Thursday, February 26, 2015

Learning Spanish Like A Canadian

Canadians are a polite people, with some exceptions of course. We like to say please, thank you, excuse me, pardon me, and best of all... Sorry!
Please -- por favor
Thank you -- gracias
You're welcome -- de nada
Excuse me -- disculpe
Pardon me -- perdone, or con permiso
Sorry -- lo siento
The next thing you learn in a lot of Spanish lessons is the difference between polite or formal "you", USTED, and casual or informal "you", TU. The polite form is used to show respect for strangers, elders, and persons of authority. The informal form is used for friends, equals, and children.
How are you? (formal) -- ¿Cómo está usted?
How are you? (informal) -- ¿Cómo estás?
Do you have a map? (formal) -- ¿Tiene un mapa?
Do you have a map? (informal) -- ¿Tienes un mapa?
Did you miss that little "s"? Yeah, that's all it takes to be rude to someone! Although, I imagine most folks wouldn't be too mad about it as they will probably be able to tell you're a non-native speaker.

Here is another tip that I picked up along the way that  helped me feel that I can continue to portray myself as the truly polite and respectful Canadian that I am.
"Quiero un café, por favor." This translates to "I want a coffee, please."
In Canada, if a waiter asked you, "What would you like to drink?" and you replied, "I want a coffee," it would seem a bit brusque. We are more likely to say, "I would like a coffee, please." Or even just, "Coffee, please." Literally translated into Spanish, that would be, "Me gustaria un café, por favor," or "Café, por favor." But apparently no one says that in Latin America. It would sound strange or rude. So to fit in, start with, "Quiero."
Thank you to Ana at Butterfly Spanish for this tip!

Some other useful Spanish phrases for all the Canucks out there!
I am Canadian -- Soy canadiense.
I'm from Canada -- Soy de canada.
It's so hot today! -- Hace tan calor hoy!
I'm hot. -- Tengo calor.
(For more instructions on feeling hot and being hot, watch Ana's video!)
Beer, please. -- Quiero una cerveza, por favor?
I would like a bottle of water, please. -- Quiero una botella de agua, por favor.
Do you know how to play hockey? -- ¿Sabe usted cómo jugar hockey?
This coffee is almost as good as Tim Hortons! -- Este café es casi tan bueno como Tim Hortons!
Final bit of advice: try to learn as much Spanish as you can before you go, but remember to cut yourself some slack if you don't understand a lick anyone is saying when you arrive at your Spanish-speaking destination. Learning from videos or programs is way easier than the real world because everyone talks slowly and enunciates. However, immersion and practice in the real world will vastly accelerate your skills! Buena suerte!


  1. hey bert. looking young. it's your old pal d13 from kindergarten. fancy rainbow weave on that table runner.

  2. You probably know this by now, but using the "informal" isn't being rude to anyone (at least depending on your relationship with that person). I speak informally to my husband because I'm completely comfortable with him and trust him completely. He uses the formal version with me because he respects me. This DOES NOT mean that I don't respect him or that he isn't comfortable with me; it simply means that that's what pops in our heads first. (I also prefer to use the informal with him, because the formal version is also used for he, she, and it.)

    The formal version is mostly reserved for older strangers. Of course, Bert--as a straight male--should never use the informal version of "tu", instead opting for "vos" if he wants to go informal.

    But, like I said, you probably know this by now; I'm mostly posting this for anyone who stumbles across your blog. ;)