When speaking in Spanish the last thing you want is to sound like a ‘gringo’ or a ‘guiri’.
A gringo is a foreigner in Latin America or in Spain the equivalent is a guiri. A gringo or a guiri is someone who really sticks out as being out of place.
Clearly you don’t want to sound like one of these and you want to fit in with the locals. Here is a quick and easy guide to the best ways to fit in and sound more like a local in a Spanish speaking country.
Perhaps the most obvious way to fit in with the locals is to speak like them. The best way to do this is by listening to as much Spanish as you can. This could be by:
– Watching Youtube videos. Read “7 Best Spanish Youtube Channels to Learn Real Spanish”:
– Listening to podcasts (Notes in Spanish, Audiria, Unlimted Spanish)
– Watching Spanish TV and films
– Listening to Spanish audiobooks (search on Audible)
– Chatting to a native speaker or tutor via italki.
Some of the words are different in Spain to South American countries. For example, the word for “car” in Spain is “coche” but in Argentina and other South American countries it is “carro”. The word for computer is “ordenador” in Spain but “computadora” in Latin America. If you use the wrong word you will definitely stick out as an outsider. If you focus on learning the correct words depending on where you will be using Spanish, it will avoid this.
In Spanish there are a lot of words that sound like an English word but they DO NOT mean the same thing! For example, “embarazada” sounds like “embarrassed” but it does not mean “embarrassed” it means “pregnant” – something you don’t want to mix up! To avoid embarrassment try to learn all of these words that can catch you out, especially when you are on the spot speaking to a native speaker.
In Spanish it is important to match the endings of any descriptive words to the item they are describing – the ending will depend on whether the item is singular, plural, masculine or feminine. Let’s look at some examples:
el chico alto – the tall boy (‘chico’ – boy is clearly masculine so you would need to make sure the accompanying descriptive word agrees, ‘alto’).
Whereas ‘chica’ (girl) is feminine so you need to change the ending to agree, ‘alta’:
la chica alta – the tall girl
los coches negros – the blue cars (‘coche’ is masculine, so you need to make the colour masculine too.)
Whereas if you are describing something feminine and plural, such as “las playas”, you need to make the descriptive word feminine too, “bonitas”:
las playas bonitas – the pretty beaches
Note: make sure you look at the article (el, la, los, las) rather than just the ending of the word, as there are exceptions when a word ending in –a (which are usually feminine) could be masculine and vice versa, there are words ending in –o (that are normally masculine) that are actually feminine:
El día – the day (masculine)
La moto – the motorbike (feminine)
Why does learning Spanish slang help you?
Here are a few real Spanish phrases that natives use all the time. They are phrases that you often don’t find in study books or the dictionary. If you can drop these into the conversation, you will sound just like one of the locals!
e.g. Puede que ganes la lotería – You might win the lottery!
¡Qué va! – No way!
This is a great phrase to use to strike up conversation with someone when you first meet up or to check someone is feeling ok if they are looking a bit fed up.
No he parado todo el día, estoy a tope – I haven’t stopped all day, I’m so busy.
This is a brilliant expression to use to talk about food or anything that looks good. If you are eating out with Spanish colleagues, friends or family and when the food arrives, you will sound really fluent if you say this. Or if you are eating at home with Spanish people this will give a great compliment to whoever prepared the meal.
If you have just arrived after travelling a long distance or if you have had a long day at work, this is the ideal phrase to explain how tired you are, rather than the standard, “Estoy muy cansado/a” (I’m very tired).
You can find all of these expressions with examples, plus many more as part of the mini course, “Beginner Spanish Toolkit” which is aimed at providing beginners of Spanish everything they need to start learning Spanish and build a strong foundation. The course includes:
Check out our “Online Spanish Courses” to learn the language at your own pace here: