Asking permission to do stuff
A large amount of your time will be spent asking people if they’re open, whether you can sit there, if you can have this, that or the other, and so on. Fortunately, a couple of catch-all phrases will help you out here, which have quite a broad meaning, but will make sense in context.
The mother of all permission-type phrases, se puede literally means “is it possible?”, or “can I?”. You can use it in all sorts of contexts – grabbing a spare seat, entering a bar, picking something up, whatever!
Literally “do you mind”, this is another one that can be used in different contexts. “Do you mind if…” I smoke, I pick this up, I sit here, etc…
Literally, “Do you let me”. Could you let me pass, will you let me in, will you let me out… Again, another phrase with multiple uses depending on the context.
“Is it free?” Could be a chair, a table, a space, or whatever. Note that free refers to “available”, not price (that would be gratis).
Me permite, por favor
“Will you allow me?” This phrase is a polite way of saying excuse me, and is most commonly used when trying to get past someone on a packed bus, for example.
Greetings and introducing yourself
Clearly, a great way to strike up any conversation is to keep it simple and introduce yourself. Why bother with fancy chat up lines? In my experience, most Spanish people respond well to a simple introduction. So be brave, and strike up a few conversations with these phrases:
Buenos días/Buenas tardes/Buenas noches
“Good morning/Good afternoon/Good night”. When in doubt about the time, you can just use buenas.
Perhaps the most famous of all the Spanish words? It means “hello”, but don’t pronounce the silent h at the start – it sounds more like ola.
Me llamo …
“My name is”. The double l is pronounced like the “y” from “yellow”.
“I am”. You could say your name, or any sorts of adjectives! “I am happy”?
¿Cómo se llama?
What’s your name?
Charming the locals
To really make the most of your time abroad, it’s always fun to try and mix it up with the locals. This is also the best way to learn as well – genuine communication with native speakers. Nevermind that you won’t understand a lot, you’ll start flexing your communicative muscles, and will be surprised at the language you pick up. Try these phrases to create a few sparks in your conversations (you can also see our collection of romantic Spanish phrases:
¿Me puedes enseñar a bailar?
“Can you teach me to dance?” In Spain, this will be Flamenco, and throughout much of Latin America, Salsa. Always worth a try!
¿Qué piensas de los ingleses/americanos,etc?
“What do you think of the English/Americans?” Whether the response is good or bad, this is sure to be a conversation starter!
¿Pór qué me estás mirando?
Why are you looking/staring at me?
Literally “you charm me”, or “I think you’re great”! A cheesy piropo (compliment) can get you anywhere!