There are several words and phrases you should learn in advance if you plan to travel to a country that speaks primarily Spanish. Obviously, the common courtesies and greetings are essential, as well as being able to ask certain things to get the information you need.
In addition to the conversational and obvious communication, you may want to take some extra time to learn some of the meaning behind Spanish slang. For example, if you understand the pendejo meaning, you will know that you are being insulted.
There are five essential words and phrases to know before traveling to a Spanish-speaking country. If you can master these, they will serve you well in your efforts to communicate while traveling.
“Hello,” “goodbye,” and “thank you,” are phrases and common greetings that should be learned in the local language you are traveling to or in. While it is true that these words are well known in their English form, it is common courtesy that you make the effort to at least learn the standard greetings to be a thoughtful visitor.
In Spanish-speaking countries, these words are, “hola,” “adios,” and “gracias” respectively. Your probably already knew these, and that is ok, but learn and practice them all the same. Being polite will go a long way to ease communication frustrations.
Being courteous by learning these simple words goes a long way in wanting the locals to actually assist you if you need help.
2. Directional Words
You are going to end up having to ask for directions. This doesn’t just include whenever you are driving somewhere. You will need directions to the cab stand, the bathroom, the restaurant you want to try. Learning the basics is going to save you a lot of time.
In Spanish, learn these helpful phrases:
You can often use body gestures to or hand motions to “fill in the blanks,” but knowing how to properly form a question or ask specifically is a huge benefit to getting a recognizable response.
3. Yes and No
Contrary to what you may have always been told, “yes” and “no” are not universal in every language. To make it even more complicated, nodding your head up and down or side to side doesn’t always mean the same in every country either.
It is pretty important to learn the local words for “yes” and “no” in whatever country you are visiting. In a Spanish-speaking country however, these are quite easy to master.
“Yes” in Spanish is “Sí” and “No” is in fact, “no.” This is not true in countries like Greece, Southern Italy, and Turkey (so be prepared when visiting there).
It is imperative that you understand how to ask for help in Spanish. This is different from asking for directions to the bathroom or the monument you want to see; this could save your life.
“Help” in Spanish is “ayuda,” and if yelled in an emergency situation, the locals will understand you are in need of immediate assistance.
On the same note, you want to be sure your vocal tone is matching the urgency of the situation. If you are simply looking for a tourist attraction, don’t start yelling “ayuda” in the middle of the street.
5. I’m Sorry
When traveling to other countries, it is probably obvious to locals that you are a tourist or just visiting. However, since that is not always the case, it is a great idea to understand how to apologize in the necessary situations.
While there is no need to apologize for not knowing something or being a visitor, you may want to express your own regret that you don’t understand the language or local better (especially if they are trying to explain something to you)
For example, you may want to learn how to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you,” which would be, “lo siento, no te entendí.” You can also reply courteously if approached by a Spanish speaker and you need them to slow down or repeat themselves. You can make them aware of the fact you don’t speak Spanish by saying, “lo siento, no hablo español,” or “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.”
It is always recommended that travelers learn the essential local vocabulary before visiting Spanish-speaking countries. While many, if not all, do understand and cater to English speaking visitors, it is the courteous thing to do. Not to mention, it may end up saving you from scams, getting lost, or just frustration in general.
It also doesn’t hurt to understand some of the local slang and curse words, like “pendejo” which means “asshole.” It never hurts to have an understanding of the most essential works when visiting a Spanish-speaking country.