Holidays are the perfect time to put those language skills into use. You have spent hours in school learning the grammar, downloaded duolingo to earn a few golden stars and even learnt the dance moves (and probably not the lyrics) to the macarena. You have the basics but somehow conversations aren’t flowing. Just like in English, and maybe even more so, Spanish has its own words and phrases that change with each region. Knowing these really helps you fit in and this is why we have written this, to help you learn colloquial Spanish, ready for the streets.
One of the biggest memories from our trips is often the people we meet: The man at the bar, your guide in Ronda or even that trip where you met your partner. If the language is limited, there are a few words and phrases that will surely get you a smile and break those first barriers. ‘Guay’, is perhaps the most ‘Spanish’ of Spanish (originating from Spain as opposed to South America) and translates as ‘cool’. ‘No Pasa Nada’, literally translates as ‘nothing has passed’ and is used to say, ‘don’t worry about it’. When you arrive at your first bar/cafe/social space in Spain you will surely first notice the relaxed way of life. Take a seat, enjoy, and mingle, no pasa nada.
Life in Seville happens in the plazas. Almost every ‘rincon’ (‘corner’) has a small bar, these are commonly called, ‘el rincon de..’ or some form of ‘Bodega’, literally translated as a cellar, a small local watering hole. It is here you will see that it was useful to learn colloquial Spanish, and get the tastiest breakfast, coffee, tapas and drinks.
What to drink?
Morning time, you surely want a coffee. Don’t try to order your regular cappuccino or americano. It will probably be misunderstood and you will end up with some form of milky coffee. Instead, now you have learnt some colloquial Spanish, pull up a stool at the bar and order a local classic: ‘Cortado’, this is essentially an expresso with a dash of milk or, ‘café con leche’, this is as it sounds, ‘coffee with milk’ and as close as you will get to a cappuccino. Want just the coffee? ‘Café’ and you will get just that, coffee (essentially an americano, minus some water). So many ways for just one drink!
For the evening, a must in Seville to try is the Cruz Campo (and if you don’t like it, don’t let on). How to order? ‘Una caña’. This is the term for a glass of beer. Beer is served in small glasses, perfect to quench the thirst and avoid being left with a warm beverage. Alternatively try ‘tinto de verano’. This is locals’ sangria, and perfect for a warm summer afternoon. It is red wine mixed with some form of fizzy drink (lemon, orange or blanca, the Spanish version of soda). It is surprisingly tasty and very refreshing. Make sure it is made fresh and not from a pre-made bottle of tinto.
Even if you have read this blog and learnt colloquial Spanish at home, don’t be disheartened if it’s not easy to use on the streets. The accent of Andalusia is definitely not the easiest to grasp and they are known for dropping various syllables at the ends of words: Lets go over there, ‘vamos para allá’ wittles down to a mere ‘pa’ allá’.
It will take a while but it’s worth the effort. The best way to learn colloquial Spanish, or any language is out there mingling with the locals. Pick up some words and phrases and get practicing. Visiting Seville is the perfect way to do this!