Maybe you’re somewhere between beginner and bilingual; whatever your language affinity with Spanish, here are the five sentences I have found most useful during my internship in Spain this summer and why they work well.

  1. ¿Dondé está el metro? I’ll admit I’ve gotten lost more than once in this colorful metropolis. Unlike the U.S., there are no street signs to tell you what avenue you are on or crossing at every corner. Instead, street names are written on inconspicuous plaques posted on buildings. Without a careful eye, they can be easy to miss and difficult to get used to at first if you are hoping for obvious directions. But ask any passerby for the nearest metro stop and I can easily find my way home. It’s a major comfort to know that no matter where I wander, the nearest subway stop is never too far away.
  2. ¿Cómo puedo ayudarte? When I run out of things to do at the office, this is my go-to phrase. When my neighbor is trying to get up to her apartment with her hands full of groceries, I ask the same question. In any instance, people appreciate a helping hand or at least your willingness to be of service. I’ve found Spain to be a generally friendly culture, even to foreigners, and returning the hospitality whenever I can has led to many fun opportunities and new friendships.
  3. ¿Cuál es tu favoritoThis is my favorite question to ask a local. I love to try new restaurants and get in the habit of never ordering the same thing more than once or at least not always choosing the foods I recognize. Can’t read the Catalán menu? Nothing look familiar? Ask the waiter what his favorite dish is or the top three to choose from. Don’t know which beach to visit this weekend? Ask your coworker. They are bound to have the inside scoop on the best options in town and a bit of an adventurous spirit never hurt anyone.
  4. He après una mica de Catalá. Okay, this isn’t Spanish but I’m amazed at how making the smallest effort to speak Catalán made strangers instantly light up. Barcelona and Catalonia in general are known for having their own unique culture and language, the primary language spoken here even over Spanish. Taking the time to learn the most basic phrases such as “hello,” “good-bye,” “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” actually proved to be a very worthwhile gesture for forming relationships with everyone from my coworkers to the butcher.

By Jessica Airey
Biola University
Internship Program, Summer 2013

 

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