How to Speak Spanish (Basics)

Believe it or not, Spanish is the second-most spoken language on the planet.[1] Developing your Spanish-speaking skills is a great way to meet new people, communicate with Spanish speakers, and immerse yourself in a new way of thinking. If you want to speak Spanish, start by learning the common phrases and vocabulary terms. Once you feel a little more comfortable with the language, you can learn a lot more by immersing yourself in the language, taking classes, and practicing daily to develop fluency in the language.


[Edit]Learning Common Phrases

  1. Memorize the common introductions so you can say hello. One of the easiest things to learn is how to greet others. This is a good introduction to the language since it gives you a foundation for a basic conversation. While you’ll have to do some memorizing, you can easily commit these basic introductory phrases to memory in a day or two.[2]
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    • ”Hola” (OH-la) means hello in Spanish. Other common greetings include “buenos días” (booEHN-os DEE-as), which means “good morning,” and “buenos noches” (booEHN-os NO-chehs), which means “good evening.”
    • Following a hello, you may say “¿Cómo estás?” (KOH-moh ess-TAHS), which means "How are you?" This might be answered by saying “estoy bien” (ESS-toy bee-EHN), which means "I'm fine."
    • You may also reply with “mucho gusto” (MOO-choh GOOS-toh), which means "nice to meet you." Then learn how to say "my name is" by saying “me llamo” (meh YAH-moh). Put them together, and you might greet someone in Spanish by saying, "Mucho gusto, me llamo Juan," which means, "Nice to meet you, my name is John."
  2. Remember Spanish words you already know to make things easy. Although you probably don't pronounce them exactly the way a Spanish-speaking person would, there are a number of Spanish words that you probably already know in your native tongue. Relying on these words in a basic conversation is a great way to build on your speaking skills while you acquire new vocabulary words.[3]
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    • Making a list of Spanish words that you already know can be a good way to build your Spanish vocabulary. This will give you a solid, basic foundation.
    • For example, there probably are a number of Spanish foods that you already know, such as “taco,” “avocado,” and “burrito.”
    • There also are a number of words that are the same in Spanish and in English (although they may be spelled or pronounced differently), such as “animal” and “chocolate.”
  3. Study the -o and -a endings to learn the gendered nouns. One of the things that makes Spanish very different from some languages is the fact that all nouns are gendered. Generally, if a noun ends in an “o” it is masculine, while if it ends in “a” it is feminine.[4]
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    • Unlike many other languages, there is no version of “it” in Spanish. All nouns have a gender, and even inanimate objects are referred to with gendered pronouns. The third person pronouns are “el” (masculine), and “la” (feminine). Words that end in -o almost always use “el” while words that end in -a typically use “la.”
    • Keep in mind that the gender you use must match the gender of the word, not the gender of the thing. This can be an issue when the thing you're talking about is an animal. For example, if you're talking about a dog, you would say "el perro" (ehl PEH-rroh) even if the dog was female.
  4. Practice memorizing the essential Spanish pronouns. Spanish verbs are conjugated according to the pronoun you need to use. However, it isn't strictly necessary to say the pronoun or even include it in the sentence. Any Spanish speaker will understand which pronoun you’re implying based on the conjugation of the verb.[5]
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    • For example, if you want to say you want something, you could say "yo quiero" (YO kee-EHR-OH), which means "I want," but you could also simply say "quiero" and the pronoun would be understood.
    • Spanish pronouns include “yo” (I), “nosotros” (we), “él” (he), “ella” (she), and “ellos” and “ellas” (they). Use “ellas” if you are referring to a group that is entirely feminine and “ellos” for a group that is either all male or a mixed-gender group.
    • The plural of you (meaning "you all") is “ustedes.” In Spain, there is another familiar form of the plural you: “vosotros” or “vosotras.” In other Spanish-speaking countries, only “ustedes” is used.
  5. Understand the basic sentence structure of Spanish. While the basic sentence structure in Spanish is quite similar to many other languages, there are some key differences. Getting the sentence patterns down will make it much easier to learn Spanish. For many learners, the hardest part is remembering to put adjectives after the noun they describe, which is uncommon in many other languages.[6]
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    • Like English, Spanish sentences are formed with a subject, followed by a verb, followed by the object of that verb. For example, suppose you said "yo quiero un burrito." This means “I” (subject) “want” (verb) “a burrito” (object).
    • Unlike English, Spanish adjectives usually go after the thing they describe. For example, if you were talking about a red book, in English you would put the adjective (red) first. In Spanish, you would be talking about a “libro rojo” (LEE-bro ROH-ho), which literally translates to “book red” in English.
    • There are exceptions to the rule. For instance, demonstrative adjectives (such as ese, este, and aquel) and possessive adjectives (including mí, tu, and su) come before the thing they describe.[7]
  6. Pick up situational words and phrases as you hear them. Whether you want to learn Spanish for school, work, or travel, there may be particular words that will be more useful to you as you're starting to learn the language. Starting in a familiar area will help you build the foundation you need.[8]
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    • Think about words or phrases that you say frequently throughout your day. For example, “por favor” (pohr fah-VOR), which means “please,” and “gracías” (gra-SEE-ahs), which means “thank you,” are essential phrases in basically every conversational setting.
    • If someone says “gracías” to you, you can respond by saying “de nada” (deh NA-da), which means "you're welcome" (literally "it was nothing").
    • You also want to learn the Spanish words for "yes" and "no" early on, if you don't already know them. They are “sí” (see), for yes, and “no.”

[Edit]Immersing Yourself in the Language

  1. Visit a Spanish-speaking country or neighborhood to get exposure. If you have some basic conversational phrases down, travelling to a Spanish-speaking place will help you learn new phrases and words. It also gives you an opportunity to eat some great food and meet new people![9]
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    • The process of immersion may be the quickest way to learn any language. If you think about it, that's the way you learned your first language.
    • Foreign exchange and study abroad programs are a great way to immerse yourself if you’re in school.
  2. Talk to fluent Spanish speakers to practice your speaking skills. There are millions of Spanish speakers in the world and you don't have to travel to Spain or Latin American to find native speakers who are willing to converse with you. Ask a fluent classmate, friend, or family member to help you practice your Spanish skills.[10]
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    • Talking and listening to Spanish speakers can help you better understand the flow of conversation. Native speakers also can correct errors you're making before you embarrass yourself or end up committing errors to memory.
  3. Watch Spanish-language TV shows and films to learn over time. Watching Spanish language television can help train your ear to distinguish the sounds. It’s also a great since you can put the closed captioning on to figure out what each line of dialogue means as it is being spoken. Look up some foreign films or find the Spanish stations on TV to start waching.[11]
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    • As you get better at the language, add Spanish subtitles while listening in Spanish to train yourself to commit the words and sounds to memory.
  4. Listen to Spanish-language music to test your ear for Spanish. Music is a good way to start identifying individual words and connecting them in your mind with their written form. It’s also a great way to memorize words since they tend to be repeated in songs during the chorus. Try listening to and singing along with the same song repetitively until you become familiar with the pronunciation and understand the lyrics.[12]
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    • Depending on where you live, you may even be able to find a Spanish-language radio station on the AM or FM dial.
    • Apart from radio, you can easily find Spanish music online.
    • Find some songs you like, then do an internet search for the lyrics. That way you can read along as the song plays to better connect the written and spoken word in your mind.
  5. Change the language on your phone or computer. Using the settings on your smartphone, computer, or tablet, you can change the default language from your native language to Spanish. Since you already know where menu items are, this change will help you learn those words in Spanish.[13]
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    • Many websites and social media platforms also allow you to change your default language. You could even change the language for your web browser, or use a translate plugin to translate web pages into Spanish.
    • You also can look for Spanish-language websites and try to read those. Many news sites will have a video along with a transcript of the video, so you can read and listen at the same time.
  6. Label household items with their Spanish words to memorize them. Giving yourself a visual reminder of the Spanish word for something you encounter on a daily basis will eventually set that word firmly in your mind. This is a really easy way to build your vocabulary. Use a label maker, post-it notes, or stickers to label each common item in your home.[14]
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    • Make sure you're using an adhesive that won't peel paint or damage the item you're labeling, since you'll probably want to take it off later.
    • Don't try to label everything at once. Start off with 5-10 items, look up the Spanish word for those things, and label them. Once you know those words, take the labels off and move on to a different set of items. If you forget a word, simply go back and do it again.

[Edit]Taking a Class and Practicing

  1. Enroll in a formal class or hire a tutor to learn the grammar rules. You can learn conversational Spanish without any formal training, but the grammar can be a little difficult to learn without help. Look into taking a class at your local community college, seek out a night class for adult learners, or pick up a Spanish class for your next semester. You can even hire a private tutor to help you learn the more complex material.[15]
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    • The benefit of having a coach or tutor is that you have someone else who is holding you accountable.
    • If you can't afford to hire someone yourself, or don't have the opportunity to take a class, consider learning the language with a friend so the two of you can hold each other accountable.
    • Sites like OpenLearn ( and Open Yale ( have free online classes you can take from the comfort of your own home. You won’t get any one-on-one practice or feedback, but these courses are great if you’re looking for something free!
  2. Practice your Spanish and teach yourself with free resources online. There are numerous websites and mobile apps that will teach you the basics of Spanish, and many of them are free. Don't expect these resources to bring you to fluency, but they can help your skills in limited areas.[16]
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    • Websites and mobile apps are good for drilling vocabulary and basic phrases, but you’ll end up with a pretty scattered understanding of Spanish if you rely on them alone. Be prepared to do some immersion (either at home or abroad) if you want to become truly fluent.
  3. Spend at least 45 minutes a day practicing your Spanish. You aren't going to learn to speak Spanish overnight—it will take time. Decide how long your sessions are going to be, and try to have them at the same time each day so practicing becomes habitual. You won’t retain much from a 10-minute session and you’re likely to burn out after more than 2 hours, so try to spend 45-60 minutes a day practicing.[17]
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    • Set a notification on your computer or phone to go off at the same time every day and remind you that it’s time to practice.
  4. Set small, measurable goals to learn new concepts over time. The idea of learning an entire language can be overwhelming, especially when you think about how long it took you to learn your first language. Breaking the work down into smaller, reachable goals enables you to monitor your progress.[18]
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    • For example, you may set the goal of memorizing the Spanish pronouns in one week, learning the words for common foods in two days, or writing a paragraph in Spanish at the end of your first month.
    • Write your goals down and evaluate your progress each week. If you fail to meet a goal, try not to get too down about it. Simply reassess and figure out what went wrong. If it's something you can correct by making an adjustment, make that adjustment and try again next week.



  • Learning a second language can be difficult. Don't be too hard on yourself if you forget something or make mistakes. Try to practice every day, and have patience.
  • Try learning at least one phrase a day. Common phrases like, “How are you,” "What is your name," and, “What time is it,” are great places to start.
  • Keep in mind that there are pronunciation differences in different countries. Someone from Spain is going to sound very different from someone who learned to speak in Mexico, and someone from Mexico will have a different accent than someone from Colombia—just as people from Great Britain speak English differently than Americans.

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