Even if you’re not interested in becoming a Spanish pro, learning a few basic phrases for use in everyday life can go a long way to making you functionally proficient.
Here we’ll survey a few common Spanish words and phrases that you’ll likely use on a daily basis once you move to Spain, Latin America, or anywhere the beautiful Latin-derived language is spoken.
Everyone needs friends – and that’s doubly true if you’re a foreigner in a strange land. Here are some words and phrases you can use to meet new people and build personal relationships:
|How are you?
|Nice to meet you
|What’s your name?
|¿Cómo te llamas?
|Hello, my name is [name]
|Hola, me llamo [name]
|I’m well, thank you
|Estoy bien, gracias
The ‘W’ interrogatives
Here are the “W” words, translated into Spanish. Note the use of the upside-down question mark, one of the most delightful peculiarities of the Spanish language:
When you venture abroad – whether you find yourself in Barcelona or Shanghai – you will inevitably lose your way. Even with Google Maps, you might have to rely on the guidance of good-willed locals to get where you’re going.
Here are some handy phrases you can use to that end:
|I am lost
|Where is… (the bathroom)?
|¿Dónde está… (el baño)?
|Where can I take a taxi?
|¿Dónde puedo tomar un taxi?
|What is the best way to go to…?
|¿Cuál es la mejor forma de ir a…?
|How far is the… from the…?
|¿Qué tan lejos está el/la… del/de la…?
|I’m looking for the closest metro station.
|Busco la estación del metro más cercana.
|How do I get to the hospital?
|¿Cómo llego al hospital?
|Is there a park around here?
|¿Hay un parque cerca de aquí?
*Spanish is a gendered language. When using an adjective, such as “lost” (“perdido/a) in the above example, the proper ending (a or o) depends on the gender of the speaker. So if you’re a guy, it would be “estoy perdido,” whereas, if you’re a lady, the correct formulation would be “estoy perdida.” Some native English speakers struggle with this issue when they first begin learning Spanish, but after a while adjusting word endings based on gender becomes second nature.
Dovetailing with the navigational terms, here are a few prepositions as well as how to say “to the left/right of”:
|In front of
|To the right of…
|A la derecha de…
|To the left of…
|A la izquierda de…
Last on the list of navigational terminologies, here are the cardinal directions in Spanish:
Moving around Madrid or Santiago, here are a few verbs that you’ll find handy:
|I am going
|Yo soy/Yo estoy*
|Tue eres/Tu estas*
The correct use of the form of the term “to be” in Spanish depends on context. There are two separate words that both mean “to be”:
- “Ser” is used to refer to a condition or action that is permanent and unchanging – for instance, when describing someone’s name or national origin. “I am from the United States” is translated as “Yo soy de los estados unidos.”
- “Estar” is used to refer to a condition or action that is transient, meaning it is limited in time or will change in the future – for instance, when describing someone’s current location or mood. “I am at the park” translates to “Yo estoy in el parque.”
The delineation between these two forms of “to be” presents a challenge to many native English speakers. There are more nuances associated with the use of ser vs. estar that you’ll pick up as you progress in your language skills.
Romantic Spanish words
In case you plan on finding a sweetheart (“novio/a”) abroad – since people of Spain and Latin America are so lovely, no one can blame you — here are a few phrases you can use to sweet-talk your darling.
|I love you
|Te amo/Te quiero
|I love you too
|Yo también te amo/quiero
|I’m in love
|We are dating
|We are engaged
Spanish school/classroom vocabulary
For the sake of fostering an immersive learning environment, most schools in Spain prefer that native English speakers only use their mother tongue in the classroom with students.
However, certain circumstances might require the use of the students’ native tongue. Here are a few terms associated with the school and classroom that are convenient for teachers to know:
|La clase/El aula
|La pizarra/El pizarrón
|El escritorio/El pupitre
Common Spanish interview phrases
If you’re on the prowl for an ESL position in Spain or Latin America, job interviews will be conducted almost exclusively in English. Spanish proficiency generally is not a job requirement, nor it is customarily expected in a candidate.
Nonetheless, it can’t hurt to impress your prospective new employer by slipping in a few off-the-cuff Spanish phrases. Here are a some examples:
|Entrevista de Trabajo
|Curriculum/Hoja de Vida
|Contrato de Trabajo
Convenient online apps to improve your Spanish repertoire
If you don’t have the bandwidth to invest in a formal Spanish class, that’s totally understandable. We’re all busy enough these days without an extra time commitment.
The good news is that — provided you have a phone with an internet connection and a few spare minutes each day — there are numerous excellent apps out there that offer bite-sized Spanish lessons you can squeeze into even the busiest of schedules.
I’d recommend the totally-free DuoLingo app to get your feet wet. If you enjoy it, you can always upgrade to the paid version or try out another paid service like Rosetta Stone.
Contact RVF International, your local experts on all things Spain and Spanish
To learn more about premium English-teaching opportunities in Spain or just to brush up on your casual Spanish, please feel free to contact RVF International. We’re always happy to chat – in English or in Spanish.