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Spanish small talk: it’s all about courtesy



Spanish Small Talk: It’s All about Courtesy

Small talk is not as easy to master as it may seem. This is why I continue giving you tips on which words and phrases you can use while talking to real Spanish-speakers.

When meeting with people, especially in Spanish-speaking countries, you sure want to be polite. First impressions matter, so one of the most important rules of politeness is not to be late. But if it happened, don’t worry! Say:

  • ¡Siento llegar tarde! (pronounced sih-YEHN-toh yeh-GAHR TAHR-deh; Eng.: Sorry I’m late!)

If it is the other person who is late, make him/her feel at ease by saying:

  • ¡No pasa nada! (pronounced noh PAH-sah NAH-dah; Eng.: It’s nothing!)

There are numerous ways to be polite beyond this point. Learn them to soup up your Spanish speech and show class:

  • Por favor (pohr fah-BOHR; Eng.: Please) – it’s literal meaning is “for favor,” so you are asking the other person to do you a favor.

  • Gracias (pronounced GRAH-thi-ahss; Eng.: Thank you)

  • De nada (pronounced deh NAH-thah; Eng.: You’re welcome) – the literal meaning of de nada is “of nothing;” it’s like saying “no big deal.”

  • Lo siento (pronounced loh si-EHN-toh; Eng.: Sorry)

  • Discúlpeme (pronounced dis-KOOL-peh-meh; Eng.: Excuse me)



Courtesy is great, but still since it’s small talk, you need to actually talk about something. If you are at a loss, remember the conversation saver known as

  • ¿Qué tal? (pronounced key-TAHL).

When uttered alone, que tal means “how are you?”, BUT you can elaborate your question by adding anything at all after que tal. For example:

  • ¿Qué tal tu novio? – How is your boyfriend doing?

  • ¿Qué tal tu semana? – How is your week going?

  • ¿Qué tal tu gato? – How is your cat?


See? You can stop beating about the bush and ask que tal something in any situation to start the ball rolling!

If you are the one asked que tal, start your response with nada (pronounced NAH-thah). This is a polite way of showing you are humble, that you are not boasting of anything that has happened to you, because nada means “not much.”

For example:

  • ¿Qué tal tu día? – Nada, estuve con mi gato todo el día.”

Another word you can use in any conversation is vaya (pronounced BAH-yah; Eng.: wow, well, oh no). You can start talking about any subject with this word! See for yourself:

  • ¡Vaya, mira quién es aqui! = Well, look who is here!

  • ¡Vaya! Qué apartamento amplio tiene! = Wow! What a roomy apartment he’s got!

  • ¡Vaya! Se me ha mojado mi reloj. = Oh no! My watch got wet.

If the conversation has got too complicated or fast (and it most certainly is going to get complicated and fast, since Spanish –speakers are very emotional and passionate), and you stop catching the things your interlocutor tells you, have these phrases ready:

No entiendo. (pronounced NOH-ehn-TYEHN-doh; Eng.: I don’t understand.)

Hable más despacio, por favor. (pronounced AHB-leh MAHSS des-PAH-thyoh-pohr-fa-BOHR; Eng.: Please speak slower.)

¿Podría repetir, por favor? (pronounced pohd-RIH-ah-reh-peh-TEEHR-pohr-fa-BOHR; ENG.: Could you repeat, please?)

Now you can dive into any conversation with native speakers and be sure you have something to say!

Stay with me and I will tell you more phrases you can scribble into your Spanish phrasebook! The next portion is coming soon, so make sure you check your email!



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