Any introduction to the Spanish language will immediately tell you that the language is undoubtedly one of the most useful languages in the world to learn. It is the second most spoken language by number of native speakers. It is also an official language in 20 different countries meaning only English, French, and Arabic are spoken in more.
Therefore learning Spanish would definitely be an asset in the business world, and having the language skills that give you fluency would make you extremely employable.
But learning Spanish as a second language doesn't just have advantages when it comes to your career progression.
Did you know that two of the New 7 Wonders of the World are in Spanish speaking countries? Or that Lonely Planet, one of the world's largest tour guide book publishing companies, listed 3 Spanish speaking cities in its list of the top 10 must visit cities in 2018?
That's right; learning Spanish to travel will allow you to fully experience new cultures and exciting cities. In fact, Spanish language and culture are connected in more ways than you think, so learning the language will simultaneously allow you more access to the culture.
And going beyond this and looking at nature, Spanish speaking countries are home to some of the world's best beaches and some of the world's highest peaks, not to mention the deserts, rivers and rainforests.
It could be for a weekend city break to Madrid, a beach holiday to Cancun, or a backpacking trip through the Andes. The options are endless.
Regardless of which option you choose, you will need some Spanish for beginners behind you to make the most of your trip. You don't need to speak Spanish like a native or be bilingual. Having some knowledge of the grammar, as well as a sense of the key vocabulary will set you up perfectly.
So if you are planning to take a trip to a Spanish speaking country, we have come up with an essential guide to the Spanish that you need to know.
Learning Spanish for Beginners is Easier than you Might Think
People are often put of by the perception that Spanish is a difficult language to learn. It is not. It far from the complexities of Chinese, Arabic, Korean, or Russian.
In fact, according to the Foreign Services Institute (FSI) Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers. The FSI ranks Spanish as a Category 1 language alongside the likes of French, Portuguese, and Italian. They suggest that, a native English speaker with a good aptitude for learning foreign languages, it should take around 6 months to reach an intermediate level.
Spanish is easier for English speakers as it is a romance language. This means that it developed from Latin, just as English did, and therefore they share some key roots. It uses the Latin alphabet just as English does, and subsequently you don't need to spend ages learning a new way of writing, such as is the case with Japanese or Arabic.
One thing to note here, is that Spanish has some things in common, and some thing which are different with other romance languages. For example, Spanish and Portuguese share some similarities and differences, and therefore if you speak Portuguese, you could use some of that knowledge to help you learn Spanish slightly quicker.
When you consider all of this, you can see that reaching a conversational level won't actually take you all that long, so doing so before your trip won't require you to dedicate large amounts of time.
It should be noted however that no language is easy to learn. You will need to be motivated to succeed, and put in the work. If you do these things, then the process will be a lot simpler and quicker.
How to Learn Spanish for Beginners
There are a number of different ways to learn Spanish before you travel to a Spanish speaking country. The option you choose should depend on your budget, time scale, and, crucially, goals. You will need to learn different material, and have a different level if you plan on visiting Barcelona for a weekend, than if you want to travel around South America for six months. So, define your goals and what you will need your language skills for before you set out.
For short trips, a level akin to conversational Spanish which covers the basic Spanish vocabulary, and some essential phrases will be perfect. But for longer trips, or plans to live in a Spanish speaking country, you will need a more advanced understanding of Spanish grammar, as well as a wider range of verbs, in order to properly articulate yourself in a variety of different situations.
What's more, you will be less inclined to make a large financial and time investment for a short trip than you will for a longer trip.
You will also need to decide on where you want to use the language. Spanish and Catalan are different languages, so if you will be spending time with natives in Barcelona, Catalan will be more useful to you as it is the language that they use between themselves when they are not speaking to someone from outside of Catalonia.
So what options are available? Some of the most popular include:
- Spanish courses at a local language school
- Private Spanish lessons with a Spanish teacher
- Learn Spanish online
- Use YouTube videos, other internet sites, apps on your smartphone etc
- Buy a textbook and teach yourself
Hiring a private tutor is probably the most effective way to learn Spanish. You can find tutors nearby on sites such as Superprof, and you can match your requirements with their expertise by looking at their profile.
And even better, your tutor can tailor the classes to your every need. So if you wants to focus on being able to hold a conversation, you can do more speaking practice and focus on the pronunciation, and if you want to delve further into the intricacies of verb conjugation and the grammar, you can do that too.
Spanish speaking countries have given the world some important thinkers, and they in turn have given us some interesting quotes in Spanish. The advantage of having a native speaker as a tutor is that they will know these people, and they will know which authors, poets, artists, and people from political life, can enhance your learning experience.
However, this often isn't the most economical option. If you are looking for something more suited to your pocket, then you can find plenty of websites that offer the chance to learn Spanish online for free. The same can be said of applications that you can download on your smartphone.
Language learning can be complicated, and usually a combination of the methods listed above is the key to success. For example, practising by using a smartphone app is a great way to reinforce what you have learnt in the classroom environment of your Spanish course.
As a beginner, you must be open to every opportunity to practise if you are to be successful with speaking Spanish. So don't be afraid to try out different expressions which you might get wrong - we all have to start somewhere!
Useful Spanish Vocabulary and Important Sentences
If learning about the history of the Spanish language isn't your idea of fun, and you'd rather just learn the absolute basics in order to communicate with the Spanish speakers in Spain, Argentina, Colombia, or Chile, then we have put together the ultimate beginner Spanish guide. The first thing you need to do in any conversation is to greet someone and introduce yourself, so let's start there.
Here is how we can greet someone in Spanish:
- "¡Buenos dias!" - Hello (in the morning)
- "¡Buenas tardes!" - Hello (in the afternoon)
- "¡Buenas noches!" - Hello (in the evening)
- "Adiós" - Goodbye
- "Hasta luego" - See you later
- "Hasta pronto" - See you soon
- "Hasta mañana" - See you tomorrow
- "Lo siento, pero tengo que irme" - I'm sorry, I have to go
- "¿Quieres dejarme tu telefono / mail?" - Could you give me your phone number/your email?
- "Dales recuerdos a tus amigos" - Say hi to your friends for me
Here are some essential Spanish vocabulary words that will use on a very regular basis in any Spanish speaking country.
- "Sí" - yes
- "No" - no
- "Por favor" - please
- "Muchas gracias" - thank you very much
- "Perdón" - excuse-me
- "Muy bien" - Great
- "¿Y usted?" - And you? If you want to be informal: "¿Y tú?"
- "No hay de qué" - No problem
- "De nada" - You're welcome
Here are the useful sentences to know when you are introducing yourself:
- "Me llamo Daniel" - My name is Daniel
- "Bienvenido" - Welcome
- "¿Cómo te llamas?" - What's your name?
- "Soy inglés(a)" - I am English
- "¿De donde eres?" - Where are you from?
- "Soy de Miami" - I'm from Miami
- "Te presento a mi hermana" - This is my sister (when introducing someone else)
- "Fue un placer conocerte" - It was lovely to meet you
- "Tengo 20 años" - I am 20 years old
- "Yo también" - me too
Now here are the words and sentences to use in order to ask a question in Spanish:
- "¿Me podriás ayudar a…?" - Could you help me to…?
- "¿Tienes la sal?" - Do you have the salt?
- "¿Qué hora es?" - What time is it?
- "¿Hay…?" - Is there...?
- "¿Dónde está el metro ?" - Where is the subway? (To say: "I'm looking for the subway": "Estoy buscando el metro")
- "¿Dónde se compran los billetes?" - Where do you buy the tickets?
- "¿Qué es esto?" - What's this?
- "¿Cómo? - What?
Here are some more useful sentences for all types of situations :
- "¿Estaba bien ?" - Was it ok?
- "Me gusta..." - I like... (if what you like is plural then use "me gustan")
- "No me gusta..." - I don't like... (if what you don't like is plural then use "no me gustan")
- "Estoy de acuerdo" - I agree
- "No estoy de acuerdo" - I disagree
- "Me gustaría (ir al teatro)" - I'd like to go (to the theatre)
- "Para mí (no es una buena idea)" - I don't think (it is a good idea)
- "No entiendo" - I don't understand (Or: "Disculpe, pero ne he entendio": sorry but I didn't get that)
- "No gracias" - no thank you
- "Lo siento mucho" - I'm really sorry
- "No pasa nada" - don't worry about it
- "¡Enhorabuena!" - congratulations!
One thing that you will often have to deal with as a new Spanish speaker, and long before you are fluent, or even reach intermediate Spanish, is to apologise and explain that you don't speak Spanish, or that you don't speak very good Spanish. Here's how you do that:
- "No hablo español" - I don't speak Spanish
- "Hablo un poquito de español" - I speak a little bit of Spanish
- "¿Te puedo hacer una pregunta?" - May I ask you a question?
- "¿Podrías repetirlo más despacio, por favor?" - Could you say that again more slowly, please?
- "No escuché lo que dijiste" - I didn't hear what you said (So that the person repeats themself)
Spanish Sentences to Use in Everyday Situations
And now here are some Spanish sentences that can be useful in certain situations.
First of all, when you want to find your way around and need to ask a Spanish speaker:
- "¿Perdona, me puedes indicar como llegar al metro / al centro?" - Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to the underground/city center?
- "¿Estoy perdido, me puede ayudar?" - I'm lost. Could you help me?
- "¿Dondé está el supermercado?" - Where is the market?
- "A la derecha" - to the right
- "A la izquierda" - to the left
- "Todo derecho" - straight ahead
- "Al lado de" - next to
When you want to travel (by bus, by train, by plane…) :
- "Quisiera un billete para Madrid, por favor" - I'd like a ticket to Madrid, please
- "¿A qué hora sale el autobus/el trén/el avión para la playa? - At what time is the bus/train/plane going to the beach?
- "¿Donde puedo comprar los billetes? - Where can I buy the tickets?
- "¿Done está la estación de tren más cercana? - Where's the closest train station?
- "¿Donde está la taquilla? - Where is the ticket counter?
- "¿Donde está la parada de autobús? - Where is the bus stop?
- "un billete sencillo" - a one-way ticket
- "un billete ida y vuelta - a return ticket
- "¿Puedes darme los horarios?" - Can you give me the hours?
- "¿En qué dirección debo ir?" - Which way do I have to go?
At a hotel, cafe, or restaurant:
- "¿Tienes una habitación disponible, por favor?" - Do you have any vacancies?
- "Quisiera reservar una habitación para 3 personas" - I'd like to reserve a room for three people
- "Quisiera alquilar una habitación / una casa / un apartamento para 7 días" - I'd like to rent a hotel room/a house/an apartment for seven days
- "¿Cual restaurante me recomendias en la zona?" - Which restaurant do you recommend around here?
- "Una cerveza/una copa de vino/un café/un agua sin gas/un agua con gas, por favor" - a beer/a glass of wine/ a coffee/ a water without gas/a water with gas, please
- "¿Nos podrias traer la cuenta, por favor?" - Can you bring us the bill please?
- "¿Donde se encuentran los servicios?" - Where's the bathroom?
With these key sentences, words and phrases, you should be able to make yourself understood on your trip to a Spanish speaking country. So get to work! As we mentioned before, there are other ways to study Spanish that can help you out as well.
To successfully memorise these words and phrases, you will have to repeat them several times. If you are motivated, you should be able to learn useful Spanish words and phrases in a few weeks. Maybe even a few days if you dedicate enough time to studying and have a good memory....
Feel free to watch movies in Spanish to familiarise yourself with the Spanish accent and the way people use the language.
Obviously studying things such as verb conjugation and the subjunctive will allow you to better understand what you have memorised, and it will also allow you to progress to the more advanced levels of Spanish learning.
One last thing to remember is that there are different accents in the Spanish speaking world, so try to familiarise yourself with how they speak in the country or region that you are going to before you go.
So, to finish, regardless of the trip that you want to take, and how long you will be gone, make sure that you learn at least some Spanish to be able to interact on some level with the locals when you arrive!
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