Learning Spanish can be tough at times – verb conjugations, irregular verbs, subjunctive mood, and even articles can trip up a lot of Spanish learners. However, one thing that makes the learning adventure a lot easier is that there are hundreds of cognates in English and Spanish. Cognates are words that are either spelled the same or similar and often sound alike. Because English and Spanish have some of the same roots, there are numerous cognates that make communicating in Spanish a lot easier.
I remember when I was first immersed in Spanish conversation that I understood a lot more than I expected because of cognates! Even though I hadn’t necessarily studied certain words, I was able to pick up on their meaning because the familiar structure and pronunciation reflected their English counterparts.
Let’s look at some cognates that are spelled exactly the same:
As you can see from these examples, while the cognates are spelled the same, the Spanish pronunciation is slightly different, mainly because of the vowels. Also, note that some cognates add an accent in Spanish!
Have you ever just added an ‘o’ to the end of an English word to make its Spanish equivalent? While this doesn’t always work, there is some truth to it. Let’s check out some nouns that can be changed into a Spanish word with just adding an ‘o’ or ‘a’ to the end:
Easy right? Now, some more words sound like you just add ‘o’ or ‘a’ to the English word, but the spelling changes a bit more than that. Check them out!
Did you see how some vowels change or disappear, like in blusa and pingüino? In certain words, a ‘ph’ is replaced by an ‘f,’ like in teléfono, or a letter is added, like in carro. Either way, these words are extremely similar in both spelling and pronunciation. Now, all of these words that we have looked at so far are nouns, or sustantivos. There are many more adjectives, adjetivos (look at that! Another example of cognates!), that follow the rule of “just add an ‘o/a.’”
Can you find any patterns to help you know which English adjectives just add an ‘o’ in Spanish? Here’s a hint: What do most of the English words end in? Yes! Most of them end in -ic or -al. The ones that end in -ic just need an ‘o’ added on to the end (and sometimes an accent mark) to turn them into their Spanish equivalent. For the words that end in -al, we need to take away those last two letters before adding on the ‘o.’
Now, keep in mind that these adjectives will not ALWAYS end in ‘o.’ If you remember, the adjectives in Spanish change to agree with the noun. If the noun is feminine, the adjective will end in ‘a;’ if the noun is plural, the adjective will end need an ‘s’ at the end.
Ella es muy romántica. Él es muy romántico.
Ellas son muy románticas. Ellos son muy románticos.
So, while these cognates are pretty simple to form, remember that they change to maintain the noun-adjective agreement! Also, did you happen to notice that every Spanish word has an accent mark on the third to last syllable? Don’t forget those crucial tildes!
Are there more patterns to making Spanish cognates, you ask? Why, of course! This next group of words are more nouns; check out how easy it is to make their Spanish equivalent!
-Y to -IA
As you can see, all these English words end in a -y. To make the Spanish cognates, you keep the base of the word but change the -y to a -ia. Be careful, though, because some words have an accent on the final ‘i.’
There is another group of cognates that changes to an -ia at the end of a word. Check out these nouns!
-ANCE to -ANCIA
-ITY to -IDAD
Now, not all words that end in -y in English end in -ia in Spanish. For those words nouns that end in -ity, the rule is a little different. The -ity becomes an -idad. Practice with these examples:
There’s one more cognate group of nouns; these are probably some of the most well-known ones.
-TION to -CIÓN
Phew! That’s a lot of noun cognates! Do you remember talking about some adjective cognates in Spanish? Well, there’s more. English words that end in -ous can change in two different ways in Spanish, either changing that ending to a -oso or just an -o.
-OUS to -OSO
-OUS to -O
Don’t forget what we previously talked about concerning adjectives – the ‘o’ ending is only for adjectives describing masculine words. If it is describing a feminine or plural noun, the ending will be slightly different.
Alright, we’ve looked at cognates with nouns and adjectives, but what about verbs? You guessed it! There are many verbs that are cognates as well. Before we start, do you remember the infinitive verb endings in Spanish? They are -ar, -er, and -ir. So, when we talk about verb cognates, we are referring to verbs in English that can be changed into Spanish verbs by just adding one of the infinitive endings. The trick is to know which one!
Now, not every cognate follows a rule or pattern. There are some words that unique – but are still cognates nonetheless!
Wow! There are so many cognates in English and Spanish, and there are countless more than just the ones listed here – this is just to get you started! Now that you know some of the main patterns to form Spanish cognates, you can try using them when you get stuck in a conversation. If you are not sure how to say a word in Spanish, try forming a cognate; more times than not, you’ll be correct! So many times, when I ask how to say a word in Spanish, it is just a cognate of the English word!
However, do be warned. These rules are not written in stone, and there are many exceptions and false cognates. Be sure to brush up on the false cognates before traveling to a Spanish-speaking country or immersing yourself completely in the language. In my experience, though, people are very forgiving and generally understand the idea you’re trying to get across. Trust me – if you make a mistake with cognates, you won’t be the first one!
Be sure to practice with a native Spanish speaker by trying a FREE class with us! Our teachers can give you more cognates and help you with your pronunciation!
Splash, thud, vroom, zap! What is going on in here!? It sounds like a bunch of superheroes are starting to battle it out at a pool party. Herein lies the wonder of onomatopoeia, or words that imitate a particular sound. Now, read those four words at the beginning one more time. What images do you see when you read them? These words have the ability to evoke an image or sensation in your mind, rendering the communication that much more effective. When we are young, we learn many of these words casually through socializing and watching movies or cartoons. For parents who are teaching Spanish to their preschoolers, be sure to include a rich variety of books and sounds! As a Spanish learner, using onomatopoeia will enhance the creativity of your speech and writing. Your understanding will improve now that you know even more useful vocabulary. What’s more, you can better convey your personality and strengthen the impact of your descriptions of people, things, and their actions. Since onomatopoeia is a word form of a sound, it is a word form of movement. As such, we have three categories of things that move and make noise while doing it: people, animals, and objects. These movements can express themselves as sound effects or they can function as verbs, which is a distinction we will explore below. Let’s check out the most popular and useful Spanish onomatopoeia for you to start using right away. ¡Zas!
Onomatopoeia as Sound Effects
If you are familiar with comic books or cartoons, you are no stranger to the value of sound effects. What would Batman have been without his staple ‘boom!’, ‘whack!’ and ‘pow!’ is a question we will never have to ask. The words we use to portray sound can enliven and enrich the scenes of a storyline and, if used correctly, it will do the same for your conversations! The following sound effects are divided into the three categories mentioned previously: people, animals, and objects. You will notice that some are similar or identical to English and that others can be used by any of the three categories.
Onomatopoeia as Verbs
In our native language, we are very likely to use onomatopoeia verb-forms, especially when we are trying to paint a picture with descriptive words. There is a big difference between “the dog made a mean sound” and “the dog growled.” In the latter example, you can practically hear the dog’s aggression and probably even picture him baring his teeth. Again, the power of onomatopoeia is all about creating images and sensations in the listener’s mind. Keep in mind that all three categories mentioned above – people, animals, and objects – can make use of these verbs. Here is a list of common onomatopoeia verbs that are useful when describing in detail the noise that something makes:
Practice Makes Perfect
By practicing these fun and useful onomatopoeia, you will improve your Spanish and boost the quality of your conversations! Try them out next time you have to write a descriptive essay in Spanish or plan to teach someone some entertaining vocabulary. Would you like someone to practice with? Check out our free online class that guarantees you’ll be speaking Spanish before it ends!
On Part 1 of the Spanish subjuntivo series, we’ve learned what the subjuntivo is all about! The Spanish subjunctive allows us to express ideas, thoughts, desires, possibilities, and doubts.
Always keep in mind that the subjunctive is not a tense, the subjunctive is a mood! This means that it can be found in different tenses! Today, we’ll explore the conjugation of the subjunctive in the present tense!
Subjuntivo Conjugation in Present Tense
The conjugation of regular verbs in the subjunctive mood is really simple! Have a look at the table below, and take a note of your observations!
These are some rules that will help you learn the conjugation of verbs in the subjunctive even faster:
- The conjugation of -er and -ir verbs use the same endings:
-a, -as, -a, -amos, -an, -an
- In the case of -ar endings, we use the same stem in the present subjunctive as in the present indicative, and replace the ‘a’ with an ‘e’ – yo is an exception to this as we replace ‘o’ with an ‘e’
- In the case of -er and -ir endings, we use the same stem in the present subjunctive as in the present indicative, and replace the ‘e’ with an ‘a’ – yo is an exception to this as we replace ‘o’ with an ‘a’
As we already know, the conjugation of Spanish verbs is plagued with exceptions. In order to make it a little easier for you to learn them, we’ve separated them into groups!
As you can see from the examples above, even irregular verbs seem to follow a pattern! I told you when we started looking at the subjuntivo that there was nothing to fear, and as we disentangle all the little details of this verb form, it starts to make even more sense!
Conjugate the verbs in parenthesis! Remember that in Spanish, you don’t need to use personal pronouns like you do in English, so use the English translations to make sure you conjugate the verb in the correct form!
Yo quiero que _____ (venir) mañana.
I want you to come tomorrow.
Tú no crees que _____ (tener) suficiente tiempo.
You don’t believe we have enough time.
Ella busca una blusa que _____ (tener) rayas.
She’s looking for a shirt that has stripes.
Nosotros no pensamos que eso ______ (ser) cierto.
We don’t think it is true.
Ustedes dudan que _____ (llegar) a tiempo.
You all doubt he will be here on time.
Ellos necesitan que _____ (escribir) una carta.
They need you to write a letter.
Practice makes perfect! Book a free class with us and so that we can practice together everything we learned on the 1st Part of the subjuntivo series (when to use the subjuntivo), and combine it with what we’ve learned today (conjugation in the present tense)!Read More
There comes a point in your Spanish learning journey when you hear about the infamous subjunctive: el subjuntivo. Many fear it without really knowing what it’s all about because they’ve heard that it’s hard. But hey, it’s not that bad at all! As I’ve mentioned before, there are elements of language that cannot be translated into another language as is. Sometimes, we need to create a new concept in our heads. While the subjunctive exists in English, we don’t use a specific subjunctive conjugation in every case – as we do in Spanish. Join me today as we disentangle the intricacies of the Spanish subjuntivo and learn why there’s no reason to fear it!
Don’t forget to follow these links to learn how to conjugate the subjunctive in the present tense and past tense. If you’re more of an auditory learner, check out our videos on the subjunctive here (and here – when we have the second one out)!
¿Qué es el subjuntivo?
What’s the subjunctive anyway? When we classify verbs, we can classify them according to different criteria. One of the criteria is the tense – present, past, future – which indicates when an action is taking place. Another one is the mood, which indicates the intention of the speaker. There are three moods in Spanish:
- indicative – expresses the meaning of the verb as a reality:
- Soy feliz. I am happy.
In this case, being happy is a reality, a fact.
- subjunctive – expresses the meaning of the verb as a non-reality:
- Si fuera feliz. If I were happy.
In this case, being happy is a wish, something that is not part of the current reality.
- imperative – expresses the meaning of the verb as a mandate or order:
- Sé feliz! Be happy!
We order someone to be happy. We use the imperative in the 2nd person, both singular (tú, vos, usted) and plural (ustedes) because these are the people we can “give orders”.
*We sometimes give an ‘order’ to a group of people we belong to: we – nosotros. Nosotros is the 1st person plural, not the 2nd person. While the mood is imperative, there’s no conjugation for nosotros in the imperative mood, so we ‘borrow’ the conjugation from the subjunctive.
Using the subjunctive in Spanish
Now that we know what the subjunctive is, we need to learn how and when to use it. As we learned above, the subjunctive is a mood that indicates the intention of the speaker. The fact that there are specific situations that call for the subjunctive makes it a lot easier to learn when we need to use it! You’ll see that it’s not that hard after all!
We use the subjunctive when we want to express uncertainty, desire, beliefs or possibilities. As you can see, all of these scenarios live in the realm of the unreal. These are all things that are not facts, but instead, what we think, guess, wish for, or believe.
1. Dependent clauses introduced by the relative pronoun que
Dependent clauses, also known as subordinate clauses, are a combination of words that cannot stand alone as a sentence since they are not a complete idea. They provide additional information to an independent clause. Independent clauses can stand alone because they do portray a full idea). Let’s look at some examples to understand this better:
Es posible + que vayamos al cine.
It’s possible + that we go to the movies.
We can see in these examples how the subordinate clause starts both in Spanish and English with que and that respectively!
Let’s look at some of the most common examples. All the expressions below are expressions that when followed by the relative pronoun que – that (written in the examples for clarity) require a subjunctive:
2. Adjective clauses introduced by the relative pronoun que
Adjective clauses are a set of words that describe a noun – they are a combination of words that work as an adjective. An adjective clause that begins with the relative pronoun que can either be in subjunctive or indicative. This depends entirely on the context of what we’re saying.
Let’s have a look at these two examples:
Questions and negative statements
Whenever you use adjective clauses starting with the pronoun que to question whether something is real or not, or when you negate the existence of something, you also use the subjunctive!
This is because you’re referring to something that is not part of your ‘reality.’ Let’s have a look at some examples:
3. After certain conjunctions
Conjunctions are words or sets of words that allow us to join words, phrases, and clauses. There are certain conjunctions that call for the subjunctive because they express doubt, uncertainty, or condition. These are the different conjunctions that can go along with the subjunctive if the context is right:
4. Conditional clauses – si (if) clauses
Conditional sentences have two parts (two clauses). The first one is the clause that indicates the condition – si clause -, and the second one is the clause that indicates the result if the condition is met.
There are 3 types of conditionals in Spanish. We use the subjunctive in two out of these three cases. While we won’t go into much detail in this blog post about each type, we’ll show you their structure:
This may seem a bit complicated, but the awesome thing is that these structures cannot be changed. If you’re using conditional sentences, anything other than what’s on the table above is wrong! That certainly makes it easy to learn!
We’ve explained the subjunctive and used many examples so that you can know exactly when to use it! Now, book a free class with one of our teachers so you can perfect your subjuntivo!
Among my group of friends and colleagues, business trips are as common as ordering your next latte at Starbucks. It is given that in most work environments, you are going to get on a plane and travel…very far… and oftentimes land in a Spanish-speaking country. Just in the past year I have heard business travel stories from Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Bolivia, Peru and Guatemala – all wonderfully unique countries that speak Spanish as their official language.
Once you land at the airport, go through immigration and exit the airport, your senses immediately experience the new sights, sounds, and smells of entering a new part of the world. It is exciting and can be overwhelming. Herein lies an opportunity to speak Spanish!
Let’s review helpful Spanish phrases for your next viaje!
Let’s review Spanish greetings!
In English we often begin a conversation with ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ and then begin. Depending on where you live, the conversation can be rushed and to the point. Good Morning/afternoon/evening aren’t as common and are typically reserved for more formal situations or business meetings.
In Spanish, greetings are numero uno. It is very important that you greet Spanish speakers before you board the plane, begin a conversation at the ticket counter, ask for directions, or ask for help.
Buenos días. Estoy perdido/a. ¿Puede ayudarme a encontrar el área de reclamo de equipaje?/ Good Morning. I am lost. Can you help me find baggage claim?
You can also simply use Buenas, which is an informal greeting, but acceptable to use in many countries as a proper greeting in an informal situation. Review the usage rules for formal vs. informal here.
Now that you can greet others with confidence, let’s learn words that will help you navigate the airport and airplane.
Vocabulary Words for the Airport and Airplane
Useful Phrases for the Airport and Airplane
¿Dónde está la taquilla?
Where is the ticket counter?
¿Dónde recojo mis maletas?
Where is the baggage claim?
¿A qué hora viene el vuelo?
What time will the plane arrive?
¿En cuánto tiempo llegamos?
How much longer until we arrive?
¿A qué hora traen la comida?
What time will the food be served?
¿Hay problema si me levanto ahora?
Is it okay to get out of my seat now?
Asking for Directions and Exploring the City
Now you’ve landed and your eyes are wide open as you experience new sights and try to find your way to your hotel. Here are some useful phrases for asking and giving directions.
Vocabulary Words for Getting Around
Useful Phrases for Getting Around
Al final de la cuadra.
Walk to the end of the block
La tienda está en la esquina.
The stores is on the corner.
¿Dónde consigo un taxi?
Where can I get a taxi?
¿Dónde está la parada de autobús más cercana?
Where is the nearest bus stop/station?
¿Dónde está la estación de tren más cercana?
Where is the nearest train stop/station?
¿Cuánto cuesta el ticket de tren/bus?
How much does a bus/train ticket cost?
Me gustaría comprar un ticket para Juanito por favor.
I would like to buy a ticket for Juanito, please.
¿Qué tan lejos queda?
How far is it?
¿Cuánto me va a tardar?
How long will it take me?
¿Cómo llego al museo?
How do I get to the museum?
Checking in and out of the Hotel
At the hotel, you will want to use these keywords to communicate.
Vocabulary words for the Hotel
Useful Phrases for the Hotel
Perdón, no entiendo
Sorry, I don’t understand.
¿Puedes hablar más despacio, por favor?
Can you please speak more slowly?
¿Cuánto me cuesta por día?
How much will that cost per day?
¿Eso tiene cobro extra?
Is there an extra charge for that?
¿Tienen más cuartos disponibles?
Do you have additional rooms available?
¿Me puede dar la llave del cuarto 105?
Can I have the key/keycard for room 105?
Me gustaría una habitación con vista.
I would like a room with a view.
Necesito que lleven mis maletas al cuarto, por favor.
I need my luggage brought to my room, please.
¿En dónde puedo estacionar mi carro?
Where should I park the car?
¿Este precio incluye desayuno?
Is breakfast included in the price?
Registraré mi salido mañana en la mañana.
I will check-out tomorrow morning.
¿Puede llamar un taxi, por favor?
Can you call a taxi, please?
Do you have any….?
I would like….
Would you like…?
Mi cuarto aún necesita ordenar, gracias.
My room still needs to be made up, thank you.
See You Later!
You’re wrapping up your trip and want to express your gratitude and thanks. Here are some phrases to help you do so!
See you later!
¡Que tenga(s) un buen día!
Have a good day!
¡Que tenga(s) un hermoso día!
Have a beautiful day!
¡Espero verte de nuevo!
I hope to see you again!
Gracias, me ayudó mucho.
You have been so helpful, thank you.
Espero regresar pronto a este hermoso lugar.
I can’t wait to come back to this beautiful place.
You’re all set!
Before you pack your bags, enjoy a complimentary class with Spanish Academy and practice your new vocabulary words!
There is a special place in my heart for people who can speak both English and Spanish. My parents taught me how to speak English from a very young age, so it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. This means that whenever I meet a bilingual person, my ‘Spanglish’ chip comes online and I start mixing both languages. Why is it that sometimes a word or phrase… feels right in one language, but not the other?
Most people, as they become bilingual, learn that there are concepts that are unique to each language. Some words convey certain thoughts and feelings that are harder, if not impossible, to describe in any other language! Recent studies have shown that knowing more than one language will help with the development of cognitive functions as well as preventing their decline as we age. There’s also been research suggesting that bilingual children develop better social-emotional and behavioral skills, so the benefits of learning a new language are many. You can learn more about this on our blog about the perks of being bilingual.
I’ve gathered a list of common words and phrases that aren’t found in English, so you can learn a bit more about our culture through language.
Latinos are known for their strong sense of family. This is expressed by the word sobremesa, which describes the time taken after dinner to talk with the people you ate with. It’s common amongst Latinoamericanos to stay after the meal is finished, maybe with a cup of coffee or some Rosa de Jamaica, to talk about current events, joke around, and learn about each other. Sometimes sobremesa lasts a few hours after the meal is done! This is such a common cultural practice that we came up with a word for it, which is one of the wonderful things of a family-centered culture.
Hoy, en sobremesa, me contaron de la graduación de mi vecina.
Today, after eating, I was told about my neighbor’s graduation.
2. Buen Provecho
All this talk about food sure is making my stomach growl! Before lunch starts, however, I have to make sure to say buen provecho to my office mates. In English, you would normally use the term ‘bon appétit’ or ‘enjoy your meal.’ The difference is that in Latin America and Spain, saying buen provecho is used a lot more than in the United States. This phrase is also used in comedores, or small family-owned restaurants, by wishing the other patrons a nice meal if they’re still eating once you leave the place. This nifty bit of info is sure to leave a positive impression on the locals if you ever come to visit!
(Spoken to other people in a restaurant as you leave) “¡Bueno provecho!” “Muchas gracias, igualmente.”
“Enjoy!” “Thanks so much! You too!”
So I just finished having lunch, but there’s always room for dessert! Unfortunately, my sweet tooth got the better of me and I ate too much pan dulce. Now there are leftovers that can’t go to waste, so I offer them to my friend Sammy and tell her I can’t possibly have another bite, ‘estoy empalagado.’ Empalagar is a word used when you’ve had something so sweet you can’t even smell sugar anymore. When something is ‘empalagoso’ it means that it is very sweet, and probably best accompanied by coffee or water.
Este pastel está muy empalagoso. ¿Me pasas un cafecito para acompañar, por favor?
This cake is too sweet. Can I get some coffee to go with it, please?
4. Te Quiero
Speaking of sweet things, te quiero is one of my favorite Spanish phrases. This one is truly unique since it’s an expression that falls between ‘I like you’ and ‘I love you’. Te quiero is a universal phrase of affection, and it can be used to address friends, family, and significant others alike. It’s a phrase that indicates closeness to one another, without going too far nor falling short of said feeling.
Gracias por traerme al aeropuerto. ¡Te quiero!
Thanks for bringing me to the airport. Love you!
Al que madruga, Dios lo ayuda. It’s a phrase my grandma tells me every time I sleep in on family trips. That’s the Spanish version of ‘the early bird gets the worm,’ whose literal translation is ‘the one who wakes up early, God will help.’ In this case, ‘waking up early’ is summarized by the word madrugar, which implies getting up before the sun does. La madrugada starts at 1:00 am and ends at 5:00 am, but lazy people will say they have to madrugar at 8:00 am!
Mañana tenemos que madrugar para escalar temprano el volcán.
Tomorrow we get up at the crack of dawn to start climbing the volcano early.
Estrenar is a very special word, one that is almost always filled with joy. Estrenar means ‘to try out for the first time.’ You can use it when driving your new car for the first time, or when you put on those brand new pair of shoes you got for your birthday.
Estoy estrenando carro, lo acabo de sacar de la agencia.
It’s my first time driving the car. I just got it from the dealership.
Most university students are familiar with this one. It’s finals week and there’s too much to do, papers line up the desk, covering its every last corner. The coffee machine is brewing the next pot as notes are reviewed in preparation for the toughest week of the semester. Estar desvelado means to be sleep-deprived, and the word itself comes from a very interesting place. Velar refers to a state of vigilance, and the prefix des implies a lack of, so desvelar literally translates to ‘being out of vigilance,’ which is a very accurate description of how people look and act when they’re sleep-deprived. Remember to always catch some z’s and avoid el desvelo! It’s been proven that proper sleep is integral to memory retention.
La fecha de entrega es mañana. Me va a tocar desvelarme para terminar el trabajo.
The deadline is tomorrow. I’ll have to stay up all night to finish all the work.
This word is very unique, and while it has several approximations in English, I feel there’s no way to express this feeling in another language. Desesperado could be described as being fed up. In some cases, it can mean the same as desperate, but desesperado can go beyond that definition. Other times, it can be better described as impatience. Desesperado is like a salad of emotions that include annoyance, impatience, hopelessness, and anger. All that sounds quite negative, but there are different levels of desesperación, from standing in a seemingly endless queue to looking around your house for five hours because you can’t fund the car keys.
Esa alarma lleva 10 minutos sonando, ya me tiene desesperado.
That alarm has been going off for 10 minutes. I’m fed up with it.
My psychology teacher said to me once: ‘El deseo es más fuerte que las ganas.’ Ganas is a word used to express a want, coupled with an impulse leading to that action. It’s stronger than being in the mood for something but not as powerful as desire. So, my teacher’s phrase refers to that moment when you really don’t want to start your Spanish lesson, but your desire to learn is bigger, so you get up and do it anyways. Ganas is similar to whim, without the sudden and unexplainable nature of the word.
Tengo ganas de ver tele y comer comida chatarra.
I feel like watching television and eating junk food.
Ajeno is a word that describes all that is outside of oneself, something that corresponds to someone else, or that feels unrecognizable. Ajeno applies to feelings, topics, and conversations. Ajeno can also be used to describe freedom from something. If someone is ajeno to sadness, that means this person does not know how sadness feels like, for example.
Nunca había ido a un bar de salsa, me sentía ajeno a ese ambiente.
I had never gone to a salsa bar before. I felt like a stranger in that place.
Which word was your favorite?
Personally, mine is te quiero. It’s amazing how learning another language can give us new ways to express ourselves! If you want to get a head start on Spanish, I suggest you try out a free class with one of our teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy!Read More
Understanding the American banking system is complicated –even to English speakers who are reading English documents. Banking and lending institutions, along with credit card companies, make it so darn confusing to understand their jargon that it takes research and good guidance (albeit from someone who has your best interest in mind) to understand what is being said and the implications of the contract.
Successful bankers look for ways to broaden the market. It is evident that non-English speaking persons are underserved in this sector. If you want to expand your business and serve new markets, then learning another language and being able to explain complicated banking terminology is key.
Limited-English-Proficiency (LEP) Populations are Underserved
When a market is underserved, that means there’s an opportunity. According to the US Census Bureau, as of July 2018, 18.1% of Americans are of Hispanic or Latino descent, and there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the USA.
Learning Spanish will help you serve this vast population.
For years, the United States Government has been receiving reports and complaints from non-governmental organizations and both private and governmental sectors that people who don’t speak English well, or at all, are negatively impacted when conducting financial affairs. Evidence has indicated that limited English has a direct relationship with limited financial literacy.
This means millions of people are unable to make informed money management decisions and cannot effectively take proactive measures for their current and future financial health. It is crucial for everyone to understand their finances.
Some steps have been taken to reduce deceptive and abusive practices by the financial institutions, but more can be done.
A Step in the Right Direction
As an example, The Credit Card Act of 2009 was passed by the United States Congress in 2009 and took effect in 2010. This act directed credit card companies to make their statements more understandable with clearer disclosures about how to pay your bill on -time and the consequences if you don’t.
As part of the act, The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) was mandated to examine the relationship between fluency in the English language and financial literacy. Is there a disadvantage for non-English speakers in the US Banking System?
The study found that:
· translated financial materials may not be using colloquial or culturally appropriate language.
· Interpreters don’t always fully understand banking information or are not able to explain the material. Often times, assistance is provided from families’ minor children.
· Immigrants may distrust the U.S. financial system since it is different than their native country; therefore, they are more likely to use alternative financial services – such as payday lenders and check-cashing services – that often have unfavorable fees, terms, and conditions.
· Carrying debt can be viewed negatively, which deters some people from taking loans to purchase homes or cars and building credit histories.
· Limited English language skills may make one more susceptible to fraudulent and predatory practices.
We want to do business with those we like and trust, and we build these things through communication.
Opportunities Exist for Bankers
Since a limited number of bankers speak Spanish, families often rely on their young children to interpret complicated finance matters for them. This, compounded with the fact that some cultures mistrust government and banking institutions, leaves a large gap in potential home-buyers, responsible loan paybacks, and other banking relationships.
The US Latino market is a growing driving force in the US economy. Millions of people are building businesses, buying homes, and purchasing cars, which means they require financial assistance. If trust isn’t built and information isn’t shared between bankers and the Latino community, then the gap will continue to grow.
Did you know the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau monitors unfair practices, and as a result, deters most US banks from even advertising in Spanish? This is because if companies advertise in Spanish to attract new customers, then they need to offer 100% support throughout the entire process (cradle to grave) in Spanish – and most can’t do that…yet.
There’s No Time like Now
Latinos are underrepresented in banking and therefore seek out information from family first and advertising second. Their families are oftentimes not properly informed, and advertisements are mostly in English, causing people to feel confused and uneducated about the banking process.
Research shows that Latinos have a great interest in gaining access to more banking information in Spanish, such as:
· Latinos are 2x more likely than non-Hispanics to be interested in financial service ads
· 73% of Latinos think more commercials should be directed to Spanish-speakers
· 88% of Latinos think companies who make an effort deserve their loyalty
· 30% of Latinos would switch banks if Spanish mobile apps were available
What are you waiting for? Here is your chance to help an underserved community!
Expand your horizons today and take a free Spanish class with a native Spanish-speaking teacher in Antigua, Guatemala. Our excellent teachers can answer any questions you have of the Spanish-language banking system they use and how it directly benefits them!
One of the more exciting aspects of learning a new language is finding out the unusual characters it contains, and Spanish is no exception. Not only do we have special characters like ‘ñ’, but also combined characters like ‘ll.’ There are also some letters that sound the same and others whose sound depends on its placement in a word.
Phew! All that can make your head spin if you take it all at once. In today’s blog, we’ll organize, simplify, and explain several of the tricky consonants that are found in the language. If you’re the kind of student that’s been speaking Spanish for a while, you’ll find these guides will help you perfect your understanding of the language. If you’re just starting out, these tips will serve as tools to jumpstart your Spanish career by helping you get ahead of the reading game! Remember that while these tips are useful, practice is the key to becoming a bilingual master. Let’s get started!
LL or Y – What’s the difference?
I remember that when I first began working with my new office mate from Costa Rica, she would make fun of me for not pronouncing the ‘ll’ and ‘y’ correctly in Spanish, as I would often use the ‘y’ sound for both. The truth is, I never really paid much attention to the differences between the two, and each culture has a different approach on how to pronounce these two letters. So, what’s the consensus on pronunciation?
For la doble l, the double l, the sound you make is the same sound that the letter ‘j’ does in a lot of English words. Juice, jade, June, and July are some examples of words that use the same pronunciation. You can then alternate words like juice and lluvia (rain) to practice!
For the letter ‘y’, it’s a bit more complex. Sometimes, you’ll use the same pronunciation as in la doble l, and sometimes you’ll use the same sound as the ‘ee’ in ‘eerie’. When should you use each one? The basic rules are as follows:
When the ‘y’ is found at the end of the word, it acts as a vowel, and its use is purely grammatical. Also, in some regions of Latinoamérica, people won’t change the way they pronounce the ‘y,’ having it act as a vowel all the time! It’s fun to learn how speech changes from one region to the next, your Spanish will improve faster if you talk with people from different countries.
B and V
Unlike the b and v in English, these letters are pronounced exactly the same in Spanish – the pronunciation is officially called a bilabial sonoro, or a bilabial sound. In other words, you use both of your lips, more like the English ‘b.’ The difference between the letters has been purely grammatical for over 100 years! While you may hear people in some regions pronounce them differently, the correct pronunciation that the majority of Spanish-speakers use is to not differentiate between the sounds.
Below you’ll find a chart with different ways to name these two letters. Bear in mind the names on the last row of the chart are very informal, and it’s best to avoid using them (especially in a business setting) but are important to know anyway.
Different names for ‘v’ and ‘b’
The letter H is like a spooky ghost!
It is probably the easiest letter you’ll ever learn how to say in Spanish, because you don’t say it at all! The ‘h’ is a silent letter. Much like how the English language has changed and been left with quirks and marks in writing, this letter is a vestige of the way we spoke some centuries ago. As the language became more sophisticated and evolved with time, the consonants became smoother. The ‘h’ actually became so smooth that people stopped pronouncing it all together; that doesn’t mean it’s completely useless, though! In some cases, the ‘h’ will guide the pronunciation of certain words like buho (owl) by separating the two vowels and making the word composed of two syllables as opposed to one, changing the way it’s said.
One noisy exception
As my preschool teacher used to say: “The ‘h’ is shy and doesn’t like to make noise, but if her best friend ‘c’ sits next to her, everyone will be able to hear them!” This was a neat way to let us know that our beloved ghost letter still holds some use in Spanish. If you’ve ever been to a mexican food restaurant you’ve probably ordered a ‘chimichanga’ or a ‘chalupa.’ These words are great because they tell us just how the letter ‘h’ combined with the ‘c’ sound. The examples I gave you, I believe, are a great way to remember when and how the ‘h’ makes a noise in Spanish. However, perhaps the easiest examples I can give you on how to pronounce these letters are words like chair, chimes, and cherry. It’s indeed charming how cheerful these letters sound together!
The deceitful D
It is not uncommon for native Spanish speakers to accommodate their speech to better communicate with someone who’s still learning. In fact, I believe that’s one of the beautiful aspects of learning a new language: people will make an effort to connect with you better, even if you’re not great at their native tongue. However, in situations like social gatherings, for example, there can be a group of Spanish speakers that all of a sudden start making no sense at all. How can you better understand what they’re saying when they don’t pull their punches?
Idioms aside, one of the letters that Spanish speakers skip the most (besides the ‘s’) is the ‘d.’ When saying words like nada (nothing), native Spanish speakers like myself will say ‘nah-ah’ instead, and that can easily throw you off the flow of conversation if you have to listen in an active manner, like all language learners must do. Some Americans do this too! In some areas of the States, people cut out the ‘t’ of words. For example, instead of saying ‘mountain,’ you may hear ‘moun-ain’ without the ‘t!’ Even though a letter is skipped, the audience still understands. In Latinoamérica we do the same!
Another important thing to note is that the ‘d’ sound is a lot softer in Spanish. The main difference lies in the position of the tongue when saying this letter. You might be tempted to say the ‘d’ the same as ‘th,’ but that will make words like oportunidad (opportunity) way harder to say. To simplify things, to the Spanish ‘d’ sound you just have to move your tongue behind your teeth rather than in between, making a ‘doh’ sound instead.
J is a funny letter
If you’ve ever interacted online with someone who’s a native Spanish speaker, you might come across a text message that looks like this: jajajaja ¡qué risa!
It might look like they missed the keyboard when they tried to type “hahaha, that’s funny!” but that’s because the ‘j’ sound is the same as the basic ‘h’ sound in English. There is a subtle difference though, and that is that the ‘j’ sound can be both identical to the ‘h,’ or have a more ragged, raspy feel to it. The difference is regional (Guatemala has a raspy ‘j’ while El Salvador is known for doing more of an ‘h’ sound), and it mostly affects your accent rather than your understandability, so you can stick with the basic ‘h’ sound no problem.
My N has a little hat!
One of the two extra letters you’ll find in Spanish and not in English is the ‘ñ.’ I have a little trick that will help you say this letter right, and it’s a very easy trick at that! The way to pronounce the ‘ñ’ in Spanish – eñe – is as simple as saying the word ‘lanyard’ while keeping your teeth together. The sound that will come when you say ‘nya’ is the sound that belongs to our friend the eñe. Below are some Spanish words to practice with.
Last but not least, the Z
This letter is tricky because it’s one of the main differences between España and Latinoamérica when it comes to pronunciation. For Latinoamérica there’s really no difference between ‘z’ and ‘s,’ but if you’re in Spain, you might want to consider the following:
To pronounce the ‘z’ as they do in Spain, just talk as if you had a lisp, changing the ‘z’ for a ‘th’ as in the word ‘thick.’ Some word that’ll help you practice the ‘z’ are cereza (cherry), zapatos (shoes), and Suiza (Switzerland).
Take it one step at a time
Consonants are often a milestone when learning a new language. They can be scary and confusing, so remember to tackle them one by one! We cover most of the letters in this blog in our video about confusing consonants on our YouTube channel. Subscribe to receive great content to improve your Spanish! Make sure you visit our website to receive a free Spanish class live with one of our teachers.
Don’t forget to practice what you’ve just learned with our teacher Miss Lia!Read More
To be a global player, you need to familiarize yourself with español para los negocios (business Spanish).
Why? Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers, and most Spanish-speaking countries are geographically located next to the USA. What does this mean? It is time to learn business Spanish in order to communicate -and do business with- our neighboring countries!
The Importance of Speaking Spanish and Building Rapport
Many cultures, including those from latinoamérica, rely on building relationships and trust before business dealings are discussed. Building rapport is key. This can be done through active listening, patience by spending time engaging in small-talk before ‘getting down to business,’ as well as showing real interest in your conversations.
Building rapport is also done by knowing Spanish and greeting your business associates in their native language! Don’t forget to use the proper form – formal or informal – in your greetings! Hola Ximena! Es un placer conocerle.
In the USA, small-talk can be short and sweet: “Good Morning! Did you have a nice weekend? Nice weather today, eh? Okay – Here’s what I need from you….” and the business meeting ensues. In many other countries, this would nary be a start. Lengthy amounts of time can be spent ‘feeling out’ the other parties’ intentions, temperament, motivations, non-verbal cues, etc.
The Criticality of Face-to-Face Meetings
I experienced this while working with an Indian company that was not accustomed to doing business with Americans, and it was one of my first times doing business in India. I was a ‘new’ member on the team and started ‘getting down to business’ on day one.
In order to perform an analysis, I required information to be sent via email. However, no one would send it to me. I had participated in a couple of phone meetings with my new counterparts and engaged in ‘small-talk’ with the team; nonetheless, when it came time for the company to share information with me…it was silence and avoidance. There was always an excuse that it was ‘delayed,’ or that they were ‘working on it’ – but I wasn’t receiving the data I needed.
I ended up consulting with an Indian-American colleague and discovered that the company most likely didn’t ‘trust’ me yet, and if I wanted to move forward with the project then I would have to meet them in person.
Off I went, traveling over 30 hours to have an in-person meeting with the company representatives. The meeting went well – we spent half the morning drinking tea and getting to know one another. My counterparts were ‘evaluating’ me to deem me trustworthy. Evidently, I passed the test because from that meeting forward, I received any and all information I requested without delay, hesitation, or excuses. Success!
In many cultures, it is crucial to spend time getting to know each other before the business meeting can officially start and before the business relationship can grow. Even though Southeast Asia and Latin America are two very different regions, they share this similarity (as do many other parts of the world!)
To help you facilitate your next meeting in Spanish, we have compiled a list of key business words and phrases below!
20 Key Business Words
Let’s start by learning the basics so you can speak with confidence.
Business Phrases Translated for You!
There are many common phrases used when talking about business projects, holding meetings, or striving to meet deadlines. Some of those phrases are colloquial, and you would only use them with your coworkers. Others are more formal and would be reserved for your boss or important clients.
Below are some key phrases that will apply to coworkers, bosses, and clients alike. Practice these to show your skills as a businessperson to your fellow Spanish speakers!
Practice Spanish Every Day
Knowing these top business keywords and phrases is a great start on becoming business-savvy in the Spanish workplace! To avoid language mishaps and dale con todo (put your best foot forward), it is important to practice Spanish every day!
Now You’re Ready!
The Spanish Academy offers personalized classes in real-time with real people that can adapt to your schedule. Be confident when holding your next business meeting! Practice with native Spanish-speakers today!
If you have studied Spanish for a little while, you have probably noticed that there are many connections between English and Spanish. Since they both have roots in Latin, there are many similarities, making it pretty easy to identify the meaning of new words in Spanish…or so you think. While you may be able to stick an ‘o’ or an ‘a’ to the end of some English words or change an -tion to a -ción to make them Spanish equivalents (tranquil — tranquilo, education — educación), it is not always that simple!
These words that look alike and have the same meaning are called cognates. Let’s look at some more:
- Plate — Plato
- Intention — Intención
- Capital — Capital
These examples either have the exact same spelling or just slight differences. There are other examples where the words may not look exactly the same but look enough like each other for us to make the correlation between the two:
- Necessity – Necesidad
- Lamp – Lámpara
While these connections between the two languages are great and can help us understand a lot more Spanish than we expect, it can often set us up for some awkward situations. How many times have you not known a word in Spanish and tried to just put a Spanish ending on the English one and hoped for the best? This often works (like with education and educación), but not always. There are numerous false cognates, or false friends as they are often called, that create confusion and miscommunication. Possibly the most common example of this is embarrassed and embarazada. They look similar, so they must mean the same thing, right? Wrong! Embarazada is actually pregnant, and the correct translation of embarrassed would be avergonzado(a). Can you see how false cognates can cause a lot of problems? Let’s look at some more.
Phew! That’s a lot of false cognates. Don’t stress, though! I learned a lot of these through trial and error, and it’s okay if you confuse these, too. Keep practicing, and be sure to talk with one of our certified Spanish teachers if you have any questions. Sign up for a FREE class now!