April Hopcroft attended SPI’s Santander, Spain Summer 2 session in 2015. Here is an excerpt from her blog, Seattle to Santander, in which she describes the top 10 most useful Spanish words and phrases that she learned during her time abroad with SPI:
1. Aseos = bathroom
This was probably the most useful word, and the first word I noticed when I stepped off the plane at the Madrid airport. (Note: I don’t recall seeing aseos in Barcelona…I believe it was WC there?) This is a nice reminder of how the Spanish language differs throughout Spain and Latin America.
2. Hasta luego = see you later
This was one of the first Spanish expressions that I learned in 6th grade, and probably the most common phrase that I used in Santander. “Hasta luego!” worked for saying goodbye to Isabel [my homestay mother] in the morning, leaving a store, saying goodnight to Isabel, etc.
3. Vale = okay, good, sure
This is very common throughout Spain, and is used to express agreement or show that you understand what was just said. A pretty easy one to pepper into conversations!
4. Todo el mundo = everyone
In a literal sense, this phrase means “the whole world”. However, it is an idiomatic expression that refers to the entire group of people in a room or certain area. For instance, our teachers at school would say things like “Ha recibido todo el mundo el papel?” or “Todo el mundo entiende la tarea?”
5. Espantoso = awful
Isabel would often use this word to describe the weather. For example, “Que calor/frío hace! Espantoso!” She placed strong emphasis on espantoso, and usually accompanied these expressions with a disapproving shaking of the head.
6. Marisco = seafood
This is an important word to know when ordering at a restaurant in Spain. For instance, you might see paella de marisco on a menu. This was a very useful word in Santander, where seafood is popular due to the city’s location on El Mar Cantábrico.
7. Coger = to pick up, grab, take
Probably the most common verb that I heard Isabel use, since it is so versatile. For example, you can coger la ropa or coger un taxi.
8. Pesado = heavy, boring, annoying
In Spanish class in the U.S., I learned that pesado meant “heavy” in terms of weight, and that it could also be used to describe rich food. In Spain, I heard it used to describe the long, boring bus ride from Madrid to Santander. Isabel also scolded her cats and told them that they were “pesado(s)“, or annoying.
9. Aprovechar = to take advantage of, to make the most of
Isabel used this word almost every day to remind me to enjoy my short stay in Santander and take advantage of all of the new opportunities. For instance, she would say, “Hay que probar de todo….aprovecha de la comida española” and recommend that I try new foods in Spain.
10. Meter = to put/place into
This was another common word that Isabel used in a variety of situations. For instance, you can meter el termos (reusable water bottle) en la nevera, meter el paraguas en el bolso, or meter la ropa en la lavadora.
11. Calabobos = mist, drizzle
I love how this word sounds! Isabel was very excited to introduce it to me, explaining that it describes a light mist/drizzle that doesn’t quite constitute lluvia. This is a very specific word, and it perfectly sums up the wet weather in Santander. I was so proud of myself for picking out calabobos from a conversation I overheard while walking down the street on a misty day.