Ready to visit a Spanish-speaking country and communicate with the locals? Try the following essential Spanish phrases to get around as you see the sights, try the food, and explore!
- While the most useful phrase might be inquiring about the location of the bathroom, the first phrase to master is the equivalent of “Hello, nice to meet you.” This phrase, expressed in Spanish as “Hola, mucho gusto” is useful in any personal situation where you’re meeting someone new. You’ll come across as polite and friendly, and it’ll get the interaction started.
- When you’re leaving a store or other location, a nice phrase to express your gratitude and your farewell is “¡Gracias, adiós!” This means “Thank you, goodbye!” You can’t go wrong with using it in almost any context when you are leaving.
- Now that you are equipped with pleasantries to greet people upon your arrival and departure, let’s get into more specifics. At customs, or in a government office, you may have a need to state your nationality to receive the appropriate form, or indicate what language you speak. In order to communicate that you are from the United States and/or American, you can choose one of the following phrases: “Soy de los Estados Unidos” (I am from the United States) or “Soy americano/a” (I’m American – and end the second word with ‘o’ if you are male and ‘a’ if you are female).
- If you need to communicate complex things, it may be necessary to switch to English. In this case, it’s most polite to inquire if the person you are speaking with knows English rather than assuming they will be able to communicate with you in English. To ask someone if they speak English, try “¿Habla inglés?”
- Next: shopping. You will probably be quite amazed at the beautiful arts and crafts available in many Latin countries. If you are interested in purchasing something, you can ask the merchant to write the price for you. This avoids the confusion of understanding the verbal answer. Say the following: “¿Puede escribir el precio?”
- Now, the phrase that is a universal necessity: where is the bathroom? In Spanish, that’s “¿Dónde está el baño?” However, you can substitute the words ‘el baño’ for any other location you are looking for. So you could say, “¿Dónde está el mercado?” (Where is the market?) or “¿Dónde está la oficina?” (Where is the office?).
- If you need help of any kind, a very useful phrase to express this in Spanish is “Necesito ayuda.” If you are feeling ill, you can substitute ‘un doctor/una doctora’ for ‘ayuda’ to ask for a doctor. Hopefully you’ll have no need for this phrase, but it’s good to know just in case.
With these Spanish phrases, you should be able to navigate the area you are in, interact politely with people you meet, and express needs. Learning these phrases can open the door to many more possibilities – as you are traveling, you may pick up many new phrases if you keep your ears open!
Jinan B. tutors in Honolulu, HI. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, teaching various courses including Community Nutrition, Concepts in Nutrition Education, and Advanced Child and Adolescent Nutrition. Learn more about Jinan here!
Photo by Lucy Nieto