Conversational Spanish: Finding The Words We Really Need To Say

Conversational Spanish: Finding The Words We Really Need To Say June 3, 2018

When I found out I’d be traveling to Costa Rica to speak at a conference, I Googled “conversational Spanish” to brush up on a few simple phrases that might come in handy – especially because I’d be traveling by myself, without a translator to intervene if I needed help communicating.

The first search result was a link to a page that said travelers needed to learn the following phrases:

¿Qué superpoder quieres? (What superpower do you want?)

¿Cuál es tu sitio favorito en el planeta? (What is your favorite place on the planet?)

¿Qué quieres ser de mayor? (What do you want to be when you grow up?)

Me gusta Chicago. (I like Chicago.)

¿Quieres jugar a un juego? (Would you like to play a game?)

Estoy embarazada.” (I’m pregnant).

And my personal favorite….

Hola cariño, ¿cuál es tu signo? (Hey baby, what’s your sign?)

When I arrived in Costa Rica, I found that the phrases I actually needed to know how to say in Spanish were,

“I can’t find my suitcase.”

“Why are we driving down this sketchy street?”

“Where can I buy an umbrella?”

“My room key isn’t working.”

“I’m thirsty.”

“I’m lost.”

I never, never, ever needed to say “I like Chicago,” “What superpower would you like to have?”  or “Hey baby, what’s your sign?”


In the world we live in, behind facades of Instagram and Facebook and Photoshop and avatars, where we create a persona and call it “me,” I think sometimes we live the emotional version of useless conversational Spanish.

We say phrases like “I’m fine!” because we can’t find the energy or the courage or the words to say how we’re really doing: “I’m discouraged.”  “I’m lonely.”  “I’m heartbroken.”  “I’m ashamed.”

We post pictures that make it look like we’re totally winning at life, with emojis that fake positive feelings we’re too tired to muster because, honestly, most days it’s hard to just get out of bed.

We “like” and click and “share” and repost, without admitting to ourselves that virtual interactions don’t come close to replacing the meaningful relationships we crave.

We get our identity from the opinions of anonymous followers instead of listening to the still, small voice inside our souls.

In the end, faking our way through life is as useless as learning how to say, “¿Quieres jugar a un juego?” (Do you want to play a game?) when what we really need to say is, “Estoy perdida.”

Because the truth is, I am lost.






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  • Bruce Stevens

    As you showed in Well, you travel comfortably because you are aware of your surroundings. The suggested sayings in Spanish are laughable.
    Better you should learn blessings in Spanish and Trust in the Lord.

  • Barros Serrano

    Good point that expressive language is dying even among english speakers, never mind trying to speak another language.

    The issue around Spanish, or more properly, Castilian, annoys me greatly because we live in the U$A next to a HUGE country which speaks Spanish, and near a dozen others. Spanish is taught in every high school yet virtually nobody learns to speak it.

    I was fortunate in that I began to learn French at age 3 and Castilian at 6. One has to be immersed in the language some in order to learn it. One good way is watch Castilian TV. Start with the news, it’s easier to understand.

    So few gringos can speak Castilian that Mexicans and others are always surprised that I can. ¿Dónde aprendiste a hablar español? I’m always asked.

    I have much frustration and not a little disdain for all the gringos who can’t be bothered to learn other languages, especially Castilian which is now literally all around us. And it’s a GOOD thing!

  • Brandon Roberts