The language today

Spanish phrases and vocabulary on your summer holiday

Are you going on holiday to a Spanish-speaking country? What better opportunity to enjoy the heat, the beach or a nice tan and practice Spanish? Isn’t that a good plan for you?

Remember that Spanish is spoken in Spain and many other Latin American countries, such as Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. Also, in Central America and some African countries, there will always be a hot season in some months of the year, and you can practice Spanish in one of these countries. Isn’t it great? If you can travel, you can always enjoy good weather and a relaxed atmosphere like summer vacations somewhere in the world.

During the holiday atmosphere, there are always many relaxed activities to gain self-confidence and enrich your command of the language, so keep reading. We will give you a hand here so you can practice your Spanish.

First rule: you already know where you will travel, and your trip is almost there, so I advise you that if you want to soak up the atmosphere of the place, look for a movie set in one of the cities you will visit. That will make your visit much more interesting because once you are there, you will seek to recognise what you saw in the film, whether it be the landscape, way of life or, better yet, expressions or phrases you heard. Ah! And, of course, I encourage you to change the language of your mobile phone to Spanish.

Well, we’re there: now to practice.

As you gear up for your exciting summer adventure in Spain, let’s dive into the world of the Spanish language. Today, we’ll explore some key phrases and expressions that will help you communicate and enrich your stay.

  “Buenos días” (good morning) is one of the most common greetings. To greet a person in the afternoon, we say “buenas tardes” (good afternoon/evening) finally, we use “buenas noches” (good night).

Imagine you are walking down the street and must attract someone’s attention to ask them a question. In that context, you would use “perdone” (excuse me) in its formal form or “perdona” in its informal form, depending on the age of the person you are addressing. After saying this and attracting their attention, you can now ask the question you want.

Is this your first-time meeting someone, and you don’t know what to say at the end? If you’ve had a good time with her, you can use the classic “encantado/a de conocerle” (this is the formal version) (nice to meet you) or “encantado/a de conocerte” if it’s someone your age or someone you feel comfortable enough to speak on a first-name basis. You can also say, “es un placer” (It’s a pleasure) or simply “encantado/a” (delighted).

Basic vocabulary

Let’s consider the means of transport in Spain. We will mainly discuss el tren (train), bus, avión (plane), and coche (car).

When discussing accommodation, you must master the concepts of hotel, hostel, (Albergue juvenil) youth hostel, apartamento (apartment), camping, parador, casa rural (cottage), and camping. The Paradores is a public hotel chain in Spain managed by a state commercial company.

Spain offers a wide range of activities that are of interest to everyone. You can enjoy the sun and sand at the beach, cool off in a pool, explore the scenic mountains, go hiking, experience the outdoors with camping, immerse yourself in art and history by visiting museums, indulge in retail therapy with shopping, take a leisurely stroll around the city, or stay active with sports.

The recommended products for summer are protector solar (sunscreen), mapas (maps) and planos (plans). Sombrero (a hat) or gorra (cap), gafas de sol (sunglasses), cámara fotográfica (a camera), and cargadores (chargers). If you are not from the European Union, it is advisable to buy a tarjeta SIM (SIM card).

Essential extras: taxi, pasaporte (passport), billete (ticket), maleta (suitcase), mochila (backpack), equipaje (luggage).

Interrogative formulas

«¿Dónde está el hospital? » (Where is the hospital?)

«Tiene (usted)/Tienes (tú) un mapa?» (Do you have a map?)

«¿Cuándo nos vamos?» (When do we go?)

If you want to explain that you don’t speak Spanish well, you could say, «Disculpe, no hablo bien español» (Excuse me, I don’t speak Spanish well). If you don’t understand what they said, you can say, «no entiendo lo que ha dicho» (I don’t understand what you said), and add, «¿podría repetirlo, por favor?» (could you repeat that, please?).

If the situation is too complicated for you, you may want to ask if someone speaks English. In this case, you would have to say, «¿habla usted inglés?» (do you speak English?/poliness grammar) or «¿hablas inglés?». To ask for help, say, «¿podría ayudarme?» (could you help me?) and to express desire, for example, if you are in a cafe and you already know what to order, use the conditional verb: «me gustaría tomar un café, por favor» (I would like to have a coffee, please).

When you’re planning to travel within Spain, these questions can be your lifesavers: «Dónde se pueden comprar los billetes de bus/tren?» (Where can I buy bus or train tickets?) and «a qué hora sale el próximo tren a Madrid?» (What time does the next train to Madrid depart?).

I hope these tips are helpful for your practice and your next vacation. Remember that the key to learning Spanish, as with everything in life, is motivation, which is entirely up to you.

Keep learning curiosities about the language and the Spanish language, visiting and reading the articles we publish weekly on the iScribo blog. If you want to improve your Spanish writing and correct a specific variant of this language, subscribe to our superb grammar checker. We are waiting for you!

Culture around Spanish language

The first literary works in Spanish

Literature in Spanish is rich in talented playwrights, writers, and poets. Since the Swedish Academy awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901, eleven of the 102 authors awarded the prize are Spanish-speaking authors: the Spaniards José Echegaray y Eizaguirre (1904), Jacinto Benavente (1922), Juan Ramón Jiménez (1956), Vicente Aleixandre (1977), and Camilo José Cela (1989); the Chileans Gabriela Mistral (1945) and Pablo Neruda (1971); the Guatemalan Miguel Ángel Asturias (1967); the Colombian Gabriel García Márquez (1982); the Mexican Octavio Paz (1990) and the Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa (2010).

Now, if we look back at the first literary texts in Spanish, we will see that they were written during the Middle Ages, in the 12th century. This was the time of minstrels, those singers and actors who entertained people with lyrical and epic poetry. Epic poetry was composed of epic poems and narrative works written in verse that sing the exploits of great heroes. The most representative work of the epic poems is the Cantar del Mío Cid. It is an anonymous and classic work from the 12th century that is recorded as the first Castilian work written in verse and the only epic song preserved almost entirely.

This work is composed of 3,730 verses, which narrate the final part of the life of the hero Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid. Here, the complex process of recovering lost honour is narrated, implicitly criticising blood nobility while praising the lower nobility, those who have achieved their status through merit and who fight to win their honour and honour.

In addition to the songs of deeds and the poetry transmitted by the minstrels, a large part of medieval literature was created in the monasteries with a more cultured poetry of a religious nature and educational purposes, the so-called Mester de Clerecía. One of the most representative works of this type of medieval literature is Los Milagros de Nuestra Señora (The Miracles of Our Lady). This work, written by the clergyman Gonzalo de Berceo between 1246 and 1252, narrates, in Spanish, 25 miracles of the Virgin Mary to make known the religion and the Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla. In this place, he was a cleric. Furthermore, it was close to the Camino de Santiago, widespread throughout Europe.

XV century

The 15th century is a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; didactic and religious writing continued during this time, but new metric forms began in part of the lyrics written by people from more affluent classes. For example, in Coplas a la muerte de su padre (Couplets to the Death of His Father), Jorge Manrique alternates octosyllables and pentasyllables. He makes a beautiful reflection on the brevity of life and the irrelevance of material goods.

With the Renaissance (16th century), interest in classical themes was recovered as oriented towards the cult of reason. In Renaissance prose, pastoral, Moorish, and Byzantine novels stand out as the books of chivalry. Miguel de Cervantes ends this fashion of brave knights swearing eternal love to a weak, faithful lady who reciprocates her love.

The great Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes peaked his career with Don Quixote of La Mancha, published in 1605; he ironises the knights-errant here.

Alonso Quijano, the story’s protagonist, and a fan of chivalric books, loses his mind and travels the roads with his horse Rocinante and his squire Sancho to impose justice guided by the rules of chivalry. His characters have the duality of madness and wisdom; they provoke laughter and admiration for his great humanity.

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha is one of the most important works of literature in Spanish, and all of us who were born speaking this beautiful language are familiar with this work and its famous opening phrase:

En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor.

[In a village in la Mancha, whose name I do not care to remember, a hidalgo lived not long ago, one of those who keeps a lance on the rack, an old leather shield, skinny nag and swift greyhound.]

With that phrase begins this great work of Cervantes, and here I say goodbye.

Keep learning curiosities about the language and the Spanish language, visiting and reading the articles we publish weekly on the iScribo blog. If you want to improve your Spanish writing and correct a specific variant of this language, subscribe to our superb grammar checker. We are waiting for you!

Improving language

Are you going on a trip? Ways to start a Spanish conversation on the plane

You are sitting on a plane, travelling alone. Maybe you are afraid of flying and can’t stop thinking about it, or perhaps you are thinking about everything you must do once you arrive at your destination. Either way, you are not alone, although you travel alone. And you know it.

Although you may only sometimes feel like chatting with a stranger, striking up a casual conversation with people you would probably never meet can be tremendously rewarding. In fact, a study by the University of Chicago Business School of Chicago subway passengers showed that those who chat with strangers on their way to work have a much more positive attitude than those who travel alone.

As you settle into your seat, please feel free to connect with your surroundings. A friendly glance towards your seatmates can be the first step towards a meaningful conversation, and what better way to do it if you decide to make it a Spanish conversation:

Hola, ¿tú también viajas solo/sola? (Hi, do you also travel alone?) This simple question can start a new connection, a chance to meet someone exciting and share your travel experiences. Your seatmate might have unique stories to tell or be on a journey with a fascinating purpose. If they’re from your destination, you could ask for their recommendations. You might be surprised at how much you can gain from a simple question.

Try to find things in common; you could ask, for example, ¿te gusta volar? (do you like to fly?) This gives rise to quickly knowing if there is something in common or being able to share anecdotes about the activity that has them coinciding in that same place. Perhaps the other person responds that they prefer different types of transportation, and the conversation moves there. If she says she loves to fly, the next question is undoubtedly ¿qué lugares/países conoces? (what places/countries does she/he know?)

Focus on what you know about your travel companion. You know, without a doubt, that they are travelling, so don’t think twice and ask her about her trip. ¿vas de regreso a casa? (¿Are you going back home?) ¿vuelas por trabajo o vacaciones? (Are you flying for work or vacation?) If he travels for work, ask him a qué se dedica (what he does). If you are returning home from a vacation, could you say ¿qué fue lo que más disfrutaste de tus vacaciones? (what did you enjoy most about your holiday?)

Breaking the ice is usually the most difficult part, but if there is spirit and availability, it can be a nice moment for both of you. If this is not the case, you will have dared to practice a Spanish conversation. Have a nice trip!

Keep learning curiosities about the language and the Spanish language, visiting and reading the articles we publish weekly on the iScribo blog. If you want to improve your Spanish writing and correct a specific variant of this language, subscribe to our superb grammar checker. We are waiting for you!

Culture around Spanish language

Sports language. The linguistic game off the field

Language is like a mouldable dough; it expands, or contracts depending on the context and grows or extinguishes according to different circumstances. It is a living being and, therefore, changing. With the emergence of different professions or areas of work development, technicalities arise, a language to convey ideas regarding a specific activity. It happens in medicine, journalism, and other areas. Within journalism, there is a subbranch: sports journalism.

Sports in general and each branch of sports have linguistic references, and sports journalism refers to those that attract the most followers. Sports journalism from countries whose official language is Spanish is often criticised for the use of foreign words, but it must also be recognised that in addition to the use of Anglicisms, the language of sports journalism stands out for the originality of some of its expressions, which have transcended the vocabulary used by journalists and have been transferred to the daily lives of the population of an entire country.

When discussing sporting events, war terminology comes to the fore naturally. The military lexicon is an essential ingredient when creating metaphors for sports. There is talk of real battles, of duel or strife. It is a life-or-death encounter in which the teams dig in, rearm, and test all their artillery.

The language of football

Football, the cultural cornerstone of Spanish-speaking countries, has given rise to a linguistic vocabulary that is incredibly diverse, mirroring the vast array of cultures it represents. This lexicon, deeply embedded in the language, is a testament to the rich cultural tapestry of these nations, inviting all to explore and appreciate their unique expressions of soccer.

Football has its dictionary. Un tiro, disparo o remate al arco is a shot at goal. El tablón is the tribune where the fans of each team are located. Depending on the team they support, they are known as Culés or Colchoneros in Spain, Bosteros or Gallinas in Argentina and Uruguay, or Las Madres, Las Zorras, or Las Monjas in Chile.

The ball is known as la pelota, el cuero (the leather) or el esférico. A player lacking passion is called pecho frío (cold chest). Dar un baile (giving a dance) is winning by a wide margin. Amasar la pelota (kneading the ball) refers to whoever can dominate it. Morfón, comilón or chupón (glutton), is the one who does not pass the ball to his teammates. The fans who aguanta los trapos (put up with the rags) are those who always support their team, and gambetear or hacer una gambeta (dribbling) is the ability of a player to elude the opposing team and continue advancing with the ball. The player with these skills is a gambeteador (dribbler).

Gato (a cat) is an outstanding goalkeeper; there is also talk of an arquerazo. And a cabezazo (a headbutt) can also be testarazo. Tuercebotas (a boot twister) is how you know a terrible player.

It is said that sports language is excessively opinionated, but at the same time, this freedom has allowed him to be one of the most creative and innovative with the use of language. Poetic resources such as metaphors, comparisons and metonyms are used in sports language. In sports journalism, emotions and feelings are appealed to, which is why using exclamation points is expected. Goal, goal, goal! It could be an acceptable headline on the front page.

Is Barcelona that good? The headline seeks to challenge the reader, establish contact, and maintain a conversation.

As we have already seen, linguistic creativity is characteristic of sports language. We see it in the brief extract that we have shared here of the usual vocabulary around football and the stylistic resources that are used to create new words or expressions; in addition to these, we can mention a couple more, such as the case of the verbalisation of the noun in cases of campeonar (ganar el Campeonato: win the championship) –El atlético de Madrid logró campeonar en España– or the resource of parasynthesis, which is none other than forming words using a suffix or prefix, for example, in the case of cerocerismo. El cerocerismo vuelve a imponerse en la liga.

Sports language has been relevant in enriching other languages, even everyday languages. Do you know everyday expressions whose origin is in the sports field? Share them with us.

I have wanted to discuss the language of equestrianism, but due to a lack of space, that will have to be part of another article. You can also suggest topics that interest you.

Keep learning curiosities about the language and the Spanish language, visiting and reading the articles we publish weekly on the iScribo blog. If you are looking to improve your Spanish writing and correct a specific variant of this language, remember to subscribe to our wonderful grammar checker. We are waiting for you!

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