When we learn Spanish, especially when we are taught Spanish in a school environment, we’re taught very correct Spanish that a Word document and the grammar police would love. Unfortunately, as we all know, this isn’t how the everyday person would speak, and so when we travel to Spanish-speaking countries we will always stand out like a sore thumb.
We want you to be able to blend in with Spanish speakers, so we’re giving you 5 words and phrases that you can incorporate into your spoken Spanish to achieve this.
Especially in the early stages of learning Spanish, it’s very easy as a native English speaker to use the term “err” when we are thinking of a response. This is very common in English, but you wouldn’t hear a native Spanish speaker using it! Instead, they would use this word here – ‘pues’. This is a great filler word to get used to using, and is easy to get used to – whenever you think about saying “err”, just use this instead and you’ll be well on your way to sounding much more like a native speaker.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, you’ll learn a lot of phrases when studying Spanish that are technically correct, but that just wouldn’t be used by a native speaker. This can be frustrating, as you start to wonder why you were even taught these words in the first place! The main goal for most of us when learning a language is to know how to speak it, not how to write perfectly, as there are very few cases when you’ll need to write perfect Spanish.
This was the case for me when I was taught how to say “website” in Spanish. I was always taught to say ‘un sitio web’, but when I went to Barcelona and began saying this I was given some funny looks! Native speakers would simply say ‘una web’ when speaking about websites, which is much easier to remember and sounds a lot better too!
The next couple of phrases are ones which I learned while in South America and which you are much less likely to hear in Spain. South Americans love to use diminutives in general conversation, and this is one which you’ll hear often if you travel to South America. ‘Ahorita’ would translate best as “right now” or “right away”, and gives a sense of immediacy that ‘ahora’ doesn’t quite have. A synonym for this and one which you are probably much more familiar with is ‘ahora mismo’.
Parce/ Parcero/ Parcera
This very Colombian phrase is used when speaking to friends, or people you want to be friendly towards. The best translation to English would be “mate”, and is added onto the start or end of sentences. The full word is ‘parcero’ (masculine) or ‘parcera’ (feminine), but you’ll most often hear the shorted version ‘parce’, which is the one you should use if you really want to sound like a local. You can use this if you want to say things like “How are you, mate?” (‘¿Cómo estás, parce?).
This is a phrase which you’ll likely be familiar with if you’ve been studying Spanish even for a short time. The main translation of this word would be “already”, but I want to mention a more colloquial use of the word which you’re less likely to have come across. This word can also be used to mean “now”, for example, if you wanted to say “I’m going now” (‘Ya me voy’). You’ll hear the word used a lot in this context in Spanish-speaking countries, and it can be confusing at first if you have got used to using it as “already”.
Start using these 5 words and phrases in your everyday Spanish, and in no time native speakers will start mistaking you for Shakira or Rafael Nadal.