18 Jun 2012

Fluent Spanish In Less Than Fifty Words

Spanish : Fifty words to fluency!

The BigBarcelonaBlog studied Spanish for three long years.  There were subjunctives. There were imperfect subjunctives. There were seriously flawed subjunctives and occasionally entirely irredeemable subjunctivesmainly on the exam papers of the BigBarcelonaBlog. And there were many, many stilted conversations with students from every country on the planet except Spain. The upshot is the BigBarcelonaBlog can have reasonably successful conversations with people in Spanish on one conditionthat the person in question does not speak with a Spanish accent. I'm sure the readers of this blog being a discerning and intelligent group will have spotted the drawback here.

          Nevertheless it did have one positive side-effect. Muddling his way through the world, The BigBarcelonaBlog discovered that you can get by in Spain with relatively few words without seeming like a complete guiri (a clueless tourist). What follows is The BigBarcelonaBlog's guide to speaking the absolute minimum of Spanish whilst still throwing in a few things that will keep people thinking you know a lot more than you do (note this blog entry only covers Spanish - for Catalan please read the blog entry Two Languages).

Greetings and Farewells :

HolaHello. The only one you need. Almost nobody says Buenos Dias whatever the exercise books tell you. You may hear a simpleBuenosbut even that is rare.  “Holais a jovial word so try and make it bounce when you say it possibly by holding theOin the manner of Lenny Henry sayingOKon Tiswas in the early 1980s.

AdiosGoodbye. Perfectly good enough though if you want to show off a little you can throw in aHasta Luego- See you soon or even aVenga(pronounced as Benger ) which is kind of aCiao.

Que tal?  (pronounced K Tallike the long defunct bargain record label but with an a instead of an e)- How are you? Again nobody sayComo estas?apart from the misleading academics who write  Learn Spanish Books. You must answerBien(Good). You must say this even if you have just lost your money, your job and your life partner. It's just likeHow are you?in Englishnobody really cares and a long itemisation of your current life woes would be bad form, not to mention surprising as you can't speak Spanish and that's why you're reading this post. Should you wish to pretend to want to know how somebody is without really caring in return you can addY tu?(and you?)

Crucial Words:



Por favorPlease

GraciasThank you

Tapas  - Tapas


Cerveza - Beer

Una copa de vino blanco/tintoA glass of wine (white/red)

La cuentaThe bill

GuiriTourist (disparaging) . Anyone referring to you as this is probably on the point of over-charging you.

 Other Crucial Phrases:

Hablas InglesDo you speak English? Obviously a crucial phrase. Unless you don't speak English in which case it won't help much. It also begs the question of what you are doing reading this.  Which is not to say go away. The BigBarcelonaBlog welcomes all-comers, be they English speakers or not. Especially if they are Danes, who have arrived here after googling Danish flag and being directed here for reasons which passeth all understanding, but seems to be happening far more than I expected. Who would have thought that after constructing a blog all about Barcelona most of your traffic would come  from Google searches for a Scandanavian flag? Not me. If only I'd written about Copenhagen I'd be an internet millionaire. Especially for those Danish flag googlers here is a picture:

Gratuitous Danish Flag No.2

We will now continue with Spanish.

Donde esta ...  Where is...? For when you're lost.

Hay...? - Is there...?

Que es...? - What is...?

Tienes un/unaDo you have a...?

Queiro un/una... –  I would like a

Ayúdame!Help me!

Swear Words (In case you find yourself in problematic situations and wish to know just how bad things are getting) –  Please note I have sanitised the translations for those of a sensitive disposition. You may think this is a thoughtful thing to do. Especially those of you who have children or want to have children or once were children. Which is all of you. You may be so moved by my thoughtfulness that you feel the urge to reward me. I understand this urge and have prepared for such an eventuality. Simply click on an advert or two. I am rewarded. And the global economy moves a tiny step further out of La Crisis. So you've killed two birds with one click. Poor birds. But otherwise, hurrah!
Possibly no longer with us

Puta (Rating: Bad) A nasty person or a very promiscuous woman.

Hijo de puta (Rating: Very Bad) –  An extremely nasty person or son of a very promiscuous woman.

Hostia (Rating: Not too bad)I am a bit angry

Joder  (Rating: Worse) - I am angrier

Jodete (Rating: Much worse)  – I am angry with you and I may hit you unless you go away right now.

Basically, in Spain, when they want to get nasty they bring your mother into it.

There we have it. Fluent Spanish in less than fifty words. In the interests of honesty I should point out that this won't actually really make you fluent, unlike thoseLearn All Spanish in 3 weeks or 3 hours or 3 days and then write the sequel to Don Quioxte the next day” which really will (NOT!) But I have recently done a course in marketing and I got carried away. Nevertheless I stand by the fact that these are the most important words to know and for anything else...well...er...you can point.

Vamos! (Let's go)!

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