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Beginners’ Spanish: food and drink

Introduction

This free OpenLearn course, Beginners' Spanish: food and drink, requires some basic knowledge of Spanish. You will be able to use some basic vocabulary relating to food, drinks, meals, quantities and measures. You will also have the opportunity to practise how to order a meal, go shopping and pay for food. You will listen to Spanish speakers in a variety of situations, and you will learn skills for coping with extended listening. Cultural notes also explain about customs to do with meals and food shopping in Spain.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course L194 Portales: beginners' Spanish.

Learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • take part in simple exchanges when buying food in shops or at the market in Spain

  • understand basic information about prices and quantities in Spanish

  • order food and drinks in a bar or restaurant using Spanish

  • ask for the bill in Spanish

  • have a better understanding of some customs relating to food shopping and meals in Spain.

Actividad 1

Markets in Spain and Latin America are full of vibrant colours, noise, scents and fresher products than you would find in most supermarkets. In this activity you will practise how to shop for recipe ingredients.

A

Pilar, a regular customer at the market, is comparing prices in the frutería before she buys anything. Listen to the following audio track and write down the prices you hear, as in the example.

Escucha y escribe.

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Fruit and vegetables
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Ejemplo

A vegetable stall
Figure 1

Answer

  • plátanos – uno cincuenta el kilo (€1,50)limones – uno veinte el kilo (€1,20)
  • patatas – setenta céntimos el kilo (€0,70)
  • tomates – uno setenta el kilo (€1,70)
  • lechuga – noventa céntimos (€0,90)

Language: Asking for prices

Here are some useful expressions to ask for prices when shopping for food.

¿Cuánto es?How much is it?
¿Cuánto vale / cuesta?How much does it cost?
¿Cuánto valen / cuestan?How much do they cost?

When asking the price of goods whose prices fluctuate daily, like fish or fruit in markets, the following expressions are used.

¿A cuánto está el bacalao?How much is cod going for (today)?
¿A cuánto están las cerezas?How much are cherries (today)?

Comment

The verb valer, commonly used to ask for prices, means literally ‘to be worth’. It is also used very frequently in the following expressions.

Vale la pena.It is worth it.
No vale la pena.It is not worth it.

B

Now listen to the audio track below and follow the prompts to ask for the prices of the items you hear.

Escucha y habla.

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Prices
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C

Here is some vocabulary for items of food that you may want to buy. Match the phrases in Spanish with the relevant products.

Relaciona.

Tuna, biscuits, crisps, rice, oil, sweets.
Figure 2
  1. una botella de aceite
  2. una caja de galletas
  3. una bolsa de patatas fritas
  4. una bandeja de dulces
  5. un paquete de arroz
  6. una lata de atún

Answer

1–(e); 2–(b); 3–(c); 4–(f); 5–(d); 6–(a).

D

Listen to the following audio track and match the quantities listed below with the relevant products, as you hear them mentioned. Which quantity or product has not been mentioned?

Escucha y relaciona.

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Shopkeeper and customer
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Milk, bananas, cheese, ham, carrots, eggs
Figure 3
  1. 100 gramos de…
  2. un cuarto de kilo de…
  3. medio kilo de…
  4. un kilo de…
  5. un litro de….
  6. media docena de…

Answer

1–(c); 2–(d); 4–(b) and (e); 5–(a); 6–(f).

The quantity that was not mentioned was medio kilo.

Comment

Weights and measures are metric in all Spanish-speaking countries, so when someone says un cuarto de or medio de it is assumed that it is a quarter of a kilo or half a kilo.

Language: Weights and quantities

Here are some of the more common phrases used to talk about weights and quantities when shopping.

un kilo de fresasa kilo of strawberries
medio kilo de carne picadahalf a kilo of mince
un cuarto de kilo de queso de cabraa quarter of a kilo of goat's cheese
un litro de aceite de olivaa litre of olive oil
una docena de huevosa dozen eggs
media docena de huevoshalf a dozen eggs
una lata de espárragosa tin of asparagus
una caja de bombonesa box of chocolates
una bolsa de magdalenasa bag of fairy cakes
un paquete de azúcara packet of sugar
una bandeja de canapésa tray of canapés
una botella de zumo de naranjaa bottle of orange juice

Actividad 2

In this activity you will listen to quantities and prices being talked about while shopping at a market.

A

Verónica is retired and often does some shopping for her elderly neighbour. Here she goes to the market. Listen to the following audio track and write down the prices and quantities of all the items she buys.

Escucha y escribe .

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Vero in the market
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A shopping list
Figure 4

Answer

ItemQuantityTotal price
aceitunas250 g€3,60
chorizo½ kg€7,90
jamón serrano200 g€6,50
gambas1 kg€13
pollo2€10
lomo de ternera1½ kg€12 (“a 8 euros el kilo”)
tomates1 kg€1
pimientos½ kg€0,50

Language: Shopping for food

Here are some useful phrases that you will need to use or understand when shopping for food.

¿Qué le pongo? / ¿Qué le doy?What can I get you? (lit. What shall I give you?)
¿Qué desea?What would you like?
Me pone… / Me da…Can I have…
¿Algo más? / ¿Otra cosita?Anything else?
¿Qué más quiere?What else would you like?
Nada más. ¿Cuánto es?Nothing else. How much is it?

B

Now it’s time to make your own shopping list and practise asking for things.

Think of a favourite recipe and make a list of the products and the amounts you need to cook it. Look up any words you don’t know in the dictionary. Think of the expressions needed to ask how much each of the products on your list costs and to ask for the required amounts. Practise saying them aloud, paying particular attention to the intonation.

Haz una lista y habla.

Actividad 3

In this activity you will learn how to pronounce the sounds /p/, /t/ and /k/ correctly in Spanish.

A

Listen to the following audio track and repeat the following words.

Escucha y repite.

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Pronunciation
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pescado • carne • cordero • cuarto de kilo • charcutería • cosita • cuánto

Language: The pronunciation of the sounds /p/, /t/ and /k/

In Spanish these sounds correspond to the following spellings.

SoundSpellingExamples
/p/ppasa, pera, pimiento, pulpo
/t/ttomate, patata, atún
/k/

c (+ a, o, u)

qu (+ i, e)

k

casa, poco

quien, queso

kilo

Note that if you pronounce these sounds in Spanish whilst holding a piece of paper in front of your mouth, the paper should not move at all.

B

Listen to the following audio track and repeat the words and phrases, paying attention to the pronunciation of the letters ‘p’, ‘t’ and ‘c’. Then repeat the sentences, imitating the pronunciation of the speaker. You may wish to use the transcript.

Escucha y repite.

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The following feature, Español de bolsillo, provides recordings of key phrases to help you with revision.

Key phrases
Figure 5
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How much?
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Actividad 4

You are now going to listen to a radio documentary about the Mercado Central in Valencia.

The Central Market building
Figure 6

Read the following questions. Then listen to the audio track below and answer them in English.

Escucha y contesta.

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En portada
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  1. How big is the market?
  2. What produce is sold in the market?
  3. Why do people go to the market instead of the supermarket?
  4. In what way was the market a world first?

Answer

  1. It is enormous - the biggest fresh food market in Europe.
  2. Fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood, meat, charcuterie, spices, nuts, flowers.
  3. Because there is more variety, the produce is fresher and the prices are cheaper.
  4. It was the first market to use online ordering.

Skills: Listening to longer extracts

Listening to longer authentic recordings is a good way of building up your listening skills, but you shouldn’t worry if you only catch some of the words or get only a very general idea of what is being talked about. The purpose is to understand the key points rather than every detail. Listen first for the gist before listening for specific information. Remember that you can do this without understanding every word; even when you listen in your own language you will find that you rarely hear every word, unless you are really concentrating on the message (as in airport announcements).

Culture: Shopping in Spain

A wine merchants'
Figure 7

Although large supermarkets have become more and more prevalent in Spain, many families still do part of their weekly and daily shopping in smaller local shops.

Bread, for example, is something that Spaniards buy daily in the many panaderías that can be found in every town and city. Cakes and pastries, which were traditionally sold in pastelerías, are now commonly sold in panaderías too.

Many people still prefer to buy fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables in the market, whilst meat, fish and cooked meats are often bought in small local independent shops which may offer better quality and service than large supermarkets.

A few bodegas still exist where customers can bring their own bottles or garrafas to buy wine by the litre. Although the expression vino de garrafa is given to cheap, nasty wine, some wine sold in bodegas is very good, and a lot cheaper than bottled wine!

Vocabulario

  • la garrafa demijohn, carafe

Actividad 5

In this activity you will accompany Lía, a young woman who lives in Madrid, on an evening out. You will learn how to order drinks and food in a bar in Spanish.

A

Today Lía has sent an invitation to her friends through Facebook. Look at her message and choose the correct answers to the questions that follow.

Lee y elige la opción correcta.

A Facebook message
Figure 8
  1. ¿Por qué se reúnen Lía y sus amigos?
    • a.Es el cumpleaños de Lía.
    • b.Lía tiene hambre.
    • c.Es el último día de trabajo de Lía.
  2. ¿Qué es La Zapatilla?
    • a.una zapatería
    • b.un bar de tapas
    • c.una academia de flamenco

Answer

1 – (a); 2 – (b).

Culture: Tapas

Beer and Olives
Figure 9

In Spain, people often go to a bar before lunch or dinner to have a drink, usually accompanied by a small portion of food called a tapa. Tapas were traditionally served on a small round or oval plate. The origin of the word tapa is supposedly related to the old custom of bartenders placing a plate as a lid (tapa) over a glass of wine to protect it from dust or flies. Nowadays in some regions, bars don’t charge for the tapa, which comes free with the drink. Frequently people go to one or more bars to try out different tapas. This is called tapear, ir de tapeo or ir de tapas, and eating like this can often amount to a full meal.

B

Look at the pictures below and write down the name of each drink, choosing from the words or phrases in the box. One has been done for you.

Escribe los nombres de las bebidas.

zumo de piña • batido de chocolate • vino tinto • cubata • copa de coñac • mosto • caña de cerveza • agua mineral • refresco de naranja • gaseosa

Vocabulario

  • el cubata / el cubalibre mixed drink of rum and coke
  • el mosto = el zumo de uva
A glass of pineapple juice
A selection of drinks
Figure 10

Answer

The names of the drinks are:

1 zumo de piña; 2 caña de cerveza; 3 refresco de naranja; 4 vino tinto; 5 copa de coñac; 6 mosto; 7 agua mineral; 8 cubata; 9 batido de chocolate; 10 gaseosa.

C

Classify the drinks into alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Clasifica.

Bebidas con alcohol:

Bebidas sin alcohol:

Answer

Bebidas con alcohol: caña de cerveza, vino tinto, copa de coñac, cubata.

Bebidas sin alcohol: zumo de piña, refresco de naranja, mosto, agua mineral, batido de chocolate, gaseosa.

D

Lía and her friends are now at La Zapatilla. Listen to the following audio track in which Antón, one of Lía’s friends, asks everyone what they would like to drink. Then write down what each of them chooses.

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Escucha y escribe.

  • Lía
  • Miguel
  • Noemí
  • Iker
  • Bea
  • Antón

Answer

These are the drinks each person ordered.

Lía – una cerveza; Miguel – un mosto; Noemí – un tinto y un agua; Iker – una cerveza; Bea – un tinto; Antón – una Coca-Cola.

E

Listen to the following audio track in which Antón places his drinks order at the bar. Unfortunately he didn’t make notes of the drinks his friends wanted and he makes a mistake. Look at your notes from Step D and identify where he went wrong. Then give the correct order to the waiter in Spanish.

Escucha, identifica y pide.

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Answer

Antón ordered one red wine only, not two (one for Noemí and one for Bea). This is the correct order as you would give it:

Camarero, por favor, dos cervezas, dos tintos, un agua, un mosto y una Coca-Cola.

Actividad 6

Lía and her friends decide to order a few tapas.

A

Match the list of common tapas in the left-hand column to their meaning in English.

Enlaza.

Ejemplo

1 calamares fritos – (e) fried squid rings

1 calamares fritos

2 tortilla de patatas

3 mejillones al vapor

4 queso

5 jamón serrano

6 empanadillas de pulpo

7 aceitunas

8 albóndigas con tomate

(a) meatballs in tomato sauce

(b) cheese

(c) Spanish cured ham

(d) olives

(e) fried squid rings

(f) potato omelette

(g) octopus pasties

(h) steamed mussels

Answer

1 – (e); 2 – (f); 3 – (h); 4 – (b); 5 – (c); 6 – (g); 7 – (d); 8 – (a).

Culture: Tapas, pinchos and raciones

Tapa, media ración, ración
Figure 11

A tapa is a very small portion. If you are hungry or you are sharing your meal with more people, you may want to order a media ración (half portion) or even a ración (whole portion).

There is some regional variation in the type of tapas offered. For instance, in the north of Spain people have pinchos, which is a bite of food on a toothpick. The traditional pincho is very simple, for example a small portion of Spanish omelette skewered onto a piece of bread with a toothpick, although in some up-market bars pinchos can be extremely sophisticated. The tradition is to take them directly from the counter and, when you’ve finished, let the waiter know how many you’ve had. This custom is changing, however, and in some new establishments you have to keep the toothpicks in order to be charged accordingly.

A bar blackboard
Figure 12

Typical tapas in Galicia are octopus (boiled and served with oil and paprika) and fried green peppers (pimientos de Padrón). In central Spain, all types of cheese and cured meats, together with cooked food, from meatballs to fried vegetables, are served as tapas. In Andalusia, the main tapas are fried fish, chorizo and different types of cheese. In Central America, bocas are the equivalent of tapas. In Argentina they are called picadas, and they consist mostly of olives, ham or cheese.

B

Listen to the following audio track where Lía and her friends discuss what they want to eat. Write down what they decide to order.

Escucha y anota.

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Answer

They order: tortilla de patatas (dos raciones), jamón serrano (una ración), queso (una ración), empanadillas de pulpo (siete), calamares (dos raciones).

Comment

Notice how the sentence ¡Camarero, por favor! is used to call the waiter. Listen to the audio again, paying attention to the intonation.

Key phrases
Figure 13
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Actividad 7

In this activity you are going to look at a menu and order food.

A

Look at the restaurant menu below. Dishes are divided into three categories and normally served in this order: de primero, de segundo, de postre. Decide which categories the following three dishes would normally belong in.

Mira y decide.

Three dishes
Figure 14
A restaurant menu
Figure 15

Answer

De primero: ensalada; de segundo, filete con patatas; de postre, natillas.

Culture: Meal times

In Spain, the main meals are lunch (la comida, orel almuerzo) and the evening meal (la cena). Lunch is usually between 2.00 and 3.00 and dinner between 9.00 and 10.00. Spaniards do not bother much about breakfast, which is generally very light, but at work they have a mid-morning break and they can have a snack, which can vary from a savoury sandwich with a glass of wine to a cup of coffee or hot chocolate with pastries. An alternative to pastries is the traditional churros, a type of fritter traditionally dunked into hot chocolate. Coffee or hot chocolate also forms the basis for an afternoon snack, or merienda, shared with family or friends. The merienda is usually between 5.00 and 7.00.

In Latin America, meal times vary slightly from one country to another. In Chile, for instance, lunch is generally between 1.00 and 2.00. The afternoon snack of tea and light pastries which is called las onces is served at 5.00. The evening meal (which is called comida in Chile) is served at about 8.30, earlier than in Spain.

B

Read the menu again and group the dishes into the categories listed below. Use their main ingredient to help you decide on the right category. One in each category has been done for you as examples.

Lee y agrupa.

  • Carnes: pollo
  • Pescados y mariscos: sopa de marisco
  • Verduras: gazpacho andaluz
  • Fruta y dulces: fruta del tiempo

Answer

Carnes: plato de embutidos ibéricos, pollo con almendras, cerdo al azafrán.

Pescados y mariscos: sopa de marisco, arroz negro, paella marinera, filete de lubina al hinojo, trucha a la menta.

Verduras: gazpacho andaluz casero, tortilla de patatas y alcachofas con pimientos del piquillo, paella de verduras, couscous de verduras a la moruna.

Fruta y dulces: fruta del tiempo, natillas caseras con canela, helado casero.

C

Time to order some food! Write down what you would order:

  1. if you were a vegetarian, and
  2. if you loved fish and seafood.

Escribe.

You can start like this:

  1. Soy vegetariana. De primero… y de segundo…
  2. ¡Me gusta mucho el pescado y me encanta el marisco! Para mí, de primero… y de segundo…

Answer

Here is a possible answer.

  1. Soy vegetariana. De primero, gazpacho andaluz y de segundo paella de verduras.
  2. ¡Me gusta mucho el pescado y me encanta el marisco! Para mí, de primero sopa de marisco y de segundo, trucha a la menta.

D

Listen to some customers placing their orders on the following audio track. Write down what you hear.

Escucha, identifica y anota.

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Answer

De primero: gazpacho, sopa de marisco.

De segundo: paella marinera, trucha a la menta.

Language: Ordering a meal

The following questions and answers are frequently used when ordering a meal.

¿Qué van a tomar de primero?What would you like to have for your first course?
Para mí, una sopa de marisco.For me seafood soup, please.
De primero, un gazpacho.As first course a gazpacho.
¿Qué van a tomar de segundo?What would you like to have for your second course?
De segundo quiero paella.For my second course I’d like paella.
Para mí pescado a la plancha.For me grilled fish, please.
Y de postre, ¿qué van a tomar?What would you like to have for your dessert?
De postre voy a tomar un helado.For dessert I’ll have an ice cream.
Y yo un flan.And a crème caramel for me.

Note that por favor is not necessarily used in this context.

E

You are in a restaurant. Listen to the audio track below and follow the prompts to order a meal.

Escucha y participa.

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Key phrases
Figure 16
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Actividad 8

This activity is about the last stage of a meal and getting the bill.

A

After desserts have been served the waiter normally asks about coffee or other drinks. Listen to the audio track below and write down which of the following drinks are ordered.

Escucha y escribe.

Vocabulario

  • el cortado expresso coffee with a dash of milk
  • la manzanilla camomile tea
  • el poleo menta peppermint tea
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  • un café solo
  • una manzanilla
  • un cortado
  • un poleo menta
  • un café con leche
  • un té verde

Answer

The drinks ordered are: un cortado, un café solo, un poleo menta, un té verde.

Culture: After-dinner conversation (La sobremesa)

People at a dining table
Figure 17

A feature of relaxed meals in Spain is the opportunity to continue chatting over coffee and possibly liqueurs after a meal. This has a special name, la sobremesa, and it is regarded as an important part of the occasion for friends and family, whether at home or in a restaurant. This is also true of business lunches: Spaniards are very particular about food and wine, and business deals are often made over lunch or dinner in a restaurant. Chatting together after a meal is known as estar de sobremesa.

B

Listen to the short dialogues on the following audio track and decide which are initiated by the customer and which by the waiter.

Escucha y decide.

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Answer

All the dialogues take place at the end of the meal. 1, 2, 3 are initiated by the customer, and are different ways of asking for the bill. 4 and 5 are initiated by the waiter, asking about the meal.

C

Listen to the dialogues in Casa Domingo and El Clavel on the following audio track and answer the questions.

Escucha y contesta.

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Short dialogue
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  1. In which restaurant does the customer attract the waiter’s attention to ask for the bill?
  2. In which restaurant can you pay with a credit card?
  3. In which restaurant does the customer pay less?

Answer

1 and 2: Restaurante El Clavel; 3: Casa Domingo.

Key phrases
Figure 18
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Actividad 9

In this activity you are going to find out more about Valencian cuisine and one of the city’s famous restaurants by the sea.

Listen to the documentary on the audio track below and answer the following questions in English.

Escucha y contesta.

Vocabulario

  • los placeres pleasures
  • la langosta lobster
  • los fideos noodles
  • las personas mayores elderly people
  • la realeza royalty
  • las paredes walls
  • el conejo rabbit

Time for another edition of the documentary series En portada. This programme is all about eating out, one of the most enjoyable things to do in Valencia.

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Eating out
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  1. List some of the ingredients of the traditional dishes mentioned.
  2. What is the main ingredient in Valencian cooking?
  3. What is the favourite meal of the local people interviewed?
  4. What sort of a restaurant is La Rosa? When was it opened?
  5. Does it attract an international clientele? Mention three names.
  6. What is possible for clients dining indoors?

Answer

  1. Some of the ingredients mentioned are: seafood (marisco), lobster (langosta), squid (calamares), rice (arroz), fish (pescado), noodles (fideos), vegetables (verduras), rabbit (conejo), and chicken (pollo).
  2. The main ingredient is rice.
  3. Paella is the clear favourite.
  4. It is a traditional restaurant, offering regional dishes, which was opened in 1925.
  5. Yes, it does. Three clients mentioned are Norman Foster, Umberto Eco, and Jeremy Irons.
  6. Clients who dine indoors can watch the paella being prepared.

Skills: Shadow reading

Shadow reading means reading the transcript aloud while listening to the speaker on the recording. This technique will help you improve your pronunciation, intonation and fluency.

Conclusion

This free course provided an introduction to studying languages. It took you through a series of exercises designed to develop your approach to study and learning at a distance and helped to improve your confidence as an independent learner.

If you enjoyed this course, you might be interested in studying the Open University module L194 Portales: beginners' Spanish. Or, if you are interested in other language short courses, rather than studying languages for a degree, you may want to have a look at what else is on offer here.

Take the next step

If you enjoyed this course, why not explore the subject further with our paid-for short course, Beginners Spanish 2: ¡En marcha!?

Find out more about Beginners Spanish 2: ¡En marcha!

Acknowledgements

This free course was written by L194 Portales: Beginners' Spanish course team.

Except for third party materials and otherwise stated (see terms and conditions), this content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence.

The material acknowledged below is Proprietary and used under licence (not subject to Creative Commons Licence). Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this course:

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Photos

All photos © Mike Truman (including Actividades 5 and 6 (top): with thanks to La Taberna de la Abuela, Málaga) except: Actividad 1 Step D: (top middle) © Steve Hopson, (bottom left) © Kander; Actividad 4: (top) © Fernando Rosell-Aguilar; Actividad 6: (bottom) © Beatriz de los Arcos.

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