Latin America Travel: Spanish 101

Knowing a bit a Spanish comes in handy when talking with locals on a Bolivia tour. Knowing a bit a Spanish comes in handy when talking with locals on a Bolivia tour.


Spanish a bit rusty? You and me both. In general, Spanish is used throughout Latin America - but you'll definitely encounter dozens of other languages too.  On a Belize trip or Guyana tour you'll find English as the official language, with other languages spoken in varying regions. For example, along the coast you're most likely to hear Creole spoken. Spanish is the main language in Belize towns that border Guatemala to the west and Mexico to the north and it's possible to run into several other languages such as Mayan, German, Chinese, Lebanese, and Arabic. While on a Peru tour you'll discover that most highland Indians are bilingual. Quechua is the preferred language and Spanish is their second tongue. You'll come across varying dialects in Argentina (think European Spanish). And in Brazil you'll need to brush up on your Portuguese.

You'd be surprised how much you can get by with just a few Spanish basics. So, to those who took German in high school while everyone else was taking Spanish (yours-truly included) ... I give you Useful Spanish Phrases To Make You Sound Like You Know What You're Talking About.

hello·················· hola (ola)
See you soon········hasta luego (ahs-ta lu-way-go)
good morning········ buenos días (buay-nos dee-as)
good afternoon·······buenas tardes (buay-nos tar-days)
good evening/night·· buenas noches (buay-nahs no-chays)
How are you?·········¿Cómo está? (co-mo ehs-tah)
Thank you·············gracias (grah-see-ahs)
You're welcome·······de nada (day nah-dah)
please··················por favor (por fah-vor)
excuse me·············permiso (pear-mee-so)
What?··················¿Que? (kay)

("Que" side story: My first time in Peru, I was speaking with an airport official and in response to his comments I kept saying "K" as in "O-K" and every time I did so, he repeated what he just told me. It took me at least four "Ks" to realize we were having a little lost-in-translation moment.)

sir·······················Señor (see-nior)
madam·················Señora married /Señorita not (see-nior-ah or see-nior-ee-tah)
My name is...········· Me llamo... (may yah-mo)
today·················· hoy (oye)
tomorrow···············mañana (mah-nia-na)
yesterday··············ayer (ahy-yehr)
vegetable··············vegetal (vegh-hay-tahl)
with ice/without ice···con hielo/sin hielo (cahn ee-ay-lo/seen ee-ay-lo)
fish····················· pescado (pay-scah-do)
meat····················carne (car-nay)
How much is it?········¿Cuán-to cues-ta? (cuahn-to cues-ta)
What time is it?········¿Qué hora es? (kay or-ah es)

0-10 - cero, uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez
(se-ro, u-no, dose, trays, cuah-tro, seen-ko, sais, see-eh-tay, oh-choh, new-ay-vay, dee-ehz)

water··················· agua (ah-guah)
a bottle of water······ una botella de agua (una bo-teya day ah-guah)
I am cold················ Tengo frío. (Tayng-go free-oh)
I am hot················· Tengo calor. (Tayng-go ka lor)
I am hungry············ Tengo hambre. (Tang-go ahm-bray)
I am thirsty············· Tengo sed. (Tayng-go sed)
I am a vegetarian····· Soy vegetariano/a. (soy veh-ghe-tar-ee-ah-no)

An “a” follows if you are female, on all feminine nouns or whenever you are describing a female.

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