Before travelling or starting your Spanish course in Latin America, you will probably try to learn some Spanish at home. But we also understand life can get very busy, so it’s possible you get off the plane without even knowing how to order a beer. You might get by using English. However, in most areas in Latin America Spanish is the only language spoken.
It`s always appreciated by the local population if you at least know some words in Spanish!
Some Spanish phrases to get you started.
The first greeting is always important to break the ice. Depending on the time of day you can say buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon) or buenas noches (good evening and good night).
What if you want to ask somebody how they are doing? You can say cómo está? It is also very common to hear qué tal? which means the same. The answer will always be: Bien y usted? (Good and you?) like in American English.
When you travel in Latin America you will find the locals to be very friendly and sincerely interested in getting to know you. The first thing people will probably ask you is where you are from, they will say: de dónde eres? You can respond with Soy de [your country].
Being polite gets you a long way. So just in case you bump in to someone it is always useful if you can say you’re sorry, in Spanish: disculpe. Or you can also use this word to get someone’s attention or to pass a person on a busy street. In this last case you can also say con permiso, which literally means with your permission, but is used like `excuse me`.
Whether you go to the local market, supermarket or ‘ tienda’ (small shop), most products will not be priced. To ask for the price of an item you can say cuánto cuesta? If you don’t know the basic numbers yet, bring a piece of paper and a pen with you and ask people to write it down for you.
You don’t bargain in the super market, but at the local market you can ask es lo menos? With that phrase you can politely ask if there is room for bargaining, and you will come across like a local (or at least get you a smile from the shop owner)!
These are just a couple of words and useful Spanish phrases you will be using when first travelling around Latin America. Of course if you take classes you will be talking a lot more in no time.