September in Central America is as colorful as any other holiday should be. Weeks before the 15th, the streets, markets, houses, and cars become adorned with hundreds of flags. Cities are dressed in patriotic colors by their citizens. Schools start practicing for the parades and concerts, marching bands can be heard all around town getting ready for the big day when festivities will take place from Guatemala all the way down to Costa Rica. Wearing traditional outfits, eating local dishes, and going out in the streets to have fun are all commonplace practices shared across Centroamérica.
How did this holiday start? To learn this we have to go back in time, almost 200 years ago, before our independence was proclaimed.
A Brief History of Central America’s Independence
September 15, 1821 was an important day for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Through a relatively peaceful process, these nations claimed their independence from the Spanish government impulsed by the political chaos caused by Napoleon Bonaparte’s attack on Spain in the year 1808. On November 5, 1811, the first revolts occurred in El Salvador, and the rest of the countries mentioned followed suit. A meeting between colonial authorities, renown locals, and religious leaders culminated on September 15 with the termination of Spain’s dominion over the Central American isthmus (Panama was not included and had their independence a few years later). Some historians argue that Central America’s independence is often glossed over, and that the subject is much more complex in nature, so if you’re interested in the historical aspect of Central America’s independence, I encourage you to research and ask Centroamericanos to tell you their stories – most of us will gladly share what we know!
Now, almost two hundred years later, people all over Central America celebrate our independence with joy and pride on the 15th, each country having similarities as well as carrying unique flair to their celebrations. I’ve researched and talked to natives of each country to learn the different ways we commemorate our nations and share them with you so you can know what to expect if you’re visiting!
A torch across five countries
Every year, there’s a tradition in Central America where the people carry a torch from Guatemala to Costa Rica in a relay marathon, passing through El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The torch is a symbol of the messengers who rode on horseback spreading the news of independence across all five nations. The ‘flame of independence’ is lit at a monument in Guatemala City called El Obelisco almost a week before independence day, reaching Costa Rica’s old capital, Cartago, on the 15th. This tradition has been done over 50 times to this day. The first time the torch traveled through the 5 countries was in 1959!
Differences between countries
In Guatemala, the torches are central to our celebration. Not only does the Central American torch leave El Obelisco 6 days before the 15th, but we also do torch runs all across the country. On the days prior to independence day, the plaza at El Obelisco is filled with marching bands, food stands, merchants, and people carrying a vibrant livelihood that is then taken all over the country in the form of torches lit by Guatemalan citizens. From small towns to groups of friends and even businesses, these torches are taken to many hometowns in celebration of our free nation. So if you have to go to work on the days before independence day, be sure to leave extra early, because the streets will be filled with groups of people running about with torches in their hands!
Some places like Petén, a lush jungle with ancient ruins in the north side of Guatemala, are far away from the city. What happens if I live in Petén? You might ask. There’s no way a group of people would be willing to run almost 500 kilometers for a torch, so many different hub spots in the country serve as lighting beacons for torches. My dad used to run with the torch back in the day with his coworkers. They would run together and finally get to their office to have lunch there. Since my dad worked in the city and making such a short a relay run between El Obelisco and his office didn’t make much sense, they traveled to Antigua, a neighboring town, and ran from there to the city.
In El Salvador, it’s not unusual for the first section of the celebratory parades to have flags from the other four countries that share the independence date, each flag with its own dedicated car. “They signify how we are all connected as one, as centroamericanos,” as my El Salvadoran friend, who lives in Guatemala, said. He tells me that “In El Salvador, we have a strong sense of identity; we get along well and have very little conflict between one another. My family makes fun of me when I visit, saying my accent has changed, but as you can hear my accent is not Guatemalan. Yet, we have a strong cultural identity and a necessity to preserve what we are.” His accent really wasn’t Guatemalan, if I’m being honest, and his insight was a good indicator of how much he appreciates his homeland.
Independence day in El Salvador starts with parades orchestrated by schools across the country as well as a military parade. They all converge at the national gymnasium, where the president greets the students and the military puts on a show with parachutes and planes flying overhead.
Honduras is very similar to El Salvador; school and military parades are planned and inaugurated with 21 cannonballs shot by the military at 6:00 a.m., signifying the start of the festivities. That’s one loud way to wake up if you ask me! Honduras also has a beauty pageant aspect to its parades, with the palillonas. These are girls dressed in fantasy military uniforms, sporting batons that they wave around, and the best ones often end up featured in the newspaper the next day.
Nicaraguans are very organized and meticulous when it comes to celebrating their independence. We all decorate our streets as soon as September starts and celebrate for three days until the 15th. Nicaraguans go a step further, and schedule events all throughout the month in order to celebrate their independence! Ceremonies begin on the first of September with an inauguration that features politicians, ambassadors, and students in tandem with the marching bands that are reminiscent of these celebrations. The following days are ceremonies dedicated to the torch that has been traveling all the way from Guatemala, which Nicaraguans pass on to Costa Rica on the 13th. The next day, there is an event held to commemorate and give medals to the best students and teachers in the country, followed by marching bands from schools, the military, and even the police! Aside from the common practices across Central America, Nicaraguans have the tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on all schools on the 15th.
Just like the torch travels through all five countries and arrives at Cartago, we finally arrive at Costa Rica, where the celebration begins with the receiving of the torch. Costa Ricans pride themselves on their pacifist beliefs, having no military forces to speak of. After 1915, the military presence in their parades started to fade away, until the abolishment of the army removed them altogether. This altered the focus of the independence day celebrations, moving it more towards the youth. The evening before the 15th, there is an event called Desfile de Faroles, or Lantern Parade, where kids from all over Costa Rica build glowing lanterns with recycled materials. They decorate the lanterns with patriotic symbols and enjoy the warm light of their artistic expression while enjoying the local food.
All these different ways to express freedom sure make me want to go follow the torch across all five countries! It’d be great to experience what is not just a celebration of our past, but a unifying act that connects us and our history. It’s very interesting to see how the differences in celebration are influenced by who we are and where we come from. The torch leaves from Guatemala, so we center our festivities around the act of lighting and carrying the torch. In Costa Rica, the celebration centers around receiving the torch.
So, in a way, Independence Day in Centroamérica is a series of parades, shows, and traditions led by a single flame traveling both in the torch and in the hearts of the citizens of Centroamérica.
You can also connect with Centroamericanos by learning to speak Spanish. We always have something nice to share, and it’s a pleasure to show other nations what we’re all about. Get a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy today!Read More
Building rapport with colleagues and customers in Spanish is one of the most important components of being successful at your job. Let’s face it, we want to do business with people we like and trust – therefore you need to be likable and trustworthy!
So how do you build confidence with others and get people to enjoy doing business with you in Spanish? Start with a conversation.
Show Interest and Ask Questions
One of the most important points from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People is the need to be an active and empathic listener. The author says:
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
— Stephen Covey
If you want to build rapport in any language, you first need to genuinely understand what a person is saying and listen with your ears, eyes, and heart. Have an open mind. This will build mutual trust – and others will believe that you will act in their best interest – which then leads to positive problem solving and greater transparency in a business relationship. Active listening and showing real interest will help others be more willing to share concerns and achievements – and be more open and authentic.
Understand that business is done differently in Spanish-speaking countries, and this needs to be considered and respected. When listening, you want to have humility and be non-judgmental – this will give others the space and comfort to open up. Listening in this way is a strength and an attribute of a strong leader. Good listeners are savvy at acquiring information that is useful for doing business better – and knowledge is power.
For example, let’s say you are trying to understand why your customer can never deliver parts on time to meet your manufacturing schedule. As a result, this is impacting your company’s performance. You could approach your supplier and say:
¿Por qué envió el producto tarde otra vez? ¿Qué está sucediendo? No vamos a alcanzar nuestra meta financiera trimestral, lo cual es inaceptable.
“Why are you late again? What is going on?! We are going to miss our quarterly financial goal, which is unacceptable.”
This will immediately put your counterpart on the defense and likely be met with an excuse.
Let’s try something a little softer, more empathetic.
An alternate approach would be:
Bueno, si no cree cumplir con la fecha de entrega, por favor, muéstreme el proceso de la cadena de suministro – ¿Cómo se realiza el pedido? Y ¿cómo se entrega el producto? Trabajemos juntos en un plan de mitigación y desarrollemos un planteamiento alternativo para garantizar que los futuros productos se entreguen a tiempo.
“Ok, so you don’t think you’ll meet the timeline. Please, walk me through the supply chain process – how is the order placed, and how is the product delivered. Let’s work together on a mitigation plan and develop an alternative approach to ensure on-time delivery for future products.”
This shift in tone and willingness to listen to the process will give you far more results and a better working relationship – it shows that you have an interest in the mutual success of both companies.
Find Common Ground
It is important to respect cultural differences when working with a Spanish-speaking customer, and you need to find common ground to be successful.
Let’s say your customer is late to the telephone meeting AGAIN and you infer that they just don’t care about the business relationship. Take a step back and consider that this company is located in a different country and does business differently than you. Perhaps, being 10-15 minutes late is not meant to be disrespectful, but is in-line with normal business culture. Opening your mind and taking time to understand the country which you are doing business with will get you miles ahead. (Note that not ALL Latinos are late; this is just an example that some people will be consistently late, which may be cultural and is in no way meant to be disrespectful.)
If we want to accomplish our best, we must work well with other people. For example, you can be the best footballer/soccer player in the world, but if you are not surrounded by a team that works together you will never win. This is true not only in sports but also in business.
Break the Ice
When you meet your Spanish-speaking customer or counterpart for the first time (either in person or on the phone), it is good to ask icebreaker questions. Icebreakers are lighthearted easy to answer questions that help you get to know someone. You can ask about the location, local food, travel plans, etc. The most important part is to be sure and show sincere interest – this key point helps you build rapport and build a bond with the other person. Not only is sincerity key, but it is also fun and educational to learn about a new place from a local!
Some examples of ice breaker questions are:
1. Ustedes están situados en El Salvador, ¿verdad? ¿Qué platos típicos son populares allá?
You are located in El Salvador, correct? What local dishes are popular there?
2. ¿Dónde está situado el lugar idóneo para vacacionar en Argentina?
Where is the best place to go in Argentina on holiday?
3. Veo que ya se acerca un partido de fútbol. ¿A qué equipo apoya?
I see there is a soccer game coming up – what team do you root for?
4. ¿Cuál es la mejor temporada para visitar las playas de Guatemala?
When is the best time of year to visit the beaches in Guatemala?
As time goes on and you meet regularly on calls or in meetings with this person, it is acceptable to ask more personal questions about family or career.
Some ideas of more personal questions are:
1. Entonces, ¿creció aquí? ¿Su familia es originaria de aquí?
So, did you grow up here? Is your family from here?
2. ¿Tiene hijos? ¿Qué edad tienen?
Do you have children? How old are they?
3. ¿Por cuánto tiempo ha trabajado en la compañía?
How long have you worked at the company?
4. ¿Cómo ha cambiado la empresa con el tiempo?
How has the company changed over time?
Above all, if you want to build rapport you need to have sincere conversations, listen to hear and understand, remember what is important to the individual, such as a football team or daughter’s graduation, and always follow-up.
Note that depending on the country you are interfacing with, it can be more common to ask personal questions early on. Do some research before you embark on your new business journey so that you know what is an appropriate conversation topic in each specific country.
Last but not least, be sure to avoid anything political or controversial – just as with English speakers, everyone has a strong opinion and conversations about touchy subjects will not help you build rapport in the long run.
Small talk is also important when building rapport. Americans have a distinct way of doing business – we get to the point quickly and directly. This can be offensive to other cultures/countries and Americans can come across rude, impatient, blunt and untrustworthy. This is not our intention at all!! It is simply a different style of doing business.
Some international business meetings can take a half-day or an entire day of small talk alone! Americans can find this as a waste of time since we are not ‘getting down to business’ – but in actuality, building the relationship through small talk IS key to building the business relationship you want!
In Latin America, you will want to begin every conversation with a greeting and small talk.
Good Morning, How are you? ¿Buenos días, cómo está? — To my fellow Americans – Wait for a response! In the USA we ask ‘How are you?’ in lieu of saying ‘Hi.’ But in other places, this can be a sincere question that will most likely be met with some real insight into the person’s day! This will give you an opportunity to ‘ s l o w d o w n ‘ and listen.
Speaking Spanish will help you build rapport with companies who are located in Spanish-speaking countries or are located in the USA with numerous Spanish-speaking employees.
As you already know, companies are going global to attract more business, keep costs down and tap into talent abroad. Companies who work globally need to be made up of people who represent what the world looks like – diversity. They also need to retain bilingual employees – this will enhance your competitive edge. When people hear you greet them in their native language, it builds a connection and helps your counterpart envision doing business with your company. Companies want to work with businesses they can relate to – conversing in Spanish helps you succeed!
Notice a theme? Rapport is all about how we communicate! If we can communicate with a person in their native tongue it is the first step in developing strong relationships (aka rapport!). That combined with the other tips in this article will not only enhance your personal life, but it will also vastly improve your professional one.
Practice building rapport today with a Spanish-speaker at our school!
Discovering joy in non-materialistic ways is all the rage. Many people are tired of being bombarded by material things and are encouraged to make memories instead – these are more fulfilling than buying the latest iPhone or Gucci bag. The memories that you gain through travel, hiking to ancient ruins learning about new cultures, or building strong relationships with family and friends will be what you remember most about life.
Learning another language can spark joy in a non-materialistic way by lighting a fire from within. You learn the ability to interact with others in their code, open doors for bilingual jobs, and can travel to far reaching places without a translator.
Marie Kondo, the organizational guru and host of the hit Netflix show ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,’ puts it this way:
“People are realizing that happiness is not something you achieve from the outside…but rather from within.”
How can you enrich your life in a non-materialistic, life-changing, brain-boosting and relationship-building way? Become bilingual!
Set Yourself Apart – Be Culturally Competent
Learning another language can enhance your work experience by setting you apart from your colleagues and increasing your cultural competency – buzzwords that companies look for when hiring and promoting.
There are many languages in the world and each one opens up a unique door into another culture. Learning Spanish opens the door to 21+ countries and millions of people. Learn more from our blog ‘Reasons to Learn Spanish.’
Cultural competence is defined so eloquently by Australia’s National Education Leader Rhonda Livingstone as “the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures. Cultural competence encompasses:
- being aware of one’s own world view
- developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences
- gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views
- developing skills for communication and interaction across cultures.”
Get Noticed and Realize Your Full Potential
A few years ago, I got a job at a prestigious downtown Seattle law firm hoping it would be a gateway to greater things. After spending my first two weeks shredding paper with my fellow new hires, the horizon started to look dim…and smell of shredded paper. Thank goodness I had Spanish on my resume and the hiring manager took notice. One morning, there was an impromptu meeting with a Spanish-speaking client, and they needed a translator quickly. I was plucked from the back office only to be led to a conference room with huge windows, specialty coffee, and 15 people waiting for my arrival. Now, this is what I’m talking about, it was my time to contribute in a meaningful way.
I spent the rest of the day interpreting for our Spanish speaking client and getting noticed. Not only did the partners of the law firm learn that I existed, but they wanted my help. ¿Por que? Why? Because I had a skill that no one else had on the 44th floor…the ability to speak Spanish. I became privy to a new side of the firm that enhanced my personal growth as well as my resume. I eventually moved on to other ventures and learned that my resume set me apart from fellow applicants – speaking Spanish and studying abroad in Spanish-speaking countries helped me land interviews.
Being bilingual inherently improves your cultural competency – This is increasingly important in our business climate which focuses on the ability to interact with people from diverse backgrounds.
See Life in (More) Color
Speaking another language gives you a new perspective, and suddenly you have a new lens from which you can see farther and wider than ever before. Research has found that speaking another language has you thinking in a completely different way and you can literally see more color variations. This new mindset will strengthen your creative thinking skills for the sales campaign you are trying to win.
Another study found that bilinguals can develop a different sense of self when speaking a second language and ‘shift their personalities’ depending on what language they are using. When doing business, this can be beneficial as you could become an assertive negotiator when speaking Spanish, but perhaps feel more reserved when speaking in English.
Get out of that back office and stop shredding paper! Marie Kondo declares, “find happiness from within” – do so by becoming bilingual! Take your first step today by signing up for a free class with Spanish Academy!
Our instructors are native Spanish speakers located in Antigua, Guatemala. They are ready to share colloquial words, culture and everyday life experiences with you! Check out the blogs Learn Spanish Fast and Reasons to Learn Spanish.Read More
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
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
The food: chuchitos, caldos, pupusas, every kind of taco, and a rainbow of colorful tortillas. ¡Qué rico!
The scenery: mountains, beaches, and famous ruins with mangrove rivers leading jungle. Beautiful.
The wildlife: viscous jaguars and scorpions, sweet llamas, and flying squirrels. Alive.
We. Love. Latin America.
So, obviously we want you to come and visit us, but not only that. Let’s plan a summer-long trip. Can you imagine? Sounds great, right? Well, summer is only 5 months away so you have PLENTY of time to pack, update your passport, and book all your hotels. But what about your Spanish?
5 months. Just give us 5 months, and we swear we can get you on the right track right for your trip to Latin America! In fact, you should probably jump over to our latest blog Spanish for Dummies which is a quick guide to get all of your basics and FUNdementals down.
How do you learn ‘Travel Spanish’ in 5 months?
That was the initial pitch. Now comes the ‘How.’ To help you out, we did some investigation. The first was with students from a local English class and we asked them, ‘What advice would you give to travelers who want to learn Spanish in 5 months?’
Oh, the enthusiasm in the ADULT classroom! We had never seen so much enthusiasm even when we brought doughnuts that one time… In the midst of all of the shouts, consejos, and ideas, the most agreed upon methods were:
- Learn key phrases and statements
- Tandem conversation partner
- Practice every day on an application
- Book classes at academies in each country that you visit
Learn key Questions: 6 Q’s
The best thing about travel is that you will most likely be making requests or basic commentary to the native Spanish speakers around you. All of the memory-making is thankfully going to be done with you and your traveling compadres. We trust that you have done the easiest things and booked all of your travel, hotel, and activities before your arrival. However, some of these phrases could possibly help in those areas too.
Learn key Statements: Compliments, Abilities, and Wants
So now that we have all of the questions out of the way, let’s add a little bit of personality to our Spanish for Travelers! Show them what you can do and what you like so you can try to participate in the culture!
Tandem conversation partners:
Woah! All of that Travel Spanish is going to be so useful for you to participate in the culture, advocate for yourself, and travel with such ease. But, what are you going to do when people respond?! Woah! There are so many different kinds of answers for these questions and any other comments that you make. Because of that, we recommend tandem conversation. Bring this list of questions and statements to a native speaker in your own community and pretend you are in the jungle or some other exotic place. You will FOR SURE learn multiple kinds of responses. Check out your local libraries or after school/university programs as well.
If you cannot find a native speaker to help you.
If you cannot find a native speaker to help you through your imaginary jungle – either concrete or full of cobras – we suggest you find recommended online sites like Homeschool Spanish Academy.
Yes, even us at HSA! After all, we are a Spanish academy based in Central America, and all of our teachers are native speakers. Because of this, our classes offer the most most life-like learning experience possible that would help you in your travels! When you get to Guatemala, you could actually say that you have friends here who you have talked to already. Check out our sign-up page to start the tandem conversing NOW!
Practice every day on an application
Tandem conversation, memorizing phrases, and asking questions will really get you far in your Travelers Spanish, but what about vocab and the BASICS? Well, in the midst of our ‘sample advice group,’ there was a HUGE agreement that using applications every day for at least 20 min will help build vocabulary and all of the basics that tandem conversation will not blatantly give you. There was even one native Spanish-speaking student who was learning English AND French on his applications. Because of his experience, he was able to provide great insight. Our top 3 suggestions are:
- Named the best app to learn Spanish by HSA, Duolingo is an interactive way to learn Spanish. Yes, there are tests and quizzes, but there are fun listening, speaking, and visual activities for every learner.
- This is a great application. Not only is it an instant phrasebook full of useful and instantly translated phrases for the country where you are going, but it is also a reliable electronic translator for those SAVE ME IN THE JUNGLE moments.
- Top 4 free Spanish apps of 2019
- Check out our own list of application suggestions! “Maybe you’re looking to start from scratch, or perhaps you are already in Spanish and just need extra support. Well, you’re in luck! We’ve compiled a list of the best Spanish apps of 2019 to learn Spanish for free! Check out which one will work best for you.”
As we talked with our ‘sample group’ of very enthusiastic English students, the final advice that they wanted to give everyone learning Travel Spanish was to keep studying even when you get to your destination. Don’t let all of the awe and wonder of your travels sidetrack you! Also, if you have a question, just ask your teacher. There are so many Spanish academies for travelers all around Latin America. Take Maximo Nivel, for example. You can take classes, have your native teacher show you the culture, and even stay at a local’s home so you can get a true Spanish immersion. How do babies learn a language? By participating to the fullest and eating as many black beans as possible! Why don’t you try it their way?
Alright, travelers! It’s time to get going!
Summer is just around the corner and these next 5 months should give you plenty of time to learn Travel Spanish! As your faithful ‘tips and trip’ advisers in the world of Spanish learning, we are always here to support you. So much so that we are even offering a free trial class with us! We want to help evaluate what your travel Spanish learning needs are and even help to give you a starting point as you work towards your 5-month travel fluency. Click here to sign up for a free class!
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
Did you know that you communicate 90% of your thoughts and feelings nonverbally, through your body language? That’s quite a lot to say without saying anything! If you plan on taking a trip to a Spanish-speaking country, you don’t want to get caught saying something silently that you really don’t mean. In this blog post, we’ve got you covered—we’ll explore everything related to the body in Spanish, like vocabulary and idiomatic expressions, as well as cultural tips on nonverbal communication.
Spanish Body Parts: The Vocab
The Spanish-speaking world, known in linguistics as the hispanosphere, is bursting at its seam with a variety of slang. These, of course, differ in each country, so we will focus only on the general words used and understood in every hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) culture. With an excellent basic foundation in understanding, you will be able to learn the relevant slang words much quicker and improve comprehension more efficiently by asking questions. Let’s look at some Spanish body parts!
Download these Exclusive Homeschool Spanish Academy Human Body Vocabulary flashcards to keep on hand!
The Human Body
The Head and Face
Body-Part Idioms: Using the Vocab
Learning idioms is vital when communicating with the natives of a foreign country. They are the informal, figurative language we use in daily life that express feelings or situations in a phrase whose meaning doesn’t immediately stand out. For example, in English, we say “Hold your horses!” when we want to express the idea that the other person needs to wait. Clearly, we are not asking them to hold back their actual horses! This is informal, figurative (non-literal) language. To truly understand the conversation and the culture of a hispanophone country, we must be aware of these figurative phrases exist. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about them when you hear a strange phrase pop up!
List of Idioms
Body Gestures: Latin America and Spain
Watch out! (¡Ojo! / ¡Cuidado!) – put your index finger to your eye and hold or tap just below
I promise you. (Te lo juro.) – make a fist, bring the thumb to the mouth, kiss it and then flick it outwards quickly with thumb up to show that you really mean it
Slow down! (¡Más lento!) – hand open with the palm facing outward, moving in a patting motion
It’s delicious. (Está delicioso.) – fingers come together at the mouth then moved forward and opened
Come here. (Ven aca.) – hand out with fingers down, palm face down, move fingers simultaneously together, making a motion from the person toward your body
Thief! (¡Ladrón!) – palm down, while each finger touches the palm one at a time. You can do this if you’re on a bus or in a smaller space, and you notice a pickpocket nearby. This would be a great way to warn other people.
Body Gestures to Avoid
In Spain, people consider yawning or stretching in public vulgar. So, no matter how tired you are, avoid making this mistake! It is also a common cultural mix-up to use the standard American gesture of “come here” with your hand out, palm up, and index finger wiggling. This actually portrays a romantic interest in Latin culture, and people only use it in very specific situations. Remember to turn your hand over and use all your fingers in a sweeping motion toward your body to signal someone to come to you. On the other hand, if you’re in Latin America, avoid gesturing with your hand turned sideways with your fingers spread. This motion is a strong insult against the other person.
Let Your Brain Learn and Your Body Talk
During your Spanish-learning journey, you begin to expand your horizons by learning more about Hispanic culture. Idioms and body language are, of course, a big part of that experience! Every time you learn a new theme, such as food or travel, challenge yourself to look up idioms and gestures that are used to communicate relevant information. You will soon see that you’ve built an empire of knowledge. This will help you improve your speaking skills, comprehension ability, and capacity to integrate into Spanish culture. Or, start now with a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy to ask questions to our certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala!Read More