Vocabulary is one of the most important things to learn a language because without it, you are not able to adequately express yourself.
Think of it like a child learning to speak. Initially, their vocabulary is very limited before they learn more words that help them to express their thoughts. When you are learning a new language, the same concept applies.
Take the word “almohada”. Do you know the meaning? Well, almohada means “pillow”!
What about the Spanish word for “cake”? That is easy right, it is “pastel”. Nothing difficult going on here. The truth though is a lot of people use slang and idioms in conversation and those are not literally translated.
For example, “that’s a piece of cake”, as in it is easy, is translated into “Eso es pan comido”. However, the literal translation of “pan” into English is “bread”! How confusing! That is the main reason why Google Translator will never replace learning to speak a language.
Don’t believe it?
Give it a go yourself, translate that phrase in Google Translator and you will get: ”Eso es un pedazo de pastel ”. Things are simple if we know them from the root. Learning vocabulary and using it in context is the way you will improve and learn to speak a language like a native.
It is not always complicated though, and there are many words that are similar in English and Spanish. They are called cognates because they have the same etymological origin. And the good thing is that there are a lot of them. Examples:
|English Words ending in al||They are the same in Spanish|
|English words ending in “ar”||They are the same in Spanish|
|English Verbs||Add ‘ar’ for these verbs in Spanish|
|English words that end in “ate”||Spanish words end in “ar” instead of “ate”|
|English words that end in “ment”||Spanish words end in “mento”|
|English Adverbs||Spanish Adverbs|
Just remember that there are always exceptions. “Actually” does not translate into “actualmente”, in Spanish it is “en realidad”. The word “currently” is “actualmente”.
Most Useful Spanish Vocabulary
It’s impossible to learn all the words in any language, even as a native speaker. However, there are common and useful, words and expressions that you use to establish a conversation or make small talk. The main vocabulary has to do with questions:
- Qué? – What?
- Qué es eso? – What is that?
- Quién? Who?
- Quién es tu novio? Who is your boyfriend?
- Cómo? – How?
- Cómo estás? How are you? But: How old are you? – Cuántos años tienes?
- Dónde? – Where?
- Dónde vives? – Where do you live?
- Cuándo? – When?
- Cuando es tu cumpleaños? When is your birthday?
- Cual? – Which?
- Cual es tu película favorita? Which one is your favorite movie?
- Por qué? Why? (Porque – because)
- Por qué no quieres comer? Why don’t you want to eat?
- Porque no tengo hambre – Because I am not hungry.
- Cuánto/a? How much? (Uncountable nouns: salt, sugar, sand, money, etc)
- Cuánto dinero cuesta? How much does it cost?
- Cuántos/Cuántas? How many? (Countable nouns: chairs, students, computers)
- Cuántos estudiantes hay en tu clase? How many students are there in your class?
If you know these basic questions, it is going to be easier to understand Spanish.
However, you will also need to know other questions, nouns, and expressions to be able to communicate and expand your vocabulary.
- Que significa ‘’……..”? What does “…….” mean?
- Puedes repetir por favor? Can you repeat, please?
- Otra vez por favor. One more time/ Once again, please.
Interesting Facts About Spanish Vocabulary
As mentioned before, there are many words which cannot be translated literally from English to Spanish and vice versa.
These instances depend if you are using slang or an idiom expression, or sometimes there is no exact or single word to describe the same.
For example: “empalagarse” is a Spanish word that does not have a single-word English translation. This word means to feel sick after eating a lot of sweets. Similarly, the English word “toes”, does not have a single-word translation and translates to “dedos del pie” – “fingers of the foot”.