Residents of popular tourist destinations around the world frequently speak English incredibly well. Latin Americans often spend years at school studying "the global language." That doesn't mean that tourists shouldn't try to learn Spanish, although many find that they can get along without it. Knowing the language allows visitors to connect to people in their destination. It increases the ease of travel and can help travelers explore out-of-the-way places. Most importantly, it's an excellent way to show respect and interest in the culture of Hispanic destinations. Here's how to get started:


Basic Phrases And Numbers

  • Hola - Hello
  • Chau/Adios - Bye
  • Necesito ayuda. - I need help.
  • Estoy perdido. - I'm lost.
  • ¿Habla inglés? - Do you speak English?
  • No entiendo. - I don't understand.

Learning to say and understand numbers is essential. Travelers will use them to find addresses, buy souvenirs, pay in a restaurant, and get to their hotel rooms. Practice, more practice, and even more!

Uno - 1, Dos - 2, Tres - 3, Cuatro - 4, Cinco - 5, Seis - 6, Siete - 7, Ocho - 8, Nueve - 9, Diez - 10

Once - 11, Doce - 12, Trece - 13, Catorce - 14, Quince - 15, Diesiseis - 16, Diesisiete - 17, Diesiocho - 18, Diesinueve - 19

Veinte - 20, Treinta - 30, Cuarenta - 40, Cincuenta - 50, Sesenta - 60, Setenta - 70, Ochenta - 80, Noventa - 90, Cien - 100, Ciento uno - 101

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In The Airport

The most important phrases to learn in this section are "Quiero..." which means "I want..." and "Dónde está..." meaning "Where is..." Travelers will be able to use either in multiple situations. For example, they might say "Quiero chocolate" in an ice cream store or "Quiero una cama doble" in their hotel. "Dónde está" could be used to ask for "el baño" (the bathroom) as well as "la parada de bus" (bus stop) or even "mi equipaje" (my luggage).

  • Quiero... pasillo/ventana. - I want... an aisle seat/a window seat.
  • ¿A qué hora es el embarque? - What time does the flight board?
  • ¿A qué hora despega? - What time does the flight leave?
  • ¿Dónde esta... mi puerta/el baño/migraciones/arribos/partidas/un cajero automático? - Where is... my gate/the restroom/immigration/arrivals/departures?
  • ¿Dónde puedo cargar mi celular? - Where can I charge my cell phone?
  • No encuentro mi equipaje. - I can't find my luggage.
  • Mi maleta es... negro/rojo/verde/marron/grande/chico. - My suitcase is... black/red/green/brown/large/small.
  • ¿Dónde tomo un taxi? - Where can I take a taxi?


  • ¿Tiene el menu en inglés? - Do you have a menu in English?
  • Gracias - Thank you
  • Por favor - Please
  • Quiero... una ensalada/los raviolis/un bife/el pure de papa. - I want... a salad/raviolis/a steak/mashed potatoes.
  • Soy alergico... al maní/al trigo/a los mariscos. - I'm allergic to... peanuts/wheat/seafood.
  • Necesito... la sal/agua/una servilleta. - I need... salt/water/a napkin.
  • La cuenta, por favor. - The check, please.

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Gesturing and pointing can help get tourists what they need in stores and shops, but simply saying it is so much easier. Vacationers may need to buy a huge range of products so it's impossible to list them all. That's the beauty of Google's translator--it can come up with the necessary word in just a few moments. Even better, language learners can click on the audio icon to hear the pronunciation.

  • ¿Tiene... aspirina/pilas/protector solar? - Do you have... aspirin/batteries/sunscreen?
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta? - How much is it?
  • ¿Puedo pagar con... tarjeta/efectivo? - Can I pay with... a credit card/cash?

How To Practice

Learning a language takes a lifetime--most adults sometimes come across words they don't know in their native language. Adding a second language requires commitment. Learning to communicate in Spanish will take some work, preferably spread out in daily 15-minute increments over a few weeks or months, not just on the four-hour flight to Cancun. These are some fun ways to practice:

  • Listen to music - Musicians from Spain, Latin American, and the U.S. create beautiful songs in every genre imaginable from traditional folklore to surprising heavy metal. Artists and groups like Maná, Kevin Johansen, Jorge Drexler, and Juan Luis Guerra will have language learners curious about what the lyrics say.
  • Use Duolingo - Anyone can download this app on their telephone in just a matter of minutes. After that, this green owl will help language learners incorporate a huge amount of new vocabulary.
  • Watch Spanish language movies and series - Spanish-speaking countries have an incredibly rich culture. Watching movies and series is a great way to learn the language and more about life in these destinations. Here are some recommendations: Narcos, La Casa de Papel, Nueve Reinas, Maria Llena de Gracia and more.
  • Find a tutor - The best way to learn a language well is to practice speaking it a lot. Travelers hoping to brush up on their Spanish should find a native speaker and set up a weekly coffee meeting.


Pronunciation is one of the most important parts of getting people to understand. Spanish language learners need to focus on their vowel sounds. Unlike English, each vowel has only one sound and never changes. "A" always sounds like the vowel in "pot." People should pronounce "E" the same way as the vowel in "egg." "I" sounds like "eat." "O" is similar to "open" and "U" has the same sound as "boot."

The best way to learn pronunciation is by listening. That means indulging in music, movies, and conversations with Spanish speakers.

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