When I was a kid growing up in Guatemala, cell phones were not as common as they are today. They were chunky, simple, and almost exclusively used for phone calls. I remember being blown away when phones came out with mp3 players and colored screens. Today, those features are basic on every smartphone. These devices have gone far beyond making and receiving calls, expanding the ways we’re able to communicate to include pictures, voice notes, texting, and more. We take our phones everywhere we go and knowing what to expect when you need to stay connected while abroad can save you a lot of trouble.
If you’re going to travel or live abroad, you might want to get a local number to be able to call, text, and browse the internet without worrying about extra roaming fees. Today we’ll explore cultural differences in phone-use as well as some tips to get a phone if you’re in a Spanish-speaking country such as Guatemala.
Before we begin, I’d like to remind you that some of the information provided here may not apply to all countries in Latin America, since rules and requirements can change depending on where you’re traveling. However, I’ll touch upon universal tips that are useful regardless of location.
Prepaid or Fixed Plan?
The first thing to consider when planning to buy a phone abroad is whether you want a prepaid or fixed plan. On one hand, if you plan on using your phone on a need-to basis, you will want a prepaid sim card to avoid consistent monthly costs. On the other hand, if you plan on heavier usage, you’ll get more bang for your buck with a fixed plan. Are contracts to be avoided when getting a phone abroad, you wonder? In most situations, yes! That’s why phone companies came up with “contract-free plans,” where you pay a monthly fee and get a fixed amount of data to spend. What are the pros and cons of these two alternatives? Let’s find out!
Prepaid sim cards are easy to get and easy to use. Most companies will sell you a temporary number for around $1, then you decide how much money you want to put in the card and use it as you need it. This method is simple and fast to set up. It’s perfect for the short-term traveler who doesn’t want to commit to a long-term plan and uses their phone mostly for calls and texting. One of the downsides of prepaid phones is that data and calls tend to be more expensive. Running out of minutes when you’re in a pinch is not a fun experience, so remember to be aware of your minutes. Choosing a prepaid phone is ideal for exchange students, backpackers, and volunteers!
Contract-free plans get you a package of call minutes, internet, and text messages to spend at your leisure throughout the month. You pay for these plans for as long as you need, and the pricing ranges from $30-$40 a month. With this kind of plan, you won’t have to worry about looking for WiFi all the time, and running out of minutes is highly unlikely. Some plans supply up to 50 hours of call time and over 10gb of internet data! Taking a contract-free plan like this is a big choice. You should consider how much you’re going to use your phone while abroad, or you might end up spending more than what you’re using. Plans like these will get you enough data to be reasonably comfortable throughout the month, and it’s a viable choice if you’re staying in a country for longer than six months.
Buy Local or Abroad?
“My phone won’t take foreign sim cards!” Phone companies can be annoying sometimes. If you buy a device, shouldn’t you be able to do whatever you want with it? That’s not always the case, and your phone might not be able to take foreign sim cards. Always contact your carrier at home before buying a number abroad as they can sometimes allow you to use foreign sim cards. Buying a phone number and not being able to use it is a disaster, so keep this in mind. Some companies allow you to unlock your phone free of charge, so give them a call and ask if they offer that service before buying a new sim card.
What if you want to get a new, temporary phone? In Guatemala, there’s a slang word for very cheap cell phones. Frijolito (pronounced free-hole-ee-toe) translates to “little bean.” The term comes from the fact that cheap phones like these resemble beans! These phones are insanely cheap (as low as $10, or Q.50!), but most of them will only be able to process calls and basic text messages.
Buying a low-end smartphone in a foreign country is also possible. That way you’ll have more useful options with your phone. I asked my carrier for their cheapest smartphone, and the one they offered was $40.
Which Company Should I Choose?
I remember as a kid getting annoyed at my dad when we wanted to buy something. He would do so much research beforehand and take so long to make simple decisions, that it bored me to death. Now I’m a bit older and (questionably) smarter, so I get why he researched so much before making a purchase. You should do the same! Phone carriers are as eager to sell as ever, so they’ll dump lots of offers on you the moment you ask them for information. Always ask for the cheaper option until they give you the cheapest one. Here is a list of useful questions to ask your carrier before deciding to get a number with them or not. As you’re reading, can you think of more questions to ask? Just like my dad taught me, the more questions you ask, the better deals you’re going to find.
|Is there a cheaper option?||¿Tiene una opción más barata?|
|What documents do I need to present?||¿Qué documentos necesito tener?|
|Is there an alternative to this plan/offer?||¿Existe alguna alternativa para este plan/esta oferta?|
|Can I cancel the plan any time I want?||¿Puedo cancelar el plan cuando yo quiera?|
|What payment methods do you accept?||¿Qué modos de pago aceptan?|
|Do you accept foreign credit/debit cards?||¿Aceptan tarjetas de crédito/débito extranjeras?|
|Where can I buy minutes for my phone?||¿Dónde puedo comprar saldo?|
If you’re not fluent in Spanish, I highly recommend you get someone who does to help you make these phone calls. They might even get you a better deal than usual! However, if you can hold a casual conversation on your own, it’s okay to make the call yourself. In that case, a fluent Spanish speaker will help you out with any misunderstandings that might come up.
The Most Important Thing To Remember
If you’re thinking about getting a phone in a foreign country, the most important thing is research! I talked about important aspects to consider, but if you want to get the best deal available, calling local carriers and asking locals is your best bet when getting a phone number abroad. If you want to be able to text your Spanish-speaking friends like a pro, take a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy to gain the skills!Read More
We all need a day to pamper ourselves, right? The stress of work, life, school, family, and kids all builds up and drains us. Take some time for yourself and go to a nail salon or spa! Relájate. Now, if you are in a Spanish-speaking area and don’t know how to ask for a relaxing spa treatment, you might find it next to impossible to get the relaxing day you hoped for. Knowing the right Spanish vocabulary to overcome this hurdle is the key to treating yourself to the fullest. If you want to also get a haircut, brush up on the words and phrases you’ll need before you head off to the hair salon!
Cuál versus Qué
In your first couple of Spanish classes, your teacher probably taught you the question words: ¿Quién? ¿Qué? ¿Dónde? ¿Cuándo? ¿Por qué? ¿Cómo? ¿Cuánto? ¿Cuál? If your classes were anything like mine, you learned that qué means “what,” and cuál means “which.” Right? Well, it’s not quite as simple as that.
After living in Guatemala for several years, people have asked me my name a lot—by asking ¿Cómo te llamas? or ¿Cuál es tu nombre? However, they have never asked me ¿Qué es tu nombre?
Wait, what? That last sentence is incorrect? Yup. You should never say ¿Qué es tu nombre? When I realized this, I felt completely decepcionada. Why did my teacher tell me that qué means “what,” and cuál means “which,” if that’s not the case?
To be fair, cuál often translates to “which,” but not always. There are a couple of rules to remember when deciding whether to use qué or cuál in a question. (For the full list, you can visit this article on Qué vs Cuál.) Let’s take a look at them here:
4 Rules to Remember
- If the question word is followed by a noun, use qué. (¿Qué libro te gusta más?)
A common question in Spanish is “what/which type…?” and translates to ¿cuál tipo…? Since the question word is followed by a noun (tipo), we always use qué. While in English we could say something like “Which book do you like best?” we could never say ¿Cuál libro te gusta más?
- If the question word is followed by de, use cuál.
If you want to express a choice between things (nouns) without using qué, you can say cuál de. For example, ¿Cuál de los libros es tu favorito? This is essentially asking the same thing as our question in the previous point, but it is worded in a slightly different manner.
- If you are asking to define something, use qué.
My favorite question is ¿Qué significa…? This is a perfect example of how we use qué when looking for a definition. As a Spanish learner, this is also a really important question to learn, along with ¿Qué es eso? Both questions are looking for clarification or a definition to something, which calls for the question word qué.
- If it is an open-ended question, use cuál.
This last rule might be the most confusing one and may be difficult to get used to. In one of our previous examples, we looked at the correct question ¿Cuál es tu nombre?Here, we must use cuálbecause we are not looking for a definition. And the answer could be any number of things—it is an open-ended question. Another common question that is often said incorrectly is ¿Cuál es tu color favorito? Yes, here we also use cuál! It may take time to break the habit of using quéfor all these questions, but with practice, you can master it!
Do you remember learning about compound words in elementary school? Some examples are butterfly, raincoat, sunflower, and haircut. This combination of two words to make one word also happens in Spanish, but it is not as common. Luckily for us, we have several examples in our charts above. Can you find them?
The first one, quitaesmalte, breaks into quita and esmalte. Quita means “remove,” and esmalte is “nail polish,” so when we put them together, it means “nail polish remover.” Pretty simple, right? Normally, with compound words in Spanish, you can deduce the meaning of them by breaking them into separate words. It’s not always that easy in English (take butterfly and sunflower, for example), but in Spanish, you can easily figure out the meaning of compound words if you understand their components.
Break It Down
Let’s see if we can break down pintaúñas. Do you know what words we can separate this into? Great! Pinta (or paint) and uñas (or nails). This literally means “paint for nails,” which we would call nail polish. The last example starts with the same word, pinta (paint), and is followed by labios (lips). Again, this would literally be “paint for lips,” but we call that lipstick. Can you see how easy it is to find the meaning of compound words?
Check the Spelling
Warning, be careful with the spelling! Although pintalabios ends in s, it can be both singular and plural: el pintalabios or los pintalabios. The s comes from the word labios and does not automatically make the compound word plural. Look out for changes in gender in compound words, as well. Although both pinta and uñas end in a, and uña is a feminine noun by itself, these words come together to form a masculine noun. While the components of the individual words are still there (like the gender and singular/plural), when they come together, they give up their individuality to create a new word. It can be confusing, but just memorize the compound words with their corresponding articles.
You are now ready to pamper yourself in Spanish! Head on over to your local salon or spa or have a relaxing day in with your friends and use your new vocabulary words. If you have any questions or would like to practice with a certified teacher, sign up for a FREE trial class with us. Our teachers will help you to speak fluently in no time!Read More
The holiday season is wrapping up, and the year ahead of us looks full of new experiences and opportunities waiting to unfold. On New Year’s Eve, it amazes me that almost everyone around the globe comes together to celebrate the end of a trip around the sun. Everyone has different ways to celebrate. Some people like to spend the New Year with their families. Others might prefer to spend it with friends or significant others. Ideally, for me, I’d spend it with both friends and family! How do you like to spend New Year’s Eve?
If you’re spending the New Year abroad you’ll discover there are different ways people celebrate this holiday. Today, we’ll explore the similarities and differences in New Year’s celebrations throughout Latinoamérica!
Most modern New Year’s Eve parties are similar in Latin America since we adopted some of the common party traditions from the US. Whether it’s small family gatherings or festivals with hundreds of people, we all wait until right before midnight to start the countdown to the following year. When the timer reaches zero, fireworks start to go off all over the place, hugs and greetings go around signifying the start of a new year. In other countries, you might have a national countdown timer, but in Guatemala, it’s usually pretty chaotic. Everyone waits until the stroke of midnight to light up fireworks and celebrate New Year. The surefire way to know New Year’s is here is by the copious amounts of fireworks you’ll see exploding all over the city! An exception to this rule is Antigua Guatemala, where they gather around El Arco de Santa Catalina and wait for the clock on it to reach midnight.
Did you know most countries in Latin America have little to no regulations when it comes to purchasing fireworks? Without age restrictions to buy fireworks, any kid who wants them can buy them. There are pros and cons to this: we get to experience all sorts of cool pyrotechnics, but we have to learn to be extra careful with them. The most notorious firework ban occurred over a decade ago. Canchinflines (pronounced can-cheen-fleen-ays), also called silbadores in other regions, were a popular type of festive firework that was eventually banned for causing too many accidents. People would light one of these little gunpowder-filled cylinders, and hold them until the second they went off. Then they threw them into the air where they would rocket off into the distance. Can you imagine why these were banned? Canchinflines were often unpredictable and started dangerous fires during the holiday season.
Always remember to be careful if you’re celebrating the New Year in a Spanish-speaking country! I’ve met my fair share of foreigners who are shocked by how we handle fireworks in Latinoamérica. As long as you follow general fire safety rules, you’ll be alright. Most, if not all, accidents occur because people use fireworks in irresponsible ways.
One of the best parts about any holiday is the traditions, and New Year’s is no exception. We have many different quirks and rituals that set us apart from other countries and cultures. Even within families, you see different ways to celebrate! In my family, we have a long-standing tradition with my cousins: If we’re near a body of water (pool, ocean, etc.) on New Year’s, we’ll put on our swimsuits and get ready to jump into the water when the clock strikes twelve. It’s a lot of fun!
Latinoamericanos have some shared traditions too, little things people do to welcome the year; like walking around the block with a suitcase. My aunt says that if you do this, you’ll increase your chances of traveling during the year. Pretty strange if you ask me, but it’s still entertaining to do these things for the fun of it! Other traditions include wearing yellow underwear to attract prosperity, eating 12 grapes while making 12 wishes, and sweeping the whole house to get rid of bad energy.
If you believe these things help to ensure having a better year or not is up to you. What seems great to me is that the dawn of a new year opens up the opportunity to reset and turn a new page. Maybe these acts aren’t going to magically make things happen, but they put us in a renewed mindset; one that invites us to reflect upon what we want from this year and how can we achieve our goals.
Religion, in one form or another, has been a big part of our culture since the beginning. While the numbers of Christians have dwindled over the years, they’re still a majority in Spanish-speaking countries. Families gather together and pray for prosperity. They often do this near the nativity scene, a diorama of baby Jesus’s birth that typically adorns Christian households in Latinoamérica. Initially, the crib in the scene is empty, but a little figurine of Jesus is placed inside it at midnight on Christmas Eve. He is then removed on January 6th, the day the Three Wise Men came to greet the baby.
New year, New Me
We have New Year’s resolutions too! That famous influx of January gym-goers happens in Latin America as well. There’s no shortage of memes, ads, and effort being put into becoming a better person. Other common resolutions are having better food habits and improving academic/work performance.
Talking about food in Latin America is always a challenge. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of all the different traditional recipes! That’s a good thing if you ask me, the more food to discover, the better. Most countries will have their traditional dishes served on New Year’s. In Guatemala, for example, we always have things like tamales and paches. Mexico has similar dishes to Guatemala, and most countries usually eat stuff like turkey, ham, and mashed potatoes.
Tamales are a mixture of cornflour with various kinds of meat and vegetables wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled in a huge pot. They’re one of the most popular foods in Latinoamérica! Paches are virtually the same dish, except they’re made with mashed potatoes instead of corn.
Ponche is a big part of this seasons’ dishes. We put lots of different fruits in it! Our punch has apple, pineapple, grapes, prunes, jocote, plantains, and more. The result is a sweet and warm drink, perfect for the chilly, sweater weather at the end of the year. Some people like to put a bit of rum in it, but I honestly prefer it without.
Get Ready for the Coming Year!
On New Year’s Eve, there will be no shortage of things to do. Most countries in Latin America have host families who love to share the holidays with travelers. Sometimes hostels will hold parties for the guests, and, with a little research, you’ll always find an event that caters to your interests! Do you want a running start on your New Year’s resolution? Take a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy today and let us know about your plans!Read More
Working in a Guatemalan city where tourists often frequent has given me the chance to meet numerous different people from all over the world, each with their own unique story of how they ended up coming to the area. A vast majority of them came specifically to learn Spanish or to spend a good part of their time studying the language. These visitors’ motivation to learn Spanish generally falls into one of a few categories, like wanting to communicate better with the locals or for travel purposes. However, a surprisingly large number of people learn Spanish for mission work. Why is Spanish so popular with missionaries? Why should you learn Spanish if you are considering doing mission work?
Before we delve into why missionaries should learn Spanish, I want to preface this by saying that I don’t want to pressure you into choosing to do missions work in a Spanish-speaking area. Certainly, there is a need for missionary support all over the world, even in your own neighborhood. The purpose of this article is to show you the opportunities available if you learn Spanish as a missionary. If you’re on the fence about where to go or what language you should learn to further your missionary career, this blog is just for you! Personally, I am a fan of learning as many languages as possible; if you’re anything like me, why not learn Spanish and then some? With that in mind, let’s see why Spanish can be a huge asset to someone wanting to go into mission work.
You Meet People From Around the World
There are 572 million Spanish speakers in the world. Considering there are approximately 6,500 languages spoken in the world, 527 million (7.5% of the world population) is quite notable! That number is expected to increase by almost 200 million by 2050. In other words, if you speak Spanish, you will be able to communicate with a significant number of people in the world. Keep in mind that this number includes both native and non-native speakers, so we are talking about the possibility of meeting people who have learned (or are learning) Spanish anywhere in the world!
In my time in Germany, I attempted to use my broken German to get around, hoping that I was understanding directions correctly. While waiting at a bus stop, someone asked if I needed help in what I thought was a Spanish accent. Much to my relief, they were from Spain, and I was able to speak Spanish with them! It was such an amazing experience to meet someone with whom I could speak Spanish in a country where I never expected to use that language. I have also had the same experience with several Korean and Dutch friends – since we did not speak each other’s native tongue, we used our mutual second language, Spanish, to communicate.
You Better Serve the Community
As a missionary, you need to be able to communicate with the people you intend to serve and work with. If you decide to learn Spanish, you’ll be able to communicate with people in over 20 countries and territories, as well as people around the world that also speak Spanish. Knowing another language is always a great asset – especially if it’s a language as common as Spanish!
Additionally, many churches organize missionary trips abroad throughout the year. Of course, not every team goes to a Spanish-speaking country. However, because of the United States’ close proximity to Latin America, many short-term and long-term missionaries travel to a Spanish-speaking country to serve. Having the ability to speak Spanish will make you a great asset to these teams and you will be able to connect quickly with the locals and build better relationships with them.
You Share Your Skills Locally and Abroad
Speaking of traveling for mission work, knowing Spanish gives you the option to serve the community either abroad or locally. As you might have guessed, the number of Spanish speakers in the United States is growing at a rapid pace; you don’t even have to leave the country for your Spanish skills to be put to use!
Some missionaries travel abroad and live full-time in other countries, while others travel just for a week or two each year. Both methods are valid, but if you are learning Spanish for mission work, it can get a little dusty if you only use it for a couple of days each year. The good thing about learning Spanish as a second language is that you can use it even when you’re home!
Whether you are a full-time missionary home on furlough, a short-term missionary looking for local service opportunities to do when not on the field, or a missionary focusing on serving in the States, you can find ways to use your Spanish skills in your neighborhood. It can be as simple as helping to translate for your neighbor in the grocery store, participating in your local Spanish-speaking church, or tutoring kids in Spanish. Or, if you are looking for more of a commitment, you can look for local ministries that work specifically with the local Latino community.
Furthermore, when missionaries come off the field after an extended period abroad, it can be difficult to readjust to the culture and find work. Speaking Spanish can open up a lot of opportunities back in the States whenever you are ready to go back home. It can also connect you with Latino communities, which will help as you readjust to life back in the States after living in Latin America.
You Explore the Globe With Short-Term Trips
As I’ve previously mentioned, missionaries don’t always live permanently in foreign countries. Missionaries can be people who do short-term trips or those who spend their time serving in the States. Whatever type of missionary you are (or want to be), you will more than likely be a part of a short-term team in some shape or form. Personally, I have gone on short-term trips to Latin America, hosted them in Guatemala, and translated for teams working for different organizations. I have been a part of almost every aspect of short-term teams, both in the States and abroad. So, whatever type of missionary work you want to do, I can tell you with much confidence that you will probably be involved with short-term teams. What does that have to do with Spanish, though?
Whether you are the leader organizing the team, the group hosting them, the translator accompanying the team, or the person preparing the team for the cross-cultural experience, language skills are a necessity! Again, because of our close proximity to Latin America, many short-term teams decide to go there. Speaking Spanish will give you the ability to lead, host, or translate for short-term teams heading to Latin America. Basic Spanish skills are better than nothing when your purpose is to serve the community.
Even if you are serving as a missionary in an African, European, or Asian nation, you will more than likely host short-term teams from around the world. You may have team members that are native Spanish-speakers, just like I have!
You Sharpen Your Cultural Sensitivities
Now, when you’re working with short-term teams or as a full-time missionary, it is imperative that you learn about the culture of the place you’re going. One way of preparing yourself is by learning the language. Language and culture are so intertwined that you end up learning the intricacies of a culture through the language. Again, since Spanish is so popular around the world, it is a good language to start with as a missionary because you can travel to so many different places with confidence that you know a little bit about the culture.
For example, one of the first things you learn in Spanish class is how to greet people. In the States, (at least where I’m from), people don’t always greet each other; it is a much colder environment. However, with just the basics of the Spanish greetings, you are prepared to respond to everybody who greets you on the street daily in a Latin American country. Imagine how much more you can learn about the culture with regular Spanish classes! You learn how to be polite, how to joke, what are the cultural values, and how to respectfully decline things. As a missionary, you need to be very careful not to unintentionally offend people when you are trying to help. By learning Spanish (and consequently the culture), you can be prepared to enter a culture of over 20 countries and territories!
If you are considering becoming a missionary (or maybe you already are), think about learning Spanish to open additional doors and connect you to more people all around the world! It is a relatively easy language to learn as a native English speaker, and it is a great skill to have both on and off the field. Just because you learn Spanish for mission work doesn’t mean you can’t learn any other language! It would be a good language to start with, but it in no means limits you to further language learning endeavors. If you are ready to start learning Spanish for your mission work, try a FREE class with some of our native Spanish-speaking teachers! They can help you with key phrases, colloquial terms, and missionary vocabulary. Sign up today to start on your journey!Read More
Spanish classes are great. They teach you general vocabulary, pronunciation, and conversational skills. The more you advance in your classes, the more in-depth conversations you’ll be able to have. However, there are some situations that most Spanish classes just don’t prepare you for at all. One of those situations is going to the hair salon!
During my first year in Guatemala, I needed to have my hair cut. Thinking I could easily handle the conversation, I went with no preparation, confident in my Spanish abilities. I quickly learned, though, that I was totally unprepared to ask for layers in my hair, using the word niveles (levels/floors) instead of capas. The hairdresser asked me more questions about style preferences, and I was completely lost. Since my hair routine only involves washing, drying, and brushing, I never had a need or interest to learn more detailed vocabulary about hairstyles. Nevertheless, there are some key vocabulary words and phrases that everyone (guys and girls!) needs to know if they plan to stay an extended period of time in a Spanish-speaking area. If you aren’t properly prepared, you may end up with the opposite haircut than what you wanted! Thankfully for me, the hairdresser understood what I meant by niveles and gave me exactly the cut I wanted. Now, I have the word capas forever seared into my brain to avoid further embarrassment in hair salons. I want to help you avoid that kind of embarrassment, so I’ve put together a list of words and phrases you might need when getting your hair cut or styled. Let’s check them out!
Alright. Now that you’ve looked at this list, I want to discuss a couple of these words and phrases. Firstly, it is important to note that many vocabulary words have one or more translations in Spanish. Since Spanish is such widespread language, each country – and even region! – has its own way of saying certain things. If you are in a Spanish-speaking country, try using one of the options for a particular word. If you are corrected, then use the word most common in that region. For example, to say “split ends” I use flores because that is the only way I have ever heard it talked about. That is not a technical term, however, and you won’t find in translated as “split ends” in any dictionary or translator. While it is good to know the technical terms for things, be flexible and open to learning how the local people refer to different things!
Tricky Hair Salon Verbs
You might have noticed that to say “I want to get a haircut” we say Quiero cortarme el pelo. This pronominal verb makes it seem that we are going to be the ones cutting our own hair because of the -me at the end of cortar. However, this is an idiomatic pronominal verb and does not actually mean that you will be doing the cutting yourself. For this type of phrase, you need to remember that you cannot translate literally. The phrase literally translated from English would be yo quiero conseguir un corte de pelo. That is a mouthful! Instead, it is the short quiero cortarme el pelo. Additionally, remember that we say el pelo and not mi pelo. This is the same for phrases like me duele la cabeza (my head hurts). For body parts we use the regular article (el/la/los/las) beforehand and not the possessive pronoun (mi(s)/tu(s)/su(s)/nuestro(s)).
Afeitarse + Rasurarse
Both of these words mean ‘to shave.’ This is a perfect example of how multiple words can have the same translation in English. These words are both understood, but each one is more common in different areas. If you look at our chart above, you will see that these verbs do not have the pronominal ending -se. These verbs are only pronominal when the subject is doing this action on itself. For example:
Yo me rasuro.
Él se afeita.
Yo quiero rasurarme.
In these examples, the subject is (or wants to) shave him/herself. You may remember from previous blogs that this is a reflexive verb because the subject is doing something to itself. The accompanying pronouns reflect this. Why don’t they have the -se ending in the chart, then?
If you are going to the hair salon, someone else is cutting your hair or shaving your head. Someone else is doing the action to you. That means that it is no longer a reflexive action, and therefore we do not need the reflexive pronouns.
I want to take a bit of time to explain this wonderful word which is not quite as simple as it seems. As a noun (sustantivo), peinado means ‘hairdo.’ Imagine you are sitting at the hair salon or barbershop, flipping through a book of hairstyle options. Each one that you see is called a peinado, including the more extravagant ones for special events. Easy, right?
As an adjective, peinado becomes one of those interesting Spanish words that doesn’t translate well into English. Again, this is not something that was taught to me in class, but an idea I had to learn through several (slightly embarrassing) experiences. I was an English teacher for several years and my younger students would often comment that I always looked despeinada. I was confused, at first, thinking about the verb peinar (to comb).
My hair is a bit unruly, with a mind of its own, but I always had it in some style for class. A lot of hair just always escapes and, to be honest, I like it that way. However, that look is not necessarily considered a good one where I live. Whenever they asked me why I was despeinada, I would argue that yes, I swear I did comb my hair and yes, I do like when it looks like this. I slowly began to realize that the standard to be bien peinado is to have every hair in place, slicked into a nice hairdo with gel or water.
Do you think you understand what peinado means now? To be peinado means to have a nice hairstyle/hairdo or to be well put together with every hair in place. Despeinado is the opposite of that – to have your hair wild or unruly. Since I have too much hair to handle, I have accepted I will always be despeinada even if I did do style my hair! Remember that in Spanish it is estar despeinado not tener pelo peinado.
Put It Into Practice!
It’s time for you to practice what you’ve learned! If there isn’t a peluquería near you that speaks Spanish, you can practice with your friends, classmates, or Spanish teacher at Homeschool Spanish Academy! I hope you have learned from my embarrassing experiences what not to say when getting a haircut. If you have any questions or want more practice, schedule a FREE class with the Spanish Academy! Happy learning!Read More
The first couple of times I traveled abroad, I got extremely sick. One time I had a nasty parasite, which is considered very common for foreigners, but the second time I got pneumonia, a pretty common infection. The thing is, you can’t guarantee you won’t get sick while you’re abroad. While it may be more common for foreigners to get a parasite, you can also just as easily get the flu, a rash, or an infection. Hopefully, you won’t have any health issues while traveling, but it’s best to be prepared! You don’t want to end up feeling sick and not be able to communicate your symptoms to the doctor (trust me, I’ve been there). To help you avoid that, I have put together a list of common words and phrases you may use at the doctor’s office or hospital. Granted, this is not a comprehensive list – that would make for a never-ending blog! If you are concerned about a particular organ or disease that is not on this list, be sure to look it up before going to the see the doctor.
Let’s start with some basic vocabulary to get yourself to the doctor and to explain your symptoms.
Now, doctors often use vocabulary that the beginner Spanish learner might not understand. For example, they won’t say ‘poop and pee,’ but instead heces y urina. The first time I heard heces from a doctor, I had to stop and think about it because I had never used that word in conversation before! Check out these phrases to describe what’s wrong and be sure to write them down. I don’t want you to be in a situation where you can’t properly describe what you are feeling.
When talking about pain, you need to remember two very important things about the structure of Spanish phrases. First of all, you need to include a pronoun with the verb doler. For example, we don’t say duele la cabeza. You must include a reflexive pronoun, like me, before the verb for this to make sense. Me duele la cabeza. It is literally saying that ‘my head hurts me.’ If you look at this sentence, you’ll also notice that the subject comes at the end of the sentence. Cabeza is the subject, not me. This is a great example of how fluid Spanish can be! While we can write this sentence either way, – la cabeza me duele / me duele la cabeza – it is much more common to use the latter form. It may be confusing at first, but if you practice the phrase me duele, it will come easily to you in no time!
The… or My?
You might have also noticed that instead of saying mi cabeza (my head), we say la cabeza (the head). Usually, when we talk about the parts of our body, we use the regular article (el /la /los /las) instead of a possessive article (mi[s] /tu[s] /su[s] /nuestro[s]). This may seem very weird to you if you are new to the Spanish language. Once you start using this form, though, it will become more natural.
Remember, these rules apply to other verbs as well, not just doler. Check out these examples and practice using different body parts!
Me duele la pierna. – My leg hurts.
¿Te duele el estómago? – Does your stomach hurt?
Le arde la garganta. – His/her throat burns.
Me pica la cabeza. – My head itches.
Sentir / Sentirse
Did you notice how some of our handy-dandy phrases used the verb sentir (no reflexive pronoun), while others used the verb sentirse (with a reflexive pronoun)? If not, go back, look at the chart, and identify the sentences that use sentir and sentirse. Both of these verbs translate to ‘feel’ in English, but they are used in different situations in Spanish. Can you identify why some sentences use the reflexive pronoun while others do not? If not, don’t worry! I’ll make it easy for you:
Sentir answers the question ‘what.’
What do you feel? I feel strong pain. Siento un dolor fuerte.
What do you feel? I feel great sadness. Siento una gran tristeza.
Sentirse answers the question ‘how.’
How do you feel? I feel sick. Me siento enfermo.
How do you feel? I feel excited. Me siento emocionado.
In other words, sentirse is followed by an adjective describing the subject. Me siento enfermo. Enfermo describes the (unspoken) subject yo. The verb sentir is followed by a noun or by a phrase starting with que. Siento un dolor fuerte. What do you feel? You feel strong pain.
Let’s look at the examples from our “What’s Wrong?” chart above:
Siento que me voy a desmayar.
Here, we have a phrase starting with que directly after the verb, so we must use sentir.
Siento un hormigueo en los dedos.
This sentence answers the question ‘what do you feel.’ Since it talks about ‘what’ and not ‘how’ we feel, we must use sentir.
Me siento muy mal.
This sentence talks about how you feel, so we must include the reflexive pronoun, or the verb sentirse.
Me siento mareado/a.
Just like the previous sentence, this one answers the question ‘how.’ Because of that, we must use the verb sentirse.
El dolor se siente como un cuchillo.
Se siente como si alguien me estuviera apretando.
These last two sentences seem a little different. While they do answer the question ‘how,’ the verbs are not followed by adjectives that describe the subject. Here, we see examples of the passive voice referring to what an object feels like. Since it is still answering the question ‘how,’ and because the passive voice commonly uses the pronoun se (se vende, se busca), we use the pronominal verb sentirse.
The next time you want to talk about feeling something in Spanish, think about whether you are describing what you feel or how you feel. If the answer is what, use sentir. If the answer is how, use sentirse. Furthermore, keep in mind that if you use a phrase starting with que after the verb, you must use the word sentir.
Write it Down and Study Up
There are a lot of things you need to memorize. To make it easier for yourself, write these phrases down, pin them on the wall, or download the chart and practice them whenever you can. Even if you are just practicing them on yourself, that is better than nothing! Repeat the phrases you see here, and then when you go to make your own sentences in a real conversation, you will remember these sample sentences and use them as a guideline for your new sentences.
How do you feel after studying these words and phrases? ¿Te sientes confundido? ¿Sientes que estás listo para hablar con el doctor en español? I hope this blog helped you expand your vocabulary and prepare you for your next doctor’s visit. If you have questions, want to learn more vocabulary, or would like more practice with some tricky verbs like sentir, doler, and arder, sign up for a FREE class with one of our native Spanish-speaking teachers. They can explain these concepts further, give you more materials to practice with, and help you gain the confidence to use these ideas in conversation. Get started today!Read More
A staple of the Central American diet, and the star of every Taco Tuesday, is the modest (yet truly remarkable) tortilla de maíz, or corn tortilla. While we are all pretty familiar with its taste and utility, we may not know much of anything else about this marvelous food. Do you know where the tortilla originated? Or how it’s been made since its creation? And why did copying the corn and tortilla-centered culture of the New World make Europeans deathly ill in the 1500s? The answers will surprise you as there is more to this common comestible than meets the eye.
Corn appears in history as a cultivated source of nutrients at least 8,700 years ago in Mesoamerica where the creation story of the tortilla begins. After the indigenous culture of these regions learned to modify teosinte, a type of wild grass, into corn, they began to process the corn into masa, or dough. They did this through an ingenious method called nixtamalization. They soaked the corn kernels in a limewater solution (from limestone, not the fruit lime), which removed the hulls, made it more easily digestible, and helped the ground corn form a dough (instead of turning into mush) for tortilla-making. The resulting mixture of masa is called nixtamal, an Aztec word for hominy. Interestingly, the chemical process of mixing corn with lime releases a crucial vitamin that is otherwise unavailable to the human body. When the Europeans learned to farm corn from the natives of the New World in the early 1500s, they failed to copy the process of nixtamalization. Eventually, high corn yields in European fields led to high corn consumption, and vast populations whose diets relied primarily on corn became extremely sick, often dying, from a severe type of malnutrition called pellagra.
The corn tortilla is an extraordinary human invention. Coined tortilla by the Spaniards who compared it to a smaller version of the torta (cake) they knew back home, this small round corn cake packs a hefty punch of nutrition. Thanks to the process of nixtamalization, tortillas are rich in minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium and provide essential vitamins like A, B, and E. They are also a good source of protein and fiber. Indigenous cultures named corn, beans, and squash the Three Sisters, since they grew better together and created a perfectly balanced diet for health and well-being.
The traditional recipe for any tortilla includes corn, water, and lime (called cal in Spanish) to make the nixtamal. The women are typically responsible for making tortillas for family members or consumers who may buy from their tortillería (tortilla shop). They prepare a comal (a hot griddle made out of light sheet-metal), then dampen the nixtamal on a table, mix it well, and break off pieces to be formed into thin, circular patties. The process of creating perfectly round tortillas that are uniform in thickness is an art form that many women start learning at a young age. They lay the tortillas on the hot griddle for a minute or two and then flip them over by pressing lightly into each one with damp fingers. When the tortillas are finished, they gather them up while piping hot and store them insides baskets with thick pieces of cloth to keep them warm. Check out this video to see one of our own, Ashley, learn to process and make traditional tortillas in Guatemala!
Tortilla Variations by Region
While tortilla culture extends from Mexico to Argentina, it is much more frequently consumed in Central America. Specifically, in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, tortillas are eaten daily by the majority of the population. Costa Rica and Panama do partake in tortilla-making, but it is becoming less common and most people simply eat pre-packaged tortillas. Nicaraguans consume a thick, sweet type of tortilla called güiriles that they serve with crumbled cheese. Tortillas in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile are smaller than those in Central America. They have salty tortillas called sopaipilla and sweet ones that are boiled in sugar water. Many countries in Central and South America continue to make use of masa in different ways, crafting the corn dough into unique and culturally-defining foods.
Different Tortilla Dishes
Tortillas vary in size from 6 cm to over 30 cm, depending on the type of dish they will be used for. While the tortilla is often consumed on its own as a side dish to any meal, it is also modified to create specific dishes. Here is a list of dishes made with the tortilla, showing what they are and where they originated:
Tortillas in Guatemala
In Guatemala, where Homeschool Spanish Academy is based, the tortilla is a main staple of most people’s diets (along with beans and some type of meat). There is a tortillería on every corner, where some families go to buy freshly made tortillas los tres tiempos (three times a day). Other families buy corn to grind or grow their own in order to make masa nixtamalizada for their homemade tortillas. For each meal, the family gathers together with big piles of steamy tortillas packed away in canastas de mimbre, or wicker baskets. The amount of tortillas eaten by each person varies by preference, averaging from two to eight per person per meal. In many cases, the tortilla replaces use of a fork or spoon, as it’s used to scoop up black beans and rice (for example). It’s also frequently rolled up and dipped into savory dishes like a hearty guisado (stew) or jocón (tomatillo-cilantro spiced gravy).
Try Your Own Tortillas
Would you like to try to make your own tortillas at home? Check out this helpful recipe and with a bit of practice, you can make your own delicious corn tortillas for any dish. We hope you enjoyed learning about tortilla culture in Latin America. Sign up for a free class with a native Spanish speaker in Guatemala and let us know how your tortilla-making experience is going!Read More
Whenever you’re learning another language, you may often hit a common stumbling block – being able to truly express what you are feeling. I often struggle with this in both languages now. Since each language has its own unique, wonderful phrases to express an idea, my brain often goes to mush as I sort out how to express what I think and need in one language, instead of the Spanglish that I normally think in. Unfortunately, not everyone I talk to can understand my Spanglish ramblings…including my husband.
I have had the amazing opportunity to be completely immersed in the Spanish language by dating and marrying someone who speaks only Spanish. He can handle a basic conversation in English, but our home language is Spanish. If you ever have the opportunity to talk with other people who speak the same languages as you do, it’s a very interesting phenomenon as you decide which language you want to speak in with that particular person – it depends on numerous factors, and it is not always the same! Either way, whether my husband one day becomes fluent in English or not, the language for our relationship is Spanish. This means that I had to learn to express how I felt in my second language. This isn’t something normally taught in a high school Spanish class, so I learned as I went.
If you are in the same position as me, or if you are just wanting to take your Spanish to a whole other level and be able to truly express yourself in Spanish, this blog is for you! We are going to look at several common phrases that you can use with your significant other – whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not!
To be completely honest, I am not a huge fan of lovey-dovey names for your significant other in English. I don’t know what it is about them, but I just don’t feel comfortable using them with my partner. However, I am a big fan of (most) Spanish pet names. Check them out!
The first ones seem great right? My love, queen, heaven – those sound great. But my daughter? Fatty? Aren’t we talking about or beloved significant other? These may sound funny, or even offensive, in English, but trust me – they do not all have the same connotation in Spanish. Mija is actually my favorite pet name that my husband uses. It expresses so much love, warmth, and affection in just one word. Now, you’ve probably heard mamita or papito used a lot, mostly in flirtatious conversations. While these two names are very often used to pursue someone and comment on their physical appearance, they can be used in a much more caring and loving way between a couple. Or, if you want to comment on your partner’s lovely physical appearance, you can use these words. Speaking of physical appearance, let’s talk about flaco/gordo. Yes, it sounds absolutely awful in English. However, these are very endearing terms in Spanish. My husband is my no means fat, nor is he skinny. Despite that, I have called him both mi gordo and mi flaco. Why? It’s endearing! He is also (sometimes) allowed to call me his gorda/flaca because these are not degrading terms about my weight but a way to tell me he loves me and my body.
It is very important to note that these words are not just for couples. If you walk through the market in Antigua, Guatemala, you will hear the vendors calling you any of these names to make you feel like the most important person in the world… and get you to buy their product. I have to tell you – it often works on me. Hearing people call me ‘queen, beautiful, and heart’ really puts me in a good mood! It is also very common to call kids ‘gordo/gorda’ out of affection. My husband and I are blessed with a little one-year-old boy, and he is just the cutest. He was not a fat baby when he was born, and now that he is a toddler, he is still not a fat kid. However, what have I and everyone else called him since he was born? Gordito. It may have to do with the general squishiness of babies, but he will forever (yes, even as an adult) be my gordito.
Spanish is a very expressive language, especially when it comes to communicating your love to those you care about. These pet names can be used in many different circumstances and potentially be misconstrued, so I encourage you to be cautious using them with people who are not your significant other. I once called my friend papito thinking it was just a fun nickname, and his face went bright red. Turns out it is not just another nickname but has a more sensual meaning. Oops! Learn from my mistakes, and make sure the nicknames you are using are appropriate for the situation.
One of my favorite things about Spanish is the many ways to describe your feelings. In English, we say we love everything; we have one word, ‘love,’ for everything. I love pizza, movies, sleeping, my dog, my sister, my husband. The reality is that our feelings are different for each of these things, and Spanish offers us more ways to express those particular feelings. For a more in-depth look at these phrases, click here.
Alright, we have our pet names and different verbs to express our level of love for someone. However, there is so much more to look at when we think about expressing our deep feelings for our significant other.
I hope all these phrases will help you better express yourself to your significant other in Spanish! It is important to note that all of these phrases use the pronoun tú to refer to your other half. Not all couples refer to each other with tú. Some couples keep it formal with usted to express respect for each other, while others use vos to express a deep closeness. Use whichever pronoun you feel most comfortable with, but make sure to change the verb conjugations accordingly!
Spanish Poems about love
If you are looking for some beautiful sayings and quotes in Spanish to put on a card or send to your significant other, try one of these!
Prefiero un minuto contigo a una eternidad sin ti.
“I prefer one minute with you than an eternity without you.”
Te amé, te amo y te amaré. Aunque pasaran cien años y mi corazón ya esté cansado y quiera dejar de latir, quiero que sepas que mi último latido será para ti.
“I loved you, I love you, and I will love you. Even when a hundred years have passed and my heart is tired and wants to stop beating, I want you to know that my last heartbeat will be for you.”
En la tierra, en la luna, en las estrellas, en marte, en cualquier parte del universo. En la lluvia, en el frío, en el dolor y el temor, en el laberinto sombrío y los caminos más difíciles de cruzar, pero contigo, sin contratos ni condiciones.– Irene T. Gómez
“On Earth, on the moon, in the stars, on Mars, in any part of the universe. In the rain, in the cold, in pain and fear, in the gloomy labyrinth and the most difficult paths to cross, but with you, without contracts or conditions.”
Eres mi promesa de nunca romper, eres cada uno de los latidos de mi corazón. Eres mi sonrisa, después de un mal día, eres vida, eres mi vida.– Robinson Aybar
“You are my promise of never breaking; you are every one of my heartbeats. You are my smile after a bad day. You are life; you are my life.”
Te quiero no por quien eres, sino por quien soy cuando estoy contigo.– Gabriel García Márquez
“I love you not for who you are, but because of who I am when I’m with you.”
Tardé una hora en conocerte y solo un día en enamorarme. Pero me llevará toda una vida lograr olvidarte.
“It took an hour for me to meet you and just a day for me to fall in love. But it will take a whole lifetime to be able to forget you.”
Share the love!
Take everything that you’ve learned here and go express your love to your significant other! You can use whole quotes, bits and pieces, or just the pet names to express what you are feeling in Spanish. Don’t forget to practice what you’ve learned with our native Spanish-speaking teachers! You can sign up for a FREE class here! You can come up with some sentences of your own in Spanish and run it by them – they would love to help!
For more practice, check out our video on the different ways to say ‘I love you’ in Spanish. You can get a first-hand glimpse of how many Spanish speakers use different phrases to express themselves. Test your Spanish skills with the video as well by seeing how much you understand. Then, follow along with the subtitles to check your comprehension.Read More
Going abroad is a wonderful experience. It’s a great opportunity to meet people, explore new settings, and try out exciting food! If you’re reading this blog, I imagine you’re extra adventurous, because driving in a foreign country is a whole new world of freedom. I remember the one and only time I drove a car in a foreign country – I was terrified! We were coming back from doing some gardening with volunteers, and my boss at the time asked if I wanted to drive back. I couldn’t say no to that, so I hopped in the driver’s seat and took that old red car for a spin.
Luckily I had my boss, a local, to guide me through the traffic signs and give me cues on rules that I might not be aware of. This made my drive a lot less scary and a great experience that I remember to this day. If you’re driving alone it’s very important that you research topics like speed limits, driving requirements, driving age, and so on. Here’s a link to a page with useful information on driving requirements for different countries.
Basic vocabulary for driving and GPS navigation
Road signs in Spanish
Just like with local traffic laws, I always recommend that you study the local road signs before you drive anywhere. Below are some examples of traffic signs that change slightly or are nonexistent in the US.
Hopefully, you can figure out what this sign is asking you to do by just looking at it. If you see a red octagon with the word ALTO written in, it means you should definitely stop and look both ways before you carry on.
This is personally one of my least favorite road signs, especially if I’m in a crowded town. If you see an ‘E’ with a red slash across it, that means you can’t park in that area. Some countries will have a ‘P’ instead, so be on the lookout for both, since parquear and estacionar are synonyms for the word parking.
These black arrows on a red circle are there to let you know you absolutely must make a turn in the direction they suggest, or you’ll end up driving against traffic!
Ceda el paso
While the yield sign is the same as in the US, it’s always a nice reminder that these signs mean the same thing, since you might find the Spanish text to be confusing.
Límite de velocidad
Speed limits, or Límites de velocidad, are something to always look out for. Especially since in most if not all of the Spanish speaking countries we use Kilometers instead of miles. It’s important to keep that in mind as you drive!
No hay paso
If you find yourself on the wrong side of the road, this sign will let you know you need to turn around ASAP! No hay paso means ‘wrong way.’
Obra en construcción
Typically, the best way to know there’s a construction site ahead is the annoying traffic it will surely cause. The second best way, and the most reliable, is to look out for obra en construcción signs. These are typically yellow or orange and will tell you how far away the site actually is.
Ready, set, drive!
There are many ways to learn Spanish: traveling, studying, and practicing. Before you set out on the road, maybe you’ll want to learn some Spanish words for traveling to have under your belt, and if you’re unsure of where to go, I suggest you read up on our top 8 destinations for travel. Regardless of where you choose to go, you can still learn Spanish at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Try out a free class today, available anywhere with an internet connection!
Who Needs a Bank Account in Guatemala?
In the last couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure to meet some wonderful and interesting people. Among them, there’s an American friend of mine who’s very special. She was born in Guatemala and adopted at a very young age by a Jewish family in the US. I met her because she came to her birth country to get to know the culture, customs, and language of the people that lived here, the place she was born. We became great friends and keep in touch to this day.
Now she’s planning to move here to spend her days making Guatemala a better place. I have had the pleasure of accompanying her on her journey, and through it, we came to face an interesting challenge: she has to set up a Guatemalan bank account. In order to do this, I helped her by calling several banks and asking what she should do in order to open an account here, if possible. Some banks were laxer, and others were quite strict, so I’ll write down what I learned so you can better know what to expect if you’re ever in need of opening an account while abroad.
What Do You Need to Have?
According to the banks I spoke to, the following are required if you’re to open a bank account in Guatemala:
- Proof of residence (usually in the form of electricity or water bill)
- The minimum amount of cash required to open the account (it varied from $15 – $150, roughly)
Proof of employment
Some banks required proof of employment that would guarantee that the resident had a job in Guatemala. I asked them about cases where the resident works remotely for a website or company, to which they replied it was no problem as long as the company they worked for could provide said proof of employment to confirm the person opening the account has a steady source of income.
Specifically, having a native Guatemalan with an ID register as a creditor, so they could manage or delete the account if the resident left the country, for example. I personally don’t recommend opening an account if they ask for this, even if there’s a Guatemalan willing to be your creditor. These things, I believe, are best kept personal. I guess a spouse could be an exception, but if you’re married to a Guatemalan you can get an ID yourself, so it kind of defeats the purpose of a creditor!
Each bank I asked this question had a different answer, so my advice is to give them a call! Some of the banks had an English option for customer service, and they’re usually happy to give any info necessary.
Prepare yourself for the call by studying these vocabulary words:
Not Going to Live in Guatemala?
Just like each bank has different requirements to open an account, so will each country. Take into account the location you’re planning to live in when opening your account. Make sure your bank has a location set up near your home! In countries with large rural areas, banks can be few and far between, so don’t forget to double-check for banks that are close to you so you can visit anytime you need.
Either way, the first thing you should do before setting up an account abroad is to contact the bank so they give you the info you need! If you want to improve your Spanish so the conversation with the bank’s customer service is easier, make sure to try out a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy!Read More