We all need a day to pamper ourselves, right? The stress of work, life, school, family, and kids all builds up and drains us. Take some time for yourself and go to a nail salon or spa! Relájate. Now, if you are in a Spanish-speaking area and don’t know how to ask for a relaxing spa treatment, you might find it next to impossible to get the relaxing day you hoped for. Knowing the right Spanish vocabulary to overcome this hurdle is the key to treating yourself to the fullest. If you want to also get a haircut, brush up on the words and phrases you’ll need before you head off to the hair salon!
Cuál versus Qué
In your first couple of Spanish classes, your teacher probably taught you the question words: ¿Quién? ¿Qué? ¿Dónde? ¿Cuándo? ¿Por qué? ¿Cómo? ¿Cuánto? ¿Cuál? If your classes were anything like mine, you learned that qué means “what,” and cuál means “which.” Right? Well, it’s not quite as simple as that.
After living in Guatemala for several years, people have asked me my name a lot—by asking ¿Cómo te llamas? or ¿Cuál es tu nombre? However, they have never asked me ¿Qué es tu nombre?
Wait, what? That last sentence is incorrect? Yup. You should never say ¿Qué es tu nombre? When I realized this, I felt completely decepcionada. Why did my teacher tell me that qué means “what,” and cuál means “which,” if that’s not the case?
To be fair, cuál often translates to “which,” but not always. There are a couple of rules to remember when deciding whether to use qué or cuál in a question. (For the full list, you can visit this article on Qué vs Cuál.) Let’s take a look at them here:
4 Rules to Remember
- If the question word is followed by a noun, use qué. (¿Qué libro te gusta más?)
A common question in Spanish is “what/which type…?” and translates to ¿cuál tipo…? Since the question word is followed by a noun (tipo), we always use qué. While in English we could say something like “Which book do you like best?” we could never say ¿Cuál libro te gusta más?
- If the question word is followed by de, use cuál.
If you want to express a choice between things (nouns) without using qué, you can say cuál de. For example, ¿Cuál de los libros es tu favorito? This is essentially asking the same thing as our question in the previous point, but it is worded in a slightly different manner.
- If you are asking to define something, use qué.
My favorite question is ¿Qué significa…? This is a perfect example of how we use qué when looking for a definition. As a Spanish learner, this is also a really important question to learn, along with ¿Qué es eso? Both questions are looking for clarification or a definition to something, which calls for the question word qué.
- If it is an open-ended question, use cuál.
This last rule might be the most confusing one and may be difficult to get used to. In one of our previous examples, we looked at the correct question ¿Cuál es tu nombre?Here, we must use cuálbecause we are not looking for a definition. And the answer could be any number of things—it is an open-ended question. Another common question that is often said incorrectly is ¿Cuál es tu color favorito? Yes, here we also use cuál! It may take time to break the habit of using quéfor all these questions, but with practice, you can master it!
Do you remember learning about compound words in elementary school? Some examples are butterfly, raincoat, sunflower, and haircut. This combination of two words to make one word also happens in Spanish, but it is not as common. Luckily for us, we have several examples in our charts above. Can you find them?
The first one, quitaesmalte, breaks into quita and esmalte. Quita means “remove,” and esmalte is “nail polish,” so when we put them together, it means “nail polish remover.” Pretty simple, right? Normally, with compound words in Spanish, you can deduce the meaning of them by breaking them into separate words. It’s not always that easy in English (take butterfly and sunflower, for example), but in Spanish, you can easily figure out the meaning of compound words if you understand their components.
Break It Down
Let’s see if we can break down pintaúñas. Do you know what words we can separate this into? Great! Pinta (or paint) and uñas (or nails). This literally means “paint for nails,” which we would call nail polish. The last example starts with the same word, pinta (paint), and is followed by labios (lips). Again, this would literally be “paint for lips,” but we call that lipstick. Can you see how easy it is to find the meaning of compound words?
Check the Spelling
Warning, be careful with the spelling! Although pintalabios ends in s, it can be both singular and plural: el pintalabios or los pintalabios. The s comes from the word labios and does not automatically make the compound word plural. Look out for changes in gender in compound words, as well. Although both pinta and uñas end in a, and uña is a feminine noun by itself, these words come together to form a masculine noun. While the components of the individual words are still there (like the gender and singular/plural), when they come together, they give up their individuality to create a new word. It can be confusing, but just memorize the compound words with their corresponding articles.
You are now ready to pamper yourself in Spanish! Head on over to your local salon or spa or have a relaxing day in with your friends and use your new vocabulary words. If you have any questions or would like to practice with a certified teacher, sign up for a FREE trial class with us. Our teachers will help you to speak fluently in no time!Read More
Who Needs a Bank Account in Guatemala?
In the last couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure to meet some wonderful and interesting people. Among them, there’s an American friend of mine who’s very special. She was born in Guatemala and adopted at a very young age by a Jewish family in the US. I met her because she came to her birth country to get to know the culture, customs, and language of the people that lived here, the place she was born. We became great friends and keep in touch to this day.
Now she’s planning to move here to spend her days making Guatemala a better place. I have had the pleasure of accompanying her on her journey, and through it, we came to face an interesting challenge: she has to set up a Guatemalan bank account. In order to do this, I helped her by calling several banks and asking what she should do in order to open an account here, if possible. Some banks were laxer, and others were quite strict, so I’ll write down what I learned so you can better know what to expect if you’re ever in need of opening an account while abroad.
What Do You Need to Have?
According to the banks I spoke to, the following are required if you’re to open a bank account in Guatemala:
- Proof of residence (usually in the form of electricity or water bill)
- The minimum amount of cash required to open the account (it varied from $15 – $150, roughly)
Proof of employment
Some banks required proof of employment that would guarantee that the resident had a job in Guatemala. I asked them about cases where the resident works remotely for a website or company, to which they replied it was no problem as long as the company they worked for could provide said proof of employment to confirm the person opening the account has a steady source of income.
Specifically, having a native Guatemalan with an ID register as a creditor, so they could manage or delete the account if the resident left the country, for example. I personally don’t recommend opening an account if they ask for this, even if there’s a Guatemalan willing to be your creditor. These things, I believe, are best kept personal. I guess a spouse could be an exception, but if you’re married to a Guatemalan you can get an ID yourself, so it kind of defeats the purpose of a creditor!
Each bank I asked this question had a different answer, so my advice is to give them a call! Some of the banks had an English option for customer service, and they’re usually happy to give any info necessary.
Prepare yourself for the call by studying these vocabulary words:
Not Going to Live in Guatemala?
Just like each bank has different requirements to open an account, so will each country. Take into account the location you’re planning to live in when opening your account. Make sure your bank has a location set up near your home! In countries with large rural areas, banks can be few and far between, so don’t forget to double-check for banks that are close to you so you can visit anytime you need.
Either way, the first thing you should do before setting up an account abroad is to contact the bank so they give you the info you need! If you want to improve your Spanish so the conversation with the bank’s customer service is easier, make sure to try out a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy!Read More
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 find 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
Do you remember the blog about ya where we introduced you to the first of many Spanish words that have multiple meanings? Today, we’ll continue exploring the phenomenon of words that are spelled the same but don’t mean the same thing! We can categorize these words as:
- Polysemic words – words that have one single origin, but when used in different contexts have different meanings.
- Homonyms – two or more words that are spelled the same but don’t have the same linguistic roots; they, therefore, have different meanings.
The difference between these two is that a polysemic word is one single word with two or more meanings that depend on context, while homonyms are two or more words that are spelled the same but mean different things because they don’t have the same etymological background. This means that homonyms are words that are spelled the same by chance, not because they have evolved from the same word.
For all you grammar nerds, Etymology is the study of the origin of words and their evolution throughout history.
We’ll start with our first polysemic word; this one has caused the most trouble to all my English-speaking friends learning Spanish! In Mexico and Guatemala, we use the word ahorita. This is the diminutive form of ahora – we sure love our diminutives! Ahorita is a colloquial expression, which means that we use it in informal speech. There are two reasons why this word causes so much trouble:
- As a part of informal speech, we use it all the time in conversations. So, it’s really easy to misinterpret it as we really use it so often!
- The meanings of ahorita are very contradictory. It can either mean:
- Right now, like right now, now. Right this second.
- Just a little bit ago.
- In a little bit, or anytime between 5 minutes and a couple of hours.
- In an indeterminate amount of time.
In order to understand what the other person means with ahorita, I’ve often needed to ask something like, “Are you leaving the house ahorita as in right this second, or ahorita as in a couple of hours?” I’ve also had friends who live only a 5-minute drive from me tell me they’ll leave their house ahorita, only to come to my house 4 hours later! And once they arrived, I asked them, “Weren’t you leaving ahorita?” To which they would usually reply with something like, “Oh, yeah, I did. I was just finishing something.”
As you can see, the meaning of ahorita greatly varies depending on the context. This can cause a lot of frustration not only for people who are learning about a new language and culture but also to people who speak the language as a mother tongue. Don’t ever feel bad about these misinterpretations! Remember that a language is not always an exact science!
While most of these words are not as confusing as ahorita, it’s important to know them before you encounter them!
Spanish Polysemic Words
As we mentioned before, a polysemic word has one single etymological origin and multiple meanings that vary depending on the context in which we use the word. Let’s have a look at some of these words:
As we mentioned above, homonyms are two or more words that are spelled the same but do not have the same etymological background, so they have various meanings. Let’s look at some of them:
As you can see in all these examples, there are many Spanish words that we spell exactly the same way but that have more than one meaning! We understand what these words mean because of the context in which we’re saying them. If someone said puedes bajar la llama de la estufa, they could mean two different things:
- You can turn the llama down on the stove, or
- You can get the llama off the stove
What is certain is that the person is most likely referring to turning down the flame on the stove, and not telling you to get the fluffy animal off the stove!
Let’s have a look at some more examples! As you will see below, there are times when more than one sentence makes sense. This is why the context is so important! If you’re sitting at a restaurant, you’ll more likely ask for a menu than for a letter or a card. And while a baby is sure mono (cute, lovely, or adorable), he can’t wear a monkey (monkey also means mono in Spanish – the right word here would be onesies).
Me duele la muñeca
- My doll hurts
- My wrist hurts
Me puede traer la carta
- Please, bring me the card
- Please, bring me the letter
- Please, bring me the menu
Me encanta comer falda
- I love to eat foothills
- I love to eat skirts
- I love to eat brisket
Mis plantas están verdes
- My plants are green
- My factories are green
- My soles are green
Las carpas son de agua dulce
- Tents live in freshwater
- Carps live in freshwater
El mono le queda muy bien al bebé
- The monkey fits the baby well
- The cute one fits the baby well
- Onesies fit the baby well
If you have any questions regarding the use of any words, remember that you can always schedule a FREE class with us and we’ll help you solve any doubts!