As a native and Spanish teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to some mutant words or expressions when non-native Spanish speakers try to emulate Spanish.
So, if you want to make sure you’re not cometiendo una burrada (committing a foolishness) in Spanish, keep up with these seis cosas que los nativos nunca dicen (6 things Spanish speakers never say). Now, I don’t know you personally, but I’m ALMOST sure you’re using number 3 since it became popular in the 90s. Want to prove me wrong? Keep reading to find out!
I know you’re really eager to learn Spanish, and in the process you’ll feel the temptation of using phrases, words or expressions you hear in songs or movies. The thing is: some might be spot on, but some others… not so much.
1. Mi casa, su casa
I mean, come on! Si me dieran un dólar (if I had a dollar) for each time I hear a person who doesn’t speak a bit of Spanish saying this to a Latin American person in a movie or TV show, I swear I could buy a house!
The right way to say that chunk would be Mi casa es su casa (My house is your house), and even like that it sounds weird and pre-produced. Whenever you want to welcome someone to your house in Spanish, use some of these chunks instead:
- Bienvenido, ¡pasa adelante! (Welcome, come on in!)
- Siéntete como en casa. (Make yourself at home.)
- Por favor, ¡estás en tu casa! (Please, you’re at your own home!)
2. No bueno, no problemo
If you’re using any of these, then you DO have a problemo, my friend, since these expressions don’t make any sense!
There's no literal equivalent for No bueno, which in English would be something like “No good”. The proper expression requires us to add the verb ser/estar (the verb to be): No está bien (it’s not right) or, plainly, no es bueno (it’s not good).
Same thing with no problema (no problem). In Spanish, you have to add the verb haber, like this: No hay problema (there is no problem).
3. Hasta la vista, baby
This one became so popular that you probably heard about it —that’s why I mentioned it at the beginning.
Are you still using it? Well, check this out:
The terminator can totally destroy the future, kill John Connor and even win the elections in California, but sure as hell he cannot speak Spanish!
Hasta la vista, baby might actually make sense as a sentence, pero nadie la usa (nobody uses it). A better way to say goodbye in stylish Spanish could be “chau, nos estamos viendo” (bye, we’ll be seeing each other) or “ahí te ves“, which is something like “see you around”.
Want to know more goodbye chunks? Well, I’m so cool that I made a video for you.
4. Adding an O or an A at the end of English words to “Spanishize” them
We’ve all heard about Spanglish, as it has become a thing thanks to the influence of English in Spanish-speaking countries and vice-versa.
I guess some people can say this has somehow helped the communication between the two languages, but it has also created some of the most hilarious mutant words I’ve ever heard! And it’s just so mind-bending and funny, that I had to include it in this article.
Bottom line: I wish translating was as easy as adding el or la first and then adding the word in English with an extra A or O and have the word in Spanish, pero, lamentablemente, no funciona así (but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way). That’s why el trucko (the truck —which is actually called la camioneta) or la appapella (the apple —which should be la manzana) are not real words. ¡Lo siento! (Sorry!).
5. English sayings or slang translated into Spanish
Even if you know the words and can perfectly translate “Piece of cake” to Spanish, your native friends will probably understand something totally different to what you’re trying to convey.
Remember that the Latin context can be very different to your own. So, some sayings and expressions may vary greatly.
The great thing is that, by learning chunks in Spanish, you’ll avoid translating word for word and saying things like la manzana no cae lejos del árbol (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), which is something no one will understand. Instead, use de tal palo, tal astilla (like stick, like chip) and it means exactly the same.
Por la vía (by the way) —just kidding, don’t use that! Use por cierto instead— if you want to learn more about having fluent, NATURAL Spanish sentences roll off the tongue and avoid silly translations like this, check out the free Spanish class on the Spring Spanish website. We show you exactly how to achieve that.
6. Can I have a fork?
Again: translating something literally won’t guarantee it will make sense in Spanish.
Somehow, the expression “puedo tener” in Spanish sounds more like a rhetorical question than an actual request. That is why, except for some very particular cases, we never use it to ask for something.
So, whenever you go to a Spanish-speaking restaurant, refrain from saying “puedo tener” to ask for something in particular. We never use it and you won’t look too versed in Spanish in front of your waiter.
These are some chunks you can use instead:
- ¿Me puede dar un cuchillo, por favor? (Can I have a knife, please?)
- Voy a pedir un vaso de agua, ¡gracias! (I’ll have a glass of water, thanks!)
- Disculpe, ¿me trae la cuenta? (Excuse me, can I have the check?)
FREE Spanish Training
So, what do you think? Are you ready to start using the expressions we natives use in Spanish? We have a whole series of Spanish beginner videos, so feel free to check them out on our channel!
We also have that free Spanish class on our website that I mentioned before, where you'll discover the method we use in our Spring Spanish Academy to teach students to speak fluent Spanish. You also get some free sample Spanish lessons there that come straight from our Academy!