Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spanish for Overlanders

Below are some Spanish words, verbs and phrases that seem to come up a lot while traveling, particularly with a vehicle. We hope you find this helpful, and please, feel free to let us know if we’ve gotten anything wrong or you think it would be helpful to add something else.

Buenos Dias / Buenas Tardes / Buenas Noches  
Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Note that  “dias” is the only one that is masculine. The others are feminine (buenas vs. buenos). Younger people or in a more casual environment may shorten any of the above to just “buenas.”

Some gross oversimplifications on verb conjugations…
In reality, understanding Spanish is much more useful than speaking it. Just as English speakers can understand someone who says “I go eat now,” Spanish speakers can often understand our bastardized conjugations and erroneous tenses. Here are a couple GROSS GENERALIZATIONS that might help you figure out what their trying to say to you.

Verb ending in “o” – the person talking’s doing something / “Yo hablo Ingles” – I speak English

Verb ending in “e” or “es,” “a” or “as” – they’re talking about you or someone else / “Hablas Espanol?” – Do you speak Spanish? / “El habla Ingles” – He speaks English

Verb ending in “en” or “an” – they’re talking about a your group or another group / “Hablan Ingles?” - Does your group speak English? / “Ellos hablan Ingles” – They speak English

Verb ending in “emos,” “imos” or “amos” – they’re talking about their group / “Hablamos Ingles.” – We speak Spanish

Verb ending in “ando” or “iendo” (except for “entiendo”) – think “ing” / hablando – talking / jugando – playing / comiendo – eating

Verb ending in “ado” or “ido” – think adjectives ending in “ed” or “en” / cerrado – closed / confundido – confused / rompido – broken

Haber / Hay
”Hay,” pronounced “aye,” means “there is” or “is there?” “Hay inalamblica en las habitaciones?” means “Is there wireless in the rooms?” “Hay una problema con la habitacion” means “There is a problem with the room.” It’s the same for singular and plural so “Hay tamales hoy?” means “Are there tamales today?”

The verb buscar means “to look for” and is very helpful. You would say “Busco un libro” (I’m looking for a book) or “Buscamos una gasolinera” (We’re looking for a gas station). You could also use “Donde esta” in some cases as in “Donde esta el parque?” but it would be the same as saying “Where is the park?” as opposed to “I’m looking for the park,” the latter being a little smoother or more polite.

The verb quedarse has a few uses, but the most useful is “to stay.” The “se” ending means that it’s “reflexive,” or generally, that you do it to yourself. So when you say “Nos quedamos en un hotel,” you’re saying “We stay ourselves in a hotel.” Probably more commonly used as the infinitive like “Podriamos quedarnos aqui esta noche?” (Could we stay here tonight?). The “nos” after the infinitive “quedar” refers to who’s going to be doing the staying. In this case, “us.”

Courtesy Forms of Poder, Querer and Gustarse 
The last example leads well into courtesy. The above verbs, “to be able to” or “can,” “to want,” and “to like” are often used in the courtesy forms. “Podria tener un café?” means “Could I have a coffee?” “Can” would sound wrong there. “Podria ayudarme?” is a polite way to say “Could you help me?” Just use “podria/podriamos” when you want to say “could I/could we.”

The courtesy forms of the other two, “quisiera” and “me gustaria” can be used interchangeably to mean “I would like.” “Quisiera las fajitas” is a polite way to say “I would like the fajitas.” “Quisieramos quedarnos aqui esta noche” means “We would like to stay (ourselves) here tonight.” “Quisieramos pagar ahora” means “We would like to pay now.” Use “quisiera/quisieramos” to soften “I want/we want” to “I would like/we would like.”

Note that gustarse is reflexive like quedar and technically means “to be pleasing.” So, the “se” actually refers to what is being pleased. In the case of “Me gustaria un café,” the coffee is doing the pleasing and I’m the one being pleased. It comes out “A coffee would please me” but can be translated as “I would like a coffee.” While at first this could seem more complicated, the easy part is that as long as your talking about a single thing that would be pleasing - a coffee, a shirt, a hotel room - it’s always “gustaria.” The only thing that changes is who’s being pleased, and that’s usually only either “me” (me) or “nos” (us). “Nos gustaria esta habitacion” is “This room would please us” but can be thought of as “We would like this room.” “Me gustaria descansar” is “I would like to rest.”

Note: Adding “por favor” (please) or “gracias” (thank you) on top of the courtesy forms is really not necessary. You might add these if you chose to use the imperative form like “Traigame la cuenta, por favor” to mean “Bring me the check, please” but “Podria traer la cuenta?” would be the same.

In a Store 
Walking into a store, you’ll likely receive a “buenas tardes” or the like and should respond in kind. You may also hear “Pase adelante” which basically means “Come on in.” In a market, you might hear “Que van a llevar” which means “What will you take?” They’ll be saying this to pretty much everyone, not ‘cause you’re a gringo. “Solo mirando” means “Just looking.”

“Cuanto cuesta?” – How much does this cost? / barrato – cheap / caro – expensive / descuento – discount / “Busco algo mas barrato” (I’m looking for something cheaper)

una bolsa – a bag / una bolsita – small bag / “Quieres una bolsita?” – Do you want a small bag?

Meeting People
On the street, you might hear people greet each other with “ola” or “adios.” While gringos think of “adios” as “goodbye,” it actually means “to God” and can be used in passing when seeing a friend instead of an “ola.”

“Como esta?” is just a “How are you?” and can be answered with a “Bien” or a “Bien, y usted?” (Fine, and you?) if you’re feeling chatty. “Que tal?” or “Que onda?” are more casual, usually used with friends. Think “How ya doin’?” or “What’s up?” When meeting someone for the first time, a “Mucho gusto” means “Nice to meet you.”  It’s generally good practice to stay with the more formal “Como esta?” when meeting someone new however, until you hear them use less formal language.

“De donde son?” – Where are you from? / “Somos de los Estados Unidos” – We’re from the United States.

In a Restaurant
la carta, el menu – the menu / “Podria ver la carta” (Could I see the menu?)

la cena – dinner / el almuerzo – lunch / el desayuno – breakfast / all can be used as verbs – cenar (to eat dinner), almorzar (to eat lunch), desayunar (to eat breakfast)

“Tenemos dos” – We have two (people) / “Tiene un mesa para dos?” – Do you have a table for two?

“Algo de tomar?” – Something to drink? / Usually the first thing the waiter asks when he/she comes to the table / Perfect time to use your courtesy forms from above – “Me gustaria una cerveza.”

agua purificada – purified water / agua en botella – water in a bottle / agua ebotellada – bottled water / all mean the same thing

refrescos, gaseosas, aguas – all can mean soft drink like Fanta, Fresca / You can also just ask for it by name

michelada – beer and a shot of lime juice, mmmm / Note: somewhere around Oaxaca this starts including spicy tomato juice, elsewhere called a “cubano” / You can ask “La michelada es solo con limon?” (The michelada is just with lime?)

“Para comer?” – (Would you like something) to eat? / 

Meat: res – beef / lomito – tenderloin / costilla – ribs / bien cosido – well done / media – medium well / rara – rare

Eggs: revueltos – scrambled / fritos – fried / tocino – bacon / jugo - juice

Chicken: pollo / pechuga – breast

Ham – jamon, jamon de pierna

a la plancha – on the grill / asado – grilled or roasted / horneado – baked / frito – fried

“Podria tener una mas cerveza?” – Could I have one more beer? Note: This phrase can be repeated as many times as necessary.

“Buen provecho” – Like bon appetite / Also, another neat think is that other people who leave a restaurant while you’re still there will often say this on their way out. Kinda nice.

“Han terminado?” – Have you finished? / “Estamos satisfechos” – We’re full.

“La cuenta, por favor” – The check, please / “Podemos pagar con tarjeta de credito?” - Can we pay with a credit card? / “Solo effectivo” – Cash only

para llevar – to go (take) / Podria envolverlo para llevar? Could you wrap this up to go?

In the Car 
Llenar – to fill / lleno – full / “Podria llenarlo?” (Could you fill it?) / “Lleno con regular” (Full with regular) / Note: “Ll” is pronounced “Y”

“Marca zeros” – Gas station attendants will say this to you and point at the pump. They’re showing you that the pump has been zeroed out and you’re not being overcharged.  Still hang around though to make sure nothing fishy happens.

Quinientos – The number 500. I’m including this because you’ll likely pay for at least part of your fill up in Mexico with a 500 peso note, about $50. It’s a good idea to hand the guy the 500, hold it for a sec, and say “Quinientos” to establish that you both accept that it’s a 500. People have had issues in the past with attendants, whether on purpose or not, claiming you handed them a 50 peso note which is a similar color.

Estacionarse – to park (oneself) / Estacionamiento – parking space or lot / “Podriamos estacionarnos aqui?” (Could we park here?) / “Busco estacionamiento” (I am looking for parking.) / “Tiene estacionamiento” (Do you have parking?) / Note: “Parquear/Parqeo” seem to be used more commonly starting around El Salvador but both are understood

Camioneta – small truck or SUV, also used for camper / “Tenemos una camioneta alta.  Puede caber en el estacionamiento?” (We have a tall camper. Can it fit it in the parking lot?) / Note: Caber means “to fit” and can come in handy / You could also say “Hay espacio en el estacionamiento?" (Is there space in the parking?)

Some signs and commands / ceda – yield / adelante – forward / para – stop / derecho – straight / derecha – right / izquierda – left / Pay attention when the gas station attendant says “Todo derecho.” He’s saying “Keep going straight” not “All right hand turns.” That one letter makes a big difference.

a la vuelta – around the corner / “El estacionamiento esta a la vuelta.” (The parking is around the corner.)

no hay paso – not a through street / una via – one way / double via – two ways

cambiar de aciete – oil change

frenos – brakes / parabrisa – windshield

grua – tow truck

At the Hotel/Campground
habitacion, cuarto – room / cama – bed / sencilla – single / double – double / matrimonio – full size bed
bano privado – private bathroom

“Tiene una habitacion con una cama y un bano privado?” – Do you have a room with one bed and a private bathroom?

“Hay habitaciones disponibles?” – Are there rooms available? / “Nos interesa sus cabinas” – We’re interested in your cabins (Your cabins interest us)

“Podria verla?” – Could I see it? / “Podriamos verlas?” – Could we see them?

“Tiene otras?” – Do you have others? / “Esta es la unica que tiene?” – This is the only one you have?

piso – floor / “Tiene una habitacion en el segundo piso?” / nivel – level / escaleras – stairs

“Hay estacionamiento seguro?” – Is there secure parking? / “Hay inalamblica?” – Is there wireless?

acampar – to camp / campamiento – campground  / casa de acampamiento, tienda de acampamiento – tent /

equipaje de acampamiento – camping equipment

equipaje, malletas – bags, luggage

Technology Vocab
inalamblica – wireless / “Hay una clave para la inalamblica?” (Is there a key for the wireless?) / “La inalamblica no funciona en las habitaciones” (The wireless doesn’t work in the rooms)

conectar – to connect / “No puedo conectar” (I can’t connect)

usar – to use / “Podria usar la inalamblica?” (Could I use the wireless?)

poner – to turn on, also means “to put” / “Podria poner el router?” (Can you turn on the router?) / apagar – to turn off

computadora – computer

At the Border
aduana – customs / migracion – immigration

passaporte – passport / licensia – license / circulacion – registration / titulo – title

permite de vehiculo – vehicle permit / seguro – insurance

copias – copies / originales – originals

firma, firmar – signature, to sign / estampa – stamp / inspecion – inspection

ventanilla – window / caja – cashier / cambio – change

cancelar – to cancel / cerrar – to close (ie: vehicle permit) / abrir – to open (ie: the trunk)

propina – tip / regalo – present / time to forget what these words mean and start playing dumb