Two of the worst things about us Brits is that we’re obsessed with the weather, and we’re hopeless at learning languages. Well actually it’s not that we’re exactly hopeless at learning languages as much as the fact that we’re just too lazy. It’s because English is so widely spoken around the world. We allow ourselves to become too blasé about it, and most of us just never get round to trying.
But if you’re considering moving to Spain to live, then you should at least prepare yourself a little by learning a few phrases off by heart. At least it’s a beginning, and what you’ll find 9 times out of 10, is that the Spanish really appreciate it when you go to the trouble of learning a little of their language, It’s actually just downright good manners! So we thought it would be a good idea to give you a list of a few Spanish words and phrases that will come in handy, especially if you’re a newbie expat.
The casual greeting that most people use (even with passersby) is “Hola” (not so dissimilar from hello), or sometime “ Buenas”, a shortened form of good day (buenas dias)
This one’s pretty easy because it’s a word that we all know and many of us use in casual everyday language anyway – the word “Adios”
Always be Polite – Saying Thank You, and Please
Once again a word that many of you will already know or have heard – “Gracias” (pronounced grath-ee-as), or to be extra polite – “Muchas gracias” (many thanks).
And in England, the standard polite response to “thank you” is “you’re welcome”; in Spanish you would say “Denada” – literally meaning “it’s nothing”.
Another familiar phrase this one, and one that you should use at the end of every request is “por favor” in English – “please”.
Also when you meet someone you have met or spoken to before, after saying “hola”, you might like to say “Que tal” (ke-tal) – an informal way of saying how are you?
Most foreign languages pay a little more attention in terms of respect to formalities. Whereas in English you might use the term “mate” quite often, in Spanish you would use “senor” (sen-yaw) when addressing a man; “senora” (sen-yaw-ra) when addressing a woman; and senorita (sen-yaw-reeta) when addressing a young, single lady.
By generic, we mean general base phrases that you will use on many occasions and in many circumstances. These are:
I would like – “Me gustaria”, so if you’re in a shop and you’d like some bread you can say “Me gustaria pan”, or butter “Me gustaria mantiquilla”.
To ask the assistant in a shop if they sell something you are looking for you ask “Vende usted” (ben-day-oosted), for example “Vende usted pan?” – Do you sell bread?
You could also use “Tiene usted pan?” – Do you have any bread?
To ask how much something is, you can simply ask “cuanto es?” (kwanto es)
This is an important subject for finding your way around. To ask where something is, you use the word “Donde?” (don-day) literally meaning “where”. For example: “Por Donde esta” – Whereabouts is – so whereabouts is the hospital becomes “Por donde esta el hospital”. You would even be understood if you said “Donde esta hospital”.
You’ll need to know the basic directional words too, so:
Turn right / left - “gira a la derecha / izquierda”
The next right / left – “la proxima derecha / izquierda”
Straight ahead – “todo derecho”
Traffic lights – “el semáforo”
On the corner – “en la esquina”
The road – “la calle”
In an Emergency
You never know when and where an emergency may arise, so here are a few essential words and phrases you may need to know:
Help – Socorro (soh-koh-rroh!) or “auxilio” (¡ahoohk-see-leeoh!)
Help me – “Ayúdeme” (ah-yooh-deh-meh)
Quick – “Rápido” (rrah-pee-doh)
Hurry please – Apúrense por favor (ah-pooh-rehn-seh por favor)
I need a doctor - “Necesito un medico”
I need an ambulance - “Necesito un ambulancia” (am-bew-lan-thia)
There is a fire – “hay un incendio” – (ay-oon-inthendio)
What is one person’s idea of an essential phrase or word may be not be the next person’s. But here we have taken the basic view of things you may need to help you out of a tight corner. However, it’s always a good idea to have a phrase book handy, or one of the new electronic translators. Hopefully you won’t need to bother, but it always pays to be prepared.
If you want to submerge yourself a little bit more and go beyond the fundamentals, you have a number of options to learn Spanish. Why not try some free online lessons as provided by the BBC website, an online course from StudySpanish.com or if you are really serious, a local course here in Spain via a company that specialises in Spanish language holidays such as SpanishStudyHolidays.com
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