Mind your language – The Basics

When visiting this beautiful part of Spain, east of Málaga, you will notice that English is NOT the primary spoken language!

Even in tourist areas along the coast, where some local people do speak English, it helps to try to speak a little bit of elementary Spanish.

The following brief advice is aimed at those who up to now speak no Spanish whatsoever.

If you buy a small, inexpensive Spanish dictionary you will have all the words at your fingertips, but how to string it together into “holiday Spanish?” There are a few easy introductions to phrases which you can learn in a few days,  or hours even.   These are frequently used introductions which help you along with very little effort.

An important one is “Dónde está ….?”   “Where is ….?”   You can then find the word you want from your dictionary, for example,  “Dónde está la playa?”, “Where is the beach?”

“Quiero” …., “I want”….,   and just fill in what it is you want.

To the waiter you can say, after looking at the menu,  “Para mi ….” “For me …..”,  “Para mi una cerveza” “for me a beer”.

A good word to learn is “Hay?” which can mean all of the following, “Is there?,  Are there?,  There is and There are”, the last two without the question mark, of course.  In shops and restaurants “Hay” can replace  “Do you have?”, for example  “Hay agua?”, “Do you have water?” … literally “Is there water?”

For politeness you will need to learn  Gracias”  “Thank you”, and Por Favor”  “Please”.

Slightly more complicated but very useful in shops is Estoy buscando ….”, “I am looking for ….”

All you need is the name of the thing you are seeking which you can check in your faithful dictionary.

Basic greetings are always welcome.  “Hola” is “hello”.  “Adiós is “goodbye”.

Buenos dias, buenas tardes and buenas noches” are “Good morning, good afternoon and good night” respectively.  (Did you notice that the first “Buenos ends in “nos” and the other two end in “nas”?) That is because “dias” is a masculine word and the other two are feminine words, but don’t worry about that at this level, I’m just pointing it out for the sharp-eyed among you.

It is a good idea to try to learn the numbers 1 to 10 if you can and many people will already know that “and No” are “Yes and No”.

If you buy a Spanish phrase book you may be overwhelmed by all the information.   Just concentrate on short introductions to phrases such as these I have mentioned, and pick up the words to finish them as you go along.

Be aware that many Spanish words have more than one meaning, so don’t think that once you have learned a word it will always mean the same thing.   The English language is just as bad.  The apparently simple English word “set” has scores of meanings.

The locals of Andalucía have a strong accent,  just as in some regions of the United Kingdom and they shorten many words, so beware!  “Buenos Dias” is just as likely to sound like  ”Bueno” in the villages, and on the street markets you may hear someone calling out the price of their goods not as “Dos euros”, but sounding more like, “Do uro”, almost as one word.


Speaking of markets, a couple of often used questions are, “Cuanto es?” or “Cuanto vale?”,how much is it?’ When you want to know, “At what time … (does something happen)?” the question is, “A que hora ….?”

Finally you can make a statement a negative one by putting “No” in front of it.  For example,  “Tengo ….” “I have ….”, “No tengo ….”I don’t have ….”.

Keep trying.   Spanish is a beautiful language and the locals will love you for it!

Hasta luego!

Whilst you´re here, why not have a look at:

Learning the Spanish Language: Online Resources

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