Spanish Words for Beginners

The Spanish language is the fourth most popular language in the world, spoken by 580 million people, which is 7.6% of the world’s population. An increasing number of people are learning Spanish, including working professionals who do business with Spanish companies. Others are taking up learning Spanish as a new hobby and school-age children learn Spanish as a second language. Ofqual reports that the number of pupils taking GCSE Spanish in 2020 has increased by 5%, the largest increase for any of the modern foreign languages.

Nowadays, a large number of people choose to learn a language via apps, such as Duolingo, Babbel, and Memrise. The benefit of these apps is that they allow the user to see the word written out as well as listen to the pronunciation.

As with any foreign language, beginners should start by learning the basics in order to hold a simple conversation, including the words for hello, goodbye, please, thank you, sorry, bless you, yes, no, who, what, why, where.

When meeting someone for the first time, obviously one would want to greet them by saying hello. In Spanish, this is done by saying, Hola! (o-la).

Then when leaving, one would say goodbye, which in Spanish is Adiós! (a-djos).

A simple conversation often includes buying/purchasing something or ordering something from a menu, which can be done politely by including the word please. Por favor (por fa-vor) is the Spanish word required for this. When your purchase appears, one should always respond with a thank you, which in Spanish is Gracias (gra-sjas).

In a simple conversation, one often agrees or disagrees with a suggestion made. For example, Can I help you? answered by yes or no. In Spanish, yes is (si) and no is No (no).

An apology is often used in the case you accidentally bump into someone in the street. Sorry in Spanish is Lo siento (lo sjen-to). Should you or the person you are speaking to sneeze, the phrase bless you would be a useful one to know. In Spanish, this is Salud (sa-lud).

temporary direction indicator

When talking to someone, either asking for directions or finding out information, question phrases are useful sentence starters. One may want to ask, Who is coming on the trip? In this instance, the Spanish word for who is ¿Quién? (kjen).

If someone wanted to know the reason behind someone’s behavior, they may want to start with the word why, for example, Why are you crying?. The word why in Spanish is ¿Por qué? (por ke).

When curious about a location, the word where is a useful one to know, for example, Where do you live?. ¿Dónde? (don-de) is the word for where in Spanish.

Obviously, these beginner words will only allow for the shortest of conversations without the further vocabulary to develop phrases. Some of the most useful phrases for beginners in Spanish are good morning, good afternoon, good evening, what’s your name?, my name is…, how are you? , I’m well, thank you, what time is it? , I am lost, I do not understand, would you speak slower.

More sophisticated methods of greeting people are determined by the time of day. Good morning in Spanish is buenos días (bwe-nos di-as), good afternoon is buenas tardes (bwe-nas tar-des), and good evening is buenas noches (bwe-nas no-tches).

The conversation would naturally progress to introducing oneself or asking another person to introduce themselves. This involves asking what’s your name?, which in Spanish is ¿Cómo te llamas? (ko-mo te ja-mas). In response to this question, one would reply my name is…, which is Me llamo… (me ja-mo).

The next stage in a polite conversation may involve inquiring about the person’s health, asking how are you?, which is done in Spanish using the phrase, ¿Cómo estás? (ko-mo es-tas). Another phrase that is useful to know when answering this question is I’m well, thank you, which in Spanish is Estoy bien, gracias (es-toi bien gras-jas).

man watching the clock

If one is curious about the time, one would need to ask the question what time is it?, which in Spanish is ¿Qué hora es? (ke o-ra es).

Finally, if a tourist needs help in a foreign city, there are some phrases which would be helpful for them to know. For example, if one can’t get one’s bearings, one needs to know the phrase, I’m lost. In Spanish, this is done by saying Estoy perdido/a (es-toi per-di-do).

If you are finding it difficult to follow the conversation, you could say I do not understand, which is Yo no comprendo (yo no kom-pren-do).

Another useful phrase if they are finding it hard to keep up is would you speak slower please, which is Por favor, habla más despacio.

Learning a language is a useful and enjoyable task, made easier by starting with some straightforward words and phrases, which allow a basic conversation to take place. These are often the words and phrases used by tourists when visiting a country for the first time. As outlined above, beginner words and phrases in Spanish are easy to recognize when written down and also relatively easy to speak out loud. If someone manages to master these basic phrases, this will encourage them to continue their studies of the Spanish language and progress to more complicated vocabulary and grammatical constructions.

business man working on laptop
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