Spanish for Beginners: Learn These 10 Terms Before You Travel
Traveling to a Spanish-speaking destination? Learning a few key phrases is guaranteed to add value to any trip, business or pleasure. Conversing with locals and the freedom of self-reliance (beyond the concierge walls) will make your stay all the more meaningful and fun. Keep scrolling to discover which simple expressions will take you the farthest.
One of the most essential terms to know when visiting a Spanish-speaking country is buenos dias, which means "hello" or "good day." On the whole, Spanish-speaking countries are polite, friendly places. Beginning a conversation with a formal salutation is always preferred. Depending on the time of day, the expression varies. To say "good afternoon," use the term buenas tardes, and to say "good evening," use the term buenas noches.
Before launching into any request, be sure to introduce yourself in a gracious manner. Hola ¿Cómo está? means “Hi, how are you.” The less formal Hola, ¿qué tal? is another greeting of essentially the same meaning. It carries a more colloquial vibe on par with “Hey, what’s up?” or “How’s life?”
There are a few basic turns of phrase that will take you a long way. Namely, “I want” “Where is?” and “How much?” Start with ¿Dónde está? which means “where is…” Even without knowing the proper noun, one can always point to the object in question. Keep it short and sweet with and don’t worry about making mistakes. Be courteous and try your best. The effort will be much appreciated.
Unless you make a point of not shopping from the right-hand side of the menu, you probably want to know the price of things. ¿Cuánto cuesta? translates to “How much?” To say “I want” or “I don’t want” use Yo quiero or Yo no quiero.
Gratitude will get you everywhere. Pepper in plenty of please and thank yous, especially if you find your pronunciation lacking. To say “thank you,” use the term gracias. To say “please,” use por favor. The expression de nada, which literally translates to “it’s nothing,” is the Spanish “you’re welcome.”
If your ear is new to Español, here’s one phrase to keep readily accessible: Hable max despacio pro favor. It means, “Speak more slowly, please.” Even to studied linguists, the natives have a quick tongue. It’s easy to get lost in the romantic barrage of trills and consonants. Slow it down and give yourself time to acclimate to the vibe.
One of the best parts of travel is sampling all the indigenous cuisine. There’s no better way to score than asking locals for insider tips. If you’re open to engaging with a stranger or two, adventure awaits at the other end of a friendly conversation. To ask a local to recommend a restaurant say, ¿Me puede recomendar un buen restaurante?
Many small towns do not take credit cards, so be sure to carry enough cash to settle up. To ask if an establishment accepts credit cards say ¿Aceptan tarjetas de crédito? If need be, one can always revert to using simple nouns with a question instead of properly conjugated verbs to get your point across. This works across the board with anything from locating a bathroom (¿baño?) to the train station (¿Un tren?).
While it is impolite to assume anyone speaks English, it remains infinitely more courteous to inquire if they do in Spanish. To ask someone if they speak English say, ¿Habla inglés? Even if maneuvering conversations in the most basic form, confirming your message is understood (or asking for further clarification) will prove super helpful. The way to say “I don’t understand” is Yo no entiendo. To ask someone if they caught your drift, use ¿Entiende?
If you find yourself lost or looking for directions to a point of interest, you’ll most likely be answered in one of four ways: To the right (a la derecha); to the left (a la izquierda); at the corner (en la esquina); straight ahead (derecho). In general it’s wise to know where you’re going, but we’re also advocates of wandering off-course and exploring. In that case, you’ll still need directions back.
Have a helpful Spanish tip? Tell us in the comments below.
Opening Image: TimeOut