5 Mistakes I Still Make in Spanish

After 5 years in this country, you might begin to think that I am fluent, 100% bilingual, and I would thank you for that assumption, but you would be wrong. Sadly. Sadly, I still make mistakes in Spanish, and these mistakes do drive me crazy, because most of the time (not all the time), I know exactly when I’ve made a mistake. Some Spanish native speakers love to correct me, immediately, as though they were doing me a great favor by enlightening me as to how to speak correctly. And I sort of understand that; I get that they are trying to be helpful in a way they know how to be, but usually I realize immediately that I’ve screwed up. That’s why I like writing. Mario’s cousin told me once that she never knew which of was writing to her on Whatsapp (Mario is a luddite and has no esmarfon, so we share mine), because my written Spanish is so good. #humblebrag

Yet there exist those things that still trip me up to this day. What are they?

El agua

Don’t get me started on this one. I get it. I do. Agua (water for the few of you who don’t speak any Spanish) is feminine, but you say “el agua” to avoid the double sound you’d get by say “la agua.”  I have no problem with this. I can say “Pásame el agua” with the best of them. But sometimes, only sometimes, I am speaking so fast that I will say “El agua está bueno, ehhh, buena”! I always correct myself, lest someone get the horrific idea that I do not know water’s gender. Duh, water is a girl. She’s so refreshing and delicious, how could she not be, really?

Cuándo vs. Qué Hora

I know the difference. But in English, when asking about a future event, we might say, “When is it?” to ask what time the event takes place. I do this often, saying “¿Cuándo es?” when what I really mean is “¿Qué hora es?” Most of the time, if I ask the first way, I won’t get an hour. I’ll only get a day or a date. It’s a small, nitpicky thing that I repeatedly do, but again, only when speaking.

Plaza vs. Plazo

I write this down often, but I still get it confused in my head. Why does this one always trip me up? I’ve no idea, but it seems to hold some power over me. Plaza means square, like in Salamanca’s famous Plaza Mayor. No, Madrid’s does not compare. Do not even go there with me!

Salamanca Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor in 2010

But plaza also means “job post, vacancy,” so you might use it to talk about a jop opening you’ve seen. In Spain, this word is used a lot to talk openings to be a funcionario, or a civil servant. It can also mean “position,” as in the “Los soldados están colocados en sus plazas correspondientes.” (The solders are in their spots.)

Plazo means a period/window of time or a deadline or installments of a payment. I know that these two words have entirely different meanings, albeit multiple ones, but I still mix them up often. And this happens whether writing or speaking. Luckily, when I’m writing, I can just hope on Word Reference when I am unsure.

Hace mucho que no …

This is another one where I should know the difference by now, but it’s been mixed up so much in my head that I end up doing circles in my head. I should just avoid using this turn of phrase altogether, but alas, Spaniards love to use this one. “Hace mucho que no te veo.” It’s been a while since I’ve seen you. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. I also seem to try to put the present perfect in there for some reason. I just need to drill this one in my head, because it’s getting ridiculous.

No puedo oírte

Don’t say this one when you can’t hear someone. Literally, it does mean, “I can’t hear you,” but Spanish speakers will say “No te oígo,” I do not hear you. Saying “No puedo oírte” sounds to them like you are incapable of hearing somehow, like you do not have the hearing capacity. I know this, but in the heat of the moment I will often utter “No puedo oír/escuchar/ver” when I mean to say “No oígo/escucho/veo”!

Next time I’ll write about the Spanish skills that I’ve actually pretty much mastered, like that silly subjunctive tense. (Yes, it is possible.)

What mistakes do you make when speaking Spanish?

Related: 10 Language Mistakes Guiris Make and Grammar “Mistakes” Spaniards Make

About these ads

So You’re Dating a Spaniard—5 Years Later

If it’s not obvious enough, I get a lot of blog traffic from people who are curious about dating a Spaniard. Why … It’s not like I’ve written about a lot, is it? Some search terms include:

  • dating a spanish man [Better hope you got a man and not a boy!]
  • dating spanish guys [What this mean, guy?]
  • dating in spain [Sometimes you will go on dates to visit 13th-century cathedrals]
  • why are spaniards so hot [They just are, sizzle sizzle!]
  • dating a spaniard vs dating an american [You will eat more pork]

Guys, I hate stereotyping. Nah, just kidding—stereotyping is the best! So let’s do it. What can I, after five years dating a Spanish man, tell you about the process?

Mario Kaley 2009 Salamanca

Back when I didn’t know that much but thought I did (September 2009)

Spanish men are just men.

Every so often, a hapless guiri will stumble onto the Auxiliares de Conversación groups and ask a seemingly innocent question, which nonetheless drives me mad. “I’m going on a date with a Spanish dude, is there something special I should know?”

In a word, no. In some more words, not really. I don’t know if this message will get through to most of them, but Spanish men come in many shapes and sizes. Some are momma’s boys until they’re 30; some are independent by age 23. Some like partying and staying out all night; some like staying in and reading (mine). Some speak amazing English; some speak none at all; most speak somewhere in between. Some like the U.S. (or Britain or Canada) and want to visit; some have no interest or even have a particular disdain for the culture.

So if you have a date with a Spaniard … First, congratulations. Second, go on that date, and get to know the person, not the label. After all, you better hope they’re not judging you and expecting you to be a certain way just because of your nationality.

His family is likely very important to him.

Note the likely. Again, not every Spaniard is like this, but I see that, for the most part, Spanish men are very loyal to their families. Calling on birthdays is very important. Corresponding on a regular basis is essential. Family meals are likely sacred; do not expect to tear him away from his mother’s Sunday lunch easily. In Mario’s case, the whole family reunites in el pueblo in August, spending their days together, swimming, barbecuing, and paseando through the streets after the sun goes down.

You’re not cool for dating someone from another country.

I used to think I was cool for this, until I realized how lame that sounds. Like I said Spanish men are just men, so don’t start thinking you’re super special because you got a boyfriend from, oooooh, Madrid or Salamanca or Sevilla. Nope. Perhaps you will get a blog and people will tell you how they envy you. Don’t let this go to your head, because there are advantages and disadvantages to all things, even dating someone from another country. If things get serious, you will always be away from family. You will live on one side of the ocean or the other, and that’s not easy, especially if you love your family or they cannot visit a lot or vice versa. Sometimes miscommunications happen due to language or cultural differences.

Remember: You’re just not that special. Well, that sounds mean. You’re special, but not that special, okay? Now go watch some self-esteem boosting videos on Youtube.

Spanish men are not a commodity or a goal for you to have.

Another thing that really gets me irritated is guiris, usually women, setting a goal of dating a Spaniard, as though that were something to have goals about. Do you set goals, while in the U.S., to date Canadians perhaps? Or men from Arizona? Not likely. So stop setting goals to date particular nationalities and start making a list of actual qualities you want in a partner. You know, funny and kind and hard-working and all that.

Spanish men are from Spain.

At the end of the day, this is my number one conclusion. (No, seriously.) I can’t conclude much else about a Spanish guy except that he is from Spain. I’ve met many Spanish men in my time here, young and old, quiet and loud, annoying and endearing, funny and boring … And the one single thing that unites them is that they are all from Spain! I know, I know: My conclusions are ground-breaking and deserve to be included in some sort of academic journal, perhaps? I’ll work on my proposal.

Kaley Mario Gran Canaria 2014

I know a bit more nowadays, 5 years later (September 2014)

Check out some of my interviews from other people dating Spaniards

Fábrica Maravillas: Craft Brews in Madrid

I expected it, but I still felt kind of awkward when I entered Fábrica Maravillas—the other patrons were also Americans. We are slowly taking over Malasaña, aren’t we? Fábrica Maravillas had been on my “to do” list for quite some time. I had it pinned and everything.



Five Years in Spain—My Favorite Posts

Guys, five years ago today I stepped off the plane in Madrid. Five years! Five years I’ve been eating here, drinking here, living here. I can hardly believe it. If you had told me then that I’d still be here, I wouldn’t have believed you. I planned on doing my one-year internship, “perfecting” my Spanish, and heading home in 2010. Little did I know …

Long story short: I met Mario, fell in luuuuurve, and stayed. Things that have changed since then:

  • I no longer live in Salamanca. This fact still upsets me sometimes. Take me back!
  • I’m married. I wear my ring on my right finger, like Spaniards, while Mario wears his on his left, like Americans. Weirdo.
  • We have a decent apartment. (That one in Salamanca was, as my mother-in-law described it, a “porquería.”)
  • I know a lot more Spanish, and a whole lot more about Spain.

To celebrate my five year Spainiversary, I thought I’d clue you in on some of my favorite posts from the past years:

About Study Abroad

College Study Abroad: If I Could Do It All Over Again

About Study Abroad

About Learning Spanish

Advanced Spanish … Where Do I Go from Here?


But I’m a Girl! … and Other Spanish Language Mishaps

Rookie Mistakes: Reflexive Spanish Verbs and Me

The Language We Speak “So, do you guys talk in English or Spanish?” Oh, what a complicated question.

Bilingual Inside Jokes About having a bilingual relationship

About Mario and Me

Madrid Bound The one where I announced we were moving to Madrid

So Here’s the Deal About moving for love

Two Years Ago Anniversary post


About Weddings In Spain

Boda a la Española: La Prueba Menu Testing

How to Plan a Wedding in Spain … or Not Planning a wedding in another country can be hard!

Sí, Quiero—The Spanish Version of “I Do” Our wedding day (includes a video)

Spanish Weddings vs. American Weddings How the ceremonies differ

Spanish Weddings vs. American Weddings—The Reception How the receptions differ

About Food In Spain

Foods Spain Taught Me to Love Believe me, there are a ton of these!

De Tapas Por Zamora—Where to Eat in Zamora, Spain

Surprise: Spain’s Most Popular Food Isn’t Paella Or why you’ll totally look like a guiri if you order paella off one of those menus with all the pictures

My Favorite Spanish Foods

No, Gracias—Spanish Foods I Dislike Surprisingly, there are some!

Teaching In Spain

Teaching English in Spain’s Bilingual Schools

10 Differences Between Spanish and American High Schools

Teaching in an Instituto (High School) vs. A Colegio (Elementary School)

About Spain In General

Your Spain Experience—Interview With Sarah

Your Spain Experience—Interview With Erin

Watch out for the controversy on these two posts (you may want to skip the comments), but I found Erin’s and Sarah’s experiences to very interesting and indicative of how race is viewed in Spain.

My Most-Viewed Posts

Have you ever wondered what my most-viewed posts are? Wonder no longer.

How to Dress Like a Spaniard To be honest, this kind of irks me, because I wrote this way tongue-in-cheek, and now people get offended. Oops!

Whatsapp—Why Spain’s Over the SMS

How to Improve Your (Already Pretty Good) Spanish

My Top 10 Myths About Spain See how those lists get you a lot of views?!


What kinds of posts would you most like to see in the future?