Often, I see students who are learning Spanish focus on a learning vocabulary through a list of words, remembering the conjugation tables of verbs etc. I cannot fault them for this, because it is important to learn both of those of course. But what I find is that if this is their sole way of learning Spanish, the sentences that come out of their mouths are much too formal, or lack any resemblance to how we actually speak in everyday life. This goes for simple sayings as well!
Numerous times, I hear an Spanish student try to convert the exact words from their native language to Spanish, and it comes out in an awkward manner. Today, I’d like to try to step away from the “text-book” ways of saying things, and focus on simple, yet very common ways of saying things in Spanish.
While, of course you should remember these important words and phrases – I challenge you to try to use them a few times in the next day or so, so they stick in your head, and roll off your tongue the next time you need to use them in real life – and believe me, you will frequently!
Here are a few for starters:
(Calling a friend on the phone, and someone else answers)
In English, you would say something like: “Hello, may I please speak with Mike?” or “Hi, is Mike available?” or even “Hello, Is Mike there?”
Now, if you were to literally translate these (and like I said before, I do hear these often!), the student may say: “Hola, ¿puedo hablar con Mike?”, “Hola, ¿Mike está disponible?”, “Hola, ¿Mike está ahí?”
Now, the Spanish version makes sense, and probably the listener will understand you, but these aren’t the “real” way that Spanish-speakers ask for someone. Why not try these out:
¿Estará Mike ahi?
¿Se encuentra Mike?
¿Se encontrará Mike?
(Sitting down at a restaurant, and requesting a menu)
In English, most likely, you might say something like,”Can you bring me the menu?” To translate this in Spanish, you would probably say, “¿Puede traer el menu?” In this case, the translation is roughly correct, however it sounds a bit hard or with a slight tone of demand to the listener.
Try these out for size:
¿Me podria traer el menu?
¿Lo/La molesto con el menu?
¿Podria tener el menu?
If you are ordering something for a second time, such as the common “Can I have another beer?“, the most common way you would hear this by a foreigner is: “Otra cerveza por favor“. Indeed this is Spanish at its most premature nature. Next time, try to sound like a Spanish-pro and ask the waiter “¿Me podria traer otra cerveza, por favor?”
Most everyone knows to say “adios”, “chau” or “hasta luego”.
Try to throw these into your repertoire every now and then to spice up your conversations with people:
“Hay nos vemos luego”
“Que te vaya bien”
“Nos estamos platicando”
Keep note that these are all very informal ways of saying goodbye, most likely should be used with people that you already know.