When you’re learning a new language, it’s difficult to know what bits of the language you should focus on learning first. Unless you’re extremely well-organised (which basically nobody is), you’re not going to have enough time to learn the whole language before you travel to a country where your chosen language is spoken, so you have to be picky and focus only on certain bits.
If you really don’t have enough time, or just want to get a quick head start on your Spanish learning journey, here are 10 of the key phrases that you should know before travelling to a Spanish-speaking country. These phrases won’t equip you to hold a full conversation with a native speaker and are just a start. But as far as getting by goes, these phrases are all very important.
¿Dónde está el baño?
This is perhaps THE most important phrase you need to know in any language when you’re going to be travelling to a country where it’s spoken. It means, of course, “Where is the toilet?” Nobody want to be in a foreign country and not know how to find the loo, so make sure to remember this one.
Necesito ayuda, por favor
Hopefully, you’ll never have to use this phrase, but you’d rather know it and not use it than really need to use it and not remember how to say it. This one means “I need help, please” and could be used in lots of different situations, for example, if you’ve lost something, you need directions or you’re running late for a flight.
THE most important phrase you’ll need when going shopping in a Spanish-speaking country, which means “How much does this cost?”. You’ll, of course, have to get familiar with some numbers alongside this, but it’s where you need to start when perusing the local markets.
No hablo mucho español, pero estoy aprendiendo
If you’re in a Spanish-speaking country, you’ll often be faced with people speaking at you very quickly in fluent Spanish, which you’re unlikely to understand a single word of. And, especially in Latin America, they’re unlikely to speak much English, so you won’t be able to resort to that. Using this phrase, which means “I don’t speak very much Spanish, but I’m learning” means that the person you’re speaking to is more likely to speak a lot slower and use more gestures to help you to understand.
Lo siento, no entiendo? Puede repetir, por favor?
Another great phrase for when you haven’t understood what somebody has said. Meaning “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Can you repeat, please?” can be used whenever you’ve not understood some of the words somebody has said, or they’ve spoken way too fast for you (which many Spanish speakers tend to do).
¿Disculpe, sabe dónde está…?
Google Maps might not always work. Or you might just want an excuse to speak some Spanish to somebody to be able to practise some more. Either way, this is a great introductory sentence when you need directions to somewhere, and means “Excuse me, do you know where … is?”.
¿Hay agua potable?
Not so much a problem in Spain, but definitely something to consider if you’re heading over to South America. This phrase means “Is there any drinking water?” The tap water in many places in South America is not recommended for drinking, especially for foreign visitors. Many people buy drinking water from shops, and you may need to ask your waiter this when you’re in a restaurant.
Most people will know that the word ‘gracias’ means “thank you”. The word ‘mil’ literally means “a thousand”, so the phrase literally means “a thousand thanks”, with the true meaning being something like “Thank you so so much!”. It’s more intense than the more standard ‘muchas gracias’ but is a good sentence to use to show that you are very grateful for something e.g. when somebody has helped you find something.
¿Es posible pagar con tarjeta?
You can pretty much do everything by card nowadays, and it’s becoming rare to have any cash anymore. Even the card itself is becoming slightly obsolete, with most people using their phones to pay using contactless. But there are still many places where you still can only pay in cash (the word for cash is ‘efectivo’). Therefore we’ve given you this phrase, so you can ask in shops and restaurants “Can I pay by card?”
This is used for ordering in restaurants, and means “I would like…” or “Please may I have…?”. For example, if you wanted to order the grilled chicken with chips, you would say ‘Quisiera el pollo a la plancha con patatas fritas’.
We hope you’ve found these phrases very useful, and hope that they come in handy when you next travel to a Spanish-speaking country! Let us know if we can help with anything to do with your Spanish learning – Our Spanish conversation classes are great for improving your conversational Spanish.