Category Archives: Learn to Speak Spanish

Tips and tricks for studying Spanish. Learn some basic Spanish words, phrases and grammar that may help you in a Spanish conversation.

Need-to-know Business Spanish

Chinese is the language with the most speakers, but Spanish is arguably the most widely spoken language worldwide. Today, over 500 million people across the world speak the language. As a result, it is becoming increasingly popular for companies to list ‘Spanish’ as a job requirement for many positions, especially within marketing and sales.

As you know, learning a new language is never easy. More so if you wish to master it at a professional level — and Spanish is no exception. Hence, below, I will share a list of useful words and phrases to boost your vocabulary (regardless of your proficiency.)

You may already know the basics such as ‘Jefe,’ ‘Empresa”, ‘Reunión,’ ‘Contrato,’ and ‘Cliente.’ But, to excel in the business world, you will need to familiarize yourself with more complex terms, including:

• Accionista (shareholder)
• Activo (asset)
• Audiencia (target audience)
• Bienes de consumo (consumer goods)
• Bolsa de Valores (stock market)
• Capital (equity)
• Comprador/a (buyer)
• Endosar (endorse)
• Estado Financiero (financial statement)
• Fabricante (manufacturer)
• Factura (invoice)
• Impuesto (Tax)
• Ingreso/Ingreso Neto (income/net income)
• Inventario (inventory)
• Licencia/Permiso (license/permit)
• Marca Comercial (trademark)
• Papeleo (paperwork)
• Pasivo (liability)
• Préstamo (loan)
• Reembolso/Reintegro (reimbursement)
• Sociedad/ Sociedad Colectiva (partnership)
• Socio (Partner)
• Venta al detal (retail)
• Fecha de vencimiento (due date)
• Mayorista (wholesaler)
• Sindicato (union)
• Tasa de interés (rate of interest)

These may not be all the terms you need to be considered ‘fluent’ in Spanish at a professional level. Nonetheless, knowing and understanding how and when to use these words will make a huge difference.

Now, let’s continue with phrases that will make your life easier when writing a business e-mail or scheduling a meeting:

  1. ¿Cuándo nos podemos reunir? – When can we meet?
  2. Estoy disponible para reunirme el… – I can meet with you on…
  3. Te escribo para confirmar que… – I am writing to confirm that…
  4. Necesitaría consultarlo con mi socio. – I would need to speak with my business partner.
  5. Por favor envíanos una propuesta. – Please send us a proposal.
  6. Aceptamos los términos y condiciones. – We accept the terms and conditions.
  7. Espero atento(a) a tus comentarios. – I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

It is important to note that Spanish is a very rich and dense language. Thus, it will take a lot of time and effort on your part to fully grasp it. But, in case you are planning on applying to a marketing or sales position, I also came up with a list of phrases that in my experience, have proven to be incredibly useful:

  1. El lanzamiento del producto esta pautado para… – The product’s launch is scheduled for…
  2. El departamento ‘XYZ’ se esta encargando. – The ‘XYZ’ department is taking care of it.
  3. La factura fue enviada el… – The invoice was sent on…
  4. Debemos mejorar nuestro servicio al cliente. – We need to improve our customer service.
  5. Hemos recibido quejas en relación a… – We received several complaints regarding…
  6. Debemos desarrollar una campaña para las redes sociales. – We need to develop a social media marketing campaign.
  7. Hubo un problema con… – There was a problem with… There is a wide range of useful resources available online, most of which are free.

So, if you truly want to be proficient at Spanish, I suggest you take some Spanish classes by Skype.

Want to Study in Spain?

Going Abroad? Looking to study abroad somewhere exciting next semester? Or perhaps you’re searching for the perfect internship? Are you looking for something that will help you stand out in a large pool of applicants for your dream job?

You should consider Spain. No, really. With its vibrant culture, beautiful architecture, and unlimited opportunities to improve your Spanish, Spain is the perfect place for you to create a career, and a lifetime of goals. Just make sure you keep in mind a few things before you head out.

  1. Resumes

While the concept of what a resume actually doesn’t change, in Spain, you’re more likely than not to use a CV than a resume. CV stands for curriculum vitae, and it’s meant to highlight your accomplishments in work, and more specifically academics. The format is really all about creating itself to suite your accomplishments, versus a resume, which creates itself to fit the job position. These are typically accompanied with a cover letter.

However, you should keep in mind that when using a CV to apply for a job, you should still structure it to fit the job. You want interviewers to know that you understand the position! Short answer: a CV is more detailed about what you have accomplished, and a resume is all about telling an employer why they should hire you. Since the CV is mostly common in Europe, Euro Pass has a handy online form that will help you fill out a CV! Visit it here for help getting your own CV started.

And don’t forget to send your resumes, cover letters, and CVs to a Spanish corrector before submitting! It doesn’t hurt to have a second opinion, especially if writing in Spanish is new or still a bit unfamiliar to you.

Interview Etiquette

Not much changes from the United States to Spain in terms of interview etiquette. Always be a little bit early. Anywhere from five to ten minutes is acceptable. Be prepared! No interviewer wants to spend time with a candidate that has no idea what is going on.

If Spanish isn’t your first language, then it will help you out even more if you come prepared. You’ll know exactly what to do when an interviewer mentions a complex topic or asks you a question that requires a bit more thought. You’ll spend less time thinking about your response (and even the best non-native Spanish speakers still struggle with processing new vocabulary at a rapid, immediate pace, so understand practice is important) and more time impressing your interviewer!

In Spain, it’s standard to greet females with the kiss on each cheek greeting, but you shouldn’t do this in an interview. Keep it professional and stick with a firm handshake. Eye contact and confidence is also key! It’s also important to note the Spanish use of the tú versus usted. In Spain, it is more common to use tú than usted, but again, keep it professional. It’s better to be safe than sorry! Some interviewers will let you know if they prefer you to use tu over the usted form, but just in case, memorize your usted verb endings.

Vocabulary and Key Phrases

Not every job will have the same vocabulary and key phrases. An engineer’s vocabulary is going to be different than a designer’s vocabulary.

Whatever field you are going into (or studying), make sure you brush up on those vocabulary words before the application process and especially before interviewing. It’s difficult enough to interview for a job or academic program – you put all your hard work out on the line and have to deal with the agony of waiting to hear back for days on end, sometimes even weeks! – don’t make it any harder on yourself by not knowing your industry vocabulary.

Sure, you know how to say jefe and empresa, but do you know how to explain the key concepts in your field? Can you detail what excites you about your career path? You’ll definitely want to know how to talk about those things. Start by translating the vocabulary and/or phrases, and then put to use the Spanish you already know! If you can memorize the key words of your industry, half the battle is already over.

Degree Requirements

Before you can even think about interviewing, you have to submit a CV and cover letter, and before you do that, you have to make sure you’re qualified to apply. Job qualifications vary from country to country.

Each field will have its own special set of rules and regulations, so it’s important to be well versed in what your field requires of applicants and prospect employees before you even begin searching for your perfect fir(whether that be a job, internship, academic program, or study abroad program.).

For example, the healthcare system is set up in the United States differently than it is in Spain and the rest of the European Union (EU), so that will affect how hospitals, clinics, and healthcare offices are run.

When practicing law, know that Spain is a part of the European Union, which affects many laws, regulations, and ultimately professional certifications. Whatever field you are entering, or are already a part of, make sure you are prepared and well-versed on requirements before you start applying.

Visas and Permits

This is the most important thing to remember when studying or working abroad, as you cannot do your studies or your job without it!

While Spain doesn’t require visas to enter the country for American citizens on short-term trips (up to three months) you will need one if you are going to be staying a semester or two and if you will be earning wages.

Typically, summer programs don’t require visas, as they are shorter terms than three months. Some employers will even sponsor visas and help with the process of obtaining one. However, there are a few different types of visas, and each situation is unique, so be sure to research your specific job or academic situation to find out correct and up to date information. Again, this is the most important thing you can remember to do! You can’t do your job without it!

13 Good Apps for Learning Spanish

Are you looking to learn Spanish like a pro? Do you need extra practice outside of the classroom? It can be challenging to know how to start, but with these 13 apps, you’ll be a pro at Spanish in no time!

  1. Duolingo

Free in the app store, this popular app won the Best App Award in 2013 in both the Apple Store and the Google Play Store. Duolingo is structured similar to standard lesson plans. With each topic, you complete a module and can progress to more difficult modules. You can even test your Spanish knowledge by testing out of levels. Duolingo is meant to be a quick and fun way to get your daily dose of Spanish practice.

2.)    SpeakEasy

Though it will cost you $3.99, this app is perfect for travelers on the go. It’s the equivalent to a pocket-sized phrasebook, but in the mobile version its equipped with recordings of native speakers, so you never have to guess if you’re saying anything correctly. SpeakEasy is perfect if you want to refine your accent.

3.) Learn Spanish Offline

You will find it in Google Play. What I like of this app is that you can learn even if you do not have acces to the internet. It teaches you some sentences and its pronunciation. Good for beginners, not very comprehensive for advanced students.

4.)    FluentU

FluentU is all about picking up on Spanish in a natural way. This app uses videos from the real world, such as news clips and speeches, and creates a way for you to learn Spanish with an inclusive experience. These videos are a fun break from the monotony of the classroom. Users say that FluentU is not only fun but convenient and can be used anywhere! With FluentU, you’ll be sure to improve on your Spanish skills, one video at a time!

5.)    Lingualia

$14.95 in the app store, Lingualia takes users through an individualized course. Users can get a customized lesson plan based on their level of Spanish. Each level contains 50 units, so by the time you’ve finished, you won’t be missing anything! Each lesson includes the basic formatting of language learning: spoken language, written language, vocabulary, grammar, and more. Plus, everything is spoken by a native speaker. This app most resembles a traditional foreign language classroom setting and has ratings of 4.7 stars in the iOS store, and 4.5 stars in the Google Play store.

6.)    Memrise

This app’s target function is to strengthen memory when it comes to learning the Spanish language. Memrise is made up of modules, with individual lessons in each module that teach you 15 words each. Each word begins with the Spanish word, then the definition in English, and finally an audio recording. Not only that, but each word has a fun video or picture attached to it to help you learn through humor. It’s a fun and easy way to learn Spanish. Just create an account, and you can start learning instantly!

7.)    Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is arguably the most popular app for learning a second language out there. What separates it from the rest, however, is that instead of learning Spanish through being taught in English, it teaches you Spanish through being taught in Spanish. There are no translations to English, so you are learning Spanish as if it were your very first language! Rosetta Stone also has the technology implemented to detect non-native accents, which takes the pressure off sounding perfect to pass a quiz. It’s an in-depth, totally interactive language learning program with a long history of success among its students.

8.)    Open Language

This app, once known as Spanish Pod, has a reputation for being the most versatile amongst both Apple and Android users. The app carries a more serious tone than other language learning apps because its central focus is the CEFR, or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which is the international standard used to measure and describe language ability. Each lesson goes with each of the six levels of the CEFR and uses dialogue as a means to teach. Each lesson comes with a transcript for the dialogues, so it is easy to follow along and pick up on new words or key phrases. At the end of each lesson, you will be provided with a review covering everything from grammar to vocabulary. Open Language is an excellent tool for learning academic level Spanish.

9.) Learn Spanish. Speak Spanish

This app is useful because it focuses in simulated conversations. Instead of learning vocabulary from nothing, you will be experience basic conversations that will help you to remember the new vocabulary within a context.

10.)    Busuu

This app requires a monthly subscription that costs around $21 but provides you with a community of Spanish language learners. Due to this, Busuu presents the majority of its course work as oral communications and practice. The lessons are structured to provide vocabulary, dialogue, writing, speech recording, and a lesson review. Each lesson also provides the opportunity to speak with native Spanish speakers to gain practice and familiarity.

11.)    Mindsnacks

Mindsnacks is credited for being one of the best apps for Spanish students. This app is actually a game, rather than structured lessons. Each game is centered around a particular topic such as food or school, so its comprehensive and easy to follow along!

12.)    Fluencia

A webpage rather than a mobile app that costs $14.95 a month, Fluencia is known for its visual approach to teaching Spanish. One of its best features is that while it includes essential components of language learning (grammar and vocabulary), it also provides lessons on culture and communication. The way Spanish is taught in Fluencia is visual and uses pictures and visual aids with each lesson. It’s the best platform to use to learn Spanish if you learn best with visual aids!

13.)    MosaLingua

MosaLingua is different than most language learning platforms in that it targets the words and phrases you have the most difficulty learning and provides simple ways to incorporate them into your long-term memory. In general, the app focuses on the top 3,000 words and key phrases and focuses on teaching those so users can learn basic vocabulary to get through everyday situations. MosaLingua has a 4.6 rating on both the iOS and Google Play store, and is one of the top-rated language learning apps!

Spanish Words With Different Meanings

Learning Spanish might seem easy, but even as a native speaker we can face some confusing and curious words when talking to other Spanish-speakers around the world.

As you may know, it is the first language for 74 countries. Thus, it is only natural that we find some discrepancies. The same words can have multiple meanings when shifting from one region to another. In some cases, this has to do with the so-called “idioms” or country’s slang; but in other cases, the meaning changes entirely.

Therefore, I thought, what better way to practice our Spanish than by acknowledging a list of unique words, that depending on where you stand or with whom you are talking to can mean one thing or another.

• Torta

This one is a hack! When ordering a ‘torta’ in Venezuela, Colombia or Panamá, you are asking for delicious chocolate, vanilla or coffee cake. A little bit further up, in Mexico, if you ask for a ‘torta,’ you will encounter a traditional fried sandwich with ham or meat filling. But ‘torta’ does not only have a wide array of culinary meanings, in Spain this word is informally used to describe when someone falls or gets smack.

• Mono/Mona:

If you look for the meaning of ‘mono’ in the dictionary, you will see it stands for monkey. Nonetheless, several different purposes are found around Spanish speaking countries. In Colombia, for example, ‘mona’ stands for a blonde girl. Meanwhile, in Cuba, you will find that a cute little baby will be called ‘mono.’ In Spain referring to something as ‘mono’ also means lovely or sweet. However, in Venezuela, ‘mono’ can be a sweat pant – or in some cases, it is also used as a pejorative term to describe someone who is low-class or skanky.

• Pajita:

This word is a very tricky one. In countries like Argentina, Chile, and Spain it may be used to describe a straw. In Venezuela, a straw is a ‘pitillo,’ and a ‘pitillo’ in Spain is a cigarette. Confusing right? Well, it gets even more complicated. If you are traveling to Central America (Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua), you don’t want to shout out ‘pajita.’ In these countries’ pajita’ means to masturbate quickly. So, you must be very careful when using this particular word around America.

• Fresa:

Usually, ‘fresa’ only means one thing: a juicy strawberry. However, in Argentina, strawberries are called ‘frutillas.’ In Mexico, they use ‘fresa’ in an ordinary sense to describe someone who acts preppy, egocentric or superficial.

• Rubia:

In most Spanish-speaking countries a ‘rubia’ is a blonde girl/woman. But in a few countries, such as Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina a ‘rubia’ refers to an icy and refreshing beer! Presumably because of the beer’s color.

• Buzo:

This is also a very particular word. It is typically a synonym of diver. But in Costa Rica and Chile they will use ‘buzo’ when referencing sweatpants. In Argentina, a ‘buzo’ is commonly used to describe a sweatshirt, not pants. Also, in Venezuela, it is ‘slang’ for a man that stares sassily at women.

• Guagua:

In some countries like Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba the ‘guagua’ is a bus, but if you go down to Ecuador, Peru or Chile you will find that ‘guagua’ stands for baby. So basically, you could ride the ‘guagua’ with your ‘guagua’ if you were to use these words with different meanings.

• Coche:

In most countries, ‘coche’ is simply put a car. Spain, Mexico, and Uruguay use it as such, but in Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru you will use ‘coche’ to describe a baby stroller. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, ‘coche’ is the informal term for pig.

• Chucho:

This is a personal favorite! In Central America, ‘chucho’ means cheap and might also be used to describe an unreliable person. In some other countries, you will find that it is slang for joint. Panamanians used it as a warm term for people named Jesús or to refer to God’s son. However, Chucho in Chile means jail and in Argentina is an adjective used to describe ‘cold weather.’ Moreover, in Mexico, the term is used for someone who is a very skilled person. In Spain it is used for dogs in a despective way.

Its female counterpart ‘Chucha,’ can have different meanings as well. In Argentina it means vagina. In Colombia, it is used to describe odors or rancid smells. In Chile, it will be used when something that is very far – e.g. ‘Queda en la chucha.’

• Bocadillo:

Is a widespread word in the Spanish language, but with different meanings; in Spain is a sandwich, in Cuba, you will use ‘bocadillo’ for a sweet coconut treat, as well as in Colombia you will use it to describe a sweet guava treat. Uruguayans use ‘bocadillo’ for a particular intervention in a theater play when an actor in a non-main role says only a few words.

• Pana:

In most countries, ‘pana’ refers to the material that is commonly used for making shirts, pants or skirts. However, in Colombia and Venezuela it is a way to refer to a very close friend or relative.

As you can see, one word can have multiple meanings among Spanish-speaking countries. Proving, that Spanish is not only one of the most used languages in the world, but it is also one of the richest. Especially if you keep in mind that we are talking about countries that, in some cases, are only a step away from one another.

Today we learned a very important lesson. We need to be aware of the meanings of the words we learn to be able to use them accordingly when traveling, interviewing for a job, or even when making friends at a bar. Also note, that some of these words can become very offensive or inappropriate depending on the place you use them.

I hope this article can help you better understand the language and its vast vocabulary.


Common Spanish Pronunciation Mistakes

We all have been there — spending countless hours (and tons of money) learning a foreign language to find out native speakers later still cannot understand you; or that you are actually mispronouncing a series of words.

So, to help you sound less like a ‘foreigner’ and more like a local, I have compiled a series of tips to avoid common Spanish pronunciation mistakes.

• Rolling the ‘R’

Let’s get this one out of the way, as I know for native English speakers, it is tough to pronounce the letter ‘R’ correctly. As a rule of thumb never mark it as you will in English; think of it as an entirely different letter!

Let me start by saying that depending on where the letter is located in the sentence, it is pronounced different. The simple ‘R’ found in words like ‘pero’ (but) or ‘quiero’ (want) is similar to the sound you make when saying ‘scare’ or ‘where.’ The other ‘R’ often thought of as a ‘RR’ is a more difficult one, as the person needs to ‘roll’ their tongue. The easiest way to explain it is by using the word ‘throw’ as an example. When you pronounce ‘throw’ the letter ‘R’ takes a very similar sound to the one in Spanish. This ‘RR’ is widely used in words like ‘carro’ (car), ‘perro’ (dog), ‘cigarro’ (cigarette).

It may take some time and require an extra effort on your part, but if you practice I am sure you can master the sound!

• Pronouncing the ‘U’

Believe it or not, the letter’ U’ is another typical mispronounced letter. In Spanish, the letter’ U’ sounds more like the sound we make when saying the ‘oo’ in a word like ‘moo’ or ‘poop’ than what an actual ‘U’ sounds like in English. Thus, try to keep this in mind for future reference.

Also, if the ‘U’ comes before another vowel (diphthongs), the ‘U’ merges with the next vowel. As a result, it sounds like a ‘kw’ would in English. Great examples of this rule are the words ‘cuenta’ (account) or ‘Quito’ (Ecuador’s capital city).

Of course, you can also find words than include a dieresis. In these rare occasions, like when pronouncing the word ‘pingüino,’ the ‘U’ sounds more like a ‘W.’ But dieresis is used in less common words. Hence, you should not worry about it too much.

• Sounding out the ‘H’

This is an easy one… just don’t! In Spanish, the letter ‘H’ has virtually no sound. No matter how or where it appears in a word, the ‘H’ is never pronounced, unless it is a ‘CH’ combo. In this case, the sound is similar to a ‘shhh’ sound in English.

• Buzzing the Z

Okay so, depending on your location the letter ‘Z’ can be pronounced in one of two ways. In Latin America the ‘Z’ has a smoother sound, much like the English’ S’; while in Spain, the ‘Z’ has a more prevalent sound. Here, the letter sounds more like a ‘TH’ would in English.

This has more to do with local argot than with grammar or spelling. But, if you want to sound legit, I suggest you pay attention to how natives pronounce it and try to imitate the sound.

• Differentiate the ‘B’ from the ‘V’

This is a tricky one, as even natives (especially those who have not to receive extensive education) tend to mispronounce these letters. In proper Spanish, the ‘V’ sound is made by your teeth touching the tip of the lips. Words like ‘vino’ (wine) and ‘viaje’ (trip) are great examples. On the other hand, the ‘B’ sound is more of a round sound made only with your lips. Think of words like ‘bueno’ (good) and ‘bonito’ (pretty).

However, do not worry too much about mispronouncing your B/V as it is quite common. If you can perfect that, you will definitely sound like a local.

• Learning the ‘LL’

It is probably the only Spanish consonant that I’ll tell you to enunciate more strongly. It used to be considered an extra letter of the alphabet, but in recent year the ‘LL’ simply disappeared. Nonetheless, you will still need to learn how to pronounce it as many common Spanish words use it.

In a nutshell, you should consider the ‘LL’ to be just like a ‘Y’ in English. Think of how you pronounce the words’ yell’ and ‘yo-yo.’ So, the word ‘playa’ (beach) will be pronounced ‘plah-yah.’

• Soften your ‘Ts’ and ‘Ds’

Usually, the letters’ T’ and ‘D’ have lighter or softer pronunciations that their English counterpart. And let me tell you that, of all the common mistakes listed above, this is probably the quickest fix.

Also note that many Spanish natives like Cubans, Dominicans, and Venezuelans tend to ‘soften’ their D’s to the almost inconceivable point. For instance, when pronouncing the word ‘encontrado’ (found) you might want to skip the ‘D’ altogether and sound it as ‘encontrao.’

As you can see, there are many ways in which you can improve your Spanish pronunciation. These tips will not only help locals and other natives understand you better but will also come in handy when writing or reading in Spanish. If you have a clear understanding of how letters sound, then you will have a better grasp of the language, making less grammatical and spelling mistakes.

Remember learning a second language is no easy task. Hence, do not be afraid to make mistakes or mispronounce words. Like most things in life, practice makes perfect; so, keep on going!

Books in Spanish to Read this Summer!

If your idea of a perfect summer day consists of laying in the sun, sipping iced tea while enjoying a great book, keep reading as this post is for you!

Below you will find a carefully curated list of amazing reads that will captivate you — while also allowing you to brush up on your Spanish. Thus, without further ado, here are my ‘top 6’ Spanish page-turners for the summer:

Como Agua Para Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

It might seem odd at first, but this is actually one of my favorite books. Como Agua Para Chocolate translated to ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ is a wonderful light read, filled with emotional cliffhangers.

Written by the Mexican author Laura Esquivel, the story follows a young girl who longs to marry the love of her life. But as expected, she is unable to do so, given that Tita (the main character) is destined to take care of her aging mother. Like Water for Chocolate is a great ‘coming of age’ story and the perfect mix between cultural heritage, romance, and tragedy.

Oh, and did I mention that each chapter starts with a delicious recipe that is seamlessly tied into the story?

Required Spanish Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Cien Años de Soledad by Gabriel García Marquez

You probably have heard of this book before as it has been translated into 49 different languages and sold over 80 countries across the globe. So, if you have not read it, you definitely should!

Cien Años de Soledad translated to ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is a book like no other. It was written by Gabriel García Marquez, better known as ‘Gabo’, an award-winning Colombian author whose books have inspired millions of people from all corners of the globe.

The novel is set in the utopian town of Macondo and narrates the story of seven generations of the Buendía family. It is a classic magic realism story where reality and fantasy are so deliciously combined that one cannot tell the difference! Cien Años de Soledad is seen by most people as a surreal interpretation of historical facts of the most turbulent century in the history of Latin America: 1820-1920.

It is very tough to explain, as the story itself is so rich and dense. But trust me, it is an addictive novel that will transport you to a whole different world!

Required Spanish Level: Advanced

El Misterio de la Llave by Elena Moreno

El Misterio de la Llave translated to ‘The Mystery of the Key’ was published by the University of Salamanca and written by Elena Moreno. It was specially designed for students wanting to learn Spanish as you only need to know essential vocabulary words. Thus, if you are just starting to learn the language, I strongly suggest you pick up this book — it even comes with a glossary of terms for those trickier words.

El Misterio de la Llave narrates the story of an archeologist who travels to Toledo (one of Spain’s most culturally rich cities). The purpose of his visit is to make sense of a recently discovered ancient key and a mysterious package that falls into his hands. The plot is filled with mystery, conspiracy, and enigmas.

I vastly recommend it, as it is effortless to read as well as really entertaining. You will not even realize how caught up with the story you are until it ends!

Required Spanish Level: Beginner

La Casa de los Espíritus by Isabel Allende

La Casa de los Espíritus translated to ‘The House of Spirits’ is another excellent book filled with magic realism. It is an international best-seller written by the Chilean author Isabel Allende.

The story mixes everyday life elements with those from a fantasy world in a beautifully crafted tale. It tells the story of a traditional family through four generations, recounting the trials of the political movement in post-colonial Chile.

I am not going to lie — the plot is not always easy to follow as it is filled with intense conflicts and tumultuous scenes. But, if you focus, I am sure that you can work through it and appreciate Allende’s writing.

Required Spanish Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Don Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

This list would not be complete without including Don Quijote de la Mancha, one of the most recognized novels of all time. Written by Miguel de Cervantes is thought of as the most influential literary piece of the Spanish Golden Age. It was published in two parts, the first in 1605 and the other ten years later in 1615.

Yes, I am aware that over 400 hundred years have passed, but this specific story has proven to be timeless.

The plot revolves around the adventures of Alonso Quixano a ‘hidalgo’ from La Mancha, who is obsessed with chivalric romances and decides to revive them by setting out to serve his nation. The other two constant characters in the story are Rocinante (an old horse) and his loyal friend Sancho Panza (an ordinary farmer). Together they embark on an adventure-filled tale that is both heartwarming and entertaining.

Required Spanish Level: Advanced

La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruíz Zafon

Like many other books on this list, this one is also an international best-seller. However, La Sombra del Viento translated into ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ is a relatively new addition as it was only published in 2001. Written by Spanish author Carlos Ruíz Zafon, the novel has a prequel titled The Angel’s Game.

La Sombra del Viento narrates the story of Daniel Sempere, a boy living in Barcelona, Spain, right after the Spanish Civil War. The plot includes a secret book buried in the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’ and characters from all walks of life. It is a story within a story, and I would not want to spoil it for anyone who wants to read it.

Thus, if you are intrigued and love intensity-filled reads, I recommend you pack it before leaving for vacation this summer!

Required Spanish Level: Advanced

Spanish phrases for tourists

Spanish beach Spanish phrases for tourists
“Nerja .. Andalucia” flickr photo by Nick Kenrick.. shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

If you’re spending a few weeks in Spain for your holidays you probably don’t want to bother becoming a fluent Spanish speaker. However, a few key Spanish phrases can go a long way, especially if you’re not planning to spend your trip in an all-inclusive resort. Not only does it make getting what you want easier, a lot of people appreciate it when foreigners take the time to learn a few basic phrases so it can often make you friends.

Spanish phrases for introductions

Making new friends or striking a conversation with locals is the best way to fully immerse in a culture. Therefore, these terms will come in handy when engaging in small talk (more so if you are traveling alone):

  • Good day Buenos días
  • Hello, my name is… Hola, me llamo…
  • What’s your name? ¿Cómo te llamas? (informal) or ¿Cómo se llama? (formal)
  • How are you doing? ¿Cómo estás? (informal) or ¿Cómo está? (formal)
  • I’m well, thank you – Estoy bien, gracias.
  • Do you speak English? – ¿Hablas Inglés?
  • I’m visiting this beautiful city, what do you recommend I visit? – Estoy de visita en esta hermosa ciudad, ¿qué lugares me recomiendas que visite?
  • Would you like to go for a drink? – ¿Quieres ir a por unos tragos/unas copas?
  • Would you like to dance with me? – ¿Te gustaría bailar conmigo?
  • How old are you? – ¿Qué edad tienes?
  • Is this sit occupied? – ¿Puedo sentarme aquí?
  • Where are you from? – ¿De dónde eres?
  • Goodbye   Adiós
  •  Nice meeting you! – ¡Fue un placer conocerte!

In most parts of the Spanish-speaking world, strangers should be addressed using the formal version to be polite. However, it’s worth noting that in Spain, Argentina and some parts of Uruguay you can use the informal right away. Actually, being honest, it seems the overall trend is going towards the more informal versions.

 Airport Lingo

First things, first! You just arrived at your destination (or have a layover flight) and need to make your way through the airport… Here are a few phrases that will come in handy:

  • Where can I collect my bags? – ¿Dónde puedo recoger mi equipaje?
  • Where is the taxi/bus stop? – ¿Dónde está la parada de taxi/autobús?
  • Where can I exchange currency? – ¿Dónde puedo cambiar dinero?

Or if you want to be more specific, you can say:

¿Dónde puedo cambiar [your currency] a [foreign currency]?

  • Is my flight delayed? – ¿Se ha retrasado mi vuelo?
  • When does my next flight leave? – ¿Cuándo sale mi próximo vuelo?
  • I would like a window/aisle seat, please. – Me gustaría un asiento de ventana/pasillo, por favor.
  • I would like to change my reservation. – Me gustaría cambiar mi reserva.
  • I missed my flight, what can I do? – He perdido mi vuelo, ¿qué puedo hacer?
  • Could you point to the nearest exit? – ¿Me podría indicar hacia dónde es la salida?

Spanish phrases for ordering food

One of the best parts of traveling is exploring local cuisines. To do so, I recommend you visit authentic restaurants, which sure enough, do not carry English menus. Do not worry! These easy-to-learn Spanish phrases will help you navigate the restaurant world:

  • A table for two, please Una mesa por dos, por favor.
  •  I have a reservation under… – Tengo una reserva a nombre de…
  • Do you have a wine list? – ¿Tienen carta de vinos? Something similar works for the next dishes:
  • Can I see the dessert menu, please? – ¿Podría traerme la carta de postres, por favor?
  • What is this? ¿Qué es eso?
  • I am a vegetarian Soy vegetariano(a)


  • Do you offer vegetarian/vegan options? – ¿Hay opciones de platos vegetarianos/veganos?
  • I am allergic to… – Soy alérgico(a) a…

When the waiter asks you what you would like to drink, or something along the lines of ¿Algo de beber? or ¿Qué van a tomar?

  • To drink, I’ll have a… Para beber quiero…

When the waiter asks you what you would like to eat, or something along the lines of ¿Qué desean ustedes?

  • What do you suggest we order? – ¿Qué nos recomienda?
  • Is this dish spicy? – ¿Este plato es muy picante?
  • I would like the… Me gustaría el/la/los/las…
  • Could you bring me some… Me trae un/una/unos/unas…
  • No, thank you.  No, gracias.
  • Yes, please. Sí, por favor.

To make changes to your order, use sin or con for without or with.

Let’s face it accidents happen:

  • May I have another spoon/fork/knife? – ¿Podría traerme otra(o) cuchara/tenedor/cuchillo?

Wanna pay?

  • May I have the check, please? – Me podría traer la cuenta, por favor.

And, of course, don’t forget to thank your waiters with muchas gracias, as you would in English.

Asking for Directions

In case you ever find yourself without your phone in a chaotic city like Mexico City, Barcelona, or Buenos Aires, here are a few simple questions to help you figure out where you are and where you need to be going.

  • Where are we? ¿Dónde estamos?
  • What street is this? ¿Qué calle es esta?
  • Excuse me, where is…? – Disculpe, ¿dónde está el/la/los/las…?
  • Could you help me find…? – ¿Podría ayudarme a encontrar…?
  • Is there a pharmacy near by? – ¿Hay alguna farmacia cerca?
  • I want to go to the [XYZ] Museum, could you let me know how to get there? – Me gustaría visitar el Museo [XYZ], ¿me podría explicar cómo llegar?
  • Where can I find a grocery store? – ¿Dónde está el supermercado más cercano?
  • Where is the bus stop? ¿Dónde está la parada del autobús?
  • Is it near? ¿Está cerca?


  • Where can I find the closest metro station? – ¿Dónde queda la estación de metro más cercana?
  •  Where can I find the nearest hospital? –  ¿Me podría decir cómo llegar al hospital más cercano?
  • We want to go partying tonight, where could we go? –  Queremos ir a de fiesta esta noche, ¿dónde podríamos ir?

Now for the answers:

  • Go straight. Sigue derecho/todo seguido.
  • Turn left Gire a la izquierda.
  • Turn right Gire a la derecha.

Spanish phrases in a taxi

  • Could you please call me a cab? – ¿Puede pedirme un taxi, por favor?
  • Take me to this address, please. Lléveme a esta dirección, por favor.
  • Stop here, please. Pare aquí, por favor.
  • How much is the fare? – ¿Cuánto es la tarifa?

Spanish phrases for going shopping

What trip does not include a little (or a lot) of shopping? Especially when traveling to South America where there are lots of street markets and bazaars. Thus, I thought these few phrases could help you better express yourself during a shopping spree:

  • How much is this? – ¿Qué precio tiene?

Or if you want to be more formal, you could also say:

¿Cuánto cuesta?

  • Do you have change for a [XYZ] bill? –¿Tiene cambio para un billete de [XYZ]?
  • Do you accept credit cards? –  ¿Acepta tarjetas de crédito?
  • Where is the women’s/men’s/children’s department? – ¿Dónde está la sección de mujeres/hombres/niños?
  • Where are the fitting rooms?  – Dónde esta el probador?
  • Do you have this on a bigger/smaller size? – ¿Tiene una talla más grande/más pequeña?
  • Does this come in another color? – ¿Viene en algún otro color?
  • Could you gift wrap it, please? – ¿Podría envolverlo para regalo, por favor?

Now that you know how to ask for food and how to ask for an adress, it is a great momento to learn how pedir and preguntar work in Spanish.

Spanish speakers have a wide variety of dialects and accents. So, while you may find it difficult to understand the questions being put to you, if you answer using standard Spanish you will most likely still be understood. However, pay attention to your pronunciation and intonation as that can confuse a local with little to no experience listening to foreigners speak.

If you just started learning the language, I suggest you take a few lessons before traveling. On the contrary, if you are an intermediate speaker, or already know the basics, these simple terms will serve you well!

Best Spanish Spell Checkers

If we want to achieve readable texts, we need to check the grammar. Whether you work as an online journalist, you write as a fiction writer, you write for an important fashion magazine or, well, for your own personal use, grammar checkers are imperative.

When it comes to the Spanish language, it is maybe one of the languages with most linguistic richness in the entire world, which doesn’t make our task easier.

Fortunately, technology has brought us a multitude of tools, and these tools have greatly facilitated proofreading for us. We have online checkers, dictionaries, and translators into so many different languages, and all available in Spanish, of course.

As a rule, Spanish Spell Checkers are for free use, but if we make an annual payment, we get access to more functions in the system.

With these Spanish Spell Checkers, you will be able to improve your text. They are not only for students of that language, but for native Spanish speakers as well.

However, they are not perfect. If you want a high-quality text, I would recommend passing the Spanish Spell Checker first and then sending it to a Spanish proofreader.

Microsoft Word

At the time of writing, the checker per excellence is the one that comes incorporated to Microsoft Word. My recommendation for you is always having it activated. It will help you greatly to always have well written texts with the correct spelling, since every time you write a spelling error Word Office will detect it and will show it in red, giving you the option to correct it.

With the passing of time, the aforementioned spell checker has been getting better substantially, not only with the expansion of vocabulary but also with the detection of some grammatical flaws.

The automatic checker is a simple comparator of letters between the words written and the words compiled in its “dictionary”.


One of the alternatives is Stilus, a Spanish Spell Check online. Stilus will give us a lot of surprises and, also, joy, because it’s one of the best Spanish Spell Checkers. Stilus is not merely a checker, but instead it makes a revision of the linguistic context and is accompanied by a didactic explanation and its related bibliography. In other words, it doesn’t get comfortable enough with the mere detection and mention of an error, but instead it’s capable of arguing for it.

In the final analysis, Stilus will help us to avoid grammar flaws and spare us some very valuable time by conducting multiple documental searches, letting us work quickly and be more productive. It’s not the universal remedy for automatic checks, but it’s a giant step for us to use in our daily life as a worker, as well for students or for our personal use.

Spanish Checker

And now, one of the best along with the great Stilus. The second Spanish Spell Check is called: Spanish Checker.

Spanish Checker is another option for us to correct our texts, although maybe not so complete as the previously mentioned tool, but it’s completely free. Its handling is very simple, and despite this, it’s very strong. Spanish Checker will correct our texts orthographically and grammatically. In both cases, whether it’s a grammar check or an orthographical check, Spanish Checker will suggest a modification or will simply suggest that we verify what we have written with the correct sense for the sentence. Putting the text over the word in question, Spanish Checker will show us a short explanation of the possible flaw through a floating text and will suggest the proper use for the sentence.

We will be the ones to correct the text, which is very useful because we will be able to learn from our mistakes. Also, this tool can correct texts in the English language.

Now, I share with all of you some reviews that I have made about some other Spanish Spell Checkers, and these are not less important than the previous ones.

Ortógrafo de

It’s a fast Spanish Spell Check and is composed of more than five million words; it also recognizes every form of conjugation, including the diminutives, augmentatives and the most common prefixes and suffixes. Its engine detects typographical and spelling flaws and even corrects Roman Numerals.


Spellboy is another of the bests and most reliable Spanish Spell Checkers you will find online. It’s kind of a treasure, really. Its layout is very attractive. The layout imitates a notebook. And you don’t get too much advertising on the website.

In addition, Spellboy has a great number of languages at your disposition: Russian, German, Spanish, Dutch and French.


This one, it’s a practical and easy tool to use. It corrects your flaws of grammar and it can help you with your homework or your daily job. The only thing you have to do is “copy and paste” the text inside the empty box and it will instantly be fixed. Furthermore, it counts eleven different languages you can work with. Its use is very simple – you only have to put the text you want to check into the field, choose the language and click on the “Check” button to finish the job.


And finally, but no less important, this website brings together simplicity with reliability. It contains eleven different languages which you can use to check your texts in. These languages are: Spanish, Catalan, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Swedish and Scottish.


These are some of the best Spanish Spell Checkers. If you can check one by one and use the one of your own preference, you will definitely find the perfect checker for you. Remember the function of each one is to “clean” your texts, checking orthographical or spelling flaws. The goal of each and every Spanish Spell Checker is to clean up our flaws in our writing to get it free of errors for every reader or for the general public.


How to learn Spanish in the car

Travelling is a big part of our day. We wake up and commute to work. When we go out, we spend some time in traffic. On an average, we spend about 2 hours a day in traffic. Most of us waste that time doing absolutely nothing, either trying to wake up or relax before or after a day at work. Some even spend the time listening to music. Others, even read a book if they are not driving. So, this is why I was thinking about how you can start spending this time learning Spanish. Do you want to see how? Keep on reading.

There are many ways in which you can learn a new language or polish up your skills in a language that you already know, while riding in your car. One of them is by downloading, buying or listening to an online “Spanish in the car” course. This is extremely useful, as they usually repeat the words many times, and if you happen to have an auditive memory, you can catch up quite fast.

Another method of learning Spanish in the car is by listening to Spanish songs. As rhymes are easier to remember and if the song happens to have a catchy chorus, then you have a winner. Later on that day, you can look up the lyrics of your favorite songs and learn their meaning. Actually understand what that singer was trying to say.

If you are more advanced and want to be up to date with what is happening around the world, then you can also listen to a news channel in Spanish. This way, you can both amp up your Spanish language skills, and keep up with what is happening around the world. If listening to news is not your thing, you can also listen to podcasts and stand up shows. A little laugh can definitely help lighten up your mood.

Finally, you can also listen to audiobooks. If you are a beginner Spanish learner, you can start by listening to childrens’ books as they are easier to understand, because the vocabulary is not that complex, and the reading is clear. You can then move up to books that interest you, starting from fiction, and advancing towards more complex books like nonfiction.

As you can see, you can put the time that you spend commuting between a place an another into good use. By simply listening to songs in Spanish, or even audiobooks, if not Spanish language courses that you can take in your car, your Spanish skills will improve in no time. It is true that mostly your speaking, and listening skills will be better, but your vocabulary will definitely improve, and that really matters.

An important thing that you do not have to forget is that even if you have reached a certain level of Spanish, you can forget it if you do not have contact with it every day. So, even if it is only a song, or a piece of news, listen to it and put that commute time into good use.

Spanish expressions with food

Spanish cuisine is one of the best in the world, and I am not saying this because I am from Spain. If you are not convinced it is so, it is probably because you have not tried it yet. As food plays a major role in our day to day lives, I have decided to teach you some expressions with food. Prepare yourself with some snacks, because things are about to get tasty.

  1. Vete a freír espárragos

If you want to tell somebody to leave you alone, a great way to ask him is to send him to fry asparagus, literally. I am not really sure where this expression originated from, but I guess that the first person to use it was not a great fan of asparagus either.  So remember, if your friend is showcasing one again his lack of karaoke talent, just send him to cook a bit of asparagus. He will never know where that even came from.

  1. No todo el monte es orégano

This expression is like a reality check. It literally translates into not every hill is oregano. For this one, I happen to know the background. People used to go up the hills to collect herbs. Not all of the plants that grow are good to eat. Some of them are weeds or even poisonous plants. This is a caution. Sometimes things might not turn out how you want them to be. This is an expression designed to say this exact thing.

  1. Esto es pan comido

You know how in English, we have the expression “it is a piece of cake”. In Spanish, the equivalent is “this is eaten bread”. For those of you who do not know the expression, it means that it is very easy. So, I guess that next time when you have an exam, you could happily say that “esto es pan comido”.

  1. Ser quien corta el bacalao

It is time to add a fishy expression to our list. “Ser quien corta el bacalao” literally means, to be the one that cuts the cod. It basically means that you are the boss, the person in charge. How did we get to this expression? It is quite simple. In the 16th century, the foreman was the person in charge with cutting of the salt cod, along with dividing it along the workers, and sometimes even the slaves. So, in your family, are you the one cutting the cod?

As you can see, there are many expressions related to food. You can also check out my article about expressions with fruits. This way, your vocabulary will definitely improve. As soon as you know it, you will be using expressions better than a Spanish native. Always keep in mind, that in order to truly master a new language, you need to learn, and understand their expressions.

I hope that I did not make you too hungry. Keep on snacking, and keep on learning some food for the mind.