Learn to speak Spanish with your Spanish-speaking family or family-in-law!

Learn to speak Spanish with your Spanish-speaking family or family-in-law!

If you have a Spanish-speaking family, or you married into a Spanish-speaking family, then there are certain topics you’ll want to be able to cover in Spanish para quedar bien con ellos. (to look good in front of them.)

In this video, we’ll go over the essentials, plus some very useful chunks to keep the conversation going and advice on how to impress them!

I am Spring Spanish teacher Maura, and here is our first essential: 

1.  Talking about yourself

Y, ¿qué te gusta hacer?
(And, what do you like to do?)

A mí me encanta el yoga y medito siempre que puedo. ¿Y a ti?
(I love yoga and meditate whenever I can. And you?)

Anytime you want to ask about what the other person likes to do, use ¿y a ti?. When you want to ask what they do or what they are, use ¿y tú?. It’s an easy way to keep the conversation going and show interest in the other person. Later on, we’ll talk about whether to use “a ti” or “a usted”.

Ay, ¡qué bueno! Yo hago pilates a diario, que es un poco parecido al yoga. Y, ¿a qué te dedicas?
(Oh, that’s great! I do pilates every day, which is a bit like yoga. And, what do you do for a living?)

¿A qué te dedicas? is one of the most common ways to ask about your job, but look out for other questions that would mean the same in this context and that you can also use to ask this to the other person. Like:

  • ¿Y tú qué haces? (And what do you do?)

This question is so basic it needs the right context to mean “what do you do for work?” so make sure the situation allows you to make that deduction. 

  • ¿En qué trabajas? (What is your job?)
  • ¿Cuál es tu profesión? (What is your profession?)

Soy enfermera en el hospital universitario. Llevo tres años trabajando ahí y lo amo. ¿Y tú?
(I’m a nurse at the university hospital. I’ve been working there for 3 years and I love it. How about you?)

¡Con razón! Debes cuidar muy bien de mi sobrino. Yo soy diseñadora gráfica. Y tú familia, ¿qué tal? ¿Viven aquí?
(No wonder! You must take very good care of my nephew. I’m a graphic designer. What about your family? Do they live here?)

No, viven en Estados Unidos.
(No, they live in the United States.)

Of course, this is just an example of the many family configurations you could have. So, just make sure to know the answer to basic questions about your family, so you can navigate this part of the conversation. 

Chunk alert!

Siempre que puedo (Whenever I can) is a good chunk to use if you want to say you do something, anything, as much as you can. Put an activity before it, like: 

Siempre que puedo…

  • hago ejercicio (I exercise) 
  • horneo (I bake) 
  • salgo con mis amigos (I go out with my friends)

And then say, siempre que puedo without any need to change or adjust the tense of the chunk. 

For more chunks to help you specify what you’re saying and showcase your personality in Spanish, make sure to check the link in the description and get our free Essential Spanish Chunking kit!

2. Talking about your partner and your relationship

Y, ¿cómo se conocieron?
(And, how did you meet?)

En uno de los partidos del equipo de fútbol de la universidad. Tenemos amigos en común que nos presentaron. El rápido de tu primo me pidió mi número ese mismo día y dos días después fuimos a nuestra primera cita. Y aquí estamos. 
(At one of the college soccer team’s games. We have mutual friends who introduced us. Your fast cousin asked me for my number that same day, and 2 days later we went on our first date. And here we are.)

Make sure you know how to tell your specific story, but do add a little humor to it if you can. Nuestra forma de comunicarnos depende de ello muy a menudo, así que sin duda ayudará a que la comunicación sea fácil y fluida. (Our way of communicating relies on it very often, so it’ll definitely help in making the communication easy and flowy.)

Esto me recuerda (This reminds me), stick till the end if you’re interested in some advice on how to look good with your Hispanic family and impress them with your insider knowledge!

Ah, o sea que deben llevar un tiempo ya, ¿no?
(Ah, so you must have been going for a while now, right?)

Si, un año conociéndonos y diez meses oficialmente como pareja. Él es muy atento y divertido. ¿Siempre ha sido así de gracioso? Yo no paro de reirme cuando estoy con él.
(Yes, a year of knowing each other and 10 months officially as a couple. He is very attentive and fun. Has he always been this funny? I can’t stop laughing when I’m with him.)

Asking questions about your partner, whether you know this or not, will help with creating closeness between you and the other person who, probably, knows your partner’s story first hand. 

¡Eso es el amor! La verdad, sí. Siempre ha sido súper dulce y cercano. Le encanta hacer reír a la gente. ¿Y están pensando en dar el siguiente paso?
(That’s love! Actually, yes. He’s always been so sweet and close. He loves to make people laugh. And are you thinking of taking the next step?)

Jajaja, si todo sale bien. Seguimos conociéndonos y poniendo a prueba la relación, pero sí que estamos muy ilusionados.
(Hahaha, if all goes well. We are still getting to know each other and testing the relationship, but yes, we are very excited.)

Don’t be surprised if you constantly hear wedding jokes, even if your relationship has barely started. Y, si ya están casados, esto podría transformarse fácilmente en bromas sobre bebés. (And, if you’re already married, this could easily transform into baby jokes.) You can answer with another joke, if you feel like you can keep up, or say something truthful like I did. Just make sure to laugh and keep it lighthearted. 

Claro, qué bueno. ¿Y cómo te sientes conociendo a la familia?
(Sure, that’s great. And how do you feel about meeting the family?)

¡Muy contenta! Super nerviosa al principio, pero todos me han hecho sentir bienvenida y eso ha ayudado mucho. 
(Very happy! Super nervous at first, but everyone has made me feel welcome and that has helped a lot.)

Questions will fly and come out of nowhere. Some might surprise you by their intimacy or straightforwardness, but just know that how you react will always be more important than what you actually say. Lo más importante es mostrarte dispuesto o dispuesta a compartir y acercarte. (The most important thing is to show yourself willing to share and get close.)

3. Look good with your Hispanic family

So, I’m going to take a leap here and make a generalization about Hispanic culture that might not fit your Hispanic family perfectly or at all, so proceed with caution. Es decir, asegúrate de que esto se aplica a ti. (Meaning, make sure if this applies to you.) 

Having said that, my experience with Hispanic culture (take into account that I’m Venezuelan) is that we tend to be open and welcoming with new people. Especially if you’re family, because whether it is a new family or an old one, family is family and that means closeness to us. 

En ese sentido, es mejor que actúes como si fueras de la familia desde ya, aunque sea un poco incómodo al principio. (In that regard, you might be better off acting like family right away, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable at first.) You can create this feeling of closeness by doing some of the following:

  • Llama a la familia política por su título. (Call your in-laws by their title.)

This means, instead of using their names, you could use:

  • Suegra o suego (Mother in-la or father-in-law)
  • Cuñado o cuñada (Brother-in-law or sister-in-law)
  • Abuelo o abuela (Grandpa or grandma)
  • Primo o prima (Cousin)

Because everyone is different, as a rule of thumb, always ask first. If you’re brave enough to ask them directly yourself, use the following:

  • ¿Te importa si te llamo cuñado o cuñada? (Do you mind if I call you brother-in-law or sister-in-law?)

There are cute shortenings for this word that a lot of people use. You can say cuña or cuñi regardless of gender and come across as an absolute insider.

  • ¿Le importa si la llamo suegra o suegro? (Do you mind if I call you mother-in-law or father-in-law?)
  • ¿Le importa si la llamo abuela o abuelo? (Do you mind if I call you grandma or grandpa?)

Notice that I’m using the formal form of “you” in Spanish, meaning usted, to talk to parents and grandparents and not brothers or sisters. En caso de que esto sea nuevo para ti, Paulísima hizo un video completo al respecto que puedes ver aquí. (In case this is new to you, Paulisima made a whole video about it which you can watch here.) 

La mayoría de los adultos mayores apreciarán esta muestra de respeto, aún más si el español no es tu primera lengua. (Most older adults will appreciate this show of respect, even more if Spanish isn’t your first language.) 

Otras cosas que puedes hacer para actuar con proximidad serían: (Other things you can do to act close would be:)

  • Tócalos respetuosamente. (Respectfully touch them.)

Oh, my God, this sounds bad but, bear with me. Lo que quiero decir con esto es que el contacto físico es común, natural y de esperar entre los miembros de la familia hispana. (What I mean by this is that physical contact is common, natural, and to be expected among Hispanic family members.) 

  • Ofrece rellenar sus bebidas. (Offer to refill their drinks.)

You can do this with drinks, food, anything you might all be enjoying while spending some time together. For this, you can use the following:

  • Suegro, ¿le sirvo más? (Father-in-law, can I serve you more?) 
  • Abuela, ¿quiere más? (Grandma, do you want more?)

As a shortcut, always point to the thing you’re referring to, whether it is a dish or a drink. You could ask directly if you know what they’re having, like:

  • Cuña, ¿quieres más vino? (Sister in-law, do you want more wine?)

If you made it ‘till here, how about letting me know by writing your favorite drink in the comments? In Spanish, of course!

  • Halágalos. (Compliment them.)

Clearly, if you want to look good, paying them a compliment here and there might be a reasonable thing to do. Don’t go crazy, though! Keep it cool. The easiest way would be to stick to superficial things like:

  • Me encantan tus zapatos. (I love your shoes.)
  • Me encanta tu cabello. (I love your hair.)
  • ¡Qué buena está la comida! (The food is so good!)

Be as excessive as you can, praising the food. Other things you can do that follow the same directions, are:

  • Asegúrate de elogiar a tu pareja. (Make sure to praise your partner.)

Be emphatic about how well raised they are. If you say things about their manners or their values, it’ll be clear you’re praising the entire family. You could say things like:

  • Amo cómo me trata y cómo se comporta con mi familia y amigos. (I love how he treats me and how he behaves with my family and friends.)
  • Halaga a los niños y niñas. (Praise the children.)

Similarly, by praising the children, you’d be doing the same thing.


Now, a little bit of reviewing. Let me know in the comments what you would say in these situations:

  • Ofrecerle más vino a la abuela. (Offering more wine to grandma.)
  • Halagar los zapatos de la prima. (Complimenting the cousin’s shoes.)
  • Preguntarle a tu cuñado en qué trabaja. (Ask your brother-in-law what he does for a living.)

Do you want more useful chunks for speaking with the in-laws in Spanish and impressing them? Spring Spanish teacher Paulisima has got you covered. She will take over now for the next part of the lesson to make sure that your in-laws are awestruck by your amazing Spanish! Click the image on screen to continue. 

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