Holiday Spanish – Know Your Essentials

Holiday Spanish - Language Learning Library

A guest post by James Granahan from Lingua Materna

It’s that time of year again! You’re ready to head off on your summer holidays and this year Spain is your destination. The only problem is you don’t know a word of Spanish! No problem! Gary’s kindly asked me to write this post to help with your holiday Spanish and to give you the basics.

The pronunciations can be tricky but do your best and you’ll soon get the hang of it. I’ve spelled out the pronunciation of each word in brackets to help you. If you want to really perfect your pronunciation, I recommend using Forvo is an online pronunciation dictionary that lets you listen to native speakers from all over the world pronouncing words. Just search for the word you want, listen to the recording and try to copy the native speaker. It’s 100% free!

Ok, let’s get started! Vamos!

Holiday Spanish Essentials


Every little effort counts and the Spanish will appreciate you trying to speak their language even if it’s just a few words. Let’s start with some basic greetings:

Hello – ¡Hola! ( oh-la )

Good day/good morning – Buenos días ( bway-nose dee-as )

Good afternoon/good evening – Buenas tardes. ( bway-nas tar-des )

Goodnight – Buenas noches ( bway-nas notch-es )

Goodbye – Adíos ( a-dee-ohs )

Adíos is very common in Spain but not so common in Latin America. In Latin America you’ll often hear ‘Ciao’ ( chow ) used for goodbye. If you’re going to Spain and really want to impress the locals try saying ‘¡Hasta luego!’ ( as-ta loo-ay-go ). It means ‘see you later’ and is a cool colloquial phrase.

Introducing Yourself

My name is … – Me llamo …. ( Meh yamo …. )

How are you? – Cómo estás? ( co-mo es-tas? )

I’m good, thanks. – Muy bien, gracias ( Moo-ee bee-en, gra-thee-as )

Note: The letter ‘c’ is pronounced differently in Spain and Latin America. In Spain, a ‘c’ in the middle of a word sounds like ‘th’ in English. So in Spain people say ‘gra – thee – as’ (gracias). In Latin America a ‘c’ in the middle of a word is pronounced like an ‘s’, so Argentines, Mexicans or Chileans will say ‘gra – see – as’ (gracias).

Pleased to meet you – Un gusto. ( oohn-goos-to )

Where are you from?

When people ask where you’re from you can reply with:

I’m from …. – Soy de … + [Your country] ( soy de )

Ireland – Irlanda ( ear-lan-da )

England – Inglaterra ( ingla-teh-rra )

Scotland – Escosia ( es-cos-ia )

Wales – Gales ( gah-les )

USA – los estados unidos ( los es-taa-dos ooh-nee-dos )

China – China ( chee – na )

Japan – Japon ( ha – pon )

Australia – Australia ( Ow-stra-lia )

New Zealand – Nueva Zelanda ( Nu-ay-va Zee-lan-da )

Canada – Canadá ( Can-ah-DAH )

Note: In Spanish, an accent (the little diagonal line over a vowel – á, é, í, ó, ú) means that the syllable is emphasized. This is really important in the Spanish word for Canada – Canadá. In English we place the emphasis at the beginning ( CAN-a-da ), but in Spanish the emphasis is at the end of the word ( Can-ah-DAH ).

The Essentials

Yes – Sí ( see )

No – No ( no )

Please – Por favor ( por faa-vor )

Thank you – Gracias ( gra-thee-as )

You’re welcome – de nada ( de naa-daa )

Sorry/Excuse me – perdón ( perd-own )

Do you speak English? – ¿Hablás inglés? ( ab-las in-glaze )

In a restaurant

There’s nothing better to do while in Spain than embrace the Mediterranean lifestyle and enjoy and nice outdoor meal in the evening. Here are the words you need to understand the menu and place your order:

Food – comida ( co-meed-a )

Drinks- bebidas ( beb-eed-as )

Dessert – postre ( pos – trey )


Try saying quiero ( key – eh – ro ) plus some of the following to order a drink:

A beer – una cerveza ( una ser – vetha )

A coffee – un café ( un cah – fay )

A coffee with milk – un café con leche ( un cah – fay con le – che )

A tea – un té ( un tay )

A still water- un agua sin gas ( un ag-wa sin gas )

A sparkling water – Un agua con gas ( un ag-wa con gas )

A glass of red/white wine – un vaso de vino rojo/blanco ( un vah-so de vino ro-kho/blanco )

A bottle of red/white wine – una botella de vino rojo/blanco ( una bot – eh – yah de vino ro-kho/blanco )

A sangria – una sangría ( una san-gree-a )


Chips/fries – papas fritas ( papas free-tas )

A salad – una ensalada ( una en-sal-ah-da )

The chicken – el pollo ( el poy-o )

The pork – el cerdo ( el ser – do )

The meat/beef – la carne ( la car – nay )

The fish – el pescado ( el pes-ca-doh )

A steak – un bistec ( un bee – stek )

Just like when ordering drinks, say ‘quiero’ ( key-eh-ro ) plus what you want to eat:

Example: Quiero el pollo, por favor. – I want the chicken, please. ( Key-eh-ro el poy-yo, por favor )

Ordering your steak

If you’re going to order steak, you need to make sure it’s cooked the way you like it. In Spain, it’s normal to eat steak very rare so if you want it well-done, you need to know how to ask!

I want my steak well-done please. – Quiero mi bistec bien cocido, por favor. ( key-eh-ro mee bee-stek bee-en co-see-do, por favor )

I want my steak rare, please. – Quiero mi bistec poco hecho, por favor. ( key-eh-ro mee bee-stek po-ko eh-cho, por favor )

Traditional dishes

There are lots of delicious traditional dishes you can try in Spain and I recommend you do. The food is fantastic! Two of the most common traditional dishes are paella ( pie-ay-ya ) and tortilla ( tor-tee-ya ).

Paella is a rice dish normally cooked with fish and vegetables. Different regions have their own variations of paella. For example, paella valenciana (Valencian paella) is normally made with chicken or rabbit instead of fish.

Tortilla is a thick omelette made with potatoes.


Quiero … ( key-eh-ro )

An ice-cream – un helado ( un el-ah-doh )

A fruit salad – una ensalada de frutas ( una en-sal-ah-da de froo-tas )

Paying the bill

The bill, please. – La cuenta, por favor. ( La kwen-ta, por favor )

How much is it? – ¿Cuánto cuesta? ( Kwan-toh kwes-ta )

Finding your way around

When asking for directions, you can simply ask the question
‘¿Dónde está …?’ ( don-day es-ta ) followed by the name of the place you’re looking for.

Example: ¿Dónde está la playa? – Where is the beach? ( don-day es-ta la pla-ya )

The bathroom – el baño ( el ban-yo )

The bank – el banco ( el bank-o )

The post office – el correo ( el corr-ay-o )

The train/bus station – la estación de tren/bus ( la es-tas-ee-on de tren/boos )

The tourist office – la oficina de turismo ( la off-i-see-na de tu-ris-mo )

The cathedral – la catedral ( la cat-ay-dral )

The museum – el museo ( el moo-say-o )

The beach – la playa ( la pla-ya )

Understanding the answer

On the left – a la izquierda ( a la is-key-er-da )

On the right – a la derecha ( a la de-re-cha )

Straight ahead – todo recto ( toh-doh reck-toh )

On the corner – en la esquina ( en la es-key-na )


What if I’m in a restaurant and I want to order more than one of something? Here are numbers one to ten in Spanish:

One – Uno ( ooh-no )
Two – Dos ( doh-s )
Three – Tres ( treh-s )
Four – Cuatro ( kwo-tro )
Five – Cinco ( sink-o )
Six – Seis ( says )
Seven – Siete ( see-et-ay )
Eight – Ocho ( oh-cho )
Nine – Nueve ( nu-ay-vay )
Ten – Diez ( dee-ez )

We already learned that ‘I would like a beer’ is ‘Quisiera una cerveza’. Well, if you want more than one you just need to replace the word ‘una’ with the number you want and add an ‘s’ to ‘cerveza’ to make it plural:

Example: Quiero dos cervezas, por favor. – I want two beers. ( Key-eh-ro dohs cer-vay-thas por favor )

Hopefully this covers most of things you’ll need to say while on holidays. Enjoy trying to using these phrases and have fun! You’ll be delighted at the positive response you receive from the locals.

If you feel ready to progress beyond holiday Spanish or the basics that have been provided here, check out the Spanish resources in the Language Learning Library

James GranahanJames Granahan is a passionate language learner and teacher from Ireland. He blogs at, a blog providing advice and help to people who wish to learn a language for business.