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
Body language accounts for 90% of the information exchanged between two speakers. Unfortunately, we may go to another country without learning important gestures and their meanings. However, by learning body language and practicing it before traveling, we will be better equipped to communicate. If you know where you’d like to go in order to enhance your speaking skills and comprehension, then you’ll know what types of body language and gestures to learn based on the region. Additionally, you will benefit from learning the body parts in Spanish and their idioms.
Spanish Body Parts: The Vocabulary
The Spanish-speaking world, known in linguistics as the hispanosphere, is bursting at its seam with a variety of slang. The Spanish body parts vocabulary provides a variety of slang. These can differ in each country, so we will just focus only on the general words used and understood in every hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) culture. With an excellent basic foundation in understanding, you will be able to learn the relevant slang words much quicker and improve comprehension more efficiently by asking questions. Let’s look at some Spanish body parts!
The Human Body
The Head and Face
Spanish Body Parts and Idioms: Using the Vocabulary
Learning idioms is vital when communicating with the natives of a foreign country. They are the informal, figurative language we use in daily life that expresses feelings or situations in a phrase whose meaning doesn’t immediately stand out. For example, in English, we say “Hold your horses!” when we want to express the idea that the other person needs to wait. Clearly, we are not asking them to hold back their actual horses! This is informal, figurative (non-literal) language. To truly understand the conversation and the culture of a hispanophone country, we must be aware of these figurative phrases exist. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about them when you hear a strange phrase pop up!
List of Idioms
Body Gestures: Latin America and Spain
Watch out! (¡Ojo! / ¡Cuidado!) – put your index finger to your eye and hold or tap just below
I promise you. (Te lo juro.) – make a fist, bring the thumb to the mouth, kiss it and then flick it outwards quickly with thumb up to show that you really mean it
Slow down! (¡Más lento!) – hand open with the palm facing outward, moving in a patting motion
It’s delicious. (Está delicioso.) – fingers come together at the mouth then moved forward and opened
Come here. (Ven aca.) – hand out with fingers down, palm face down, move fingers simultaneously together, making a motion from the person toward your body
Thief! (¡Ladrón!) – palm down, while each finger touches the palm one at a time. You can do this if you’re on a bus or in a smaller space, and you notice a pickpocket nearby. This would be a great way to warn other people.
Body Gestures to Avoid
In Spain, people consider yawning or stretching in public vulgar. So, no matter how tired you are, avoid making this mistake! It is also a common cultural mix-up to use the standard American gesture of “come here” with your hand out, palm up, and index finger wiggling. This actually portrays a romantic interest in Latin culture, and people only use it in very specific situations. Remember to turn your hand over and use all your fingers in a sweeping motion toward your body to signal someone to come to you. On the other hand, if you’re in Latin America, avoid gesturing with your hand turned sideways with your fingers spread. This motion is a strong insult against the other person.
Let Your Brain Learn and Your Body Talk
During your Spanish-learning journey, you can begin to expand your horizons and learn more about Hispanic culture. Idioms and body language are, of course, a big part of that experience! Every time you learn a new theme, such as food or travel, challenge yourself to look up idioms and gestures that are used to communicate relevant information. You will soon see that you’ve built an empire of knowledge. This will help you improve your speaking skills, comprehension ability, and capacity to integrate into Spanish culture.Read More
Yes, it is true! Valentine’s Day and Día del Cariño are the SAME thing, and it’s even on the SAME day in both the English and Spanish-speaking countries. There are lots of similarities: flowers, scary first dates, the card box at school that you pray gets filled to the brim by all of your classmates that you do not even know. Sometimes grandma even gives us that crisp $5 bill in a pity card just in case none of the above happens.he list goes on and on. Traditions and sentiments stay the same; however, the obvious thing that changes is…YUP! You guessed it: the way we say that we care about different people in our lives.
WARNING: this is not just a ‘Twilight Saga Bella and Edward’ turbulent romance post. Cariño and love are for everyone! Yes, the media has it saturated, but it is for our friends, family, crushes, and MAYBE the significant other who may or may not be able to read our minds when it comes to what kind of card we want. No worries, mis amores – our 4 Tips for Día del Cariño have got you covered.
Tip 1: Día del Cariño- Phrases for Friendly Cards
OK! So here we are. Let’s set the scene: classrooms with carpeted floors and boxes with your name on it. Or even more possible, cards may be waiting for you on the kitchen table next to your heart-shaped pancakes. Some examples could be:
Ok, ok, ok. Very punny, but let’s check out some Spanish and ‘Spanishpired’ ones:
So besides the ‘Taco of Love,’ both of our sweet Día del Cariño punny Valentines are focused on the ‘Te’ perspective. Now, in Spanish, we could do ‘Usted’, but we are talking about feelings, the warm fuzzies, and the “I’m so glad you are alive!” sentiments, which are not normally for the ‘Usted’ form. ‘Tú’ is for friends, family, and all your crew members. If you’d like more information about ‘tú,’ ‘usted,’ and other Spanish pronouns, check out our blog!
Simple phrases: So if you have your pen and hand-made card ready, thanks to our friends, here are some great Día del Cariño phrases you could scribble down over all the glitter glue for your amigos y familia:
Great! Now you can copy paste, but if you are wanting to practice, notice the words that are most used:
- Amistad – Friendship
- Alegrias / Gozo – Joy and Happiness
- Regalos – Gifts
- Dulce – Sweet
- Loquita (Loca/Loco) – Crazy
Now, try and take these words and make your own short Día de Cariño phrases for your amigos. You just have to add the verbs! Notice that all of the verbs are in the ‘tú’ conjugation.
- Tú — AR verbs = +aste
- Abrazar- Abrazaste (to hug)
- Tú –ER and -IR verbs = +iste
- Compartir = Compartiste (to share)
- Querer = Quisiste (To Care about and LOTS of other things we will talk about in our next tips)
Tip 2: Día del Cariño- Activities and Vocabulary in the Media
Ok, stage change! Carpet floors in classrooms are swapped for welcome mats and oak front doors with daunting doorbells. Even the kitchen table is swapped for fish and balsamic-something salad that is at least three steps above heart-shaped pancakes. Regardless of who exactly you are with for Día del Cariño, you have to be prepared. Where are you going to go? What are you going to do? What gift are you going to give? Well, if you do what any sensible, stressed person would do, you would google specials events, ideas, and excuses; check these out:
Notice all of the fun things that are in this first advertisement for a community run. Cheers to all of you athletes!
- Amor -Love
- La Amistad – Friendship
- Premios al mejor disfraz – Prizes for the best costume
- Sorpresas y mucho mas – Surprizes and much more
- Entrada gratis – Free entrance
Now, if the first advertisement made you feel more judged and pudgy than loved, this second one if for you! Who doesn’t like going to las peliculas? This movie ad translates to: Valentine’s Day is coming soon and so are the gifts, flowers, and…..Romance Movies! Share your favorite romance scene from a movie and win FREE candies!
What a convenient and lovely time! Let’s See what vocabulary we can pull from this movie add so you can invite that special Spanish-speaking person to the movies (maybe AFTER the community run with your friends).
- Regalos – presents
- Flores – flowers
- Películas de amor – Romance movies
- Compartir – share
Ok, So we have the activities down (High Five!), but now we have to figure out exactly WHO we are taking to these Día del Cariño activities … maybe this final advertisement can help us see who we should or should NOT want to invite or possibly ditch at the last second.
#KeyTip (outside of the 1,000 tips that we share as the crew): In Spanish, because of the masculine and feminine categorizing structure, sometimes when people want to talk about both distinctions, they combine the O and the A with the power of technology and use the @ symbol!
So, who are you with today? This final advertisement will help us see the types of people you could possibly invite to our flawless suggestions.
This advertisement translates to: What is your sentimental situation?
- Solter@ – Single
- De novi@ – With a girlfriend or boyfriend
- Casad@ – Married
- Divorcicad@ – Divorced
- Complicad@ – Complicated
- Con Hambre – Hungry
We hope that this list simplifies your Facebook status and that it is not as complicado as before!
You now have cards, events, and people down for your Día del Cariño plans (double high five!).
But wait! There are just two more tips that IF you accidentally mess up, could possibly alter all of these flawless plans we just made.
Tip 3: Día del Cariño- Te Quiero or Te QUIERO?
So this is the sweetest, most romantic, confusing, and general phrase that we could think of for Día del Cariño: Te Quiero
So… Both digital cards are cute and give you the warm fuzzies, but one is only for friends and family and the other you could possibly say (while blushing like a crazy person) to your next-level crush.
- “Something from your FRIEND who cares about you.”
- “Every day I almost love you more.”
Woah! The confusion and craziness! How to choose what word for when??
Now, which one would we say to our sweet mother making pancakes, and which would we send to Justin Bieber? To each his own cariños!
Final Tip 4: Día de Cariño: Me gusta or me gustas?
So if you think that ‘Te quiero’ is confusing, well good news, Día del Cariño, amiguitos: Our final tip is about: Me Gusta – I like
1 Me gustan esos zapatos. – I like those shoes
2. Me gusta esa persona. – I like that person OR I have a crush on that person OR I almost love that person.
This card translates to: I LIKED you, I LIKE you, and I will keep LIKING you. Have a great day, my love!
Pregunta? What kind of LIKE do you think is going on here? The shoe liking one or that person you have a crush on and kinda love? If you guessed the first, we congratulate you on your shoe collection, but to answer the Spanish language question; the second would be correct!
Our rule of thumb is that when you gustar a tangible object, you are, in the literal translation, saying something is cool. But if you say that you gustar a person…you are going into romance territory, which is GREAT if you are on Día del Cariño, but on the daily you could get yourself into trouble considering that you would be saying that you LIKE someone..like your
Our final tip for ‘Me Gusta’ is to stick to phrases like :
- “Esa persona me cae bien”- There actually is no literal translation in English, but it could mean “I like this person.”
- “Que buena onda esa persona.” – “That person has good vibes.”
- “Esa persona es tan amable.” – “That person is so nice”
- “Que chilero esa persona!” – “That person is so cool!”
Ok, amigos, cariños, and lovers. Take our tips and run with them.
Bonus question: Can you change the above positive commanding sentence into a Spanish command? If not, check out THE FEARLESS FEW. Goodness knows they need these 3 tips too.
Feliz Día del Cariño!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
Exploring Spanish-Speaking Countries
Fascinating cultures and peoples.
Jaw-dropping snowy mountain peaks.
Salt flats that transform into mirrors of the night sky.
Given these points, it’s no wonder that South America is a top destination for travelers, explorers, and students the world over. If you are learning to speak Spanish, you can practice your skills by visiting some (or all!) of the nine Spanish-speaking countries in South America. Surely, this won’t prevent you from traveling to the four South American countries that do not officially speak Spanish. However, for the sake of language learning, let’s first dive into the countries that do. Together we’ll find out where Spanish fluency can take you in South America!
Which countries in South America are Spanish-speaking?
Of the thirteen countries in the South American continent, there are nine countries whose official language is Spanish. They are Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Where would you like to go to practice your Spanish skills?
Capital: Buenos Aires
Famous For: Natural wonders, unique dialect, tango
Argentina has an impressive number of natural wonders, from glacial lakes to dusty deserts. It is home to the highest peak of the Andes, a mountain range labeled the longest in the world. Uniquely, the Spanish spoken in Argentina is different from other Spanish-speaking countries because it is more similar to the pronunciation and rhythm of Italian. If you wish to study Spanish formally in Argentina, there are many Spanish immersion courses offered in big cities. For example, try places like the capital, Buenos Aires, or Mendoza, where you will learn the special dialect of Argentina. You can even learn to tango or to cook empanadas while you’re there!
Capital: La Paz
Famous For: Large indigenous population, diverse cultures, Spanish immersion
The rare treasures of Bolivia are found in its people. This is one of the Spanish-speaking countries with the largest percentage of indigenous groups. With this in mind, finding community-based tourism and local guides will allow you to learn about the customs, traditions, and native languages of over 30 indigenous groups. Interestingly, as a landlocked nation, Bolivia overcomes its blockage to the sea by positioning its navy forces in a base at the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. This lake is located along the western altiplano (“high plateau”) at 12,500 ft. above sea level. Given that English is not widely spoken in Bolivia, it is an excellent country to visit for deep Spanish immersion. You’ll be thrust into scenarios where only your Spanish skills can help you!
Famous For: Friendly, relaxed attitude, numerous beaches & ski resorts, wine culture
Chilean culture adopts rest and relaxation as foundations of a good life. As a result of this attitude and their world-famous wines, it is clear that Chile is the best place for slow travel among Spanish-speaking countries. Surprisingly, Chile only measures 175 km east to west while being flanked by the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. This gives the feeling of closeness even after a short stay in one area. Significantly, the famous Easter Island is a historical island off the coast where the longest cave system in the world exists. Rivers of lava carved out the caves that now lie under the rocky terrain. Take advantage of the homestay option if you choose to study Spanish in Chile! You can live temporarily with a local family who will show you the true meaning of Chilean culture, which is to create lasting friendships and enjoy every moment.
Government: Unitary Republic
Famous For: mysterious archaeology, clearly spoken Spanish
Colombia is the only South American country with coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. This scenic country features heaps of archaeological ruins, dating back 13,000 years. Whispers of a lost civilization amaze us even today with their mystery. Above all, the city of Ciudad Perdida and the underground tombs called Tierradentro are great examples of this. Even though the country has suffered political unrest and civil warfare, it has been gaining economic ground and a growing sense of stability for some time. Colombians would say that “Colombian Spanish” is the clearest of all Latin Spanish-speaking countries. Due to its slow pace and cautious spoken word, it is easy to understand. There are many options to continue your Spanish studies in the capital, Bogotá. This is where you will find plenty of private tutors, college professors, and professional teachers.
Population: 16.4 million
Government: Democratic Presidential Republic
Famous For: biodiversity, quality of life, The Amazon Rainforest
Ecuador, home of the Amazon Rainforest, is the most bio-diverse of the Spanish-speaking countries. Due to the multitude of diversified life in areas such as the Galápagos Islands, Charles Darwin was able to explore and create his theory of evolution. According to InterNations, Ecuador has been voted the “best country for expats” for two consecutive years due to the high quality of life and decent cost of living it provides. Moreover, Ecuador offers Spanish-learners affordable, fun, and professional education that promotes language learning in a lively environment.
Population: 7 million
Government: Representative Democratic Republic
Famous For: Atlantic Forest
Paraguay is the only country in South America that is not a big tourist destination. In fact, tourism is so rare here that hostels, public transport, and any other tourism supports are simply not offered. However, the country features the Atlantic Forest, which runs from Brazil to Argentina, passing through Paraguay. Due to wildlife conservation projects, it is a popular attraction for biologists and environmentalists. For the strong-willed, it’s a perfect place to immerse yourself in Spanish because there are very few English speakers.
Population: 32 million
Government: Unitary Presidential Republic
Famous For: Machu Picchu, Nazca Lines, Amazon Rainforest
Home to the famous Machu Picchu and Nazca lines, Peru has an aura of mystery, excitement, and adventure. Equally important, this country offers a foodie experience like no other. It has been nicknamed “the capital of Latin cooking” because its unique dishes combine influences from all over the world. Due to a lack of slang and regional accents in Peruvian Spanish, this is a great place to practice with locals. You can also explore one of the most interesting civilizations on the planet while you learn!
Population: 3.5 million
Famous For: Low corruption, excellent economy, beautiful beaches
In a country where cows outnumber people four to one, you may think this nation is a bit backward. On the contrary, Uruguay is one of the most progressive, stable, and prosperous Spanish-speaking countries in South America. Because of its booming middle class, responsive government, and powerful free press, this country provides a strong model for the rest of the world to follow. Additionally, the most popular destination for learning Spanish in Uruguay is in the capital, Montevideo. You can enjoy the city life or spend the day at the beach before you partake in evening Spanish classes.
Population: 32 million
Government: Constitutional Republic
Famous For: Diversity of natural beauty
Even with years of political and economic friction in this great country, Venezuela is still home to some of the most charming natural beauties. From the snow-covered Andean peaks to the sunny coast of the Caribbean, Venezuela holds great pride for its many distinct features. Grasslands, islands, and waterfalls are among the many unique gems that this country has to offer. Sadly, travel at present moment is not advised due to grave economic problems.
The Four “Don’t” Countries
Can you identify the four countries of South America that weren’t mentioned? The following countries are vital parts of the continent’s identity and culture. However, they do not consider Spanish to be their primary language of communication in society and/or official government business. These countries are Brazil (Portuguese), Guyana (English), Suriname (Dutch), French Guiana (French). You can visit these countries and use your Spanish to get by, but expect to say more with your hands than your mouth!
In summary, a great way to sharpen your Spanish skills outside of the classroom is to visit the nine Spanish-speaking countries in South America. By exploring what each country has to offer, you can find which one suits your personality and traveling style. Above all, studying Spanish online or in the classroom is an open door to new places and experiences that will boost your understanding of the world. ¡Hagámoslo!Read More