Common Spanish Dichos

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Teach In Spain Program

Authored By:

Shannon S.

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One of the beauties of living in Spain, besides the elegant fashion, is the exposure to the language through colloquial conversation. Once you’ve heard the same phrases repeated day after day, your brain can forget its ninth-grade Spanish curriculum and start using context clues instead of Google Translate. If you find that your Spanish isn’t coming easily to you, be like Leslie Odom Jr. and tell yourself to “talk less” and listen more. You’ll start collecting key phrases and, once you're brave enough to use them with a Spaniard, sound like a local in no time. For those who are feeling less than excited to strengthen their Spanish synapses, worry not. I’ve got a handful of phrases and terms that ive collected from my time in cafes, classrooms, and of course, long walks through Madrid! Read through, and next time you eavesdrop on a Spanish conversation, see if you can pick one out! 


1. Vale

This one wins the most-likely-to-be-used-in-a-sentence award. You can compare it to how many times English speakers use the word okay. Vale is used as either a confirmation or an affirmation. 

For example-

Confirmation: “I’m sorry the restaurant is at capacity, but come back in two hours and there will be tables, vale?” 

Affirmation: Vale (“okay”, “I understand”, “got it”)


2. ¡Qué mono! 

Mono means monkey, but the phrase translates to “so cute”, and is usually used when referring to animals or small children. 


3. Ya está 

all done, that’s it

*can be used as a statement or question


4. ¡Qué asusto! 

You can say this when someone startles you. For example, you may be quietly working in the office and someone drops their books, making a loud noise. 


5. Dáte la vuelta 

turn around 


6. ¡Oye!

 I like to compare this to the way we use the word “hey!” to get someone’s attention, potentially with an impatient tone. For example, “¡Oye! Can you turn your music down?” 


7. No pasa nada

no problem, no worries, nothing happened. This is a reassuring phrase. For example, someone may bump into you on the metro by mistake and say "perdona". You may say "no pasa nada" to  assure them that no harm was done. 


8. ¿Qué te pongo?

What can I get for you? 


9. Agua de grifo

tap water

*Many restaurants will serve bottled water and charge you, unless you specify that you want tap water. 


10. ¿En efectivo o tarjeta?

Cash or card? 

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Vale, ¡ya está! I hope that you find these dichos useful and start to hear them among Madrid’s beautiful streets, cafés, shops, schools, and people. Tune in next time for more Duolingo with Shannon. 


¡Hasta luego! 

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