My favorite Spanish word is: “¡Vale!”

“Vale” was the first new word I learned when I arrived in Barcelona. You traditionally won’t hear it in other Spanish-speaking countries. It is exclusively indicative of Spain.

At first, I thought the word was “bale” because it sounds similar to the English word “ballet,” but that’s just wrong.

Its literal translation is “okay.” “Vale” could also mean: “sure,” “yes,” “I understand,” “I agree,” “Do you understand?” or any other use of the English “okay” as a statement or interrogative. Someone told me that it could also mean “whatever,” but that’s only when it is intended to be rude.

Practically all Spain’s natives say “vale” everyday for any number of reasons and occasionally consecutively two, three or four times in a row. I’ve heard entire conversations in “vale”s without the speakers using any other words.
As you may have learned by now, spending time abroad will undoubtedly come with unexpected challenges. No matter how extensive your packing list is, how independent you feel or how well you prepare for your departure, remember that your experience might not resemble the problem-less fantasy that you played out in your head.

Still, these encounters are simply extensions of the adventure, so please let me take this time to remind you that when you face difficulties during your travels: “¡Vale, mis amores! Tranquilidad! Everything will be fine.”

Find a list of nine other expressions in Spain that you probably never learned in school here.


By Tammy Matthews,
Colorado State University