Speak Spanish in the Hair Salon!
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!