Cultural and Language Notes:

In this m-episode we’re going to go over some basic language and cultural notes for the Spanish language.

When you’re learning another language, one of the most important things to understand is that it’s not just about learning the words and vocabulary.

I know this from personal experience when I was learning Spanish — it’s about learning about the culture. There are certain things that make sense to English speakers that aren’t done in the same way when you’re speaking Spanish.

An anecdotal story for me is that when I was first learning Spanish in Mexico, I would attempt to tell jokes. Even when I knew the words for the jokes, the jokes made absolutely no sense to the Mexicans. While I thought I was being hilarious, I was usually greeted with crickets.

Sadly, this hasn’t improved that much 10 years down the road, but I’m still working on it.

But that’s why it’s so important to listen to the sections and understand what we say. Because that will make this unit and all future units in the Live Lingua Spanish Podcasts make sense.

So let’s get started!


Spanish Language and Cultural Notes


In Spanish, the pronouns “I”, “you” and “we” are normally left out.  They are not needed since the ending on the verb conjugations tell us who the verb refers to.  You can still use them, but that is usually in cases where you want t stress the person.  For example, if you say something like “YOU told me you were going to take out the trash”.

If you want to be more polite, you generally leave those out.

Usted – the formal “tu”

This entire conversation is done using the “usted” pronoun.  This is a formal way of saying “you” in English.  You would not normally use the “tu” with people you just meet until they say something like “hablame de tu” (speak to me as the informal you), or colloquially “tuteamos”(let’s speak in “informal you’s”).

Sra vs Srta

Laura is addressed as Sra.  This means that she is married.  Srta.  Is used for women who are unmarried, regardless of their age.  There is no such distinction for men.  They are always Sr.

How are you?

Just like in English, when people ask you “How are you?” “Como esta?” it is a formality. Normally you should just answer “Muy bien” (I am fine) or more casually just “bien” (fine).  If you start explaining any trouble in your life it is considered socially awkward.

Much Pleasure!

Mucho gusto translates literally to “much pleasure”.  It is used to say “it is a pleasure to meet you”.

Family Names

You will notice that Laura does not have the same name as Raymond.  This is because in Mexico the wife does not normally take the husband’s last name.  In some families they add “de Blakney” to the end of the females name.  This literally translates to “of Blakney”, but this tradition is dying out as it implies the male possession of the female.

And then!

In Spanish, the word for “and” is “y”.  Spelled simply with a Y but pronounced like the English double-EE, like in SEE or BEE.

A nice afternoon

There is a difference when it comes to what is defined as afternoon in Latin America when compared to other countries.  Afternoon goes until 7:00 p.m.  So you would say “Buenas tardes” or good afternoon until that time.  In many non-Spanish speaking countries that is already considered evening.

While the sun is up, afternoon, it is “afternoon” until the sun goes down — and then it becomes “Buenas Noches!”

We’ll see you in the next episode!

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