Skip to content
  • Audio
  • 45 mins
  • Level 1: Introductory

Weekend Break: Spanish

Updated Monday 9th July 2007

One of the first nations to tempt Britons for overseas holidays, Spain offers much more than package tours and sizzling on the beach. Our Weekend Break guide offers the essentials for getting the most out of your trip

Audio

Flamenco dancer's shoes Creative commons image Icon Jean-David et Anne-Laure under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license Copyright The Open University

You can also subscribe to the full series of Weekend Break guides

Text

 

Rissa de la Paz: Hi, and welcome to the Open2.net Weekend Break series. We’ll be helping you get the most out of your European break by offering top tips and cultural insights into your destination. Along the way we’ll also suggest some key phrases to help you get by.

I’m Rissa de la Paz, and this time we’re looking at Spain. Joining me as a guide both to the country and the language is Anna Comas-Quinn.

So Anna, for some people the idea of Spain is Costa del Sol on the one hand or some of the big cities like Madrid or Barcelona on the other. Presumably the real Spain is much more diverse and complex, tell us about that?

Anna Comas-Quinn: It is, yes. I mean Spain is a country of big contrasts geographically, you’ve got high mountains and skiing, you’ve got the coasts, the sandy coasts, and then you’ve got big, big cities like Madrid or Barcelona which are like any cosmopolitan city, but also very quiet towns, especially inland, and then what everybody knows, the coastal resorts.

Rissa de la Paz: So, obviously Spain’s got this wonderful rich history behind it, and I expect we’ll be able to see signs of that wherever we go.

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, of course. Spain was invaded by the Romans, it was invaded by the Moors and you can see the signs of that. The Romans left a lot of things, you can see buildings, aquaducts and things, they also left their language, that was their biggest mark, and also the Moors as well, they left place names, they left buildings, they left the food as well.

More recently though, probably the biggest thing that everybody will remember about Spain was the fact that it was under a dictatorship for nearly 40 years, from 1939 to 1975, and during that period Spain was closed to the rest of the world, and that government just tried to suppress all the diversity within Spain.

Luckily, with the democracy things changed and the democratic government recognized that there was diversity, that there were some regions, and the whole country was organized in a different way so that now we have 17 autonomous communities with some self-government. Some of them have even their own languages which are official alongside Spanish, and all of them have their local customs and identity, their local festivals, their local food even.

Everybody thinks of paella when they think of Spain, but really in Spain you can get from the fish and the seafood in the Atlantic to those really hearty meat dishes of the inland, like the suckling pig and lamb and things like that. And even these type of melting pot dishes that we have, like that... Madrileño, the stew, the ‘cocido Madrileño’, which is also like a sign of this sort of mixture of different cultures that you have in Spain.

Rissa de la Paz: That sounds wonderful. I wonder though whether, when you mention this sort of regional diversity, does that mean that if I came with just a few of my Spanish phrases will I be able to get by from one different region to the next? What will the language be like, will I be alright with just a few stock phrases in Spanish?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, well it’d be great if you can have a few phrases in Spanish because you will even be treated slightly differently than if you just come with your, you know, speaking English loudly, which is what you normally get on the coast.

You will no longer be this ‘guiri’, this person who’s just hungry for sun and beer. So yes, having a bit of Spanish will help you get by, especially inland because on the coast you will always have waiters and receptionists in hotels who speak a bit of English, but once you leave the coast that’s not so much the case.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, well we’re definitely determined to shed the ‘guiri’ image, so let’s get down to the basics and learn some of those phrases that’ll help us get by. Greeting people, for instance?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, well the obvious one, ‘Hola’, everybody knows that to say hello. Or ‘Adiós’ when you say goodbye. What you have to realise as well when you’re in Spain is that people normally will say ‘Buenos días’, they will say good morning, even to people they don’t know at all, just because you go into a lift with somebody they will say ‘buenos días’, or if you go into a waiting room.

Another thing that’s different as well is you English say please all the time, whereas when you’re in Spain you will not hear the words ‘por favor’ very much, but don’t think that people are being rude, that’s just the way it is in Spain. The language itself has other ways of indicating politeness.

For example, you probably know about the distinction between ‘tú’ and ‘usted’, the formal and the informal in Spanish. So that’s one of the ways people use normally to indicate politeness, not necessarily ‘por favor’, not necessarily please. And, of course, to say thank you we always say ‘gracias’, and the customary reply is ‘de nada’, ‘you’re welcome’, and that is used all the time.

Rissa de la Paz: Those are some really useful initial phrases, but my dread is that you start, you almost invite a conversation with a Spaniard and suddenly you find you get stuck because you don’t have the words to say ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand’ or anything like that. What are other useful survival phrases I can have stuck up my sleeve?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, if you don’t understand then say ‘no entiendo’, ‘perdone, no entiendo’. If you want to have another go, ask them to repeat it and see if you can get the gist of it, ‘¿Me lo puede repetir?’ and if you’re desperate and just thinking no, I’m not going to get this, ask them if they speak English, ‘¿Habla inglés?’ I mean the other obvious resource is to point at things and to ask How do you say this? ‘¿Cómo se dice..?’

Rissa de la Paz: Of course, then I’m sure the combination of those phrases and a lot of gesticulation, it’s amazing how far that’ll get you.

Anna Comas-Quinn: Oh yes, gesticulation, Spaniards know about that don’t they. Yes. You will probably think that people are all the time fighting, that they’re having big arguments because they talk quite loudly and there’s a lot of hand movements and everything, and most of the time they’re probably just talking about football in the bar or something. It’s not really an issue. But it’s this sort of passionate nature of Spanish people, you know, everything is a bit more exaggerated and less contained like in England it is.

Rissa de la Paz: I think that sort of larger than life way of doing things, it would be nice if we can develop enough confidence in the few phrases that we’ve got that we can sort of begin to inhabit that feeling just the way Spaniards themselves do.

So I suppose one of the early opportunities I would have in my weekend break to sort of practice some of these phrases is when I arrive first and need to get actually to my hotel, just tell us a little bit about what are the sort of transport options there are and how I could get by to actually make myself understood.

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, of course. If you get to the airport or you get to a large train station there’s always going to be a taxi rank, and they’re normally quite well signposted, but if you can’t see it just ask anybody, ‘¿Dónde está la parada del taxi?’, ‘Where is the taxi rank?’

Once you’re there and you’re talking to the taxi driver and you’re saying where you want to go, it might be worth asking how much he’s going to charge you, so this is a useful little phrase, ‘¿Cuánto es?’, especially if the airport is outside the town, it could be quite a lot of money.

You might decide you’d rather take a bus, and there’s normally a bus service that runs from the airport to the town centre in most cities and most towns.

Rissa de la Paz: Are those buses usually direct or would you have to change?

Anna Comas-Quinn: No, normally it’s a direct bus, a dedicated bus that does the airport to the city centre. The one thing you might want to find out is where to buy the ticket, because that is not always straightforward. So that’s a useful phrase to have, ‘¿Dónde se compra el billete?’.

Maybe even what time they leave, in a smaller town, in a smaller airport where there’s not many flights it might just be three or four times a day, so ‘¿A qué hora sale?’, ‘What time does it leave?’ and yes, you might ask if it’s direct, ‘¿Es directo?’ although they normally are.

Sometimes they go straight to the town centre, sometimes they might stop in different places, especially in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona, so if you tell the driver where you’re going and just ask ‘¿En qué parada me bajo?’, ‘Where should I get off?’ that might be a useful thing to ask.

Rissa de la Paz: That sounds very useful, I don’t want to end up far from the hotel just because I don’t have the courage to say when do I get off. But before I get on the bus, I need to queue, I mean do the Spaniards believe in queuing?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Hmm, well, it’s a different concept of a queue, it’s not a queue that’s a line. We have a different queue, yes. People just sort of congregate at the bus stop, and you have a look, you see more or less who was there before you got there, and when the bus arrives you let those people through and, you know, more or less really.

The queuing thing is the same in shops, people don’t stand in a line, they look to see who’s there, but in the shops normally you will even ask, ‘¿Quién es el último?’, ‘Who’s last?’ and then you know exactly that once that person’s been served then it’s your turn.

Rissa de la Paz: It sounds fairly straightforward then, that’s not something I’m going to have to worry about too much. But once I’ve got to the hotel, managed to make my way to the hotel, I probably would have wanted to book in advance just to be on the safe side, and so once I get there what are the sort of phrases I can use for checking in?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, assuming you’ve booked a room before, the best thing to do is just to say ‘Tengo una reserva a nombre de …’ and you say your name. So you say ‘I have a reservation, my name is …’ and then there’ll be a few things you want to find out at that point.

You have to remember as well that when you check in in a hotel in Spain they are going to ask you for your passport or your ID card. Things you might want to know then, you know, what time, say you’re leaving the next day or in a couple of days, what time do I have to leave the room, ‘¿A qué hora hay que dejar la habitación?’.

And you’ll want your key as well, ‘La llave, por favor’. Depending what sort of hotel you’re going to, there might be somebody carrying your bags to the room, and you may give him a small tip, that’s fine.

Rissa de la Paz: Do they expect much in the way of tipping actually?

Anna Comas-Quinn: A few coins, not an enormous tip.

Rissa de la Paz: And what about the process of checking out, what are the sort of things that I’d say when I do check out?

Anna Comas-Quinn: The key phrase is ‘¿Me prepara la cuenta?’, ‘Can you get my bill ready?’ and that way you know they’ll do whatever they need to do, get it all ready and then maybe later on you can come and pay, or you can pay there and then.

Rissa de la Paz: Are bed and breakfast fairly common in Spain, is breakfast included in the rate of a room?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Not normally. You pay normally per room and then if you want to have the breakfast as well then you pay extra for the breakfast. The reason for that is that people in Spain have breakfast mid morning in a bar or a café and there’s bars and cafés in every corner, all over the place, so you might not want to stick with the breakfast in the hotel.

Rissa de la Paz: Assuming I’m going to try and be really adventurous and actually venture out of my hotel and try ordering breakfast outside, what sort of things can I look out for, and what sort of language can I use?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, the whole concept of breakfast is different from your English idea of breakfast, because people in Spain start work quite early in offices and things like that, so most people will have a coffee at home and rush off, and then everybody gets a breakfast break in the morning.

So about half past ten you’ll leave your office, go to the bar, and you’ll have your sandwich and a coffee or you’ll have your cake and a coffee, so you might want to order what people order, ‘un bocadillo’, a sandwich, ‘bocadillo y café con leche’, and a white coffee. Or ‘un croissant’, pastry if you want, you might want some words for coffee as well because there’s all sorts of variations.

What you call an expresso, that is ‘un café solo’, coffee on its own basically. If you want that small expresso but with a teeny bit of milk then you ask for ‘un cortado’, and if you want a bigger cup with lots of coffee, very strong coffee but lots of milk as well then you want ‘un café con leche’.

Rissa de la Paz: You’re raising coffee to an art form in Spain clearly.

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, definitely, and I haven’t even started! If you want the English filter coffee, you know, the watery stuff, then ask for ‘un americano’.

Rissa de la Paz: And what about tea, I’m going to be gasping for a cuppa.

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, you’re in the wrong place really then because there’s a lot of trendy places now that will offer a variety of teas, but they normally look at tea as a sort of, another herbal drink. So you’ll get your tea without any milk, without any sugar, maybe with a slice of lemon in it as well.

Rissa de la Paz: Very much relegated to the second division by the sounds of it.

Anna Comas-Quinn: I would better leave it really. Go for coffee.

Rissa de la Paz: And when it comes to lunch and dinner, tell us a little bit about that, is it served at around the same time as it would be in the UK?

Anna Comas-Quinn: No, no. I mean obviously you’ve had your break at half past ten to eleven to have your breakfast, so you’re not going to be having lunch at twelve, definitely. Lunch time in Spain is between two and three, it’s the main meal of the day, it lasts a good hour. Even if you’re in an office you’ll have your lunch break, you’ll go to the bar and you’ll sit down and you’ll have your proper meal with a starter, and a main course and a dessert and a coffee and everything.

Rissa de la Paz: So no sitting at the computer grabbing a sandwich.

Anna Comas-Quinn: Oh no, no, we don’t do that. I mean if it’s the weekend the whole thing just stretches much, much longer. We have what we call ‘la sobremesa’, then you’ll bring something sweet, you’ll bring some liqueurs, the whole family or the group of friends will sit at the table and the whole thing will go on for two or three hours.

And equally the dinner then moves back a bit, so nobody has dinner really before eight or nine o’clock at least.

Rissa de la Paz: How would I survive if I were really hungry before dinner gets served, how would I get by?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, as a tourist you have to remember that no restaurant is going to be open before half past eight, at least, so you’re not going to be served any meal. Spanish people will normally sit down mid afternoon and have something sweet and a coffee, so that will keep you going a little bit longer. It’s not unheard of to start a dinner, an evening meal - especially if you’re going out - at ten o’clock at night, even half past ten.

If you want some food obviously you’re going to need a few phrases. If it’s a posh restaurant you’ll want to ask if they’ve got a free table, ‘¿Tiene una mesa libre?’. Otherwise, if it’s a more normal in the street, terrace thing, you would just see a table and you’d just go and sit down, wait for the waiter to come over, or even if he’s passing just ask for a menu, ‘el menú por favor’.

Rissa de la Paz: Are there special set menus for a day?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, that’s the key to eating in Spain, you have to ask at lunch time for ‘el menu del día’. If you’re walking down the street you will see a board outside the restaurants where it is written down probably in chalk what they’re offering that day.

There’s normally a couple of options for the starter, ‘el primero’, a couple of options for the main course, ‘el segundo’, and ‘el postre’, the dessert tends to be pretty much a couple of things, either a yoghurt or a flan, which is a crème caramel, it’s not a flan like an English flan actually.

Rissa de la Paz: Would wine be included?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, you get your wine or your beer or a soft drink or some water, mineral water, whatever you want to drink with it, you get your two courses, you get your dessert, everything for say a little bit more than fish and chips in England, you know, it’s really good value. The only thing you pay for separately normally is the coffee.

Rissa de la Paz: Sounds like the meal for me. But what about vegetarians, is there much choice for vegetarians?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Hmm, well, not a good country for vegetarians, Spain, because the thing is Spanish people don’t really get the thing about being a vegetarian, and they’ll say ‘oh yes, if you want vegetables you can have this’ and then they’ll bring something that’s been cooked with ham or bacon, or you want to ask for a vegetable soup and then the stock is made with chicken.

So it is hard for vegetarians, although in the big cities you have more and more vegetarian trendy restaurants, so that’s a safe bet obviously. If you’re not sure, the ‘tapas’ is quite a good option because with the ‘tapas’ you can see, it’s normally laid out on the counter so you can see what it is, and if you go for something like mushrooms in garlic or aubergines or ‘patatas bravas’, which is potatoes with a spicy sauce, you’re quite safe then.

Rissa de la Paz: What are ‘tapas’?

Anna Comas-Quinn: ‘Tapas’ are light bites, you know, little bites. You try, you can have as many different combinations of different things as you want. You can order ‘una tapa’ or you can order ‘una ración’. ‘Una ración’ is just a slightly bigger portion, so if there’s four of you, for example, you might try two or three ‘raciones’ and share it all out amongst yourselves.

Rissa de la Paz: Could you have that at lunch time or at dinner time? How does it work?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Bars have ‘tapas’ pretty much all day, so you can have it as an alternative to lunch if you just want a light lunch, or you can have it at sort of twelve or half past twelve, and make lunch much later. I’m making it sound like Spaniards are eating all day, you know, in little bits, but that’s a little bit what it is.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s okay by me.

Anna Comas-Quinn: But people will go for these aperitifs about half past twelve, one, and they’ll have a beer maybe and a couple of ‘tapas’, and then go back about their business, and then just go for dinner at half past two or three, that’s quite normal.

Rissa de la Paz: And what sort of things in terms of drinks are on offer then?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, Spaniards drink beer normally. If they go out they drink beer. And wine is very much something you drink with your meal, and it’s drunk at home and it’s drunk by children as well, it’s a little bit of wine with some fizzy lemonade or something.

At the bar it’s normally beer. And you can normally order ‘una caña’, or ‘un tubo’, and those things are not, don’t refer to the measure, like in England you have the pint and the half pint, and it’s all measured to the drop as it were, you know, whereas in Spain if you ask for ‘una caña’ it just means it’s draught beer basically. But the container in which it comes will be completely different. Sometimes it’ll be like a jar, sometimes it’ll be like a glass or all sorts of things.

If you want bottles then you ask for ‘una mediana’, which is about half a litre, or you ask for ‘un quinto’, which is just about half a pint.

Rissa de la Paz: And what if I’m non-alcoholic, what sort of thing can I have, if I just want water?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, I mean you can always order ‘un agua mineral’, mineral water, ‘con gas’ or ‘sin gas’, sparkling or still, or soft drinks.

Rissa de la Paz: The thing that I dread most is after having tasted all these wonderful things I’m going to have to pay the bill, so how do I go about asking for that?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, that’s an easy one because all you need to say is ‘la cuenta por favor’, ‘the bill please’, and then somebody will come to the – that’s another difference with Spain really because in English restaurants you normally order your food and pay for it, it’s almost like they’re scared that you’re going to run off without paying or something, whereas in Spain you sit down, the waiter comes, takes your order, brings you your food, you have your chat, there’s no pressure, when you’re ready you ask for the bill and then they bring it to the table.

Rissa de la Paz: Brilliant. And what about tipping?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, you normally sort of leave a few coins or round it up.

Rissa de la Paz: Would it be like 10%, 15%, is that the sort of thing?

Anna Comas-Quinn: No, not at all. Not at all. A few coins basically, a bit of change. There is no expectation, you don’t have to leave a percentage of the price of the meal. Not at all.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s good, that’s going to leave me a little bit of money to do some sightseeing. So tell us a little bit about the options for sightseeing and what are the useful bits of language that I need to have up my sleeve for that?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, it’s worth finding the tourist information office first, so they can give you a few maps and a few ideas. You might want to ask ‘¿Cómo se va a la oficina de turismo?’ to find it, to see how to get there.

Once you’re there you will ask them to show you where things are, and you might want to ask ‘¿Dónde está?’, where is, ‘¿Dónde está la catedral?’ for example. Remember though that if you’re going to cathedrals or churches and things like that, you have to wear appropriate dress, so not go in little shorts and things like that.

But yes, you ask for directions, then they might get into this thing where they explain very quickly how you get there, and it’s all going to be go left, go right, go straight, you know, and you will hear things like ‘Gire a la derecha’, to the right, or ‘Gire a la izquierda’, to the left, or ‘Siga todo recto’, go straight on, and it might get a bit too much.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s when I’m going to have to ask for a map I’m sure.

Anna Comas-Quinn: Definitely. So if it comes to the worst and you can’t really understand, just ask them to point it in the map for you, so just say ‘Señálemelo en el mapa’. Also, another thing that’s worth asking as well is whether you can get there on foot, because obviously sometimes on the map you can’t really gauge the distance, so ‘¿Se puede ir andando?’, is it doable on foot.

Rissa de la Paz: Given all the food that I’ll be stuffing down me I think it’ll probably be a good idea to do some things on foot. What about opening hours, are there special opening hours or closure days for museums that we have to bear in mind?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, if it’s a big city like Madrid or Barcelona, if you’re going to the Museo del Prado in Madrid, it will probably open in the morning either 9 or 10 o’clock and stay open all day long until 8 or 9 pm. But in the smaller towns there is a break for lunch, between 2 and 5 normally they will be closed.

You might want to find out about it, so asking about times, what time does it open, what time does it close, ‘¿A qué hora abre?’, ‘¿A qué hora cierra?’ You might also want to find out how much is the ticket because they’re not all free, so ‘¿Cuánto es?’ - we did that when we were talking about the taxi didn’t we, so that’s a useful phrase, ‘¿Cuánto es?’, ‘How much is it?’. And in some of them you have like a guided tour, so you might want to enquire about it, ‘¿Hay visitas guiadas?’ Sometimes you can get a guided tour in English.

Rissa de la Paz: That would be really helpful.

Anna Comas-Quinn: One thing to remember though about the museums is they’re normally closed on Mondays, so if you’re taking a long weekend break remember that Monday’s not a good day for museums.

Rissa de la Paz: And when I’m touring about, public toilets, that’s one thing one’s always wanting to know, where’s the nearest public toilet. So how about that?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Of course, yes. Well, there’s very few public toilets. I mean obviously if you’re in a museum or in a specific place there will be a toilet there, but if you’re just out and about, walking, taking in the town and stuff, there are just basically no public toilets in Spain, you know, it’s not normal.

So you will normally use bars and cafés. And the way to go about it, you normally go in, go straight to the bar, order your coffee or your bottle of water, ask where are the toilets?, ‘¿El servicio, por favor?’ and then you just come back and drink your coffee, pay for it and go away.

Rissa de la Paz: But it sounds like the bars, I’m going to spend an awful lot of time in the bars, either for my coffee in the morning or my ‘tapas’ or have my drink, visit the loo, and presumably in the night life as well?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, night life again is, in terms of timetables is very different from the UK because if you go out at night, to a disco for example, then it’s going to be starting quite late, and then you might go to a bar first until 2 o’clock in the morning and then go to the disco, and the disco will stay open until 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning.

And there’s even some clubs that open in the early hours for people who want to carry on partying through the morning, but by then you’re going to be just hungry, you know, you’re going to be looking for something to eat, and the traditional thing to have is ‘churros’, and ‘churros’ is like a long fried pastry, and they sell them in stalls on the side of the road.

So around 7 o’clock in the morning you’re going to be sort of waiting for them to open so you can get some food, you know, maybe even with some hot chocolate to dip them into.

Rissa de la Paz: It sounds fantastic. After all that all night raving, I don’t know whether I’ll have any energy left to do any shopping, but assuming that I do have a) the energy, and b) some money left, what sort of things can I look forward to as far as spending more money?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, shopping is pretty much the same as in the UK, if you are in a big city, department stores, big chain stores, they’ll be open all day. All day in Spain means until 8 or 9 pm, not 5. But if you are in a smaller town, or even the smaller shops in big towns will close for lunch.

Afterwards you’ve got a long shopping day ahead, if you want you can extend until 9pm. Another thing to remember from a British point of view is that no shopping on Sundays, no shopping on bank holidays, there is no opening at all. Even many restaurants will close on a Sunday night, so you might want to phone around to find a restaurant.

Rissa de la Paz: Are there many more bank holidays in Spain than there are in this country?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, the thing with what you call bank holidays, in England it’s quite easy because it’s a bank holiday, it’s always a Monday and so on, but in Spain this is quite different. It tends to be Saints’ days or religious holidays and they are when they are, you know, if it’s a Tuesday it’s a Tuesday, if it’s a Friday it’s a Friday, whenever they fall in the calendar that’s the day.

We even have something quite interesting from the British point of view, which is what we call ‘El puente’. El puente, which means a bridge. So if the holiday happens to be on Tuesday most people won’t work on Monday either, because they say well there’s no point really, you know, going for one day. So sometimes you get this, you know, a lot of things will be closed because there is ‘un puente’.

Rissa de la Paz: And you’d get some warning of that would you, on the shop windows? Will there be any warning?

Anna Comas-Quinn: You would probably just ask at the hotel. It might be worth finding out when these holidays are before you plan your holiday in Spain.

Rissa de la Paz: Now, what about some useful phrases, if I do want to browse around and buy some things?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, if you’re in a big department store it’s easy because basically all the stuff is on display, you just choose, you try on and whatever. You might want to say, ‘Me lo quedo’, ‘I’ll take it’ when you go to a till. If you want to find out where you have to pay, you can ask one of the shop assistants, ‘¿Para pagar?’ and they’ll indicate where you have to go. If it’s a smaller shop there might be somebody there who asks you questions, what do you want or can I get something out for you and things like that, so it might get a bit more complicated.

In the smaller shops as well it’s worth asking if they take credit cards as well before you spend too much time there deciding. So ask, ‘¿Aceptan tarjetas de crédito?’ And also remember with the credit cards, that’s really important, that in Spain they will always ask you for your passport when you’re paying with credit card to check identity. So if you’ve left your passport at the hotel, for example, then you won’t be able to use your credit card.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, so I should really have it on hand if I know I’m going to do some serious shopping.

Anna Comas-Quinn: Yes, definitely. And another thing to remember also is that we don’t really do refunds in Spain, so just make sure you’ve tried it on, you’re quite happy with the purchase because you might get a credit note if you go later on but not a refund.

And the other thing really to keep in mind, especially in the big cities like Barcelona or Madrid, is pickpockets. There’s a lot of it in the town centres and the city centres, so try not to put bags down on the floor when you’re in a restaurant, or just keep things quite safe.

Rissa de la Paz: Well I suppose, especially if I am going to be planning to do some shopping and I know I’m going to have important papers like my passport with me, it’s as well to be much more aware isn’t it, but what if the worst came to the worst and my credit card or my handbag was stolen, what sort of things could I do, what could I say?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, you would have to explain first what’s happened, so you want to say ‘Me han robado el bolso’, ‘My handbag’s been stolen’, or ‘Me han robado las tarjetas de crédito’ to give some explanation. You might want to phone the police, ‘Necesito llamar a la policía’, ‘I need to phone the police’.

If it is your passport that’s been stolen then it gets a bit more complicated doesn’t it, you might need to contact the British Embassy, so you might need to ask ‘Necesito contactar con la Embajada Británica’ and ask for some help getting that done.

Rissa de la Paz: Sure. But what about health issues, if anything arises during my weekend break?

Anna Comas-Quinn: Well, if you feel really unwell and you need a doctor you would have to tell them at your hotel or wherever you are, ‘Necesito un médico’ or an ambulance even, ‘Necesito una ambulancia’. Things should be straightforward because basically within the European Union there are agreements and you will get treated by free.

They do like a little card now which is called the European Health Insurance Card, and you get those from the post office, you do it before you go away, with that little card with that number they’ll give you any medicines you need and they’ll treat you in hospital or whatever.

If it’s a real emergency, you dial the emergency number, which is 112, like in the rest of Europe, and it’s not a problem. But really, I mean most of the time it won’t get that dramatic really, it will be just you’re feeling unwell, you have a headache or some food hasn’t agreed with you or something like that, and then do what the Spanish do, just go to the chemist and ask some advice from the pharmacist.

They are normally quite happy to talk to you. Some of them will speak English as well. There’s always a chemist open in the cities, there’s always what they call ‘farmacia de guardia’, you might want to ask, ‘la farmacia de guardia’.

Rissa de la Paz: And they’re open ‘til quite late?

Anna Comas-Quinn: If it’s the middle of the night. Oh, 24 hours.

Rissa de la Paz: Oh right. Great.

Anna Comas-Quinn: Some of them are open now 24 hours, some of them are open sort of like 9 ‘til 12 o’clock at night. But there’s always one that has the duty of staying open round the clock for any emergencies.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s reassuring, but hopefully we won’t need any of that.

Anna Comas-Quinn: No, nothing’s going to happen, don’t worry about that, it’s going to be a great holiday, you just concentrate on enjoying yourself.

Rissa de la Paz: We’ll certainly do that now, and you’ve given us all sorts of possibilities to try out, so we can’t wait to get on that plane. So thanks very much Anna for joining me today. That’s all we’ve got time for here on our Weekend Break to Spain.

Bear some of our tips in mind, have a go at speaking the language, it’ll transform your whole experience and make all the difference. Don’t forget, we’ve got other episodes in this series available in French, German and Italian. You can get them all from Open2.net along with transcripts of the programmes.

We’ll leave you with a list of key phrases that you’ve heard on the programme together with others you might well find useful.

Spanish Phrase book

Greetings

Hello - Hola

Good morning — Buenos días

Good afternoon — Buenas tardes

How are you? — ¿Qué tal?

Please — por favor

Thank you — Gracias

You’re welcome — De nada

Goodbye — Adiós

Survival Phrases

Do you speak English — ¿Habla inglés?

How do I say..? — ¿Cómo se dice..?

I’m sorry, I don’t understand — Perdone, no entiendo.

Can you repeat that? — ¿Me lo puede repetir?

Getting around

Where is the taxi stand? — ¿Dónde está la parada de taxis?

Where is the bus station / the train station / the tube station? — ¿Dónde está la parada de autobús / la estación del tren / la parada de metro?

How much will it cost? — ¿Cuánto es?

How long will it take? — ¿Cuánto se tarda?

How far is it? — ¿A qué distancia está?

What time does it leave? — ¿A qué hora sale?

Where can I buy a ticket? — ¿Dónde se compra el billete?

Which number goes to...? — ¿Qué número va a...?

Is it direct ? — ¿Es directo?

Which platform does it leave from? — ¿De qué andén sale?

Which line goes to...? — ¿Qué línea va a...?

Which stop should I get off at? — ¿En qué parada me bajo?

Hotels

I have reserved a room. My name is... — Tengo una reserva a nombre de …

Have you got a room for 1 night? — ¿Tiene una habitación para una noche?

Have you got a room for 2/3 nights? — ¿Tiene una habitación para dos/tres noches?

a single room — una habitación individual

a double room — una habitación doble

with an en suite — con baño

How much does it cost? — ¿Cuánto cuesta?

Could I see the room please? — ¿Puedo ver la habitación?

Have you got another room? — ¿Tiene otra habitación?

What time is breakfast? — ¿A qué hora es el desayuno?

At what time should I check out? — ¿A qué hora hay que dejar la habitación?

Room service — servicio de habitaciones

Can I have the key please? — La llave, por favor.

Could you prepare the bill? — ¿Me prepara la cuenta, por favor?

Food and drink

Do you have a table? — ¿Tiene una mesa libre?

Could I have the menu, please? — El menú por favor.

What vegetarian options do you have? — ¿Qué tienen para vegetarianos?

I’d like a still water — Un agua sin gas, por favor

I’d like a sparkling water? — Un agua con gas, por favor

with ice — con hielo

tea — té

coffee — café

white coffee — café con leche

filter coffee — un americano

expresso — un café solo

beer — cerveza

Another one please! — Lo mismo, por favor.

starter — primero

main course — segundo

dessert — postre

I’d like to see the dessert menu, please — La carta de postres, por favor

Thank you, that’s all — Nada más, gracias

I’d like to have the bill, please — La cuenta, por favor

Going out

How do I get to the tourist information office? — ¿Cómo se va a la oficina de turismo?

Where is the cathedral? — ¿Dónde está la catedral?

the city centre — el centro

the art gallery — la galería de arte

the market — el mercado

the museum — el museo

the internet café — el cibercafé

the post box — el buzón

the cash machine — el cajero automático

Can I get there on foot? — ¿Se puede ir andando?

It’s about 15 minutes walk — Son 15 minutos andando

Go right — Gire a la derecha

Go left — Gire a la izquierda

Go straight on — Siga todo recto

Show me on the map — Señálemelo en el mapa

tourist information — información turística

sights — lugares de interés

guided city tour — visita turística

city bus tour — autobús turístico

What time does it open? — ¿A qué hora abre?

What time does it close? — ¿A qué hora cierra?

How much is it? — ¿Cuánto es?

Are there any guided tours? — ¿Hay visitas guiadas?

Where are the toilets? — ¿El servicio, por favor?

Shopping

I’m looking for... — Quisiera...

I’m just browsing — Estoy mirando

Could I have some help? — ¿Me puede ayudar?

My size is... — Llevo la talla...

Do you have this in a smaller size? — ¿Lo tiene más pequeño?

Do you have this in a bigger size? — ¿Lo tiene más grande?

Can I try this on? — ¿Me lo puedo probar?

I’d like to buy this. — Me lo quedo

Do you take credit cards? — ¿Aceptan tarjetas de crédito?

Where do I pay? — ¿Para pagar?

Emergencies

I’ve lost my wallet — He perdido la billetera

I’ve lost my credit cards / passport / mobile — He perdido las tarjetas de crédito / el pasaporte / el móbil

My credit card has been stolen — Me han robado las tarjetas de crédito

My bag has been stolen — Me han robado la bolsa

I’m not feeling well — Me encuentro mal

I need a doctor — Necesito un médico

I need an ambulance — Necesito una ambulancia

I need to phone the police — Necesito llamar a la policía

I need to contact the British Embassy. — Necesito contactar con la Embajada Británica

Rissa de la Paz: That’s it for the key phrases.

We hope you enjoyed Weekend Break and don’t forget you can get a transcript of this programme, and the rest of this series on open2.net.

I’m Rissa de la Paz and I was joined by Anna Comas-Quinn.

The programme was produced by Michael Brodbin. This is a BBC Worldwide production for The Open University.

Phrasebook

Here's a reminder of the key phrases from the programme.

Greetings

Hello - Hola

Good morning — Buenos días

Good afternoon — Buenas tardes

How are you? — ¿Qué tal?

Please — por favor

Thank you — Gracias

You’re welcome — De nada

Goodbye — Adiós

Survival Phrases

Do you speak English — ¿Habla inglés?

How do I say..? — ¿Cómo se dice..?

I’m sorry, I don’t understand — Perdone, no entiendo.

Can you repeat that? — ¿Me lo puede repetir?

Getting around

Where is the taxi stand? — ¿Dónde está la parada de taxis?

Where is the bus station / the train station / the tube station? — ¿Dónde está la parada de autobús / la estación del tren / la parada de metro?

How much will it cost? — ¿Cuánto es?

How long will it take? — ¿Cuánto se tarda?

How far is it? — ¿A qué distancia está?

What time does it leave? — ¿A qué hora sale?

Where can I buy a ticket? — ¿Dónde se compra el billete?

Which number goes to...? — ¿Qué número va a...?

Is it direct ? — ¿Es directo?

Which platform does it leave from? — ¿De qué andén sale?

Which line goes to...? — ¿Qué línea va a...?

Which stop should I get off at? — ¿En qué parada me bajo?

Hotels

I have reserved a room. My name is... — Tengo una reserva a nombre de …

Have you got a room for 1 night? — ¿Tiene una habitación para una noche?

Have you got a room for 2/3 nights? — ¿Tiene una habitación para dos/tres noches?

a single room — una habitación individual

a double room — una habitación doble

with an en suite — con baño

How much does it cost? — ¿Cuánto cuesta?

Could I see the room please? — ¿Puedo ver la habitación?

Have you got another room? — ¿Tiene otra habitación?

What time is breakfast? — ¿A qué hora es el desayuno?

At what time should I check out? — ¿A qué hora hay que dejar la habitación?

Room service — servicio de habitaciones

Can I have the key please? — La llave, por favor.

Could you prepare the bill? — ¿Me prepara la cuenta, por favor?

Food and drink

Do you have a table? — ¿Tiene una mesa libre?

Could I have the menu, please? — El menú por favor.

What vegetarian options do you have? — ¿Qué tienen para vegetarianos?

I’d like a still water — Un agua sin gas, por favor

I’d like a sparkling water? — Un agua con gas, por favor

with ice — con hielo

tea — té

coffee — café

white coffee — café con leche

filter coffee — un americano

expresso — un café solo

beer — cerveza

Another one please! — Lo mismo, por favor.

starter — primero

main course — segundo

dessert — postre

I’d like to see the dessert menu, please — La carta de postres, por favor

Thank you, that’s all — Nada más, gracias

I’d like to have the bill, please — La cuenta, por favor

Going out

How do I get to the tourist information office? — ¿Cómo se va a la oficina de turismo?

Where is the cathedral? — ¿Dónde está la catedral?

the city centre — el centro

the art gallery — la galería de arte

the market — el mercado

the museum — el museo

the internet café — el cibercafé

the post box — el buzón

the cash machine — el cajero automático

Can I get there on foot? — ¿Se puede ir andando?

It’s about 15 minutes walk — Son 15 minutos andando

Go right — Gire a la derecha

Go left — Gire a la izquierda

Go straight on — Siga todo recto

Show me on the map — Señálemelo en el mapa

tourist information — información turística

sights — lugares de interés

guided city tour — visita turística

city bus tour — autobús turístico

What time does it open? — ¿A qué hora abre?

What time does it close? — ¿A qué hora cierra?

How much is it? — ¿Cuánto es?

Are there any guided tours? — ¿Hay visitas guiadas?

Where are the toilets? — ¿El servicio, por favor?

Shopping

I’m looking for... — Quisiera...

I’m just browsing — Estoy mirando

Could I have some help? — ¿Me puede ayudar?

My size is... — Llevo la talla...

Do you have this in a smaller size? — ¿Lo tiene más pequeño?

Do you have this in a bigger size? — ¿Lo tiene más grande?

Can I try this on? — ¿Me lo puedo probar?

I’d like to buy this. — Me lo quedo

Do you take credit cards? — ¿Aceptan tarjetas de crédito?

Where do I pay? — ¿Para pagar?

Emergencies

I’ve lost my wallet — He perdido la billetera

I’ve lost my credit cards / passport / mobile — He perdido las tarjetas de crédito / el pasaporte / el móbil

My credit card has been stolen — Me han robado las tarjetas de crédito

My bag has been stolen — Me han robado la bolsa

I’m not feeling well — Me encuentro mal

I need a doctor — Necesito un médico

I need an ambulance — Necesito una ambulancia

I need to phone the police — Necesito llamar a la policía

I need to contact the British Embassy. — Necesito contactar con la Embajada Británica

A passion for language?

Discover the world of language study on offer with The Open University.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?