A bit of Spanish basics and grammar, plus a few easy words, can make a big difference. What follows are a few words of Spanish basics which will get you started and in the mood. Have a go, you'll be surprised at how easy it is.
A quick word on pronunciation. If a vowel has an accent mark above (á) then this is the vowel that is stressed (as in Málaga).
If there is no accent then the stress, in most cases, is always on the second to last (penultimate) vowel.
In English, the vowels can have many different sounds. For example: an ‘a’ can sound very different, as in hat, hall and hay.
However, the vowels in Spanish only ever have one sound. These are: ‘a’ as in bat, ‘e’ as in bet, ‘i’ as in bit, ‘o’ as in bot and ‘u’ as in boot. There are no exceptions to this rule.
An ‘n’ with a tilde (ñ) is pronounced ‘ny’ as in onion.
There is no 'h' sound in Spanish, this is always dropped. So hablo is pronounced 'ablo and hola is 'ola, etc.
Also ‘v’ is generally pronounced as ‘b’; ‘c’ and ‘z’ as ‘th’; and ‘j’ and ‘g’ as a hard ‘h’ as in the Scottish loch. These are not hard-and-fast rules but you’ll come across it more often than not.
As you’ll see, questions and exclamations have an upside-down mark at the beginning as well as the usual one at the end.
Obviously there are many other pronunciation differences but this is merely a quick introduction.
Here we go then with a few words.
Buenos días: good morning (day)
Buenas tardes: good afternoon
Buenas noches: good night
Hasta luego: see you later
¿Habla inglés?: do you speak English?
No hablo español: I don't speak Spanish
No comprendo: I don’t understand
¿Como se dice en español?: how do you say it in Spanish?
Quiero: I want
Da me: give me
(Quiero and da me may seem very direct and almost rude to our polite English sensibilities but it is completely natural for the Spanish to ask for things in this way.)
¿Tiene?: do you have? (This is another more polite way of asking for things which may suit those who can’t bring themselves to use the above direct terms.)
Gracias: thank you.
Por favor: please.
¿Donde está?: where is...?
¿Donde está los servicios/la playa?: where are the toilets/is the beach?
a la derecha: on the right
a la izquierda: on the left
¿Cuanto es?: how much is it?
¿Dígame?: what can I give you?
¿Qué quiere?: what do you want? (Another two examples of Spanish directness.)
¿Que hora es?: what time is it?
es uno y media: it is half past one
es los dos: it is two o´clock
es los tres menos quince: it is quarter to three (three less 15 minutes)
(The days and months aren’t capitalised as in English.)