Intercultural

Speaking like a Spaniard

Hailey Kilbarger is a student at the Grand Valley State University and a current ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Valencia, Spain. 

Before embarking on my trip to Spain, I knew that some things would be as I expected and others would not. One of the biggest aspects I have noticed, in terms of language, is the different uses of phrases and words. In school, we learn a lot of the proper Spanish. But during my first few weeks here in Spain, I have already encountered several phrases that are not necessarily in the books. Here are some you will need to know to survive any basic conversation with a local.

From the top of the Cathedral in Downtown Valencia, you can look out over the city.

  • Vale/Vale la pena

At first glance, you would think these phrases or words have similar meanings, when in fact, they are quite different. “Vale” is the phrase of the century here in Spain. It is the equivalent of saying “Ok” in English. They say “Ok” here too, but “Vale” is much more common. On the other hand, “Vale la pena” is completely different. It translates to “It’s worth it” in English.

  • No pasa nada

If I had not just said that “Vale” was the phrase of the century, I would say it is “No pasa nada.” The Spanish lifestyle is very laid back and much less stressful than in the United States. Therefore, nothing is ever a big deal and they simply brush it off. No pasa nada!

  • ¿Qué tal?

For me, this phrase took some getting used to. Spaniards use it all the time when greeting each other. It is more popular than saying “como estas.” I think it was hard for me to pick up because I was taught that “Que tal” meant “What’s up?” But in Spain the proper response is “Bien” which wouldn’t make any sense in English if we said “Good.” But apparently, “Que tal” translates to “How’s it going?”

  • Encantado/a (depending on if you’re a girl or boy)

You may also know this phrase as “Mucho Gusto.” In Spain, it is more common to say encantado/a when meeting someone for the first time. “Encantado/a a conocerte” is like saying, “It was a pleasure to meet you.”

At the end of the day, if you have any doubts about your Spanish, you can double check with your local friends at the weekly Intercambios language exchanges!

The world awaits…discover it.

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