Photo of a book


Now that your holiday is booked and you have an idea of where you are going in Spain, it’s time to focus on the language of the country—Spanish. Maybe you know a few phrases that you’ve picked up a few phrases from movies and TV shows. Regardless, learning a few key phrases in Spanish will ultimately be a lifesaver for you and your travelling companions.

Instead of gesturing for everything, speaking the language is a good way to show you are respectful and putting effort into making a conversation easier for the locals. If you need something quickly, knowing the phrase will get you the help you need much quicker than trying to sign your intentions. Here’s a list of 10 Spanish words and phrases to learn before you begin your Spanish holiday.

Good Day/ Good Morning

Translation: Buenos días (BWEN-nohs DEE-ahs)

This is an easy phrase you can use to open a conversation with someone you intend to speak with, or could be said casually in passing as a polite way to recognize another person.


Translation: Por favour (POHR-fah-VOHR)

This will easily make your life easier when travelling in Spain, regardless of whether you learn the rest of the phrases or not. It makes everything you say sound more polite and apologetic, which is instantly more approachable than using English right off the bat.

Thank You

Translation: Gracias (GRAH-syahs)

Equally helpful, “thank you” is a phrase you will undoubtedly use continually. It’s polite, easy to use in conversation or after someone has helped you in some way (and everyone is sure to in one way or another!)

Excuse me/Pardon me

Translation: Discúlpe (dees-KOOL-peh)

This phrase will be helpful in two ways. First, if you need to interrupt a conversation to get someone’s attention, this is the most polite and appropriate way to do it without insulting either party. Second, if someone is speaking too quickly in Spanish, or you cannot understand what they are saying, you can use “Excuse me” or “Pardon me” to let them know you’re a little lost. It’s polite while still alerting the speaker to the fact that they need to slow down and/or pronounce words more clearly.

I don’t understand!

Translation: ¡No entiendo! (NOH ehn-TYEHN-doh)

This one goes hand in hand with “Do you speak English?” because it will quickly let the person know that you need a little more help understanding and aren’t fluent in Spanish.

Do you speak English?

Translation: ¿Habla inglés?  (AH-blah een-GLEHS?)

If someone is speaking too quickly, or you cannot understand what they are saying, or you cannot say/gesture what you are hoping to ask, use this phrase. It will show that you are trying and any effort is better than none. Plus, you will quickly determine if you need to look elsewhere for help if you can’t speak Spanish and the person you are speaking with cannot speak English.

Could you help me?

Translation: ¿Podría ayudarme?  

Whether it’s a medical emergency or you are lost in the city, knowing this phrase will catch people’s attentions and you will be able to start a conversation to get you to the right place as quickly as possible.

Do you have a ____?

Translation: ¿Tiene usted un ___?   (TYEH-neh oos-TEHD oon _______)

You could finish this sentence with “pencil” or “bathroom” or “watch” or a gesture to what you mean and it will generally point you in the right direction of what you need to find.

How much does it cost?

Translation: ¿Cuánto cuesta? (KWAHN-toh KWES-tah)

You will probably need to buy something while you are abroad whether it is food, a drink, a souvenir or a pass to a museum. Unless you are very familiar with euros and numbers in Spanish, it’s likely to be difficult to determine the exact cost of an item. When you know this phrase, that question gets answered, and people will hopefully step up to help you figure it out.

The Bill, please

Translation: La Cuenta por favour (lah KWEHN-tah, pohr fah-VOHR)

Once you are finished enjoying a lengthy lunch at a local restaurant, you will need to pay your bill. Be sure to ask your server once he approaches the table, as it can be seen as rude to signal for the check across the restaurant.

Now that you’ve got a handle on the local language, you can relax and just look forward to landing in Spain and starting your holiday with a firm grasp on the local language. Most young people in Spain do learn English in school so don’t be afraid to ask for their help, as more often than not, they are happy to practice speaking English.

That said, armed with these phrases, Spaniards will generally look more favourably on your attempts to speak their language than those tourists who assume they will understand English. Just as important as knowing the language is considering travel insurance. Think about choosing a budget travel insurance plan from Cover-More in Australia, to protect your Spanish holiday from any unexpected bumps in the road.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Horia Varlan.