”), when temperature drops under 25 degrees.

13. You kiss people’s cheeks, when you meet them the first time.

14. On your messages you sometimes write “jajaja” instead of “hahaha”.

15. Your personal space turns into public one.

16. Every sentence you speak in Spanish contains at least one of these words: “bueno”, “coño, “vale”, “venga”, “es que”…

17. You know that after 2pm there’s no point in going shopping, so you plan it for the evening.

18. If you plan to meet with a friend at half past 4, that’s a general point of reference where punctuality is neither expected or adhered to.

19. You think adding lemonade, fanta or even coke to red wine is perfectly acceptable.

20. There’s no way you can eat any meal without having a “café con leche” or “cortado” afterwards.

21. You use public places like your own terrace.

22. You forget to say please (por favor) or thanks (gracias) when you order a drink at the bar – you implied it in your tone of voice, right?

23. You drink several coffees a day, especially in the morning.

24. You have no problem bringing your small kids to festivals past midnight.

25. You’ve mastered the art of partying until 8am.

Do you have the thought about learning something new every day, for example a foreign language? Many people are thinking about the same but most of them have lack of time or motivation.

This makes it difficult to start and go ahead with the project “learning a foreign language” but I want to show you 9 reasons about how learning a new language can change your life.

 


1) You gain more self-confidence

When you start learning a new language, you will realize how fast the trust in yourself will grow. Especially, at the beginning of the learning process you will make efficient steps and they will keep you motivated. Learning a language is a lively process. Try to find a native speaker for a language exchange and practice the things you have learned. You will see how fast your skills will improve. On the one hand you will get compliments from people who dare to study a new language. On the other hand you will impress native speakers when you are able to speak some words or phrases in their language.

And don’t worry; nobody will demand you to apply the perfect grammar or expressions.

Try it out and you will see how many positive feedback you will receive when you start speaking a new language. This experience will also push you in other life and work projects of whom you might have been afraid.


2) You will make new friends

Learning a new language opens the door to a different culture. You will be capable to easily communicate with foreigners and it expands your personal horizon. But above all you will have the ability of bonding with international people.

When you join a language course you will get in touch with new people and you can quickly become friends with them. In addition I suggest practicing the learning matter in a language exchange, where you can get in touch with native speakers.

During a language travel you will meet even more international people and the chance to make new friends is much higher. Language students, who go abroad, are mostly looking forward to meeting new people and sharing experiences. These exposures create long lasting friendships and you will be able to visit them in their home country afterwards.


3) You keep your brain fit

This might seem paradox but learning a language is a sport and it trains your brain cells. Listening to new terminologies, studying new words and grammar as well as speaking the language stimulate your brain muscle and keeps you healthy and fit. According to the study of the University College London learning languages boosts the brain and the density of the grey matter in the left inferior parietal cortex of the brain is greater in bilinguals than in those without a second language. Training in the gym or running stimulates your leg muscles  and makes them grow. Scientists know that the brain has the same ability to change its structure through stimulation, known as plasticity. Learning a language trains your brain cells. This leads to the fact that parts in your brain, especially the cortex which is responsible for memories, grow and the risk of getting Alzheimer decreases significantly. The cortex is the part in the brain that is highly trained during school and university time. As soon as we leave education and we aren’t forced anymore to remember about things for exams, this part of the brain is less used and regresses.  Learning a language helps you to keep in time and forces you to continue memorizing things. So train your brain and get smarter.


4) You have more fun while travelling

Learning a new language has a massive impact on the way you experience your trips. Instead of spending most of the time in assisted hotel complexes, you will have the courage to mingle with the locals. You will be capable to experience a country and its culture deeper and differently.

Locals will appreciate your effort to speak their language and they bring you to hidden treasures off the beaten track, where no trip advisor would have ever taken you. Speaking a new language is your key to collect unforgettable impressions of the holiday destination and experience your personal and fascinating adventure.


5) You will change the way you think

Each language is another personality and has its own distinctive way of expressing ideas. Varying grammar structures force the speaker to rethink how they emphasize certain ideas. Words can have different etymologies that, even if only on a subconscious level, affect the associations you have with them. As a result an important part of language learning is embracing these personality changes and being comfortable with them. That’s why people who are “fluent” in a language are generally those that don’t shy away from this. If they adopt the mannerism and mentality of a speaker of a different language, their delivery improves, along with their grammar, pronunciation and of course confidence.

The University of Stockholm found out that speaking two languages can have a cognitive impact on the behavior of a person. Especially on bilinguals, because the way they think differently depends on the linguistic environment in which they act. To emphasize the effect of speaking two languages I quote the study of the University of Stockholm: “The study examined English and German, which differ in how they express events: English has a progressive tense to zoom in on the unfolding of an event, whereas German does not have this option grammatically. When asked to match videoclips depicting everyday motion events, German speakers attached more importance to whether there was a visible goal of the motion, whereas English speakers were more focused on the action itself, paying less attention to the endpoints. German-English bilinguals, in contrast, matched events on the basis of either action or goal, depending on the language in which they received the instructions.

Moreover, when one of the languages of the bilinguals was kept busy through the repetition of number strings, the other language came to the fore, such that when they repeated numbers in German, the matching preferences were English-like, and vice-versa. Crucially, this behaviour was attested within one and the same participant, as the language of number repetition was switched half-way through the experiment.”


6) You become open-minded as well as more tolerant and making decisions becomes way easier

The study of the University of Chicago shows that there is a link between speaking a foreign language and the ability to make wiser financial choices. Psychologists from the university found that when people speak in a language other than their native tongue, it helps eliminate our tendency towards loss aversion and getting caught up in the ‘here and now’ to make choices that could profit us further down the road. That’s the reason why people, who speak a second language, have a higher self-confidence and reassess things in the other language, before they take a decision.  Learning a new language helps to simplify small decisions in life as we become more open-minded and adventurous.


7) You get more attractive

Learning a language through a language course is a social process and mostly done within a group. You meet new people whom you would have never met before and start bonding with them. An accent in a foreign language seems to be attractive regarding several studies of CNN and BBC. The reason is that an accent indicates something unfamiliar and new for a native speaker and attracts him or her to speak to this person. Especially the British, French, Italia and Spanish accents in a foreign language have a high sex appeal but also Czech, Nigerian, Brazilian and Thai attract native speaker to show interest in the foreign speaker. That’s the reason why you should stop being ashamed of your accent in a foreign language.


8) You get more paid and successful

Learning a new language can be high valuable for you professional career and your wallet. People, who are able to speak foreign languages, are not only more popular with the opposite sex, they increase also their earning power regarding the BBC study. Speaking a second language can increase an average worker’s salary by 4.200 euro a year and 205.000 euro per lifetime. According to the company’s survey, the sector most in need of language skills is media, sales and marketing.

 


9) You climb the job ladder

Nowadays, it is nearly inevitable that you don’t have the ability of speaking minimum two languages, if you want to find a job with high responsibilities and opportunities for advancement. In a globalized working atmosphere applicants with a diversity of languages are in great demand. The companies are internationally orientated and expect from their employees to communicate with their clients in their native language. Learning a language is not only limited to studying grammar or vocabulary. You learn also about the culture, traditions and their way of thinking. You start questioning your actions and analyze what is wrong or right. Dealing with and understanding other cultures and their history helps to see things differently and makes more tolerant and open-minded. Due to these facts learning a foreign language is the key to go abroad and work in a different country. It enables it for you to become the responsible for specific international business relationships, where the specific language is mandatory and it turns you into a highly important employee.

Summing up, speaking a foreign language helps you to get smarter, to make new friends and to find undiscovered places on your personal adventure. In addition it increases your average salary and makes you more attractive. Adventure, money, success and love! What do you want more?

I hope I could provide you with enough reasons, why it is recommendable and helpful to learn new languages.

World-wide 420 million people speak Spanish, also called Castellano, and it is the 4th most spoken language in the world. The language has a rich heritage and over many centuries of evolution people had been developing many variations of the language that still exist today.

Castellano is the official national language of Spain. Nevertheless, there are other co-official or unofficial languages spoken according to the cultural diversity of the Spanish regions that form an important part of the Spanish cultural patrimony. Nowadays 16 different languages (official and unofficial) are spoken on the Iberian Peninsula and the 11 islands that are an important part of the country.

 

Here are the languages listed and ranked by the number of speakers in descending order:

1. Castilian: As mentioned above it is the official language of Spain and over 45 million people in Spain speak it. It is also the dominant language in every part of Spain, even when they are multilingual.

2. Catalan: Catalan is a Romance language named for its origins in Catalonia, in what is northeastern Spain and adjoining parts of France. It is spoken by 4.6 million people and it is the national and only official language of Andorra, and a co-official language of the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the Valencian community.

3. Galician. Its the official language of the region Galicia in the north-west corner of Spain next to Portugal. Callego is spoken by 2.6 million people  Oficial en Galicia.  2.600.000 hablantes. The language is close to the Portuguese language, because Galicia and Portugal were united during the medieval times.

4. Valencian. It is the official language in the region around the city Valencia and is spoken by 2 million people. It is the language spoken in the Valencian Community in Spain and the name used to refer to the Catalan in that area. In the Valencian Community, Valencian is the traditional language and is co-official with Spanish.

5. Basque. The language is also named euskera and it is the official language of the Basque country and the region of Navarra. The language is spoken by 900.000 people and is one of the oldest in Europe, even older than Latin. In compare to all other languages in Europe that belong to a family of languages (Indo-Germanic, Uralic, Turkic or Semitic language), Vasco has no generic relation to any other language. That is why Vasco called an isolated language.

6. Balearic. It is the collective name for the dialects of Catalan spoken in the Balearic Islands and it is spoken by 600.000 people on Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. Distinctive features of Catalan in the Balearic Islands differ according to the specific variant being spoken on the different islands.

7. Extremaduran. The language is also know as castúo and is spoken by approximately 200.000 people in an area covering the north-western part of the autonomous community of Extremadura and adjoining areas in the province of Salamanca.

8. Cantabrian. Cantabrian is a group of dialects belonging to Astur-Leonese. It is indigenous to the territories in and surrounding the Autonomous Community of Cantabria, in Northern Spain. The language is spoken by 120.000 people in Cantabria in the region around Santander and according to the low number of speakers the existence of the language is in danger.

9. Asturian. Asturian is a Romance language of the West Iberian group, Astur-Leonese subgroup. The language is estimated at about 100.000 first-language speakers and 450.000 second-language speakers in Asturias in the north of Spain between Galicia and the Basque region.

10. Aragonese. The language is also known as chapurriau and is spoken by 30.000 people in the valleys of the Pyrenees in Aragon, mainly in the comarcas of Somontano de Barbastro, Jacetania, Alto Gállego, Sobrarbe, and Ribagorza. It is the only modern language that developed from medieval Navarro-Aragonese.

11. Leonese. The term Leonese refers to certain vernacular Romance dialects which are spoken by 25.000 – 50.000 people in northern and western portions of the historical region of León in Spain (modern provinces of León, Zamora, and Salamanca), and in a few adjoining areas in Portugal.

12. Altoaragonese. The language is spoken by 12.000 people in the province Huesca close to Zaragoza in the north of Aragón and according to the low number of speakers the existence of the language is in danger. A Spanish law accepts, promotes and protects the language, although it is not communicated as an official language by the country.

13. Fala Galaico-Extremeña. The language is only spoken by 6.000 people, who live between Extramadura and the border of Portugal, precisely in the valley of Jálama in the towns San Martín, Eljas and Valverde.

14. Aranese. Aranese is a standardized form of the Pyrenean Gascon variety of the Occitan language spoken in the Val d’Aran, in northwestern Catalonia close to the Spanish border with France, where it is one of the three official languages beside Catalan and Spanish. The dialect of the Occitan language is spoken in the region around the valley of Arán, where it is the official language for 5.000 people.

15. Murcian. It is considered a southern dialect of the Spanish language, with influences from the Todmir dialect and from the Aragonese and Catalan languages. The language is spoken in Murcia and the adjacent regions of Andalucia, Castilla-La Mancha and Valencia but there are no official statistics about the amount of people, who speak it.

16. Silbo gomero. Silbo gomero signifies a whistle codex that was used by the aborigines (Gauchas) of the Canaries Islands to communicate across the deep ravines and narrow valleys that radiate through the island. It enables messages to be exchanged over a distance of up to 5 kilometers due to its loud nature. Silbo gomero is transposition of Spanish from speech to whistling and it is still taught as an elective course at school on the island La Gomera. In 2009 it was declared as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Note: It is important to understand that some of these languages have the same roots of language. So they are similar but not even and people can understand each other, because these languages evolved from the same family of language. Nevertheless, there are languages that distinguish themselves completely, for example the Basque or Silbo gomero.

Be aware of these different types of languages when you travel through Spain, although Castellano is the official language and it is almost spoken by everyone in Spain.

 

 

 

 

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