Central America is one of the most vibrant and diverse areas in the world to visit. While you’re challenging yourself to learn more Spanish, we hope that you’re dreaming of where it can take you! Combine your love of the language with a passion for exploration and you may find yourself on one of the best vacations imaginable. To help you out, we have compiled a list of some of the top travel destinations for you to investigate and to enjoy! Buen viaje!
Ambergris Caye is the largest island off the coast of the mainland of Belize. It has a little bit of everything to suit everyone’s taste, whether you are traveling alone, in a big group, or with family. Enjoy water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, and parasailing. Then head to the jungle for hiking, zip lining, or simple nature walks. You will also find here the western hemisphere’s longest-running coral reef system that is full of underwater wildlife. Take advantage of all the natural beauty when visiting this gorgeous place!
How Safe Is It?
While traveling it is important to take safety into account and use common sense. This island is considered safe with some reported instances of theft (of passports or credit cards), burglary, and sexual harassment toward lone women. Always keep your personal items in a secure location and try not to flash expensive items while out in public.
The great majority of island dwellers speak English, but you will also hear Spanish and Creole, the local mestizo dialect. More than 80% of locals speak Spanish, so feel free to use it as you travel along!
The long, skinny island of Roatan sits atop the beautiful and ancient Mesoamerican barrier reef. Imagine soft sandy beaches, palm trees swaying with a light breeze, and crystal waters. This island has what you’re looking for, whether it be absolute luxury or simple budget travel and lodging. You will definitely want to get into the water however you can, so join a glass-bottom boat tour, rent a kayak, or charter a fishing trip! Once you’re ready to come back to land, plan a trip to the art or underwater museums, visit the iguana conservatory, go bicycling, or gather a group for mini-golf. The options for fun and entertainment are truly endless.
How Safe Is it?
While safer than mainland Honduras, we advise you to enjoy your travel experience more so on the west end of the island. Take greater precautions while visiting the east end of the island which is less developed and less populated.
Although most islanders speak English, a big group of mainland Hondurans finds their way there for work. This means that even though English is the most commonly-spoken language on this island, there are plenty of opportunities to use your Spanish. Keep in mind that the English you will hear is a unique dialect of the region and might not be what you’re expecting!
This little town in Costa Rica, often simply called “La Fortuna,” is 10 kilometers away from one of the most popular and powerful volcanoes in the country: Arenal Volcano. Until 2010, it was the most active volcano in all of Costa Rica. With more than a million visitors per year, this area provides plenty of entertainment for all types of tourists. You will find amazing spas that take advantage of the natural thermal waters from Arenal and various hot springs to enjoy. Go sightseeing at the miraculously tall waterfall, La Fortuna Catarata, that towers upward of 70 meters. For more adventure and physical activity, try horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, hiking or jump onto a canopy tour!
Is It Safe?
If you plan on traveling between towns (Monteverde to La Fortuna, for example) by bus then you will definitely need to keep an eye on your bags! If you can avoid it, try not to put them in the rack above your seat. Aside from this important detail, traveling around this area is safe if using common sense.
Most locals do not speak English and they will expect that you have brushed up on your Spanish skills before trying to communicate! Check out our Travel Spanish Guide for useful phrases you can practice on your plane ride.
Panama City shines bright as a bustling metropolitan area where international bankers and businessmen wine and dine. Luckily, it is also accessible for the budget traveler if you know where to look and you know how to negotiate taxi fare! After a day or so of cultured exploration, non-stop traffic and crazy city life, take a day trip to the beach on the Carribean or Pacific shore or watch the boats come and go through the famous Panama Canal.
Is It Safe?
In areas like this with a highly concentrated population, it is important to keep a vigilant eye. Beware of service guides who wish to give you a tour. Often they will begin the ‘tour’ without your consent and soon become aggressive when asking for payment. Keep your belongings tucked away in an inaccessible pocket or bag.
Spanish is the national language of Panama, while around 14% of inhabitants speak English. Make sure to practice asking for directions, ordering meals, and checking into hotels or other lodgings. Improve your skills even more by joining one of the various Spanish Schools offered in Panama!
Granada is a calm and relaxing place with plenty of architectural beauty. You will see attractive and colorful colonial buildings everywhere with horse-drawn carriages moving in between. Take a stroll on land or visit Lake Nicaragua and take a boat tour. For even more adventure, climb one of the nearby volcanoes or go hiking in one of the wildlife preserves.
Is It Safe?
In Granada, violent crime is extremely low, and as a traveler, you will only need to worry about pickpockets. Sometimes, due to civil unrest, Nicaragua will close its borders to travelers and so it is necessary to check on its status before planning your vacation.
Very few locals speak English,so Granada is an excellent place to challenge yourself to speak more Spanish. Bring a travel guide along with you in order to have the phrases you need at your fingertips!
In Southwestern Nicaragua, located along the shore of the Pacific Ocean, sits the colorful town of San Juan del Sur. The temperature stays at a fairly warm temperature for most of the year with a bit of cold from November to January. It has several different beaches to choose from that combine perfectly with hot weather. No wonder it is considered a hub for beach parties! Surf the waves, go swimming, sunbathe your heart out, and then go investigate the giant Jesus statue that overlooks the village.
Is It Safe?
San Juan del Sur has grown in popularity over the years, which means that there are more opportunistic types who are attempting to prey on visitors. Again, it’s a place where common sense will keep you out of trouble. Avoid being out at night on your own and keep all of your belongings in a safe spot.
San Juan del Sur is a fantastic place to build your Spanish skills through one of their tailored Spanish school options. From one-time lessons to immersion and community outreach, there is a way for everyone to learn.
Quirigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Guatemala, the heart of the Mayan civilization. This amazing archaeological site has ancient carved monuments that show Mayan mythology and important historical events. Visit one of the many museums that explain more about Mayan history and provide fun small-scale models of what the area looked like long ago.
Is It Safe?
While touring this ancient city, it is necessary to keep items of importance in a safe space. Other than possible theft, there are no other major precautions to take.
While you can get a tour guide to bring the city to life for you in English, you could just as easily ask for a tour in Spanish! Expand your vocabulary through a real-life history lesson! After you visit Quirigua, take a bus to any of these other incredible destinations in Guatemala and head over to Homeschool Spanish Academy for fun and practical Spanish lessons.
La Ruta de las Flores is called la ruta because it is just that: a route. It is a passage of blooming flowers that grow along 20 miles of five main colonial towns and coffee plantations. The best time to go in order to see the blooms is between November and February. There are plenty of other activities to explore along the way including a 7-Waterfall hike in Juyayua, ziplining in Apaneca, and going on a coffee tour in any of the other villages along the route.
Is It Safe?
Exploring this route is traditionally done by chicken bus, where you will need to exercise caution with your personal belongings. Make sure to keep them close to your body and, if possible, avoid leaving them in the rack above the seats.
You will have many chances to use your Spanish! In each of the towns along the route, you will need your skills to order food, talk to locals, find lodging, learn more about the history of the towns, and ask for directions.
Best Trip Ever
Now that you are equipped with all the best travel destinations in Central America, you can start packing. You can practice your Spanish while you explore some of the greatest spots between North and South America. Want the best Spanish learning experience before your trip? Take a class with professional, friendly teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy for an awesome head start to your travel. Enjoy the best trip of your life and maybe you’ll be able to add even more great destinations to our list!Read More
Have you ever wondered why Spanish names are so long? As you may have noticed, the names of people in Spanish-speaking countries consist of a first name and two surnames. Traditionally, you will see the first surname of the father followed by the first of the mother. Presently, laws have changed on gender equality and now allow any order, but we normally see the original order. People always use their full name in legal settings. In informal contexts, however, they use their first name and first surname to introduce themselves.
The first name can be simple, such as José (Joseph), or composite such as José Miguel (Joseph Michael). Nevertheless, in the given name, Miguel is not a middle name but is part of the name José Miguel. Contrary to English-speaking countries, the idea of a middle name does not exist and, as such, is very rare to see.
Transmission of Spanish Surnames
The two last names come from what is called a “generational transmission” from both parents. Currently, the two first surnames of each parent are combined. As stated above, the father’s surname is often first while the mother’s surname comes after. Interestingly, the paternal, or father’s, name will eventually eliminate the maternal name of the family line. An example of this is with two parents, Lucía López García and Jorge Rosales Castillo. Their child will most likely use the traditional order and hold a name such as Paola Rosales López. She will marry and her name will change to Paola Rosales Mendoza or Paola Rosales de Mendoza. As you can see, the maternal name has been dropped and replaced by the husband’s name. Nonetheless, the transfer of the father’s surname was not always the norm. Spanish-speaking societies once practiced the transmission of one Spanish surname, choosing between the mother or father.
The Four Categories of Surnames
When looking at Spanish surnames, a clear pattern emerges. History tells us that by the twelfth century, as populations grew, people needed a way to distinguish one name or family from another. They began to follow specific traditions that helped them understand which surname to use. Namely, four types of surnames appeared. They became the origin of most Spanish surnames we see today.
Patronymic and Matronymic Surnames
Patronymic means the surname comes from the father’s first name, while matronymic means it’s from the mother’s name. Now, if you met two men name Juan, you might mix them up. However, by distinguishing who their fathers are, their names suddenly become distinct. The paternal surname was a combination of the man’s father’s name and a suffix meaning “son of”: -ez, -az, -is, -oz (or -es), -as, -os. In other words, someone with the name Juan Fernandez means Juan “son of Fernando”. If he had a son, his name would have been Diego Juanez, Diego “son of Juan.” Given this fact, surnames weren’t at all consistent. Eventually, a specific surname stuck with the family and was passed to future generations. Matronymic surnames are less common, often a result of illegitimate children or a mother of higher noble ranking.
Geographic surnames tell us where the first person with a surname lived. This includes very specific surnames, such as de Soto (from Soto), from families that typically owned land. More general surnames like Iglesias (lived near a church) acted much like nicknames. Similarly, they may refer to what type of land the person lived on. For example, del Valle (from the valley) or de la Vega (from the meadow) depict certain features of the original homeland.
Occupational surnames refer to a person’s job or trade. Two types of occupational surnames are standard and titular. Standard occupational surnames represent a common trade, such as Zapatero (shoemaker) and Barros (an artisan or builder who used clay). Nobility often gave these surnames to the commoners under their rule. Conversely, the nobility used titular occupational surnames that denoted their position. For example, Hidalgo means “nobleman,” and Marques means “marquis.”
Descriptive surnames are less common and much more personal. They refer to a quality, characteristic, or physical trait of a person. It’s worth noting that this type of surname was frequently given to commoners as a form of insult. For this reason, the bulk of these surnames have not survived over time. Those that remain show a fairly neutral trait or a positive attribute. Examples include Bravo (brave), Cano (gray), Cortes (courteous), Delgado (thin), and Orejón (big ear).
Spanish Surnames in Foreign Countries
Entering into a foreign naming system often requires vigilance and necessary changes. One example is when a Spanish person lives under an English naming system. In order to avoid confusion, they may hyphenate their last name, turning Marcela Pérez Rubio into Marcela Pérez-Rubio. In view of the one-surname system used by English-speakers, there may be legal confusion and her name could become Marcela P. Rubio on a government document. This poses a big problem for her identity since, in her home country, her name would be abbreviated as Marcela Pérez R.
Foreign Surnames in Spanish-Speaking Countries
In Spanish-speaking countries, foreign immigrants keep using their cultural naming customs. However, if they choose to obtain citizenship, they must assume a name in the Spanish manner. If the person comes from a culture with a unique family name, they repeat it twice. As a result, an English name “William Stewart Mirren” turns into “William Stewart Mirrén Mirrén.” The law allows a person to adopt the mother’s maiden name if they choose to. Lastly, the Spanish custom connects the first and middle name making it the two first names for legal documents.
Top 50 Most Common Spanish Surnames
The chart below shows the top 50 most common Spanish surnames in Spain. As well, you will see the estimated population of how many people have this particular last name. Take a look at the chart and see how many names you recognize. Do you see which of the suffixes is most common among these names?
Prepositions “de” and “y”
There are times that Spanish surnames include a preposition between the paternal and maternal surnames. Some people choose to use “de” and/or “y” for three main reasons. Firstly, it shows nobility, such as the name of Gabriel de la Cueva y Girón, who was a sixteenth-century nobleman and military leader. Secondly, it denotes location, as is the case for the name Lope Félix de Vega y Carpio (de Vega means “of the meadow”), a famous playwright of undistinguished origin. Lastly, it helps to distinguish between the first name and a surname that could be mistaken for a first name like Antonio Miguel y Morales. In this case, we understand that Miguel is not his second name, but instead the first of his surnames.
Obviously, Spanish surnames give us the chance to learn about a person’s family history. Not only is it fascinating to take a closer look at the meaning of a person’s surname, but it is also educational. By learning how these surnames were created, how they’re used in present day, and how to understand them, we can better comprehend their importance. Furthermore, it allows us to appreciate the complexity of the naming system in Spanish culture.Read More
Body language accounts for 90% of the information exchanged between two speakers. Unfortunately, we may go to another country without learning important gestures and their meanings. However, by learning body language and practicing it before traveling, we will be better equipped to communicate. If you know where you’d like to go in order to enhance your speaking skills and comprehension, then you’ll know what types of body language and gestures to learn based on the region. Additionally, you will benefit from learning the body parts in Spanish and their idioms.
Spanish Body Parts: The Vocabulary
The Spanish-speaking world, known in linguistics as the hispanosphere, is bursting at its seam with a variety of slang. The Spanish body parts vocabulary provides a variety of slang. These can differ in each country, so we will just focus only on the general words used and understood in every hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) culture. With an excellent basic foundation in understanding, you will be able to learn the relevant slang words much quicker and improve comprehension more efficiently by asking questions. Let’s look at some Spanish body parts!
The Human Body
The Head and Face
Spanish Body Parts and Idioms: Using the Vocabulary
Learning idioms is vital when communicating with the natives of a foreign country. They are the informal, figurative language we use in daily life that expresses feelings or situations in a phrase whose meaning doesn’t immediately stand out. For example, in English, we say “Hold your horses!” when we want to express the idea that the other person needs to wait. Clearly, we are not asking them to hold back their actual horses! This is informal, figurative (non-literal) language. To truly understand the conversation and the culture of a hispanophone country, we must be aware of these figurative phrases exist. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about them when you hear a strange phrase pop up!
List of Idioms
Body Gestures: Latin America and Spain
Watch out! (¡Ojo! / ¡Cuidado!) – put your index finger to your eye and hold or tap just below
I promise you. (Te lo juro.) – make a fist, bring the thumb to the mouth, kiss it and then flick it outwards quickly with thumb up to show that you really mean it
Slow down! (¡Más lento!) – hand open with the palm facing outward, moving in a patting motion
It’s delicious. (Está delicioso.) – fingers come together at the mouth then moved forward and opened
Come here. (Ven aca.) – hand out with fingers down, palm face down, move fingers simultaneously together, making a motion from the person toward your body
Thief! (¡Ladrón!) – palm down, while each finger touches the palm one at a time. You can do this if you’re on a bus or in a smaller space, and you notice a pickpocket nearby. This would be a great way to warn other people.
Body Gestures to Avoid
In Spain, people consider yawning or stretching in public vulgar. So, no matter how tired you are, avoid making this mistake! It is also a common cultural mix-up to use the standard American gesture of “come here” with your hand out, palm up, and index finger wiggling. This actually portrays a romantic interest in Latin culture, and people only use it in very specific situations. Remember to turn your hand over and use all your fingers in a sweeping motion toward your body to signal someone to come to you. On the other hand, if you’re in Latin America, avoid gesturing with your hand turned sideways with your fingers spread. This motion is a strong insult against the other person.
Let Your Brain Learn and Your Body Talk
During your Spanish-learning journey, you can begin to expand your horizons and learn more about Hispanic culture. Idioms and body language are, of course, a big part of that experience! Every time you learn a new theme, such as food or travel, challenge yourself to look up idioms and gestures that are used to communicate relevant information. You will soon see that you’ve built an empire of knowledge. This will help you improve your speaking skills, comprehension ability, and capacity to integrate into Spanish culture.Read More
What’s the difference between “martes” and “miércoles” in Spanish? If you still struggle with this answer, then you are in the right place! In this post, you will learn the seven most common words in Spanish: the days of the week. Additionally, we will cover how to pronounce them and use them in sentences. What’s more, if you need a boost in memory power, I’ll share below a proven technique for you to remember new vocabulary. ¡Vamos!
Días de la Semana
Firstly, there are a few differences you must know about los días de la semana in Spanish. For example, they are always lower case, unlike the days in English. In contrast to the English calendar that starts with Sunday, the week begins on Monday in Latin countries. Additionally, each day uses the masculine definite article in singular (el lunes) and plural (los lunes).
The Definite Articles: “El” and “Los”
When using the definite article “el” while we talk about the days of the week, it means “on”. Try out these phrases to practice the new vocabulary:
¿Vas a venir a mi casa el domingo?
Are you going to come to my house on Sunday?
Yo tengo que trabajar el lunes.
I have to work on Monday.
Él quiere ir al dentista el jueves.
He wants to go to the dentist on Thursday.
Furthermore, we can change the definite article to “los” and add an -s to the day when we mean to say that something happens habitually. Keep in mind, if the day already ends in -s then we don’t need to add another -s.
Yo hago compras con mi abuela los sábados.
I shop with my grandma on Saturdays.
Ella juega a las cartas los martes.
She plays cards on Tuesdays.
Los miércoles, yo trabajo como tutor de inglés.
On Wednesdays, I work as an English tutor.
How to Memorize
In order to remember the days of the week as quickly as possible, you can follow a tried-and-true memory technique. This requires a bit of creativity, but it’s well worth it! For each day, try to link the sound of the word with a crazy mental image. Surprisingly, this technique is consistent and effective. Let’s try it together…
El lunes – When you read the word, it sounds very similar to the English word “loony.” Think of a funny image of a loony-looking guy standing in front of a sign that reads “Lunes”. He is the first in a line of six other characters, which will be the other days of the week. You can even repeat in your head “Loony lunes” to reinforce both the pronunciation and the image.
Now you try!
Write your list of the next six days and write out a description of a super crazy, funny picture. Similarly, you could just draw it. Remember, the trick is in the image: the crazier it is, the easier it will be to remember. In no time, you will memorize all of the Spanish days of the week!
The Origin of the Spanish Days of the Week
The Spanish days of the week have a significant history and origin to their names. Read on to learn more:
Lunes comes from the Latin Dies lunae, meaning día de la luna. In English, this means, “Day of the Moon”.
Martes comes from the Latin Dies marte, meaning día de marte. In English, this means “Day of Mars”.
Miércoles comes from the Latin Mercurii dies, meaning día de Mercurio. In English, this means “Day of Mercury.”
Jueves comes from the Latin Jovis dies, meaning día de Júpiter. In English, this means “Day of Jupiter.”
Viernes comes from the Latin Veneris dies, meaning día de Venus. In English, it stands for “Day of Venus.”
Sábado comes from the Hebrew word Sabbat, the day of rest.
Domingo comes from the Latin Dies Dominicus, día del Señor or “Day of the Lord” in English. It is related to both the sun and the Christian reverence for the son of God, Jesus.
The Days of Our Lives
All in all, learning the days of the week in Spanish is important for conversations and meetings with friends. You will also be able to understand when they are trying to set a date with you. Moreover, you’ll be able to talk about some of your habits and routines when you are getting to know someone. Ultimately, every beginner Spanish learner should make sure they know the days of the week and how to use them in a sentence.Read More
When studying any new language, it’s important to understand the parts of grammar that we will be using. For example, let’s talk about pronouns! Do you remember those from your school days? Try to identify the pronouns in the following sentences:
- He went to the store to get her some medicine.
- I need to do it by myself.
- What do you need? I need something for my classes, but I can’t remember what she told me it was called.
- Give that to me, please.
Could you find the pronouns? There are actually 16! Let’s explore:
What are Pronouns
Pronouns are short and useful words that replace a noun. Thanks to pronouns, we don’t have to continue repeating whichever noun we’re saying. To clarify, consider the following examples:
- John is our boss. John is great to work with.
Now with a pronoun:
- John is our boss. He is great to work with.
As you can see, the sentences read smoother, and we don’t have to repeat ourselves. Spanish pronouns are equally as important. The most frequently used types of Spanish pronouns come in 3 categories. They will help you to better express yourself when speaking or writing.
3 Most Frequent Spanish Pronouns
1. Subject Pronouns
These pronouns replace the subject or the “naming part” of a sentence. They come in four categories: person, number, gender, and formality. Person refers to the identity of who is doing the action: first (I and we), second (you and you all), or third person (he, she, it, they). Likewise, numbered pronouns refer to singular (he) or plural (they) pronouns. Gender is specific for Spanish since every noun is either feminine or masculine. It must be remembered that masculine pronouns replace masculine subject nouns (‘el sol’ becomes él) and feminine pronouns replace feminine subject nouns (‘la casa’ becomes ella). Also, for groups of both men and women, we use the masculine plural form (a group of male and female students: ellos). Lastly, formality refers to the formal (usted) or informal (tú) pronouns used to address a person. This chart will help you understand and organize the subject pronouns in Spanish:
Usage of Vosotros versus Ustedes
Both vosotros and ustedes mean “you” in the plural form. They are used when talking to more than one person. Vosotros is used in Spain, while ustedes is always used in Latin America. Vosotros has two forms; the first is for a group of men or mixed group, and the other, vosotras, is for addressing a group of females.
The Omission of Subject Pronouns
It’s important to understand that subject pronouns are not always used in Spanish. At first, it can feel very strange to remove the pronoun from your speech or writing, but it’s perfectly natural for Spanish speakers. For example, the English sentence “She is a lawyer” can be stated in Spanish as “Ella es abogada” or “Es abogada.” Each sentence is perfectly understood, due to the feminine ending -a in abogada.
2. Direct Object Pronouns
The direct object is a noun that directly receives the action of a verb. It answers the question “What?” or “Who?” A direct object pronoun takes the place of the noun. Let’s look at some examples:
- He brought it. – He brought what? It is the direct object
- I know you! – I know who? You is the direct object
The following is a chart of direct object pronouns in Spanish:
Now, if you look at the previous English examples, you’ll see that the direct object comes after the verb. In Spanish, however, the direct object pronouns come before the verb!
- Tú me debes dinero. – You owe me money.
- ¡Te dije! – I told you!
- Lo conozco. – I know him/you/it.
While using direct object pronouns lo, la, los, and las, the direct object can be clarified by adding a usted, a él, a ella, a ellos, or a ellas.
- Lo conozco a él. – I know him.
- La espero a usted. – I (will) wait for you.
Let’s look at an example. Can you find the direct object pronoun?
3. Indirect Object Pronouns
Similarly, the indirect object always answers the question “to whom?” or “for whom?” It is generally telling you where the direct object is headed. Let’s see some examples:
- I toss the ball to Jack. – The direct object is the ball, but to whom is the ball being tossed? Jack is our indirect object.
Now, without using Jack’s name, we would say:
- I toss the ball to him. or I toss him the ball. – I toss the ball to whom? Him is our indirect object pronoun.
Just like with the direct objects, the indirect object pronouns in Spanish come before the verb, unlike inEnglish where they come after.
- ¿Me hablas? – Are you talking to me?
- Él nos enseña español. – He teaches us Spanish.
- Le doy mi llave. – I give you my key. / I give him my key.
To clarify or to add emphasis to the indirect object, an additional phrase can be added:
- ¿Me hablas a mí? – Are you talking to me?
- Él nos enseña español a nosotros. – He teaches us Spanish.
- Le doy mi llave a usted. – I give you my key.
- Le doy mi llave a él. – I give him my key.
Can you find the indirect object pronouns in this conversation? Hint: There’s three!
For You Pronoun Pros
If all of this has been a review for you, let’s look at something a bit more difficult. You will find there to be times when you need to use both direct and indirect object pronouns. Luckily, this is not particularly difficult; however, it is important to remember some essential rules. In English, this looks like the following examples:
- She gives it to me.
- I tell it to you.
- Send me that.
If you remember, the direct and indirect pronouns both go before the verb in Spanish. Therefore, when both pronouns are being used, the indirect object pronoun goes before the direct object pronoun, as seen here:
- Ella me lo da. (She gives it to me.)
- Te lo digo. (I tell it to you.)
- Me lo mandas. (You send me that.)
Can you find examples of both direct and indirect object pronouns here?
But, what if we want to say “I give it to her?”
Le lo doy – Try saying this out loud. Does it sound a bit funny?
In Spanish, when certain pronouns are used together, the indirect pronoun changes to “se” to avoid silly sounds like ‘lelo.’ Let’s call this the ‘Lelo Rule.’ Check out this chart to help you:
In order to clarify the indirect object, you can add a personal pronoun at the end using “a + personal pronoun.” This shows without a doubt who the indirect object refers to:
- Se lo digo a usted. (I tell it to you.)
- Se las doy a ellos. (I give them to them.)
The Importance of Pronouns
As you may have noticed, many of the pronouns are similar or exactly the same. This requires a great deal of concentration when learning, studying, and using new pronouns. The good news is, the more you study and practice, the faster you will be able to understand the different pronouns when native Spanish speakers use them. After enough practice, the pronouns will become second nature. Above all else, you will be able to automatically choose the right pronoun for every grammatical occasion.
When you find yourself in a Spanish-speaking country, you will certainly feel inspired to connect with the people who live there. Evidently, the best way to do this is to keep a good collection of ways to say “Hello” and “How are you?” in Spanish. A good conversation between two acquaintances can lead to making new friends, improving your Spanish skills, and going to local travel destinations that foreigners may not know about. Additionally, make sure to understand the difference between formal and informal Spanish greetings: who you can use them with and how to correctly use them. By understanding the grammatical reasoning behind some of the phrases, you will be able to change them to suit every situation. Overall, the best way to make the most of your experience is by starting out with that first greeting!
The most common phrase used in Spanish greetings is, of course, “¿Cómo estás?” which means “How are you?” This is an informal way to ask a friend, acquaintance, or new person who would be referred to as “tú”. It’s important to remember that the pronouns (tú, usted) are not fundamental to the question because the verb shows who is being referenced. In order to change it to a more formal question, it becomes “¿Cómo está?” or “¿Cómo está usted?”
Remember the Basic Rules
Spanish can be easy to use once you understand the basic rules. Here are a few related to Spanish greetings:
- Pay attention to your audience. Is the person a friend or, rather, your friend’s grandmother? While talking to friends, classmates, and other acquaintances, especially of the same peer group, it is acceptable to use informal language. In other words, you can refer to them as “tú” or practice some words or phrases in slang, such as “¿Qué onda?” used in parts of Latin America. In contrast, you must use formal language if you speak to someone who is older than you, a work colleague or superior, or a person you do not know very well. In this case, using “usted” and avoiding slang is a must. For more information on pronouns, check back soon for our Spanish Pronouns blog!
- Make sure the pronoun and the verb are in agreement; in other words, they must go together (like I and am). The most common verb for greetings is “estar,” which means “to be” and refers to the temporary state you’re asking about (“How are you right now?” / “How have you been lately?”). Particularly for greetings, you want to make note of the difference between the two singular second-person pronouns, tú (informal) and usted (formal). Be sure to note the changes of verb in the two scenarios below.
- Finally, ask yourself how many people you are greeting. Did you run into a group of friends? Do you see two of your Spanish teachers having coffee at a café? When talking to more than one person, you will use the plural form of the second person pronoun, ustedes.
Let’s look at some examples:
Hola, Juan. ¿Cómo has estado? / Hey, Juan! How have you been?
¡Hola! ¿Cómo está usted? / Hello! How are you?
¡Hola, amigos! ¿Cómo han estado? / Hey, guys! How have you all been?
¡Hola, mi amor! ¿Cómo estás? / Hi, love. How are you?
Would you like to hear a native Spanish speaker say these? Check out our video lesson on Spanish Greetings!
Now that we have some of the ground rules laid out, you can change any of the following examples to fit your conversation. Although there are many ways to greet another person, I’ve compiled a list of the most popular Spanish greetings:
Some greetings are unique to certain countries. Check out some of these examples:
Whenever you are in a formal setting, like a job interview or professional setting, be sure to use the following:
Some greetings can be used both in a formal and informal setting. Keep these in mind if you are not sure how professional the situation is:
Greeting Rituals in Latin America
Whenever you decide to use your super stockpile of conversation starters, you will want to know how to execute it well. That is to say, you’ll want to know what to do with your body while you talk. In the majority of Latin cultures, the greeting rituals are likely very different from what you’re used to. Markedly, kissing, hugging, and physical closeness are quite common. You will want to know how to act in each circumstance, depending on with whom you are interacting.
With Friends and Relatives
A popular way to greet friends is by hugging. It is used between people who know each other well or on special occasions. Additionally, hugging is acceptable when you have been away for a long time without seeing one another, to congratulate someone, or to express condolences. Another popular way to greet family, friends, casual acquaintances, and new people is with a kiss. Frequently, the kiss does not result in physical contact of the lips to cheek, but instead it is more of a touching of cheek against cheek.
The most common way to say hello in the professional world is with a handshake. While doing so, you must always look the other person in the eye. Failure to do so can be interpreted as a lack of self-confidence or even malicious intent. Moreover, the handshake should be fast and firm, but delicate. A quick handshake may show a lack of interest and motivation, while too long a handshake may be misinterpreted.
That’s a lot to learn in one lesson! In order to help yourself absorb the material you’re learning about Spanish greetings, try out this little test. What is each phrase saying? Is the greeting formal or informal?
- Buenos días profesor, ¿qué tal? ____________
- ¿Cómo has estado, hermana? ____________
- Hola amigos, ¿qué hay de nuevo? ____________
- ¿Qué tal se encuentra usted? ____________
- ¿Cómo te ha ido?____________
Look for the answers below!
The Importance of Greetings
As shown above, there are many ways to greet new friends or acquaintances in Spanish. By practicing them as often as possible, you will start to feel more comfortable using them. Additionally, you will find that you have better conversations and learn more about others. Give it a try and see for yourself!
- Good morning teacher, how’s it going? (formal)
- How have you been, sister? (informal)
- Hi friends, what’s new? (informal)
- How are you? (formal)
- How’s it been going? (informal)
For a more personal lesson, check out our Spanish Greetings video. For the full lesson, click below:Read More
Have you ever tried to write a paper in Spanish, but your keyboard didn’t have any of the special characters? It can undoubtedly be time-consuming to copy and paste letters eventually from websites. Luckily, you can find the secret to fast typing in a foreign language through the use of Spanish alt codes. Because of these simple shortcuts, you can type whichever Spanish character you need. So, let’s get started and learn how to use these codes on your Windows PC or Mac!
How to Use Spanish Alt Codes
First, you can look at the list of lowercase and capital letter Spanish alt codes. You can write down the codes on a piece of paper for easy reference. Secondly, press the Number Lock key at the top left of the numeric keypad and it will turn on a small light. You will see to the left of the space bar is the ‘alt’ key. Hold this key down while you type the code for whichever character you need and then release it when finished. Suddenly, your character will appear!
When You Don’t Have a Keypad
If you do not have a numeric keypad, you will have to do it a bit differently. At the bottom left of your keyboard, you will need to press the function key, seen as “fn”. Press that key while pressing the “num lock” key, which is in the top right corner of the keyboard. Then release the “num lock” key and then the “fn” key. When you do this, you will have turned on your Number Lock. You can then utilize the alt codes by using the number keys in the top horizontal row of your keyboard.
Lowercase and Capital Codes in Spanish
Alt Codes for Mac
For those of you using a Mac, you may be wondering if these will work despite your operating system. Unfortunately, Spanish alt codes are only understood by Windows software. However, if you are using a newer Mac, you will be able to hold a letter key down and a menu will pop up for you to choose which accented letter you wish to use. If your Mac does not have this feature, you can watch our video on both Windows and Mac codes or use this quick guide:
How to Activate the International Keyboard
Another way to use alt codes is with the international keyboard. This allows you to use template codes for accented letters without memorizing the numbers in alt codes. To turn on this feature, you will need to go to the Start Menu and choose Control Panel. Once you do that, click Clock, Language and Region and then Regional and Language Options. In that control panel, you will click the Languages tab and then Details. Then click Add and select English from the Input Language menu. Lastly, check the Keyboard layout/IME box and select from the menu: (1) United States International, (2) UK, (3) Canadian, (4) Dvorak. Now that you’ve activated the international keyboard, make sure to click all of the OK buttons until you are no longer in any of the control panels.
Alt Codes for International Keyboard
In the following template, both uppercase and lowercase letters change with the vowel. As you can see, “V” is used in place of any uppercase vowel while “v” is used for any lowercase vowel. Not only is this a convenient way to type, but it’s also easy to remember the codes. (For example, ‘ + o = ó and ‘ + O = Ó)
Switch Keyboard Layouts through Language
A third option you have for swift Spanish typing is to add a second language as well as another keyboard layout to your operating system. To do this, go first to the Control Panel. Click Clock, Language, and Region, then Change input methods, and finally Advanced settings. Then, under Switching input methods, select Use the desktop language bar when it’s available and then click Options. Lastly, in the Text Services and Input Languages dialog box, click the Language Bar tab, and make sure that either the Floating On Desktop or the Docked in the taskbar option is selected. A language bar will then appear near the clock on the taskbar or somewhere on your desktop. You can also click the language bar to switch in like manner between different keyboards.
While using the Spanish keyboard (which is abbreviated as ESP in the language bar), you can take advantage of a few shortcuts. Notably, the :/; key becomes the ñ, the ¡ is Control and +, and ¿ is simply + (next to backspace, not on the number pad). To do accents, you will click the [ key first then whichever letter needs an accent.
The convenience of Spanish Alt Codes
Spanish alt codes are easy to use and they help you to write faster when typing in a foreign language. You will no longer have to copy and paste accented letters from websites! Instead, you can simply check your saved list of Spanish alt codes or use your international keyboard to type more efficiently, saving you lots of time and energy. ¡Inténtalo! Also, if you find our article helpful, please consider sharing it thus helping others to use Spanish alt codes.
For more help writing in Spanish, watch our video on codes for both Macs and PCs!Read More
You may ask yourself: how are flags fun? Normally, when we learn about different countries, we have to memorize their flags. That’s no fun! But, entering the world of Spanish flags shows us the rich (and fairly bloody) history of each country that they represent. By learning about each Spanish flag’s symbols, we are able to see another world that existed in the past. Indeed, it is a window into the history, politics, and cultural values of each country. With this in mind, let’s take a look at all of the Spanish flags and the meanings behind them.
Where are Spanish Flags Found?
There are at least four countries in the world where Spanish is a significant minority language and should not be entirely ignored. Those countries are Andorra, Belize, Gibraltar, and the United States of America. Clearly, Spanish has had a big impact on these four countries. Even so, we will focus only on the countries that recognize Spanish as an official language.
There are twenty-one countries or territories worldwide that set Spanish as the official language. Listed in order from highest to lowest populations, they are: Mexico, Colombia, Spain, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Cuba, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Paraguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Panama, Uruguay, Equatorial Guinea. So, how does each country tell its own story through the symbols on its flag?
The Symbols of Spanish Flags
Military leader Manuel Belgrano led Argentina to independence against Spain in 1812. He designed the flag to build the image of a new nation. The blue horizontal bands around the central white one stand for the sky that opened between the clouds during the Liberation movement. The protests began in Buenos Aires in May 1810 and, with time, led to the country’s independence. The sol de mayo or “Sun of May” was added as a national emblem in 1818. It is a tribute to the native Incas who worshiped the sun god Inti. They believed he was a direct descendant of the sun.
Uniquely, Bolivia offers us two Spanish flags. The original flag has represented the nation since it was adopted in 1851. It shows three bands of red, yellow, and green. The red represents the brave soldiers of Bolivia, especially during the battles for independence. The yellow stands for the wealth of mineral deposits found in Bolivia’s soil. Finally, the green represents the nation’s rich vegetation. In 2009, the whipala became a national flag to be used in concert with the original flag at all times. The 49 squares of the rainbow are symbols of seven central concepts. Specifically, red represents the Earth and the Andean man, orange society and culture, and yellow energy. Also, the white stands for time, green for natural resources, blue the heavens, and finally violet for the Andean government.
Chile’s tricolor, single-starred banner reveals the values that the country presently holds. The single star represents the powers of the government, which is a representative democracy. It is proudly known for upholding the values of political freedom. The blue behind the star represents the Pacific Ocean, whose waters flank the western shoreline from north to south. The white represents the Andes Mountains, which can be seen from essentially any point from within the country. The red stands out as a reminder of the blood spilled during the war of independence against Spain in 1818.
The Colombian flag shows blue and red with the three yellow horizontal bands symbolizing freedom and justice. Some say that they represent the historically “gold Colombia” that existed before Spain conquered it. The blue stands for loyalty as well as the contact that Colombia makes with two oceans. The red horizontal band stands for the blood of the battles for independence, which stirs a sense of victory and pride among the people. The flag was established in 1861 and has been in use ever since.
The colors of the Costa Rican flag are horizontal bands of red, blue and white. The flag divides into five stripes: red in the center, white on each side of the red, and blue at each lower and upper end. The left side of the red stripe displays the national crest. It is a shield with three mountains that separate the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. On each side of the ridge are sailboats that represent trade with the rest of the world. The seven stars at the top represent the different provinces within the country. Above the shield is a ribbon of blue, on which read the words “Central America”.
The former Spanish empire often had triangles on flags of colonized nations to represent the interests of the Freemasons. They were once considered the most powerful of all secret societies. As a result, Cuba’s flag keeps the triangle as a memory of the power held by this group over its government. The blue stripes symbolize the Spanish military rule over Cuba. The country had tried to claim independence, but until 1898 had gained little freedom. It represents this with the white stripes on the flag that stand for patriotism. By 1898, the Spanish-American war brought Cuba support from the USA and their battle was finally won. The single white star, the Estrella Solitaria, stands for their independence as a nation.
There are only two Spanish flags that are divided into four parts. The flag of the Dominican Republic bears a large white cross as a symbol of its strong religious influence. A Christian-based secret society named La Trinitaria urged on the revolution for independence from the newly-independent Republic of Haiti. The leader of this society was Juan Pablo Duarte, the man who eventually designed the flag that would fly for the first time in 1844. The blue represents liberty, the red is the blood of the national heroes, and white is for salvation. The coat of arms says, “Dios, Patria, Libertad” which means “God, Fatherland, Liberty.” In the very middle of the shield, there is a Bible and a yellow cross. Many people believe that the pages of the Bible open to the Gospel of John 8:32, which states, “Y la verdad nos hará libre” (And the truth will make us free).
Francisco de Maranda, the first national hero of Venezuela, holds a very special place in the history of Ecuador’s independence and flag creation as well. As a strong military general, Maranda viewed South America as a continent that deserved its freedom from Spain. He fought for it in Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador, which formed the confederation of Gran Colombia immediately after achieving independence. The color code has multiple meanings that have evolved over time. Ecuador views the significance of its flag’s colors somewhat differently than the other Gran Colombia countries. Yellow represents both the sun and gold of their ancestors. Blue is the sky and sea of Ecuador as it also celebrates their liberation from Spain. Red holds steady in its symbol for the blood lost by the patriots in their efforts during the revolution.
El Salvador’s flag is divided horizontally into three identical bands. The middle is white while the top and bottom are blue. In the center of the flag is the national emblem. It has a semi-circular pattern of the words “La República de El Salvador en La América Central,” meaning “The Republic of El Salvador in Central America.” In the middle of the circle is a triangle with five volcanoes inside it that overlook the blue waves of the sea. It is a symbolic representation of the five countries that joined together in the United States of Central America. Above them on the staff is a Phrygian cap, a symbol of the struggle for independence. The date inscribed on the emblem, September 15, 1821, shows when El Salvador obtained its independence. The blue stripes represent the waters of the Pacific and the white symbolizes the people’s desire for peace.
Of all the Spanish flags, the only one that originates from Africa belongs to Equatorial Guinea. The flag has a very interesting coat of arms. The silk tree in the middle of the shield praises their independence. In 1968, Spain and a local ruler signed their first peace treaty. Presently, the six stars above the tree represent sovereign parts of the country: five islands off the coast and the mainland. All of these territories occupy space in the Gulf of Guinea. The national motto reads, “Unidad, Paz, Justicia,” meaning “Unity, Peace, Justice”. The colors of the flag tell their own story. The green is the country’s farmland, while the white represents peace and purity. The red color reminds us of the fighters’ sacrifice for freedom. The blue triangle on the hoist represents the sea.
Guatemala’s flag, adopted in 1871, features a bicolor of blue and white vertical bands of identical width with the national emblem placed in the middle. Both the government officials and civilians use the flag with the coat of arms displayed proudly. The creation of the United States of Central America in 1823 established their freedom from the imperial powers of Spain. The blue and white color represents the political bond that these nations once shared. The scroll in the coat of arms shows the date of the country’s independence, September 15, 1821. On top of the scroll sits the Quetzal bird, a symbol of freedom. The two rifles and swords represent war in order to maintain freedom, but the laurel branches around them express a preference for peace. The blue bands represent the two oceans that surround the mainland. Lastly, white signifies purity.
Honduras was once a part of the United States of Central America, along with four other nations (Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua). The people of these nations use a tricolor flag of blue and white horizontal bands of equal width. The country gained independence in 1838; however, the five stars were added to the center of the flag’s blue and white stripes when José María Medina was president in 1866. In the hope that Honduras reunites with the former nations in the future, the five stars of the flag remain united. The blue represents the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, while the white symbolizes integrity and faith.
The design of Mexico’s flag dates back to when the Aztecs first made their way to Mexico and established Mexico City as their capital. The leader of the Aztecs, named Tenoch, had been visited in his dreams by the God of War, who told him to settle only where they saw an eagle perched on a prickly cactus, consuming a serpent. They discovered this sight in a very inhospitable swamp that is today the main plaza of Mexico City. The significance of the colors was changed in 1968, despite having been adopted in 1821. As a result, there are conflicting reports of meaning. Originally, the green vertical band represented independence, the white boasted of Catholic pride, and the red symbolized the union of Americans and Europeans. Now the green represents hope and the white unity of the nation. The red stands for the blood of the national heroes.
Similar to other Spanish flags from nations that were once a part of the United States of Central America, the Nicaraguan flag shows a blue color in its upper and lower bands, and the middle part is white. The official coat of arms sits in the middle of the white stripe. This triangular emblem was established in 1823 and is a symbol of common ground. The five peaks of the volcanoes symbolize the union of the five original member states of Central America. The rainbow on the mountains is a symbol of peace. Lastly, the red Phrygian cap is for the desire of all people for freedom. Due to the rainbow on the flag, Nicaragua is one of two nations in the world to use the color purple.
The Panamanian flag is different from other Spanish flags in Central America due to its shape and color. It displays three colors: white, blue and red. Divided into four small equal rectangles, the first is formed by a white background, in the middle of which there is a blue five-pointed star. The second rectangle on the left is red. The third quarter, bottom right, is blue. The last quarter is white, while a second red star is in its center. In all, this flag has a simple but harmonious style. The two predominant colors are those of the existing political parties in Panama. Blue is the color of the Conservative Party, while red is the Liberal Party. The two parties agreed to make peace, shown by the white color. Panama’s flag shares an image of hope and a promise of peace.
Paraguay is the only country in the world to have two national emblems. One is the coat of arms, displayed on the front. The other is the Treasury Seal, displayed on the back. The three bands of red, white, and blue found on the French flag inspired the design of Paraguay’s flag. Together, the colors represent freedom. Separately, red stands for courage, white for unity, and blue for liberty. Paraguay gained independence from Spain in 1811 and adopted the flag in 1842. Notably, it is one of the oldest Spanish flags in the world. The Treasury Seal reads “Paz y Justicia”, which means “Peace and Justice.”
By 1825, the people of Peru established the flag that they proudly raise in present day. The red color represents the blood shed by the patriots during the revolutionary wars. Similarly, the white represents purity like many other Spanish flags. Peru’s coat of arms is used on the flag when raised by the government for official purposes, while the civil flag does not show it. The shield has three emblems: the top left interior shows an ancestor of the llama, called the vicuña, and stands for freedom, national pride, and heroism. The tree to the right is the cinchona tree whose bark produces quinine, the active ingredient in anti-malaria drugs. The cornucopia seen at the bottom of the shield shows golden and silver coins spilling out of it, referring to the wealth of minerals found in the fertile soils of the country.
The Puerto Rican flag is formed by a blue triangle on the left side. The base of the triangle extends over the entire height of the flag. In the center of the triangle is a five-pointed white star. To the right of the triangle are five horizontal bands of the same height. Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, the flag was inspired by the colors and design of the American flag. The blue color symbolizes the coastal waters that surround the country. It also represents the blue sky. As for the red color, it represents the color of the blood shed by the brave warriors of the country. White shows the universal color of peace. Also, it expresses victory and freedom. Lastly, the triangle illustrates the governing branches that are the executive, legislative and judiciary.
The Spanish flag shows a monarch who sought to own as much land as possible. There are two red horizontal bands around a thick central yellow band where the coat of arms sits on the hoist side. In the very center of the coat of arms, there is a shield that houses six distinct coats of arms. Each stands for a conquered territory. The pillars on each side of the shield represent the Straits of Gibraltar where the limit of the known world was thought to exist. For this reason, the red ribbon around the pillars once read “Ne plus ultra,” which means “Nothing more beyond”. Once Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, the flag changed the wording to “Plus Ultra,” or More Beyond. On top of the pillars are two crowns, one is for the Imperial Crown and the other the Royal Crown.
Uruguay has a violent history as the subject of war between Spain and Brazil. In 1828, Uruguay achieved independence from the two great powers that fought over it. The flag’s design is a blend of Manuel Belgrano’s blue and white colors for Argentina’s flag and the flag of the USA. It is clear that these two nations had an effect on the patterns of Uruguay’s flag. The blue and white stripes represent the former nine departments of Uruguay that fought for independence. The sol de mayo, the “Sun of May,” stands for the joy the people felt when they gained freedom from Spain and Brazil.
The people of Venezuela adopted the flag in 1836 after a long battle against Spain. The first national hero to lead Venezuela to independence was Francisco de Maranda. He is the revolutionary credited for the design of the Venezuelan flag. Maranda fought both within Venezuela and overseas in Spain. He began his military journey as a soldier in favor of Spain, while he secretly held plans to overthrow their government in South America. Eventually, Maranda joined another national hero of Venezuela, Simón Bolívar, in order to fight the powers of Spain inside Venezuela. The flag speaks of revolution through its colors. Namely, the blue represents independence from Spain, the red signifies courage of war, and the 8 stars refer to the provinces that supported the revolutionary efforts.
A Spanish Flag: Worth a Thousand Words
As can be seen, a quick look at the symbolic nature of each flag will reveal interesting facts about each country’s history and values. In fact, learning about the Spanish flags is an excellent first step to understanding their origins and sources of national pride. Ultimately, flags are the most important symbol that a country can use to express its uniqueness.Read More
Exploring Spanish-Speaking Countries
Fascinating cultures and peoples.
Jaw-dropping snowy mountain peaks.
Salt flats that transform into mirrors of the night sky.
Given these points, it’s no wonder that South America is a top destination for travelers, explorers, and students the world over. If you are learning to speak Spanish, you can practice your skills by visiting some (or all!) of the nine Spanish-speaking countries in South America. Surely, this won’t prevent you from traveling to the four South American countries that do not officially speak Spanish. However, for the sake of language learning, let’s first dive into the countries that do. Together we’ll find out where Spanish fluency can take you in South America!
Which countries in South America are Spanish-speaking?
Of the thirteen countries in the South American continent, there are nine countries whose official language is Spanish. They are Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Where would you like to go to practice your Spanish skills?
Capital: Buenos Aires
Famous For: Natural wonders, unique dialect, tango
Argentina has an impressive number of natural wonders, from glacial lakes to dusty deserts. It is home to the highest peak of the Andes, a mountain range labeled the longest in the world. Uniquely, the Spanish spoken in Argentina is different from other Spanish-speaking countries because it is more similar to the pronunciation and rhythm of Italian. If you wish to study Spanish formally in Argentina, there are many Spanish immersion courses offered in big cities. For example, try places like the capital, Buenos Aires, or Mendoza, where you will learn the special dialect of Argentina. You can even learn to tango or to cook empanadas while you’re there!
Capital: La Paz
Famous For: Large indigenous population, diverse cultures, Spanish immersion
The rare treasures of Bolivia are found in its people. This is one of the Spanish-speaking countries with the largest percentage of indigenous groups. With this in mind, finding community-based tourism and local guides will allow you to learn about the customs, traditions, and native languages of over 30 indigenous groups. Interestingly, as a landlocked nation, Bolivia overcomes its blockage to the sea by positioning its navy forces in a base at the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. This lake is located along the western altiplano (“high plateau”) at 12,500 ft. above sea level. Given that English is not widely spoken in Bolivia, it is an excellent country to visit for deep Spanish immersion. You’ll be thrust into scenarios where only your Spanish skills can help you!
Famous For: Friendly, relaxed attitude, numerous beaches & ski resorts, wine culture
Chilean culture adopts rest and relaxation as foundations of a good life. As a result of this attitude and their world-famous wines, it is clear that Chile is the best place for slow travel among Spanish-speaking countries. Surprisingly, Chile only measures 175 km east to west while being flanked by the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. This gives the feeling of closeness even after a short stay in one area. Significantly, the famous Easter Island is a historical island off the coast where the longest cave system in the world exists. Rivers of lava carved out the caves that now lie under the rocky terrain. Take advantage of the homestay option if you choose to study Spanish in Chile! You can live temporarily with a local family who will show you the true meaning of Chilean culture, which is to create lasting friendships and enjoy every moment.
Government: Unitary Republic
Famous For: mysterious archaeology, clearly spoken Spanish
Colombia is the only South American country with coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. This scenic country features heaps of archaeological ruins, dating back 13,000 years. Whispers of a lost civilization amaze us even today with their mystery. Above all, the city of Ciudad Perdida and the underground tombs called Tierradentro are great examples of this. Even though the country has suffered political unrest and civil warfare, it has been gaining economic ground and a growing sense of stability for some time. Colombians would say that “Colombian Spanish” is the clearest of all Latin Spanish-speaking countries. Due to its slow pace and cautious spoken word, it is easy to understand. There are many options to continue your Spanish studies in the capital, Bogotá. This is where you will find plenty of private tutors, college professors, and professional teachers.
Population: 16.4 million
Government: Democratic Presidential Republic
Famous For: biodiversity, quality of life, The Amazon Rainforest
Ecuador, home of the Amazon Rainforest, is the most bio-diverse of the Spanish-speaking countries. Due to the multitude of diversified life in areas such as the Galápagos Islands, Charles Darwin was able to explore and create his theory of evolution. According to InterNations, Ecuador has been voted the “best country for expats” for two consecutive years due to the high quality of life and decent cost of living it provides. Moreover, Ecuador offers Spanish-learners affordable, fun, and professional education that promotes language learning in a lively environment.
Population: 7 million
Government: Representative Democratic Republic
Famous For: Atlantic Forest
Paraguay is the only country in South America that is not a big tourist destination. In fact, tourism is so rare here that hostels, public transport, and any other tourism supports are simply not offered. However, the country features the Atlantic Forest, which runs from Brazil to Argentina, passing through Paraguay. Due to wildlife conservation projects, it is a popular attraction for biologists and environmentalists. For the strong-willed, it’s a perfect place to immerse yourself in Spanish because there are very few English speakers.
Population: 32 million
Government: Unitary Presidential Republic
Famous For: Machu Picchu, Nazca Lines, Amazon Rainforest
Home to the famous Machu Picchu and Nazca lines, Peru has an aura of mystery, excitement, and adventure. Equally important, this country offers a foodie experience like no other. It has been nicknamed “the capital of Latin cooking” because its unique dishes combine influences from all over the world. Due to a lack of slang and regional accents in Peruvian Spanish, this is a great place to practice with locals. You can also explore one of the most interesting civilizations on the planet while you learn!
Population: 3.5 million
Famous For: Low corruption, excellent economy, beautiful beaches
In a country where cows outnumber people four to one, you may think this nation is a bit backward. On the contrary, Uruguay is one of the most progressive, stable, and prosperous Spanish-speaking countries in South America. Because of its booming middle class, responsive government, and powerful free press, this country provides a strong model for the rest of the world to follow. Additionally, the most popular destination for learning Spanish in Uruguay is in the capital, Montevideo. You can enjoy the city life or spend the day at the beach before you partake in evening Spanish classes.
Population: 32 million
Government: Constitutional Republic
Famous For: Diversity of natural beauty
Even with years of political and economic friction in this great country, Venezuela is still home to some of the most charming natural beauties. From the snow-covered Andean peaks to the sunny coast of the Caribbean, Venezuela holds great pride for its many distinct features. Grasslands, islands, and waterfalls are among the many unique gems that this country has to offer. Sadly, travel at present moment is not advised due to grave economic problems.
The Four “Don’t” Countries
Can you identify the four countries of South America that weren’t mentioned? The following countries are vital parts of the continent’s identity and culture. However, they do not consider Spanish to be their primary language of communication in society and/or official government business. These countries are Brazil (Portuguese), Guyana (English), Suriname (Dutch), French Guiana (French). You can visit these countries and use your Spanish to get by, but expect to say more with your hands than your mouth!
In summary, a great way to sharpen your Spanish skills outside of the classroom is to visit the nine Spanish-speaking countries in South America. By exploring what each country has to offer, you can find which one suits your personality and traveling style. Above all, studying Spanish online or in the classroom is an open door to new places and experiences that will boost your understanding of the world. ¡Hagámoslo!Read More
Have you ever wished you could improve your Spanish accent so others could understand you better? Spoken Spanish has 39 elemental sounds, or individual speech sounds produced by vocal organs. You can easily master these through exposure and regular practice. Without forming this habit, however, we are doomed to repeat pronunciation mistakes for the rest of our lives! How can we sharpen our speaking skills, even if we only have five extra minutes a day? The answer lies in the power of Spanish tongue twisters, or trabalenguas.
*To see the tongue twisters, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Why are Spanish Tongue Twisters Useful?
Choosing a Spanish tongue twister that focuses on a particular pronunciation issue will give you the ultimate learning tool. First of all, you can practice it at any moment, anywhere, until you have mastered the sound. Furthermore, Spanish tongue twisters will train the muscles in your mouth to move correctly, creating authentic pronunciation. Once you have learned one sound, you can then move on to harder trabalenguas that combine different sounds. Before long, you’ll be able to speak Spanish without tripping over your tongue!
Quite often, pronunciation problems lie in the physical – where you place your tongue. In American English, for example, we are used to relaxing the tip of our tongue while the center is raised halfway up in the mouth. This creates that typical hard /r/ sound we find in the word ‘red.’ If we attempt to do the same exact movement when pronouncing a Spanish word, such as pero, we quickly hear a striking difference between our pronunciation and that of native speakers. This is because the phonetic usage of /r/ in Spanish is physically different from that of the English language. For correct pronunciation, you must “flick” your tongue against the roof of your mouth, producing a very quick and light sound similar to a soft /d/ in English. With continued practice, you will notice a drastic improvement when you pronounce Spanish words containing the single r.
To practice this tongue movement, try the following Spanish tongue twister:
Tres tristes trapecistas con tres trapos troceados hacen trampas truculentas porque suben al trapecio por trapos y no por cuerdas.
Build Muscle Memory to Improve Pronunciation
Think back to being young and wanting to learn how to ride that shiny new bike in the driveway. When you started out, you fumbled quite a bit and lost your balance. You may have even fallen over and ended up with a scraped knee or two. Likewise, learning how to pronounce words in a new language is a process of learning a new physical skill – without the scraped knees. Instead of simply copying what you hear and attempting to copy the sounds native speakers make, you can take the time to study the actual movement required by the tongue to produce such sounds. Once you isolate a certain sound and begin to practice it, you can look for an appropriate Spanish tongue twister. Search for one that forces you to repeatedly practice the desired sound, especially in conjunction with other sounds.
Some accents may be almost impossible to mimic at first due to weak facial muscles since not every language uses the same muscles to create sounds. However, you can overcome this through extensive practice and awareness of how to strengthen those specific muscles. Thankfully, Spanish tongue twisters are the perfect answer because they provide repeated practice with certain muscles and sounds. Do yourself the biggest favor by creating a daily routine of pronunciation practice. First, identify which sounds are the most difficult for you, then find the corresponding Spanish tongue twisters that work those muscles. In no time, you’ll see how easy and efficient it is using Spanish tongue twisters to enhance your pronunciation!
A Collection of Spanish Tongue Twisters
Here are some of the best Spanish tongue twisters that children giggle over and adults remember fondly from their school days. Many are fun to try and will certainly get you smiling over how hard – and silly – they can be.
For Practice with Vowels:
- Lado, ledo, lido, lodo, ludo, decirlo al revés lo dudo. Ludo, lodo, lido, ledo, lado, ¡Qué trabajo me ha costado!
- ‘A’ – Si Pancha plancha con 4 planchas, ¿con cuántas planchas plancha Pancha?
- ‘E’ – Esteban es escalador escala y escala, Esteban el escalador, de tanto escalar, en una cima quedó.
- ‘I’ – Tengo una gallina pinta pipiripinta gorda pipirigorda pipiripintiva y sorda que tiene tres pollitos pintos pipiripintos gordos pipirigordos pipiripintivos y sordos. Si la gallina no hubiera sido pinta pipiripinta gorda pipirigorda pipiripintiva y sorda Los pollitos no hubieran sido pintos pipiripintos gordos pipirigordos pipiripintivos y sordos.
- ‘O’ – Un dragón tragón tragó carbón y el carbón que tragó el dragón tragón le hizo salir barrigón.
- ‘U’ – Cuando cuentes cuentos, cuenta cuantos cuentos cuentas. Porque si no cuentas cuantos cuentos cuentas, nunca sabrás cuantos cuentos cuentas.
For Practice with ‘b/v:’
- Juan tuvo un tubo, y el tubo que tuvo se le rompió, y para recuperar el tubo que tuvo, tuvo que comprar un tubo, igual al tubo que tuvo.
- Nadie silba como Silvia, porque si alguien silba como Silvia, es porque Silvia le enseñó a silbar.
- Un ave pensaba mientras que volaba, que sentía el pez mientras que nadaba. Y pensaba un pez mientras que nadaba, que sentía el ave mientras que volaba.
For Practice with ‘c/ch:’
- La casa de Casique muy casicada es y si Casique no limpia la casa de Casique yo no la veré.
- Yo compré poca carne, poca carne yo compré, como la carnicería carne tenía al carnicero poca carne le compré.
- María Chucena techaba su choza y un techador que por allí pasaba le dijo: María Chucena, ¿techas tu choza o techas la ajena? Ni techo mi choza ni techo la ajena, que techo la choza de María Chucena.
For Practice with ‘p:’
- Pepe Pecas pica papas con un pico, con un pico pica papas Pepe Pecas.
- Compré pocas copas, pocas copas compré, como compré pocas copas, pocas copas pagué.
- Pedro Pablo Pérez Pereira pobre pintor portugués, pinta pinturas por poca plata para pasar por París.
For Practice with ‘q:’
- ¿Cómo quieres que te quiera si quien quiero que me quiera no me quiere como quiero que me quiera?
- Yo no quiero que tú me quiera porque yo te quiera a ti, quieréndome o sin quererme, yo te quiero porque sí.
- Quique Queco Quicas quiere quintales de queso para quesadillas quebradizas, así que quintales de queso para quesadillas quebradizas quiere Quique Queco Quicas.
For Practice with ‘r/rr:’
- Tres tristes tigres comen en tres tristes platos de trigo.
- El perro de Rita me irrita dile a Rita que cambie el perro por una perrita.
- Erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril, rápido corren los carros cargados de azúcar al ferrocarril.
For Practice with ‘s:’
- La sucesión sucesiva de sucesos sucede sucesivamente con la sucesión del tiempo.
- Si Sansón no sazona su salsa con sal, le sale sosa; le sale sosa su salsa a Sansón, si la sazona sin sal.
- La sucia Susana ensucia suficientemente el suéter de Sonia.
For Practice with ‘z:’
- Tengo un durazno muy desduraznador, el que me lo desdurazne, será un gran desduraznador.
- Un zapatero zambo, zapateaba zapateados de zapata, de zapata zapateaba zapateados un zapatero zambo.
- Baza, come calabaza. Baza, calza zapatas y come calabazas.
Advanced Spanish Tongue Twisters:
- Doña Panchívida se cortó un dévido con el cuchívido del zapatévido. Y su marívido se puso brávido porque el cuchívido estaba afilávido.
- El volcán de Parangaricutirimicuaro lo quieren desemparanguatizar y el que lo desemparangaritutimice, un buen desemparanguatizador será.
- El otorrinolaringólogo de parangaricutirimicuaro, se quiere desotorrinolaringaparangaricutirimicuarizar, el desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuador que logre desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuarizarlo, buen desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuador será.
How to Use Spanish Tongue Twisters
- To make the most of your experience with Spanish tongue twisters, try writing them down while memorizing them. Although native Spanish speakers likely learn these silly sayings verbally, it may be harder for you without writing them down. When learning any other language, it’s beneficial to practice both spelling and pronunciation. Not only is it important to train your tongue to pronounce words correctly, but it is good to know how to spell what you are saying.
- Do not waste your time trying to understand every word in a tongue twister! The words will often be from particular regions of the Spanish-speaking world and will not have a meaning outside of that area! They were also meant to be fun to say, not to have a deep meaning. Remember when you were a kid learning tongue twisters in your native language? You were not concerned about the meaning of what you learned, but instead tried saying it faster and faster! Keep this in mind as you expand your volume of memorized Spanish tongue twisters. What’s most important here is using it to enhance the quality of your pronunciation.
- If you are learning Spanish with a friend or classmate, turn the tongue twisters into a game. You can play telephone, where you say a tongue twister as fast as possible and your friend repeats what they heard. Similarly, you can also try playing Pictionary with Spanish tongue twisters both you and your friend know. One person draws the basic idea from a tongue twister with the other tries to guess it.
Most importantly, have fun! Learning a language can be hard, so don’t forget to take a step back and enjoy the process. ¡Disfrútalo!
Do you need help pronouncing these Spanish tongue twisters?
Check out our video to see our very own teachers pronounce some of the tongue twisters mentioned above! Comment with your favorite one.Read More