So, you’ve decided to learn Spanish as you’re fed up of always resorting back to English (or hand signals) after a lame attempt to communicate with locals when you’re on holiday. Good for you! You’ve found a course or tutor to get you started and you’re off… But you soon realise that one or two 60 minute lessons a week just isn’t going to cut it for you, after all you want to be FLUENT in time for your next holiday right?
One of the places I visited before I moved to Mendoza, Argentina was Quito, Ecuador. I loved Quito. I got a really good vibe from the place as soon as I arrived and lived there for 12 months.
The travel bit
Quito is the capital city of Ecuador and at 9,350ft (2,850m) above sea level it’s the Worlds second highest capital city after La Paz (Boliva). It’s also a UNESCO city the closet capital city to the equator. Today it is densely populated; 1,900 million back in 2003 when I was there the population was closer to 1.400 million [source: macrotrends].
In 1978, UNESCO named Quito one of the first of two World Heritage Cities (the other being Krakow). Quito is the largest and most historically preserved city in all of Latin America’s colonial cities.
Ecuador, known mainly for Los Galapagos has so much more to offer as a country it’s self and is recognised for it’s efforts towards “sustainable tourism”
One of the visit I made outside of the city was to the beautiful La Laguna Quilotoa, a blue-green volcanic crater lake, sits in the rugged Andean countryside south of Quito. As with all my travelling back then we took the local bus and stayed in a local house. Back in 2003 there weren’t as many facilities as there are today – it was very basic.
Laguna Quiloto is one of 47 volcanoes located across Ecuador. The most well known is Cotopaxi, not the highest volcano in the country but one of the most active; it’s erupted 50 times in the last 300 years, which actually makes it one of the most active volcanoes in the World. The closest I got to Cotopaxi was when I stayed at a friends house. It was erupting volcanic ash at the time which destroys the local farmland and causes respiratory problems.
The teaching & learning bit
I got two great teaching jobs in Quito. One in the local Benedicts Institute teaching adults learners and children and the other providing 1:1 in house Spanish lessons for businesses. I loved both jobs.
The great thing about it was the people I met and the friends I made. I also received provision for my own Spanish language-development. Daily 60 minute one-to-one Spanish lessons for the whole time I was there! Can you image, what that kind of support can do for your Spanish.
I was already a couple of years in to my South American adventure when I arrived in Quito and my “street Spanish” (as I call) it was already great – I could converse with people informally no problem at all. Recognise songs in Spanish, understand jokes. I’d taken my PADI Dive Master exam in Spanish and learnt self-defense. Add to that the gazillion hours of conversation practice I’d had talking non-stop to truck drivers who were kind enough to pick us up.
But the lessons I had with Guillerma, my Spanish teacher in Quito well…they we’re something else. They rocketed my Spanish into the next level. She was so much more to me than my Spanish teacher, she was a friend and confident.
I left Ecuador pretty much fluent in Spanish and had picked up some valuable teaching experiences as well as a life-long friendship with Guille.
Quito is a city rich in culture and history I would recommend a visit here to anyone exploring South America – it’s also a great place to practise your Spanish too!
One of the questions I get asked most by students is how to add that funny squiggle to make a Spanish “ñ” from an English keyboard.
First of all that funny squiggle is called a “tilde” and the letter “ñ” is a letter in it’s own right, separate to the normal “n” in the Spanish alphabet.
Words such as Español (Spanish), niño (boy or child) and mañana (tomorrow) all have the “n” but unless you have installed the Spanish keyboard in your computer settings you’ll need a short cut to get it.
For Windows the easiest short cuts are these;
For a lower case “ñ”
Simply press down the “Alt” key and hold it while you type the numbers “164” on the number pad. Alt + 164 = ñ
For an upper case “Ñ”
Simply press down the “Alt” key and hold it while you type the numbers “165” on the number pad. Alt + 165 = Ñ
(Nb. this doesn’t work with regular number keys only the keypad).
If you’d like to listen to these words and how they are pronounced here’s a short YouTube lesson.
Did you know that there is more than one way to ask how someone is in Spanish? Or did you think the only way to do it was by asking; ¿Cómo estás?
In this blog post I’m going to give you a few other options so taht you can practise your informal Spanish when you’re next on holidayu.
1. ¿Cómo estas?
Ok, so the first one is the most common one, it’s the one we’re taught when we first start learning Spanish. It’s with the verb Estar and we ask; ¿Cómo estas?
2. ¿Cómo va?
The next one is one of my favorites. YOu may have heard this one in Celia Cruzs canción “Oye Cómo Va” . There’s a couple of other takes on that one too you can say;
¿Cómo te va? How are you doing or ¿Cómo va todo? how’s everything going?
Va (it goes) comes from the verb Ir which means “to go”
3 ¿Cómo andas?
This one is used a lot in Argentina, I remember using this one all the time – I really like it! Andas from the verb Andar which means to walk, go around take a walk around.
¿Cómo andas nena? How’s it going girl
Che, ¿Cómo andas nena? How’s it going pal
4 ¿Qué tal?
Another common one for beginners is ¿Qué tal? Easy to remember AND easy to pronounce too 🙂
If you’d like to listen to how these expressions sound in Spanish take a look at my video below.
So there we have it six ways to ask someone how they are informally. Let me know in the comments which is your favorite expression, how do you like to ask “Hey how’s it going?” to people you know in Spanish? Or maybe you use something different?
Travelling when you have a food allergy or intolerance is stressful, especially if you don’t speak the local lingo.
I always say that dining out is a a great opportunity to practise your Spanish but with so many people suffering from food intolerances waiters really have their work cut out for them, especially with those guests who’s language skills are somewhat limited.
Travelling to a country where you don’t speak the local language can be stressful enough without the added layer of complicated words you need to try and communicate you specific dietary requirements. It can be so stressful, especially if you are travelling with a child.
As its coeliac awareness week this week (9-14th May) I thought I’d share with you a few tips to help you travel with more peace of mind despite having coeliac disease or any other food allergy or intolerance.
Tip 1 – Learn the Key vocab & phrases related to your allergy
It goes without saying that learning the key vocabulary relating to your particular allergy is important. You can of course get by with a few words and phrases – I’ve listed some of the most common ones below. Write these on a piece of paper and carry them with you at all times, accompanied with a dictionary (www.wordreference.com).
Intolerancia al glúten – Intollerance to gluten
Alergia a la lactosa – Allergic to lactose
No puedo comer [insert food here] – I can’t eat….
Leche de vaca – cows milk
Lecha de soja – soya milk
Peligroso – dangerous
Emergencia – emergency
Watch this mini lesson on how to pronounce these words and phrases:
Tip 2 – Translation Cards
The better option however are Translation Cards. Translation cards ensure that others are made aware of your allergy or intolerance despite any language barriers.
Cards are laminated, the size of a credit card and are printed in English on one side and Spanish on the other. Carry them in your purse or wallet and show the waiter when you are ordering a meal so they can assist you in choosing something appropriate from the menu. They save you so much stress. And prevent having to look words up and fumble with your Spanish.
Translation cards are crucial especially if you are travelling with children and make your whole holiday experience much less stressful.
When I first arrived in South America I just had the little bit of Spanish I could remember from high school, I could hardly string a sentence together and was paranoid that I would sound stupid – my gracias (with the ‘th’ pronunciation sounded different to how they pronounced it over there. I soon learnt though that it’s the same word with the same meaning.
The Spanish I did know was more than enough, and I was soon nominated by my travel companions as the one who knew the most Spanish.
I explored South America by land, sometimes by bus but mainly hitch-hiking with friends I met along the way! It was always me who sat next to the truck driver conversing for hours on end while my travelling companions got some shut eye. It wasn’t a bad thing actually and it certainly improved my conversational Spanish and cultural knowledge of the countries I was visiting.
Now, I would totally recommend hitch-hiking round South America for four years as a learning method to boost your Spanish, but I do understand that’s not an option for everyone 😉 So I definitely recommend immersing yourself in the language as much as possible.
So my Top Tip to you is to try livening up your learning with a mixture of different resources, classes and courses. Here are some of the things you can do to move forward with your learning;
When it comes to travel around South America it’s fair to say I know what I’m talking about. I spent five years doing just that before settling in Argentina for 15 years. I’ve travelled the length and breadth (except Brazil as they speak Portuguese there) of this amazing continent. I’ve spent a lot of time travelling Spain also, most recently backpacking with my own children along the North East coast; La Costa Dorada!
Whether you’ve just started to learn to speak Spanish or have been speaking Spanish your whole life, traveling to a Spanish-speaking country is one of the greatest ways to practice your language skills.
Here are my top pics for Spanish-speaking destinations:
1. Machu Picchu
A visit to the lost Inca City is usually high on peoples bucket list of places to visit in South America. I visited in 2004. What an experience to visit this incredible place 2,430 meters above sea level. Aroubd 84% of the population in Peru speak Spanish (Quechua and Aymara are two of the most spoken indigenous Peruvian languages). Which equates to around 25 million Spanish speakers!
2. Salto Angel, Venezuela
Angel Falls is the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall, with a height of 979 meters and a plunge of 807 m. Nestled deep in the recesses of Canaima National Park in the Venezuelan state of Bolivar. I visited Salto Angel in 2003. We rented a plane to the village of Canaima from Puerto Ordaz then took a river trip to the Angel Falls trail. What an experience that was! There are 32 million Spanish-speakers in Venezuela to practice with.
3. San Augustin, Colombia
400 km southwest of Bogotá, sheltered in a valley by the Magdalena river, Park San Agustin is home to ancient tombs, burial sights and over 500 interesting and bizarre stone figures of varying size. They depict people, animals and creatures important to the beliefs of this mysterious civilization. The Park is the largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America (UNESCO), and Archaeologists estimate that the statues were created between 100 and 800 B.C.
By the time I arrived at San Agustin I had already been in Colombia for eight months. I’d spent most of that time scuba diving on the Caribbean Coast just up from Cartagena – so was looking forward to some in-land adventure!
An incredible 99.5% of the Colombian population speak Spanish!
4. Cartagena, Colombia
A gorgeous fishing village onColombia’s Caribbean coast 143 miles West of Taganga (where I spent eight months scuba diving). It has excellent beaches, a historic old town (that’s entirely walkable) and beautiful colonial architecture.
5. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Home of Tango, Maradona and Eva Peron This is such an incredible city to visit and a great places to practice your Spanish. Especially if you’re intrigued to hear the Buenos Aires accent the eyyyyeeee and hear “lunfardo” spoke first hand. 15 million people live in Urban Buenos Aires!
6. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona has it all; beach, mountains and incredible city. Everybody speaks ‘Castellano’ Spanish in Barcelona however many people are bilingual and prefer to speak Catalan, the language of Catalonia, as their first language. Don’t worry, with a population of 1.602 million you’ll still get plenty opportunities to practise your Spanish!
I’ve visited Barcelona a few times. My most recent trip was back-packing with my kids from Barcelona South along the Costa Dorada.
7. Monteverde, Costa Rica
Situated in the center of Costa Rica, Monteverde is renowned for it’s waterfalls, rainforests and Tens of thousands of diverse insects, thousands of species of plants (420 are strictly orchids), hundreds of varieties of birds and over 100 types of mammals. There are lots of different ways to visit the cloud forests on Monteverde. A visit here is an incredible ecotourism experience and a great opportunity to practise your Spanish with a local guide.
10. Patagonia, Argentina
I’ve written a lot lately about the Y Wladfa Welsh community in Patagonia but there is so much more to this incredible part of Argentina. The top attractions in Patagonia are Perito Morendo Glacier, Ushuaia & Tierra del Fuego, The Andean Lake District of Bariloche and Puerto Madryn. Argentines are a friendly bunch and you will usually see them drinking maté (a traditional Argentine tea drank through a straw from a wooden gourd) or enjoying an asado (Argentine BBQ). They are always welcoming to visitors and happy to chat and teach you their language – a great place to practise!
Have you visited any of these destinations? Which is your favorite? What would you add to the list?
If you’re new to learning Spanish or are in need of a refresher check out my Holiday Spanish Course. A course you can take on the go that contains 30 bite-size lessons packed with useful phrases and tips on how to travel with confidence and peace of mind. From tips that will help you develop your listening skills at the airport to booking a full-day excursion to a water park. PLUS a bonus lesson on what to do in an emergency. You’ll also receive a signed copy of my bilingual children’s book ¡Fernando Baila el Tango! and receive tutor support from me as you progress though the course. All for £99. Purchase today here:
Do you know how to spell your nombre (name) or apellido (surname) in Español? You’ll need this skill for a few situations so might as well get some practise in now;
Maybe you want to book a table in a restaurant or book a taxi. It’s important to know how to do this over the phone so that there are no mix ups!
For example if you’re asked for your nombre (name) and it’s not a very common name in the country you are visiting you are likely going to need to spell it out. For example; my name is Kelly and I spell it like this:
kah eh ele ele y-gree-ay-ga
The double “ll” in Spanish is a letter in it’s own right and is pronounced “ehye” or “ehhhhye” in Buenos Aires. However this letter is only used for Spanish words, it doesn’t exist in English words. An example of the “ll” sound in the word “calle” meaning street or “ella” meaning she.
If you’re asked to spell your surname “apellido“? Mine is Thornhill. The “Th” sound doesn’t exist in Spanish. My appellido is pronounced like this:
teh ahcay oh ehre en-nay achay ee ele ele
I could say doble ele instead of ele ele if I wanted to also.
There can be some confusion around the Spanish “i” (pronounced “ee” in Spanish) as it sounds like the English “e” (pronounced “eh” in Spanish) so to combat this we can call the “i” an ee latina.
A very common English appellido is “Smith” this is spelt like this;
essay ehme ee latina teh achay
Watch my Mini Spanish Lesson on YouTube to hear how I spell these names and give you some tips on how to spell yours. Happy practicing!
Do you know what inclusive language is and what it means for languages with grammatical gender like Spanish? Do you know the non-binary pronouns in Spanish?
Although the discussion has been ongoing for years, embracing the need to recognize diversity in language teaching is more important than ever.
The main issue with gender in Spanish is that men and women are not treated equally in the language.
My classes are inclusive. I embrace diversity and encourage discussions around gender-inclusive language. My aim is to help reduce gender bias in Spanish, there are many ways you can do this.
The most radical way to do this is to stop using the traditional endings entirely. With Spanish, a gender-defined language in which most nouns are assigned either a masculine -o ending or a feminine -a ending, (-os, and -as for plurals), and instead replace them with -e for singular and -es for plural.
So, for example, you could say:
latin@ / Latinx / Latine
les ciudadanes instead of los ciudadanos
todes les miembres instead of todos los miembros
mis amigues instead of mis amigos
This new method is the most convenient for spoken Spanish because it’s easiest to pronounce.
The use of ‘e’ was first seen in the last five years, but is a growing trend in Argentina right now, with even the country’s president, Alberto Fernández, using it during a recent TV broadcast to the nation on the subject of the Covid-19 lockdown.
As an alternative to “él” (he) and “ella” (she), the “elle” (which is pronounced EH’-jeh,) pronoun is used in progressive and academic spaces, but not so much in the mainstream yet.
It is fascinating for language students to consider that grammar may not just be a matter of rules to follow but can also be a mirror of social change – and an instrument of equality.
For students sitting GCSE & iGCSE exams this year, boards such as AQA have confirmed that they will be marking inclusively but that they (still) aren’t at the stage to be able to issue any lists of vocab as things are changing so rapidly at the moment. Pearson Edexcel will soon be producing guidance on the use of gender inclusive language.
If you’ve been learning Spanish for a while, you are probably already familiar with the difference between these two questions. If you’re wondering what I’m even talking about then read on, all will come clear…
To understand the difference between ¿Cómo éstas? and ¿Cómo eres? in Spanish first of all you need to understand that in Spanish there are two verbs that mean “to be”.
The first one is; estar and the second one is ser. Both mean “to be” however the main difference is that the verb estar is used for temporary things like feelings, for example estoy bien gracias (I’m well thank-you). It’s also used for the location of things; el perro está en el jardín (the dog is in the garden).
We can conjugate Estar in the present tense like this:
Estoy – estás – está – estamos – estáis – están
Ser on the other hand is used for permanent things for example, Jamil es mi hermano (Jamil is my brother). It’s also used to talk about your profession; soy profesora de Español (I’m a Spanish tutor) and to describe your physical characteristics and your personality son alegres (they are cheerful), él es alto (he is tall).
We can conjugate Ser in the present tense like this:
Soy – eres – es – somos – sois – son
So, with that in mind the word estás means you are, or as a question (with rising intonation don’t forget) ¿estás? means are you?
Como means “how” or it can be a polite way of asking “what?”
¿Cómo estás? therefore means how are you? It’s a familiar question.
Eres also means you are or as a question ¿eres? are you? But when you put it together with the question word ¿cómo?, is much deeper – it literally means what are you like? Referring to your personality, physical description.
If you’re asked ¿Cómo estás? you might reply with estoy bien gracias. Whereas if you’re asked ¿cómoeres? well you might need to think about that one for a bit before replying!
To help practice pronunciation around these two questions I put together a mini lesson over on YouTube, check it out here:
I’d love to hear about your experiences as you explore and practice Spanish. If you’re ready to take your learning further please visit my Website for details of up coming courses I’m running for both adults and children. http://www.adventuresinspanish.co.uk