How to talk Spanish good... and why. (Como hablar espanol bueno... y por que)
A disclaimer: I’m a capital G Gringo. I’ve been practicing my English skills for many years, and I’m proud to say that I have my native language down pretty well. In other words, I ain’t no expert in español, so keep that in mind.
However, or sin embargo as they say, I am learning Spanish paso a paso, (step by step) here in Medellin, and it’s very gratifying to be able to speak with folks in their native tongue. I see questions on various websites, Best Places to Retire included, with a variation of this question: Do I absolutely have to learn Spanish to live in, (fill in the blank)?
So, here’s the deal. (Asi, aqui es la verdad) If you want to really live and explore and move around in Colombia, Spanish is not an option. Unlike, for instance, many parts of Panama, where Norte Americano expats are plentiful and unconcerned about español, here in Medellin, and in many parts of Colombia, a meeting of English speakers can be held in your typical Starbucks, and often is, by the way. So what I’ve done with this post is patch together a few Spanish phrases that might assist you.
Again, I’m a rank amateur at this. I know enough español to order food, get around in taxis, shop at the mercados, greet people on the street, and thoroughly embarrass myself. I have a teacher once per week, and, at my request, he speaks no English during my two-hour classes. I understand maybe 90% of what he tells me, and can respond perhaps 50% of the time. It’s not pretty; more like Dick & Jane in Spanish, mira Jane mira! Corre Spot corre! And it’s true what I’ve been told that we understand Spanish long before we can speak it. Also, the graduation award, the final exam if you will, is not conversational Spanish, but español por teléfono. If you can speak Spanish over the phone, you’ve arrived. So here are a few expressions/phrases/words you can use if you’re just getting started.
Where is______? Donde esta_____? Then add the following:
The bathroom: el bańo, a taxi: un taxi?, my drink: mi bebida?, my beer/wine/water: mi cerveza/vino/agua?, my husband/wife/friend/room/: mi esposo/esposa/mi amigo(a)/cuarto?, my suitcase: mi maleta?, the exit: la salida?, the nearest Spanish/English dictionary: espanol/ingles diccionario mas proximo?
How do I_____? I say this: se dice?, pay for this: pago por esta?, order another, ordeno un otra?, learn Spanish, aprendo espanol?
Yes, it is: si, claro.
I agree: de acuerdo
Check please: la cuenta, por favor.
I’m (not) finished: yo (no) terminé
I’d like this to go: Para llevar, por favor (Pah-rah zhevar. In Colombia, double L is pronounced as a Z, thus Medellin is pronounced Med-a-zheen)
Many thanks: muchas gracias.
You’re welcome: con mucho gusto. (Colombians rarely use de nada.)
Have a good day/night: pasa buen dia/noche.
See you later: hasta luego.
See you then: nos vemos
Goodbye: again, hasta luego, (Adios implies ‘we’ll never meet again.’)
In the morning: en la mańana
In the afternoon: en la tarde
I like it: me lo gusta
I would like: me gustaria
We would like: nos gustaria
Do you like?: te gusta?
Very good: muy bueno
Later: mas tarde
Tell me: dime (dee-may)
Again: de nuevo
Me too: a mi tambien
Me neither: a mi tampoco
I don’t understand: yo no comprendo/entiendo
Louder please: mas fuerte por favor
Softer/quieter please: más suave, por favor
Breakfast/lunch/dinner: desayunar/almuerzo/la cena
WiFi, cauliflower, actor, admirable, animal, artificial, auto, canal, most ‘tion’ words such as position, direction, disposition, preparation, etc. Only the spelling is different.
The list goes on and on. Here’s the upshot. Like a lot of people, especially folks my own age, I assumed that learning Spanish would be daunting, tedious, and hopeless. Take it from me, a capital G Gringo, no es tan dificil que pienses. It’s not as hard as you think. Am I fluent in español? No way. Do I get around, make myself understood, find bathrooms, silverware, menu items, my next beer? Absolutely. Can anyone learn and get by in Spanish? If I can speak basic español, anyone can. And here’s what my wife and I have discovered: every day, person, event, exposure, and opportunity is a teacher. While riding in taxis, we engage the driver in español. Shopping at tiendas, paying the rent, we inflict our Spanish on people. Is it pretty? No, it’s godawful ugly. Do folks appreciate the effort? Absolutely, and they help us willingly, always smiling, okay, sometimes laughing. Heck, with the first word we utter they know we’re not Spanish speakers, so there’s no pressure. Are we learning Spanish? Yes, and it’s very gratifying when expressions, words, verb forms pop into our heads. We try using español around the house, and mostly succeed. We make use of the countless on-line resources available. Just Google Spanish and/or YouTube Spanish and the screen will fill with them, mostly useful, quality resources. You can do this. Buen suerte!
Pictures, from top to bottom:
Saturday market, Segundo Parque Laureles
Metro in Medellin
Taxi ride in Medellin