Our family members: we love them, we get annoyed by them and we have fun times with them! Most importantly: we know we can count on them whenever we need them! So many of our memories are tied to the time we’ve spent around our family. I think we all know how important they all are! So it’s good that when we speak Spanish, we know how to refer to them!
Today, let’s learn how to say write and say the family in Spanish! If you haven’t yet, watch our latest video! At the end of this blog post, you’ll also find a table with all the vocabulary words you need to describe your family in Spanish! Don’t forget to download the PDF as well to keep practicing!
Christmas Eve Dinners
I’ve lived abroad or in a different city than my familia for almost 10 years. Because of that, there’s one thing I try to do whenever possible: spend navidad (Christmas) with them. Even if it is usually only in spirit! For as long as I can remember, we’ve celebrated two Christmas Eve dinners. One is at my abuela’s (my mother’s mother), and the other one is at my abuelos’ (my father’s parents). Both dinners have always been filled with love, tons of laughter, good food, and as many family members as we can get together!
My Mom’s Family
Christmas Eve always starts at my abuela’s house. Back when I was a little girl, my bisabuela (great-grandmother) used to make tamales, pierna, ponche, and all the good Guatemalan food we eat for Christmas. When I was old enough to help, she would even let me be the sous chef! I think there was more talking than cooking from my part, though. My bisabuela meant the world to me! She would babysit me and my hermano (brother) all the time when we were kids, up until she passed away. She was like a second madre (mother) to my hermano and me. Now my mamá (mom) is in charge of most of the Christmas dinner! Her tamales are the best ever! No wonder, she uses my great-great-grandmother’s recipe (that’s a hard one in Spanish: tatarabuela!). My abuela (grandmother) also participates in the cooking, but she lets my mamá take the lead on the tamales!
The Awaited Tamal
Making tamales is a group effort and it takes a loooong time. In the late afternoon on Christmas Eve’s Day my mamá or abuela brings out the “tamal de prueba” (“trial tamal”). This is the first tamal of the whole batch and they bring it out so we can try it. They make tamales only a couple of times a year, so this is a BIG moment that my hermano, my tía (aunt), and I are always anxiously awaiting. We sit down on the big dining room table, everyone with a fork in hand, and we share the first tamal. Every time, I tear up on my first bite because it tastes just like family, like all the beautiful moments we’ve spent together. It feels like being with my bisabuela again because my mamá’s tamales taste just like hers!
My Dad’s Family
After the “tamal de prueba,” we get into the car and head to my abuelos’ house. A huge dinner of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, apple sauce, and my tía’s special gravy awaits us there! If we get to gather the whole crew, it’s my abuela, my abuelo, my four tías (aunts), my prima (female cousin), my primo (male cousin) my papá, my hermano, my hermana (sister), my sobrino (nephew) and I! We normally arrive by the time dinner is ready because we were at my abuela’s giving the emotional support for the whole tamal-making process.
A Family Tree
Now, it’s time to understand a little bit more about my family tree. My hermana is really my medio hermana (half-sister). Her father is my father, and her mother is my dad’s first wife. So my mother is not my sister’s mother. My mom is her step-mother – or her madrastra! And my sister is my mother’s hijastra (step-daughter). My primos are my first cousins (primos en primer grado) because they are the children of my dad’s sister, but the children of my dad’s cousins are my second cousins (primos en segundo grado). I do get to see my primos en segundo grado around this time because my abuelo’s sister – my tía abuela – has a piano school and she hosts a Christmas recital every year! The recital is tons of fun! One of my favorite parts about going to the recital is that we get to sing German Christmas songs that my abuelo and his hermanos used to sing as children!
All The Laughter
Back to lovely Christmas Eve! During dinner, I try to cat up with everyone because it’s one of the only times of the year I get to see them all! Last year’s dinner I heard some great news: my prima is getting married this year! I’m looking forward to meeting her prometido (fiancé) and having tons of fun at her wedding! Another amazing thing is that multiple languages are spoken. We mainly speak Spanish, but there is also the occasional English and German. Sometimes my abuelo will even throw in some French into the mix! Each and every time, at some point, one of my tías will start laughing, and we’ll all follow suite and laugh until our bellies hurt! It’s very enjoyable to laugh uncontrollably, but I do not recommend trying this at home – especially after all the food of a Christmas Eve dinner!
More Tamales and More Love
After having dinner at my abuelos’, we head back to my abuela’s house where more tamales will be awaiting us! I’m telling you, I’m sure I eat more on Christmas Eve’s Day than on any other day of the year! All the food is made with so much love and I just can’t refuse it!
For the more visual and auditory learners out there and anyone else who would like to do a recap of this blogpost on a video: here you go!
Now, let’s do a recap of all the vocabulary we just learned! To hear the vocabulary spoken, don’t forget to check out the video and PDF below!
Okay. Before we start today, have a look at this awesome video! After I watched the video, I tried to snap my fingers to chanin-chanin! It didn’t quite work and it made me remember how many years ago, my best friend spent a crazy amount of time trying to get me to do it “right.” Despite her efforts and 25 years of being Guatemalan, I still can’t make the snapping sound. Now the important question: were you able to do it? It’s okay if you can’t! That makes two of us! Either way, this expression and hand gesture has an important influence on Guatemalan culture.
Chanin, chanin-chanin, or the hand movement that accompanies those words, is ingrained in Guatemalan culture in an inexplicable way. Whether or not they actually say the words, everyone does this hand movement. Some people do it everywhere, others do it only in the familiarity of their homes. Some make it snap, while others just shake their hands like pom poms (and I raise my hand to this!!!). The video got me thinking that I do it a lot (and I mean a LOT) more often than I initially thought I do. It’s just one of those things that you learn at a very young age because everyone around you does it!
What is ‘chanin chanin’?
Let’s divide this in two and explore its meaning:
- Words: Saying ‘chanin’ or ‘chanin-chanin’
- Gesture: The famous finger snapping hand movement
The origin of the word chanin
Guatemala’s official language is Spanish. However, different cultural groups across the country speak another 24 officially recognized languages! Yes, that’s a lot of languages for one country! 22 out of those 24 languages are Mayan languages spoken by indigenous people.
Now, going back to chanin and Guatemalan Spanish. Because of the cultural exchange that exists between the various groups in Guatemala, Mayan languages have influenced – and still are influencing – Spanish greatly! Many words we use in Guatemalan Spanish, like chanin, originate from a Mayan language. Chanin, in particular, means apúrate, or hurry up.
To practice some Spanish reading, visit Guatemala’s official page on our linguistic heritage: Guatemala, un País con Diversidad Étnica, Cultural y Lingüística. There are also some maps for you to see where these different cultures and languages exist! You can also check out these Top 5 Spring Break Destinations in Guatemala and compare the places listed here to where each Mayan language is spoken.
Origin of the chanin gesture
As for the hand movement, I’ve been asking some abuelitas, and no one really knows where it comes from. I can only assume that someone, one day, really needed to get something done. So, they started shaking their hands to communicate a sense of urgency to another person who spoke a different one of the 24 languages. Since they couldn’t understand each other with words, hand gestures had to do the job!
Imagine if you’re in the middle of something and someone starts frantically shaking their hands to signal that you should hurry up – believe me – you’ll hurry up!
The Languages of Guatemala
Languages are directly related to ethnic groups and culture. There are four different ethnic groups in Guatemala and one uses different languages:
Learn more about Guatemala’s culture and ethnic groups here!
*Information on the number of native speakers from 2002 Census.
Spanish in the context of indigenous languages in Guatemala
Although Spanish is the “main” official language of Guatemala, a big percentage of the population does not speak Spanish! But how does this happen? The Spanish arrived in Guatemala almost 500 years ago in 1524 AD and as part of their colonization, they taught the indigenous people Spanish.
While 500 years may seem like enough time for everyone to learn Spanish, Guatemala is a country divided (and united!) by different cultures and landscapes. The various groups did not always accept a new language being imposed on them (who would?). Plus, the fact that some villages are so far removed from political, economic, or cultural centers allowed for many to just keep living their life without needing to learn a new language.
This is all now changing, but we’ll talk more about Spanish in Guatemala in another blog post! In the meantime, you can read a little something on Guatemalan history here.
Something to keep in mind: The Spanish of each Spanish-speaking country is greatly influenced by the languages the indigenous populations spoke or still speak! That’s the reason why there are sometimes big differences in the words the people of different Spanish-speaking countries use.
Y ahora, and now, exploremos the other languages of Guatemala!
According to the 2002 census, 41% of the Guatemalan population identify themselves as indigenous (descendants of the Mayans). All these people speak various Mayan languages, and each one is a descendant of the language Protomaya, which came to life some 6,000 years ago! Yes, it’s been a long time! There are now 22 indigenous Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala, each spoken by a different cultural group! And yes, each one of them is a language of their own (not a *dialect!) with unique grammar, sounds, and vocabulary!
Let’s have a look at these 22 Mayan languages:
*dialect: “A particular form of a language which is peculiar to a specific region or social group.” Thanks, Oxford English Dictionary!
As you can see, only a very small percentage of the population speaks each of the Mayan languages! These numbers have greatly decreased in the last few years and are still rapidly declining due to multiple reasons. For one, technology is only available in certain languages. Similarly, most services and information are only accessible in Spanish. People are also moving to bigger cities for work or studies, and because of that many families consider it more important for their children to learn Spanish than an indigenous Mayan language. Parents and grandparents have struggled to live in a country where they cannot speak the official language, and they don’t want their children to have that same experience.
However, it’s important to mention that Guatemala’s government and different NGOs have started campaigns to promote Mayan language learning in schools and through any possible platform. The thing is, a language is not only a set of words we use to communicate with others. Languages carry the entire historical background of a whole culture! As such, it is important to value and cherish each Mayan language as much as we value and cherish all those beautiful colors we see when we visit a Guatemalan market!
Check out these quotes by Guatemalans to understand a little bit more about the importance of language as part of a culture: Discovering Treasures Through Spanish Quotes
Xinca is a language that doesn’t belong to the same group as the other 22 indigenous Mayan languages. Its origin is unknown, but it used to be widely spoken throughout Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. While some sources say the language is extinct, others say there are currently only about 100 people who speak this language.
Garifuna is the only language from the Arawakan language family spoken in Central America. All other languages from this language family that are not extinct, are spoken in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname. Up until 1797 when the Garifuna people were deported to Honduras, the language was only spoken in some Antillean Islands. Now, a total of about 200,000 people speak this language throughout Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, and the US. If you’d like to learn more about the Garifuna culture, check out this documentary film in Garifuna language (and English): Garifuna in Peril.
Language is a huge part of culture! When you learn a language, you’re not only learning to say things with other words, but you’re venturing into a new world of ideas and customs. Continue learning more about Guatemalan culture and language by scheduling a FREE CLASS with us today!Read More
One of the most amazing sensory experiences you can have when visiting a country like Guatemala is visiting mercados (markets) to go shopping in Spanish! The market is an explosion of colors, sounds, and smells like no other! Not all of the smells are pleasant, but all of them are a part of the whole experience! And shopping in Spanish – or in any foreign language – is a very culturally enriching experience by itself! Also, if you’re already in Guatemala, you may want to visit at least of one the Top 5 Spring Break Destinations here!
And check out our latest video! If you’re an auditory learner, it will be a great way to learn some new phrases and vocabulary that will be useful in the market.
What is the mercado?
At the mercado, you will find colorful produce of all kinds – the known and the unknown. I don’t even know the name of tons of produce they sell there, but the colors are all so pretty!!! You will hear animals in the distance, women yelling the names of the products they sell, birds chirping, men walking around holding so many things you wonder how they can even walk, trucks pulling over, kids laughing, the chatter of people. You will get to smell all the fruits, vegetables, flowers, freshly prepared meals, and – also a part of it but least pleasant of them all – the freshly cut meat! Yes, this is all part of the shopping in Spanish adventure we’ll embark on today!
The market is also the place where you can get pretty much anything you can think of: from baby clothes through crafting supplies, fabrics, coal, grains – all the way to cooking utensils, stationery, and baskets – I have a thing for baskets! Now, in order to buy all the things that you may like or want to fill up that awesome shopping basket you will probably buy (I’m telling you, they are so cute!), you will need to know some vocabulary. So let’s explore the mercado together and learn how to shop in Spanish!
Knowing the Basics to Go Shopping in Spanish
Before we venture into the market, we need to learn some phrases that will be useful in order to know the prices of things. We will also need to know how to ask for a certain something.
Let’s start with prices:
Other useful sentences:
There will be a lot of not knowing what things are because there are tons of produce that we’re just not used to! It’s nice to know the names of things – and to have a little notebook to write the names down. The ladies at the mercado are usually super nice, so they can help you write it down if you nicely ask for help! Find even more tips on how to learn Spanish here!
*A little cultural sidenote:
Por favor and Gracias. Please and Thank You!
Politeness is very important in Guatemala. Wherever you go – but especially for the older women selling vegetables. Here, people will treat you very differently if you’re impolite to them – and not in a nice way! You’re visiting a different culture, so it’s important to take this into account! You’d appreciate the same if someone visited your house!
If you noticed, the conjugation of dar (deme) is in usted instead of in tú. (Deme is an imperative form – a command. Lee más about Spanish commands here and here!) Why? In Guatemala, we use the usted form to show respect to older people or to create a respectful distance between the person we’re speaking with and us. You can find a lot on personal pronouns here.
Let’s visit the mercado and go shopping in Spanish
Okay. First of all, whenever you go to the market for the first time, you should always make sure you have at least a couple of hours to spare. Why? Well, for starters, it really is a one-of-a-kind experience that is amazing to wander through. Secondly, if you’re like me, you’ll get lost at least a couple of times. I’ve been going to the same market for about a year and I still get lost often – Guatemalan markets are like labyrinths and everything is so colorful. It’s extremely easy to get distracted – and lost!
I live in Antigua Guatemala, where the headquarters of Homeschool Spanish Academy is! Whenever I go to the market, I visit the biggest one in Antigua! My first stop is always the veggies stand! To get there, I go past the stands with clothing and shoes, burned DVDs, electronics, and beauty supplies. I always make sure I’m on the right path a couple of times because everything looks the same and I get easily lost. Then…yes! Here we are on my favorite veggie stand on the corner close to the meat section (the only way I remember where it is).
So, we’re at the veggie stand now. I like the bigger ones because then I can buy everything at one place and also, the more things you buy, the better the price they will give you! This is not like a supermarket. Things are not tagged, so you need to ask how much everything is! Let’s start. What I normally get at the veggies, I take out my veggies groceries list.
My Mercado Shopping List
Shopping in Spanish at el supermercado
Although you can buy almost everything in the market, there are things I prefer to buy at the supermarket. Chicken is one of those things because I like to buy frozen chicken. Salmonella is a thing and sanitary conditions in Guatemala are usually not the best at the meat section of the mercado, so I’d rather not get sick. There are other products I also get at the grocery store because it’s just easier to buy them there.
Also, the supermarket is a completely different thing to the mercado. You can find signs on the aisles and prices on things! I know this sounds obvious, but believe me. Once you’ve been to a mercado, nothing is ever the same again. We do take a lot for granted! The signs and price tags do make shopping a lot easier – but the experience less memorable! Also, you’re less likely to get lost. So if you’re the less adventurous type and traveling alone, the supermercado might be a better option!
My Supermercado Shopping List
The other things
I like to buy my miel (honey) from a local honey farm because I’ve been to that place and I know those are happy bees, they produce high-quality honey and their honey has no added sugars (like many honeys do)! I also enjoy buying local and knowing exactly what I’m putting in my body! If you’re ever in Antigua Guatemala and are interested in bees, go pay them a visit! They offer honey farm tours: Bee Miel.
And then there are also huevos (eggs). I’m famous for always squishing avocados on my way back home. Every time, at least one avocado suffers the consequences of having been in my bag. So two conclusions from my avocado squishing times: 1) I’m not trusted with avocados anymore haha and 2) I prefer to buy eggs near my house because I don’t want eggs to suffer the same faith as avocados have multiples times. There’s this place that sells eggs and honey (yes, Guatemala is weird like that) just a couple of blocks away from my house. The chances I kill a whole carton of eggs in two blocks are very low, so I hope for the best!
This has all been about me and all the things I eat! I’d love to learn more about you, so go get your FREE CLASS so that we can talk about YOUR shopping list!Read More
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Dried flowers as carpets, fruit as carved trumpets, and colorful sawdust for everyone. It’s the half happiest season of all.”
Nope, not Christmas.
We are talking about Semana Santa, or ‘Holy Week’ in English. This is normally the time when Americans and Anglo-Saxons celebrate Easter around the world. However, as always, Latin America gives it more spice, and there’s not an Easter Egg in sight!
Setting the Scene
It is a week for the senses. This is second level to street food. Take a deep breath and smell the burning sawdust and incense you find in novelty stores that makes you feel like you are in Asia. But we aren’t, remember…only Spanish-speaking countries celebrate Semana Santa!
Feast your eyes on all the flowers, fruit, and dyed sawdust used to create elaborate street carpets feathered with green needles from pine trees.
Why the carpets you ask?
These beautiful creations are for people carrying carved wooden floats depicting scenes from the crucifixion story of Jesus. Don’t worry, we will touch more on that later (just keep in mind that it’s called a procession, or procesión).
Just to give you a taste, here is an interview from Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala. Yes, we know it is in Spanish, but take it all in. ¡No te preocupes! We will review the main points of their interviews.
Before you watch the inside scoop, here is some basic Semana Santa vocabulary that should help you out:
- Los cucuruchos– people who apply to the church to carry the floats processions through the streets to express their adoration for Christ and the church.
- Cargar– to carry a float in a procession
- Las alfombras– hand made carpets made in the streets for people who are carrying floats
- La procesión – a special parade for Semana Santa
First scene: You see all of the sawdust, flowers, and pine alfombras that we were talking about! The narration presents us with Antigua Guatemala getting ready for one of the biggest procesiones of the 7-day event: La procesión de la Merced Church.
Afterward, there is a pep talk from one of the organizers talking to the first round of 80 men who will carry this GIANT, ONE THOUSAND POUND, hand-carved float from the church of La Merced along the path made of alfombras. He encourages them,
Today is your time to enjoy and take pride in carrying [the float]. Maybe with a tear in your eye, thinking about the love of God and how he has given you the strength to move forward.”
This speaks to the reason why people want to participate in Semana Santa in this way. Holy Week is about Catholic devotion and acknowledgment of Jesus’ suffering in the days leading up to his crucifixion. By carrying and participating in las procesiones, you get to show devotion on a deeper level. If you watch los cucuruchos try to pick up the float, I think we can all say that they are devoted. Go team Semana Santa!
This concept of joy and devotion found in the Catholic Semana Santa traditions spills over into the following interviews.
The first is with a living and breathing cucurucho! He talks about what an honor it is for him to have the privilege to help lead the procession out of the church. Out of all his years of participating in Semana Santa, this is the first time when he does not have to wait on another street block or at a different location to swap with the first turn of cucuruchos.
It is really exciting, especially today because of all of the devotion and love and mysticism that each cucurucho experiences when they cargan (carry).”
The father in the next interview expounds:
Being a cucurucho is considered a big privilege in Semana Santa, as the tradition is passed down through generations,”
He has been practicing the tradition of Semana Santa for 28 years in his household. He is so excited to be celebrating this year with his oldest son.
People also participate as a way to celebrate their gratitude for miracles that they have seen happen in their lives. In the interview with the woman Rosi, she explains that she especially wants to cargar this year because her father recently recovered from a long-term illness. She does it out of thankfulness, and boy are we happy for her too!
Another fun fact that one of the interviewees points out is that Semana Santa is celebrated in most Spanish-speaking countries. The young girl, Monse, says that her family is actually from Chile, but they live in Antigua. At first, she did not like the traditions of making alfombras and having to cargar, but once her grandfather explained it to her she appreciated it from a new and fresh perspective. Most countries in Central and South America celebrate Semana Santa, but they are on a smaller scale with maybe one or two big procesiones, which is nothing compared to the whole week of procesiones in Antigua.
Now we find ourselves at a spectacular scene of music! As the cucuruchos prepare to wait at their stations to carry, the sixty-man band prepares to accompany them with some tunes. This orchestra has been preparing for 6 months just for Semana Santa! It is a full band with trumpets, flutes and, of course, crashing cymbals that can be heard from blocks away as the procesión follows the alfombras from the church.
The Final Product
It is incredible to believe that the planning and execution for only one procesión include seven thousand people and the procesión lasts only for fifteen hours!! Throughout the entire week, there are twenty tree procesiones all around Antigua, but the biggest ones are the ones that start on midnight of the Thursday that leads into Good Friday. People come from all over the world just to participate; turning the forty-five thousand population of Antigua to ONE MILLION PEOPLE.
The only Semana Santa comparable to that of Antigua, Guatemala is in Spain from which Semana Santa was born and was brought over to Latin America. No no no ladies and gentlemen, not an Easter egg in sight when it comes to these Latin American traditions!
So how can you celebrate? The easiest way to participate in Semana Santa is to make an alfombra. We encourage you to go outside and get creative! Use flower petals and pine tree needles to set your base. Now, use those pumpkin carving skills you save for Holloween to the task to carve out figures from fruits and veggies to adorn your carpet in the street. If you need inspiration, check out this how-to guide from Labor of Love with LOTS of pictures! We promise lots of fun and suspicious looks from your neighbors. The point is to enjoy yourself in participating with a tradition that has been blooming since 1521!
This has been HomeSchool Spanish Academy reporting live from Antigua, Guatemala for the Semana Santa Holy Week. Please stay tuned for more fun facts and, YES, pictures galore!
Don’t forget to talk to you Spanish teacher for more information about Semana Santa. Sign up for a Free Class here!
Main picture creditRead More
Did you know that there are numerous words in Spanish that have multiple meanings? If so, great! We’ll learn more about it today! If not, let me introduce you to the first of many tiny Spanish words that have a LOT of meanings: ya.
Ya in Spanish can function as:
Now, what do these three weird words mean?
- You may already be familiar with adverbs, or words that describe and modify verbs. They are to verbs what adjectives are to nouns.
- The car goes fast.
- Locutions are expressions that are different than the usual meaning of the stand-alone word and are used in specific circumstances. Locutions can either consist of one single word or a phrase. We use the term locution to refer to a word or set of words that mean an entire concept.
- Pues ya veremos.
- Oh well, we’ll see.
- We also use ya in Spanish colloquially. In other words, we use the word in an informal fashion or in a more comfortable environment. For example, you can use the colloquial ya expressions we’ll discuss today with friends and family, but never for a formal occasion like a job interview!
- ¡Ay, nada que ver!
- Literal translation: Oh, nothing to see.
- Interpreted translation: Oh, it has nothing to do with it.
The various uses of ‘ya’
‘Ya’ in Spanish: Adverbs
When we use ya in Spanish as an adverb, its meaning depends on the context. We use it:
*What is a distributive conjunction:
Conjunctions are words that join other words, clauses, phrases, or sentences. Some examples are: and, or, but, since, because, when, while. Distributive conjunctions are not a thing in English. However, in Spanish, we use them to present two ideas that are equally important, which can be either complementary or contradictory.
‘Ya’ in Spanish: Locutions
As mentioned above, locutions are expressions that can either consist of one single word or a whole phrase and have a meaning other than the usual meaning of the stand-alone word. There are several different types of locutions! The type depends on the function the locution has in the sentence. Let’s look at some ejemplos:
Check this link out to see more uses of ‘mero’.
‘Ya’ in Spanish: Colloquialisms
Colloquialisms are words or expressions we use in a more informal fashion, or in a more comfortable and familiar environment. Explore these Spanish Quotes to find more hidden language gems. Ya in Spanish as a colloquialism can be a:
If you could have all of the money in the world, what would be the first logical thing to do? Well, I assume you would, of course, start with the basics. First, you would buy at least one theme park (we know it would be Disney World). Then you’d acquire the world’s supply of Cheetos! And lastly, why not build a real life Jurassic Park! And after all those purchases, you would totally be in serious need of help between all the accounting and organizational skills needed to run these places!
We cannot really say that we would be able to keep up with the accounting needs of Disney World AND Jurassic Park. We can say with full confidence though that we got your back on the organizational end of things! Well, at least when it comes to the currencies people will be paying with! I’m happy to introduce you to your new Spanish Currency Council! We organize currencies through historical journeys, and we’d love you to think of us more of like a travel agent than a tax assistant!
Do you remember the Fun with Spanish Flags blog we shared with you a few weeks ago? With the help of that post, we learned about the 21 Spanish-speaking countries that have 21 different Spanish flags and also different currencies. Did that help refresh
As your newly appointed Spanish Currency Council, our first matter of duty will be to get organized! To do that, we will need to go over the Peso, the Dollar, and the irregular, independent, and self-named currencies!
Spanish Currency Table
Before we begin, I would like to give you a present to congratulate your recent status as an amusement park owner. It doesn’t matter if it’s Disney World or Jurassic Park! Of course, the best gift your Spanish Currency Council can give you is a very cheesy youtube video! Sing along to a quick summary of what every Spanish speaking country uses as currency. If you simply cannot find the catchiness in the song, here is a list for reference:
To summarize, out of the 21 countries and territories:
- 8 countries use Pesos
- 3 countries use US dollars
- 10 use ‘irregular’ country currencies
With that in mind, let’s explore the “why and how” to this seemingly divided Spanish currencies scenario.
Types of Spanish Currency
Because the economy is always changing, and According to WorldAtlas.com, the countries that use the Peso are as follows:
Well, you are all ready to use, give, and save your Pesos, but what about something more familiar like Dollars? Do you think it will be similar? Well, let’s take a look and see.
Alright, newly made millionaire! Now that you got the basic Spanish Currency down (and hopefully remember our favorite awkward yet helpful Spanish Currency youtube song) as your Spanish Currency Council, we want to finally show you some of the ‘irregular’ Spanish currencies to finally help you master your life as a Spanish-Currency millionaire.
The remaining 10 Spanish Currencies that do not follow the Peso or Dollar usages are more like works of art then they are currencies. Remember our little chat about colonization? Well, these currencies also come from countries that were colonized. Despite that, they kept their heritage embedded in the smaller things, like the names of their currency. Interestingly enough, they are all based on national birds, indigenous groups, and even great warriors and explorers who the people remember…dearly or not. Don’t believe us? We’ll go over this brief description. For curiosity’s sake, check out these facts from our ‘associates’ at Onda Trading Facts.
Whether you are a collector of Spanish currencies, have a huge bucket list to travel to every Spanish-speaking company, or actually DO win that final round of Spanish Quotes from the game show in our last blog (which is why you are now a millionaire), understanding Spanish currency is an essential tool, with or without your Spanish Currency Council. The value of money always changes, but its history does not. Try to put a price on that!Read More
¡Hola, vos! Vos. Who or what is vos in Spanish? In English, we use the personal pronoun ‘you’ when referring to the second person singular (or plural – don’t worry, we’ll save that one for another time!). In Spanish, however, there are different ways to refer to the same concept! Before we start, take a moment to review the basics of Spanish Pronouns.
Now, you’ve probably heard of tú, the most standard form. There is also usted, which we use to show respect or create distance between us and the person we’re speaking with. And then there is vos! Have you heard about vos before? Why is there even a need for three words that refer to the same concept? Let’s just say, one of the beauties of language is that it doesn’t always make sense!
The following vocabulary will be useful throughout this post:
Vos in context
Vos is mostly a part of informal speech. If you imagine a horizontal line, usted is on the very left wearing formal attire, tú is right in the middle being all dressy casual, and vos is on the far right end wearing jeans and a T-shirt. In some places or circumstances, vos might even be more informal, wearing shorts and flip-flops. It all depends on the social context and region!
Interestingly enough, vos originates from an archaic form of Spanish in which vos was the way to address kings and other important people. Back then, it was the way to show respect in Spain! As the Spanish language continued evolving both in the old continent and in the Americas, the formal use of vos disappeared from common speech.
Vos in its formal form is now only used during special ceremonial events or in literary works that reflect the language of other times. A great example of a literary work that uses vos in the formal form is the oldest preserved Spanish epic poem: El Cantar de mio Cid.
The use of vos doesn’t only have an impact in the conjugation of the present tense. It also influences the conjugation of the verb when used in an imperative mood – when using commands: (vos) hacé instead of (tú) haz, (vos) tené instead of (tú) ten. If you need a refresher on basic Spanish commands, visit our Spanish commands blog.
The conjugation of verbs in the subjunctive also changes: (vos) hagás instead of (tú) hagas, (vos) tengás instead of (tú) tengas.
In the tables below you can see examples of the conjugation of regular and irregular verbs in the present tense, imperative, and subjunctive!
As you can see, the irregular verbs conjugated in vos have more of a regular verb conjugation since the stem doesn’t always change as it does with the verb conjugated in tú:
Different forms of vos
As you know, Spanish is the official language of many countries: 21 to be exact! Go have a look at some of the flags of these countries here. The Spanish language has evolved differently in various regions. Therefore, there are three forms of ‘
- vos pronoun paired with the vos conjugation
- tú pronoun paired with the vos conjugation
- vos pronoun paired with the tú conjugation
Let’s have a look at some examples:
Vos in a map
As mentioned above, how people use vos in Spanish depends on the region or country. This distinction encompasses both the combination of pronoun and conjugation and the context in which speakers use vos. Below you can find some examples from different regions:
Mexicans mainly use both the tú pronoun and conjugation. Only in southern states like Tabasco and Chiapas speakers use vos in very specific social contexts: it’s either used by the unschooled population or in the family circle of educated people.
Most Central American countries generally accept the use of vos in all social classes. Slightly more formal situations require the use of tú pronoun + tú conjugation. The use of vos has two levels in this region:
- Most common: tú pronoun + vos conjugation
- More informal: vos pronoun + vos conjugation
Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay
The region of Río de Plata accepts the use of the vos pronoun + vos conjugation without any reservations. However, using the pronoun tú + vos conjugation can be seen as more prestigious than using the vos pronoun + vos conjugation. To learn more about Spanish in this particular region, visit Spanish from Argentina, That Voseo Thing.
So, recuerda (tú) or recordá (vos) – just keep in mind – that if you ever want to use vos, you should first learn how it is used in the country or region you’re in! In some regions, you only use the vos pronoun, vos conjugation, or both together. And while in some places it’s okay to use it the first time you meet someone, in others you only use it when you’re really close to the other person.
It may seem like a lot to take into account just for one pronoun, but practice makes it a lot easier. ¡Vos podés! Are you ready to practice? We have exercises for you with a helpful answer key. Start today!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
Spring Break is coming, and you may be thinking about traveling somewhere new. If you don’t yet have a destination in mind, consider Guatemala! People call this small country the land of eterna primavera, or ‘eternal spring’. Guatemalan weather is the perfect spring climate, because of how tropical the country is. There may be some rain, but usually the air is fresh, the sky is blue with a few clouds, and the sun shines without being bothersome. Additionally, there are many different touristic places across the country that fit everyone’s tastes. For example, you can find beaches, volcanoes, Mayan ruins, and the list goes on. Guatemala is the perfect getaway for your Spring Break adventures!
There are so many places you could visit, but I have prepared a list of my top 5 places in the country that you can visit during your Spring Break.
Top 5 Spring Break Destinations in Guatemala
5) San Pedro La Laguna
Guatemala is famous for Lake Atitlán, which is located in the Sololá department. Plenty of people travel to Guatemala during Spring Break just to see this beautiful lake. There are many towns around the lake, but San Pedro La Laguna is the most famous due to its cuisine and multiple places to relax. The variety of restaurants in San Pedro La Laguna is by far the best in Atitlán. There are many exotic places which offer food from other countries, but the best are the ones that offer national food. There are many restaurants and hotels that have a beautiful view of Lake Atitlán and the volcanoes around the lake, so you can enjoy a nice meal with an extraordinary view.
You can also find many coffee shops. You may have already heard about Guatemala because its coffee is famous throughout the world. All the coffee shops and restaurants in San Pedro la Laguna offer coffee that is cultivated by the locals. Make sure to read about all the things you do in San Pedro!
4) Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is one of the most beautiful natural monuments in Guatemala. It is located in the Alta Verapaz department and is made up of a 300m limestone bridge. Underneath this bridge runs the River Cahabón, which will leave you speechless with its beauty. The river changes colors from green to turquoise to blue because of its crystalline water.
Semuc Champey is attractive to those who enjoy water sports, especially rafting. Many hotels and other companies offer rafting on the river, which is a great way to explore the river.
Another amazing thing to do in Semuc Champey is hiking on the different trails found nearby. Tropical forest surrounds Semuc Champey, and it provides with beautiful sights of local fauna and flora. You won’t want to pass up this opportunity; go ahead and start planning your trip here.
3) Yaxhá National Park
Guatemala is the heart of the Mayan Civilization. There are multiple ruins all throughout the country. The most famous one, and the one you have probably heard about, is Tikal. This ancient city is really beautiful and it has a lot of history involving the Mayans. However, there is another archaeological site in the Petén department that is just as amazing as Tikal, called Yaxhá National Park. This city is just two hours away from Tikal, and it is a secret Mayan city.
Many of the ruins in Yaxhá date from the pre-Columbian Mayan civilization and archeologists are still finding new ruins around the area. Here, you can find Mayan temples, ceremonial sites, sports fields, astronomical observatories, and many other structures built by the Mayans. Plus, an amazing bonus is that you can watch the sunset from the top of one of the Mayan temples. It is such a beautiful experience!
Yaxhá is the best option when visiting Petén during Spring Break. Due to the time of year, Tikal is usually crowded. Yaxhá doesn’t get as crowded because it is not very famous and your experience would be more pleasant. Book your trip to Yaxhá now!
2) La Sierra de los Cuchumatanes
If you are interested in cold weather and hiking activities, Sierra de los Cuchumatanes is the perfect place for you. This is the highest non-volcanic mountain range in Guatemala, and it is located in the Huehuetenango and El Quiché departments. These mountains occupy around 15% of the Guatemalan territory, and because of their altitude, they provide the most amazing sights you will ever see!
The most famous place in Sierra de los Cuchumatanes is the ‘Mirador Juan Diéguez Olaverri’ (see photo above), named after a Guatemalan poet. There are multiple stone engravings with the stanzas he wrote about the mountain range. Additionally, in Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, you can find multiple hiking trails that take you around the mountains. These trails allow you to explore the beautiful flora and fauna that grow in those mountains. If you are interested in booking a hike in los Cuchumatanes, visit this website to get started!
1) Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala
I really love having Antigua, Guatemala as my number one place to visit during Spring Break because of Semana Santa. Everyone in Guatemala celebrates Holy Week; however, in Antigua, we have one of our most treasured traditions. During Semana Santa, sawdust carpets decorate the streets of Antigua. These carpets are designed to guide the processions. They are made with many colors and show beautiful handmade designs. People dress up and walk around the streets of Antigua carrying figures that represent religious beliefs from the Catholic church.
The whole event is a beautiful feast for the eyes. People participate in processions every day during Semana Santa and tend to decorate not only the streets but also their own houses. So, if you go to Antigua during Semana Santa, you will certainly find every door, window, and street decorated. You will even find small events where locals teach you how to do the sawdust carpets, so you can take part in the tradition and get a taste of Guatemalan culture.
Check out this website for tips on how to make the most out of your trip to Antigua during Semana Santa. Or, if you want to learn more while practicing your Spanish, read this article about Semana Santa!
I hope you find these five places interesting, and that you get to visit at least one of them during your Spring Break. Guatemala is a beautiful country, and it is full of a cultural heritage that can be explored in every touristic place. You only need to visit one place to fall in love with the country, and I hope one of these five places do the trick!
And while you’re visiting, you can practice your Spanish! Locals are very kind to tourists, so don’t be shy to try some Spanish phrases every now and then during your trip. You may practice while you ask for directions or while ordering some food at a restaurant. You will get plenty of opportunities to practice and learn new things. Be sure to study our Spanish for Dummies guide before you go!Read More
My guess is that no matter who you are or where your interests lie, you could probably win the final round of any game show that included famous quotes.
You would not be shaken by “To be, or not to be.” “Houston, we have a problem” would not be a problem.
“Let them eat cake” would be more of a cakewalk than a piece of cake. And, of course, for those who love Toy Story, we all know who has a “snake in their boot.”
But, besides winning game shows, what is the point of quotes? All the phrases listed in your final game show round are famous for a reason; but why? Is it just because we say them all the time, or do we use them to make references that help us sound more intelligent? The easy answer is, of course, always dependent on the user. However, the reality is that quotes are markers of historic events and of the people that have impacted history.
Not convinced? Let’s take a panoramic look at how using Spanish quotes can show us the history and treasures of any Spanish-speaking country. For example, let’s try Guatemala and see what we can find.
Guatemala: In the beginning
“Los secretos mágicos de sus abuelos les fueron revelados por voces que vivieron por el camino del silencio de la noche.”– Polpol Vuh- “Me llamo Rigoberta Menchu y así me nació la Conciencia” 1997 pg 84
“The magical secrets of their grandparents were revealed to them by voices that lived on the path of the night’s silence.”
Every country, culture, and family has its own folklore. The beginning story of the indigenous peoples in Guatemala consists of pre-ancestors who were full of wisdom and lived in the darkness before creation (in other words, the silent paths of the night). The first of our Spanish quotes comes directly from the original text called Polpol Vuh, which is written in the Mayan dialect of ‘Quiche.’ To make a long folklore story short, the grandfathers, after many interesting attempts, created man from corn. This, therefore, pushed the story from creation to consumption.
Guatemala: Surviving and Thriving
“Sembrado para comer es sagrado sustento del hombre que fue hecho de maíz. Sembrado por negocio es hambre del hombre que fue hecho de maíz.” – Miguel Ángel Asturias- “Hombre de Maíz” 1949 pg 73
“(Corn) sown to eat is a sacred sustenance for man who was made from corn. (Corn) sown for business is hunger of man (also) made by corn.”
Today, Guatemala is considered one of the most historically preserved countries in Latin America due to the fact that the indigenous community makes up almost half of the population! As a result, the idea that they are “Hombres de Maiz,” or “Men of Corn,” is a huge part of national pride and survival. This Spanish quote by the brilliant Guatemalan historian, Miguel Ángel Asturias, describes the balance of cultural progression perfectly: honor your culture to remember where you came from, but also use that culture to provide for the future. Speaking of the future…
Guatemala: Leading the future
“Mi padre decía: hay quienes les toca dar sangre y hay a quien le toca dar fuerzas; entonces mientras podamos, demos la fuerza.” – Rigoberta Menchú – “Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la Conciencia” 1997 pg 208
“My father would say: there are those who must give blood and there are some who must give strength; so while we can, let’s give strength.”
It is no secret that Guatemala has had its unimaginable trials. For instance, racism, genocide, and corruption are a few of the obstacles that these “Men of Corn” have had to overcome. However, this game-changing Spanish quote comes from an inspirational indigenous woman named Rigoberta Menchú. She is a leader in political justice, an advocate for women’s rights, and the beautiful result of combined influences from the writings of Polpol Vuh and Miguel Ángel Asturias. In other words, she has been a true leader by inspiring Guatemalans to follow their dreams, which now brings us to present day Guatemala.
Guatemala: Pursuing Passion
“Ya no somos los mismos. Disminuyen los latidos y avanzamos con un respiro agitado; acumulamos cansancio y regresamos cada noche con la voz y los pasos cansados. Dejamos de ser los mismos: ya no vemos lo mismo en el espejo. Somos el álbum lleno de estampas agotamos sus hojas.”
– Jose Carlos Payeras- “Entonces la Vida” 2019 pg 45
“We’re not the same anymore. Our heartbeats decrease, and we continue with restless breath; we accumulate weariness and return every night with our tired voices and steps. We stop being the same: we don’t see the same thing in the mirror anymore. We are an album full of stamps. We wear out all of its pages.”
If you feel like this final Spanish quote is heavy, think again. Looking back on the distance Guatemala has traveled through these four historic voices reflects a people that are always moving forward. From creation to consumption, from revolution to new opportunities: this final quote is from a fresh, self-made author in Antigua, Guatemala. By day, Jose Carlos Payeras is a talented chef at an adored restaurant in Antigua Guatemala, but by night he pursues his most focused passion for writing. As he mentions in the last of our Spanish quotes, we are never the same. That is to say, words form us, direct history, and inspire those around us.
Treasures in Spanish quotes: Now it’s your turn!
So, do you see how much historical ground we covered? We did not do it by just sitting in a lecture or googling ‘Discovering Guatemala.’ By simply following Spanish quotes, we can learn so much about the timelines, voices, and landmark moments. Spanish quotes are gems. Each Spanish-speaking country has treasure chests full of them. Not convinced? Try it with Spain, Argentina, Mexico, and beyond!
To learn more Spanish with these quotes and others, download our Spanish Quotes Study Guide. You will find an analysis of each quote with explanations of certain grammar topics found in each quote. Review it with your student today!
For more tips on how to study Spanish, click here.Read More