Sadly, I do not speak another language fluently. However, I am great at memorizing key phrases. My time in Europe taught me that having a few phrases memorized will go a long way when traveling in a foreign land. My focus lately has been on Spanish since I have plans on going to Mexico in the near future! Of course, Spanish is not only found in Mexico. You can use it all over the world in places like Spain, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. That was just to name a few.
So, let us get straight to the point. The 20 Phrases I believe will help you out in any Spanish speaking country are:
1. Hola , hablas Inglés ? / Hello, do you speak English?
This is my #1 favorite foreign phrase, because you can literally just keep asking this question until someone says yes.
2. Mi nombre es ______ / My name is ______
Introducing yourself is just polite and you will find that many people will ask simple questions and it’s nice to be able to answer them.
3. Soy de _____ / I am from _______
Let’s be honest. Your accent or lack of Spanish accent will give away that you are not a local. Let them know where you are from!
4. Encantada de conocerte. / Nice to meet you.
End your conversations in a friendly way. Don’t forget to smile 🙂
5. Hablo muy poco español / I speak very little Spanish
It’s ok to let someone know that you don’t speak the language fluently. They will understand and hopefully be sympathetic towards your current language struggle.
6. Habla despacio , por favor. / Speak slowly, please.
This is a favorite of mine. Even if you understand the language, it can be difficult if someone is talking very fast. If asked in a friendly way, people are more than willing to cooperate with this simple request.
7. No entiendo. / I do not understand.
When all else fails, you may have to tell someone you just don’t get it. Ideally, they will be able to communicate their message in another for you, or, you both just move on with you lives to something else.
8. ¿Dónde está el baño? / Where is the bathroom?
Classic. You will need to know this, and when you need to know this, you will want to know how to say it. Just knowing how to say “Where is…” is useful all on it’s own, but the bathroom is crucial.
9. ¿Me Puedes decir dónde está el ______? / Can you show me where ______ is?
I like the specifics of this question (versus a simple “where is…”) because it allows you to point to a map versus just hearing the answer out loud, which can be difficult if you don’t understand too much Spanish.
10. Quiero comida , quiero un restaurante. / I want food, I want a restaurant.
Because who doesn’t go on vacation to eat?!
11. Quiero una bebida. Quiero agua / café / té / cerveza. / I want a drink. I want water/coffee/tea/beer.
And who doesn’t want to drink? You will probably need a wide assortment of these beverages when on a trip. Feel free to also learn “uno mas” which means, “one more” just in case you are REALLY thirsty. 🙂
12. El cheque por favor. / The check, please.
Don’t forget to pay for your meals.
13. ¿Cuánto cuesta esto ? ¿Cuál es el costo? / How much is this? What is the cost?
Asking the price is useful for many portions of a vacation. You can use it while dining, shopping, or evening transportation.
14. Quiero eso . Quiero esto. / I want that. I want this.
Another useful phrase that can be used to point to items on a menu or in a store.
15. ¿Dónde se encuentra el taxi / tren / autobús? / Where is the taxi/train/bus?
In case your destination is a little too far to walk.
16. Para / Stop
I use this when asking taxis to stop in certain in locations as needed, in case something catches my attention.
17. Necesito ayuda. / I need help.
When all else fails, ask for help! Try not to look too panic stricken when doing so.
18. Estoy Perdida / I am lost.
You can string this together with “I need help” to clarify what you need help with. (I usually get lost, so this was a MUST for me.)
19. Lo siento , perdón / I’m sorry, excuse me.
It’s important to be polite wherever you go. It’s amazing how much more receptive a local can be when you are kind and polite.
20. Adiós , gracias! / Goodbye, thank you!
It’s been a great trip, but I am going home. Adiós!
Of course these aren’t necessarily the ONLY words you will need to know in Spanish, but it’s a start. If time permits, I encourage everyone to become familiar with as many words and phrases as possible. I also suggest travelers take time to listen to podcasts or Youtube videos showcasing learning other languages. Having it play in the background helps more than you probably realize. I also enjoy watching my favorite Disney movies that I know line by line in Spanish. Hope this was helpful to everyone and wish me luck in Mexico!