Moving to Spain? Here are 8 tips to speak like a native

Learning a language is really difficult; I lived in Brazil for four years and can say that in all honesty, the first year there was the most challenging period in my life.

I used to be super independent, but for the first time ever, I was completely reliant on my Brazilian husband to do everything for me.

That is, until I learned Portuguese.

So this week, Joe Meringolo is back with Part Three of the 3-part series on Spanish culture, and in this post, he shares some quick tips for speaking Spanish like a native.

Written by guest blogger Joe Meringolo

If you're moving to Spain and want to break from beginner Spanish, there are many fun ways to learn the language quicker.

"How" you learn is just as important as “what” you’re learning.

And although high school Spanish gave me a base of the language, I soon realized that I actually spoke little to no Spanish when I first arrived in Spain.

But while teaching English and completing a graduate program in Spain over a 4-year period, I learned many important lessons and developed some fun strategies that will hopefully serve you, too.

Speak informally

Unless you’re speaking with the police (hopefully not!) or the Prime Minister, you’ll be better off using the informal “tú” (you - informal) or “vosotros/vosotras” (you all - informal).

In some cases, you can start with “usted” and allow the other person to say “tú,” but using usted or ustedes can sound very formal to Spaniards.

My landlady once told me that when you speak formally, as a younger person communicating to an older person, you could be insinuating, “I’m young; you’re old.”

As Americans, we think of Mister and Misses as signs of respect, whereas in Spain, it might come across like you’re giving them a sense of authority or power.

Watch your use of pronouns

For the beginners out there, you won’t have to use the pronouns (yo, tú, etc.) before the verbs often.

For native speakers, it sounds like you’re calling attention to the subject.

Unless you’re using the pronoun to clarify, you don’t need to use it.

For example, saying, “Ella es lista,” literally translates to, “She is smart,” but to native speakers, using the pronoun could be interpreted to mean, “Oh, she thinks she’s smart,” or “Yeah, she is really smart.”

Context is key, but know that pronouns add more emphasis on the person.

“Pago yo

When you hear someone use a pronoun (yo, tú, etc.) at the end, you should note that the person is insisting.

So if someone insists on paying the bill, for example, they might say, “Pago yo.”

Grabbings drinks (i.e. “tomar algo”)

This phrase can mean “to grab something”: a coffee, a beer, some food, etc.