How to Impress Spaniards With Your Spanish


Over the last couple of months, I have been slowly accumulating lists on my phone of common Spanish expressions. I have found that the Mediterranean culture present in Spain complements my own personality. My own propensity for exaggeration is reflected nicely in several of the colorful expressions one may hear on the streets of Spain.

A typical stroll on the streets of Granada.

For instance, why say it is very cold outside, when you can say it is colder than a thousand demons, “hace un frío de mil demonios.”  Instead of simply pointing out that a certain dish is delicious, you could exclaim that the food is so good that it makes you suck your fingers “La comida está para chuparse los dedos.” When you are taken back by something truly breathtaking, you could express that you are flipping in colors, “estoy flipando en colores.” Or, if you are starving, you could comment that you are more hungry than the dog of a blind man, “Tengo más hambre que el perro de un ciego.”

While the above expressions will set you apart from other international students studying in Spain, it is also crucial to have a strong grasp of a couple of very useful, everyday expressions. When greeting a friend, one would say “Qué tal tío?”  In English, “Qué tal?” translates to how are things with you? It is important to note that “tío”, in this context, does not mean uncle. It is a cool way to address friends. I would argue it implies a stronger relationship than the possible equivalents “bro” and “dude” that one might hear in the United States in similar settings.

To give an interesting personal anecdote, during the school week, my host brother is typically bogged down by school assignments and, as a result, is not very animated. In fact, I struggle to get more than a couple of words out of him in one setting. However, once the school week draws to close, he becomes far more outgoing and interestingly enough, when we have conversations or do activities together, he addresses me as “tío.”

A typical response to the question “Qué tal?” would be “tirando.” It is somewhat similar to responding that you are alright after someone asks you how you are doing. Also, it hints that life is literally dragging you along. Another expression one will routinely hear among groups of Spaniards is “me da igual,” or “I don’t care.” This expression always comes up when people are making plans.

And finally, my personal favorite is “éramos pocos y parió la abuela” which literally translates to “we were a few and the grandmother gave birth.” When might this expression come in handy? For example, if you are in a restaurant with a couple of friends, and all of sudden people start flooding in, you could make this remark. As of yet, these five words haven’t failed to elicit laughs of approval from the Spaniards I have come across.

Julian Nazar is a student at the Soka University of America and is an ISA Featured Blogger. He is studying abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain.

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