HIST: Independent Study/Estudio independiente 1

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Spanish Conversation

Amy: ¡Hola, Mauricio!
¡Hola, Amy! ¿Cómo estás?
Amy: Bien, ¿y tú?
Muy bien.


This is such a basic conversation that you’ll have it over and over again! So it’s worth the time to study. Here is the conversation a second time, except in English.


Amy: Hello, Mauricio!
Mauricio: Hello, Amy! How are you?
Amy: Well, and you?
Very well.

Audio: Tarea 1

Formal vs. Informal Modes of Address
When you are greeting someone you already know,
hola, or hello,is a perfectly acceptable greeting. However, Latin Americans are often more formal than their American (norteamericano) counterparts. If you are meeting someone that you don’t know, use the more formal, “Good morning,” or, “Good afternoon.”


Buenos días. Good morning.
Buenas tardes.
Good afternoon.
Buenas noches. Good evening.

It is even more polite to add a formal title afterwards, like

Buenos días, señor. Good morning, sir.
Buenos días, señora. Good morning, ma’am. (Used for married women.)
Buenos días, señorita. Good morning, miss.
(Used for unmarried women.)


Greeting More than One Person

When you have to greet more than one person at a time, don’t think that you’ll get away with a big “Buenos días“ to the whole group. In many parts of Latin America, you will be expected to greet everyone individually. That means a lot of shaking hands and a lot of Buenos días-ing!


How are You?

It’s only polite to ask how people are doing. In Spanish, the most common way that this is done is by saying,


¿Cómo estás?
How are you?


Let’s look at this question part by part. First, notice the upside-down question mark at the beginning of the question. All questions in Spanish start with an upside-down question mark and end with a regular question mark. Exclamations follow the same pattern. For example


¡Qué bueno!
How great!


Notice the accent marks as well (ó, é, á). In Spanish, accent marks tell you to stress a certain syllable or vowel sound. For example, the words estás and estas are pronounced completely differently. They’re also completely separate words! (Estás means “you are,” while estas means “these.”) That is why it so crucial to always include accent marks when you’re writing Spanish.

Now, let’s get into the content. The word cómo means how. The word estás means are you (or you are). You may wonder how one word in Spanish can mean the equivalent of two words in English. Let me advise you now: this will happen all the time! Sometimes one word in English will require two words or more in Spanish, or vice versa. That’s why it’s important not to get caught up in making literal, or word-by-word, translations. (Which is also why online translators, even those that claim to translate sentences, often return incorrect answers!)

Spanish allows you to include the subject of a sentence inside the verb by modifying the verb slightly. It does this through conjugations. Conjugations are too complex to explain here on your very first lesson, but if you plan to learn more than the most basic Spanish, you will become very, very familiar with verb conjugations!


Formal vs. Informal Modes of Address Part II
One of the other strange things about Spanish is that you have a choice about whether you are going to address another person respectfully or familiarly (e.g., informally). There are actually
four words for “you” in Spanish!

  • informal, singular
  • usted formal, singular
  • vosotros informal, plural (e.g., “you guys”)
  • ustedes formal, plural (e.g., “you all”)

Right now, the important thing to realize is that the question, “How are you?” can change according to which “you” you wish to use. If you’re asking a single person how he or she is, you’ll choose between one of the following.


¿Cómo estás? How are you? Informal, used among friends
¿Cómo está usted? How are you? Formal, used with elders, superiors, or people you don’t know


The first question is the one used in the conversation above between me and my friend Amy. Since we’re friends, we use the informal mode of address. If, however, I was addressing someone I’d never met before or someone older than me, I would have said,


¿Cómo está usted?


It means exactly the same thing, except that this way it imparts much greater respectfulness and politeness.


No, Really, HOW are You?
If someone asks you, “¿Cómo estás?” you have a variety of responses you can use. Here are some of the most common.

  • Estoy bien. I am well.
    Estoy muy bien.I am very well.
  • Estoy enfermo. (use if you’re male) I am sick.
    Estoy enferma. (use if you’re female)
  • Estoy cansado. (use if you’re male) I am tired.
    Estoy cansada. (use if you’re female)
  • Estoy aburrido. (use if you’re male) I am bored.
    Estoy aburrida. (use if you’re female)


Mauricio: Encantado.
Amy: EI gusto es mío.
Mauricio: ¿Cómo te llamas?
Amy: Me llamo Amy.
Mauricio: ¿De dónde eres?
Amy: Soy de Ios Estados Unidos.
Mauricio: Hablas español muy bien.
Amy: Solo un poco. Estoy aprendiendo.

» English Translation

Mauricio: Delighted.
Amy: The pleasure is mine.
Mauricio: What’s your name?
Amy: My name is Amy.
Mauricio: Where are you from?
Amy: I am from the United States.
Mauricio: You speak Spanish very well.
Amy: Only a little. I am learning.

Audio: Tarea 2

Questions for Clarification

Many people need to visualize a word in their heads before they can accurately repeat and remember it. That’s why they often want to know:


¿Cómo se escribe?
How’s it written?


If you’re going to understand the answer, though, you’ll need to be familiar with the Spanish alphabet … which could be tricky at this stage in your learning! So it might just be easier for now to ask,


Repite, por favor.
Repeat, please.


Or, you may need to ask,

Más despacio, por favor.

More slowly, please.


Most people will be happy to clarify what they said for you, so never feel embarrassed about asking!


What Do You Say after Hello?

If you’re going to memorize one word to use during introductions, encantado is a good one to pick. It’s fast, easy, and sounds a lot like its English equivalent, “enchanted,” to boot!

If you’re going to use encantado properly, you need to learn one rather awkward aspect of Spanish grammar. In Spanish, everything—from a man to a woman … from a pen to a cup of coffee … from light to lightning—has a gender! In other words, the words for these things are either masculine or feminine.

Take a look at these examples.

  • niño   boy masculine
  • niña   girl feminine
  • perro  dog masculine
  • vaca  cow feminine
  • libro  book masculine
  • mesa  table feminine

Note that in these examples, the words that end in ‘o’ are masculine, while the words that end in ‘a’ are feminine. This is a good general rule to remember at this stage in your learning.

But words for things aren’t the only words with a gender. Describing words (or adjectives) have to reflect the gender of the thing they describe. That means that if you want to say, “I’m delighted to meet you,” the word delighted in Spanish will be different according to whether you’re a man or a woman.

  • If you’re a man, say Encantado.
  • If you’re a woman, say Encantada.

If you’re feeling a bit more confident, try the following:


El gusto es mío.
The pleasure is mine.


What’s Your Name?

There are several ways to ask someone’s name is Spanish. The simplest is


¿Cómo te llamas?
What’s your name?


Many beginning students make the mistake of thinking that this is a direct translation of the question in English. It’s not! This question actually means:


¿Cómo te llamas?
How do you call yourself?


This sort of thing happens in Spanish a lot. To convey the English meaning of a question, you’ll have to express it in a way that will seem unnatural at first. (Some people think of it as the difference between modern English and Shakespearean English!) But don’t worry … with practice, the Spanish way of saying something will soon become so natural that you won’t be able to remember a time when it seemed strange.

Do you remember the explanation in the second part of this course about formal and informal modes of address, such as ¿Cómo estás? versus ¿Cómo está usted? Well, the same difference applies to the question for asking someone’s name.

  • ¿Cómo te llamas? Informal, used with peers, very casual and friendly
  • ¿Cómo se llama? Formal, used with people to whom you want to show respect and politeness

To answer this question, you will say,


Me llamo…
My name is…
(or, more literally, “I call myself…


Looking back at the conversation you learned earlier, here’s what it will look like.


Mauricio: ¿Cómo te llamas?
Amy: Me llamo Amy.


Where are You From?

Now, things are starting to get even more difficult. Remember how I said that in Spanish, words have to be juggled around a bit? The question, “Where are you from?” is one of those cases. In Spanish, you’ll actually ask:


From where are you?
¿De dónde eres?


The word “de” means from, while “dónde” means where. If you can memorize this question, you’ll also be able to ask two other enormously useful questions.

  • ¿Dónde? Where?
  • ¿De dónde?From where?

For example, someone may tell you, “Look at that bird!” You can respond, “¿Dónde?” Where?

Eres is a rather strange word. It comes from one of the two “to be” verbs in Spanish, ser. The other “to be” verb is estar. You’ve seen estar already: remember the question, ¿Cómo estás? How are you? You will learn more about the differences between ser and estar as you study Spanish further. For now, just note that there is more than one way to say “you are.”

The question, “Where are you from?” can be asked in two different ways: one formal, one informal.

  • ¿De dónde eres? Informal, friendly, casual
  • ¿De dónde es usted? Formal, respectful, polite

Your answer will start…


Soy de…
I’m from…


If you’re traveling abroad, your answer will probably look something like this:

  • Soy de los Estados Unidos. I’m from the United States.
  • Soy de Inglaterra. I’m from England.
  • Soy de Australia. I’m from Australia.

If someone closer to home is asking you the question, they probably want to know what city or state you’re from. You can say something like…

  • Soy de Nueva York. I’m from New York.
  • Soy de Chicago. I’m from Chicago.
  • Soy de California. I’m from California.

How Much Spanish do You Know?

In this ideal situation, you’ll be speaking Spanish so well by this point that your Spanish-speaking conversation partner will think you’re fluent. Hopefully, you’ll hear this comment:


Informal: Hablas español muy bien.
Usted habla español muy bien.
You speak Spanish very well.


Of course you do! … Don’t you?

If you don’t think you speak Spanish very well, or if you want to make sure that the person doesn’t assume that you know more than you do, you can use one of these useful phrases:

  • Estoy aprendiendo. I’m learning.
  • Solo hablo un poco. I only speak a little.
  • No sé mucho. I don’t know much.
  • Hablo mejor ingles. I speak English better.

If, on the other hand, your conversation partner doesn’t tell you that you speak Spanish very well—in fact, you may find that you simply can’t understand what your conversation partner is saying—here are a few useful phrases to have on hand.

  • No entiendo. I don’t understand. (*see note below*)
  • Lo siento. I’m sorry.
  • No hablo español.I don’t speak Spanish.
  • No hablo español muy bien. I don’t speak Spanish very well.
  • ¿Hablas ingles?Do you speak English? (casual)
  • ¿Habla usted ingles?Do you speak English? (polite)

You may have already learned or heard one way to say that you don’t understand in Spanish. Many people think that it is correct to say, “No comprendo.” This sentence is grammatically correct, but it is not commonly used for this context. Would you say in English, “I don’t comprehend”? If so, by all means go ahead and use “no comprendo.” If not, stick to, “No entiendo.”

By the way, did you notice that the word for Spanish is español? It is very similar to the word for the country of Spain, which is España. The word for English is inglés.

  • español Spanish (España, Spain)
  • inglés English ( Inglaterra, England)

Tarea 3

Spanish Conversation

Amy: Necesito ayuda.
¿Con qué?
Quiero algo para tomar.
¿Qué quieres?
Me gustaría un café.
Mauricio: ¿Con azúcar o leche?
Con ambos, por favor.
Mauricio: Listo. Yo quiero un .


English Translation


Amy: I need help.
With what?
Amy: I want something to drink.
What do you want?
Amy: I would like a (cup of) coffee.
With sugar or milk?
Amy: With both, please.
Set. I want a (cup of) tea.



Audio: Tarea 3

Getting What You Want

The three most important verbs in Spanish for you to learn to get around in a Spanish-speaking country are I need, I want, and I would like.

  • Necesito. I need.
  • Quiero. I want.
  • Me gustaría. (also Quisiera.)I would like.

Use “necesito” to tell people that you need a room in a hotel, need information, or need to find a bathroom!

Use “quiero” to tell people that you want those shoes, want to go shopping, or want to do a tour.

Use “me gustaría” (or its equivalent quisiera) to order food at a restaurant, offer an opinion about what you would like to do, or talk about what you would like to do someday.

Take a look at the conversation you learned in the previous part of the course to see how these three important phrases are used.


Amy: Necesito ayuda.
¿Con qué?
Quiero algo para tomar.
¿Qué quieres?
Me gustaría un café.
¿Con azúcar o leche?
Con ambos, por favor.
Mauricio: Listo. Yo quiero un té.

In English, this conversation goes as follows:

Amy: I need help.
With what?
I want something to drink.
What do you want?
I would like a (cup of) coffee.
With sugar or milk?
With both, please.
Mauricio: Set. I want a (cup of) tea.


How to Order in Spanish

When you’re ordering food at a café or restaurant, it’s only polite to tell the waiter what you’d like to order … rather than what you want. When traveling in a foreign country, you don’t want to be seen as demanding! So it’s good to get into the habit of using me gustaría or quisiera.

Literally, me gustaría means, “It would please me.” It would please me to have the chicken. It would please me to have a coffee.

It is often used to request something in a polite way. For example…

  • Me gustaría una habitación para la noche. I’d like a room for the night.
  • Me gustaría el pollo con una ensalada.I’d like the chicken with a salad.
  • Me gustaría dos cafés.I’d like two coffees.

Always append your request with the two magic words that will increase your chances of better, faster, and more gracious service: por favor ... please!


Por favor.


For example, Me gustaría un café, por favor. I’d like a coffee, please.

When the waiter returns your order, it’s only polite to add, “Thank you.”

Thank you.


Something to Drink

Ordering algo para tomar, or something to drink, is one of the most basic ordering experiences and is a good way to try out your Spanish. Imagine you are in a cafetería, or a coffee shop. What will you order and how will you say it? Here are some options.


Me gustaría…

  • …un café. I’d like a (cup of) coffee.
  • …un café instantaneo. I’d like an instant coffee.
  • …un café con leche. I’d like a coffee with milk. (Made with eitherinstant coffee dissolved in milk or espresso added to milk.)
  • …un café con leche y azúcar. I’d like a coffee with milk and sugar.
  • …un café descafeinado. I’d like a decaffeinated coffee.
  • …un té. I’d like a (cup of) tea.
  • …un té con leche. I’d like a tea with milk.
  • …un té con limón. I’d like a tea with lemon.

If you want to streamline your Spanish even further, you don’t actually have to tell a waiter, “I would like a cup of coffee.” You could just say, “A coffee, please.”


Un café, por favor.
A coffee, please.


Please note that it can be easy to confuse what “café” means in Spanish with what the same word means in English. A café, in English, is a place where coffee is sold. Un café, in Spanish, is the actual coffee drink.


Emergency! I Need Help!

If you are going to spend any time in a Spanish-speaking country, you need to know how to ask for help. So memorize this essential word:




If you don’t remember any other words from this section, remember that if you’re in trouble you can always shout, “¡Ayuda!” and be understood.

If the help you need isn’t of an essential nature, here are the two most useful phrases you can have at your disposal.

  • Necesito ayuda. I need help.
  • ¿Me puede ayudar? Can you help me?

If you need help with something, just add “con“ and the thing you need help with to the end of either of the above phrases. Look at the following sentences. To understand them, you need to know that “las maletas” are the suitcases.

  • Necesito ayuda con las maletas. I need help with the suitcases.
  • ¿Me puede ayudar con las maletas? Can you help me with the suitcases?

Let’s see how you could put these words into use. Imagine that you have just checked into a hotel. The bellboy (el botones) asks you if you need help with your bags.


El Botones: ¿Necesita ayuda con las maletas?
You: No necesito ayuda, gracias.

Did you understand that? You told the bellboy that you didn’t need help, thank you. Or, you could have just said, “No, gracias.” No, thanks.

It’s nice to be able to ask for help in these circumstances, but in real emergencies you will need something a bit stronger than, “I need help.” Here are three powerful words that will catch everyone’s attention

  • ¡Auxilio! Help!
  • ¡Ladrón! Thief!
  • ¡Fuego!Fire!


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