Are you planning a trip to Mexico but don’t speak much Spanish? Don’t worry, you’re in the right place. The first time I visited a Spanish speaking country I thought I was going to do pretty well. I had been minoring in Spanish at my university for three years, and although I didn’t study it in high school, I thought I was set. I was wrong. To be fair, I was visiting Chile and my Spanish teacher was from Argentina, so I got kind of mixed up. You see, Chilean, Argentinian, and Mexican Spanish are all quite different. Just like we have different accents and slang in Canada than in the UK, it can be an adjustment. So, to help you out before your trip to Mexico, here are some basic phrases and Mexican slang to impress anyone you meet (or at least help you get by). If you can’t find what you’re looking for on this article you can always check out these translation apps as well.
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If you really want to learn a language, you need to be able to laugh at yourself when you make ridiculous mistakes. To help, let me share with you two of the worst Spanish mistakes I’ve ever made while learning.
The first time I made a really embarrasing mistake in Spanish is when I was living in Chile and my host family asked me what I had done that day. I had been riding horses through the Andes with some friends. So, when they asked, I said, ”Yo monté caballeros hoy.” … They all burst out laughing and I had no idea why. Turns out, I had said, ”I rode gentlemen today.” The word for horses is actually ‘caballos’, not ‘caballeros’.
The second embarrassing mistake was when I was having my first dance, as husband and wife, with my husband, Arturo, who is from Mexico. He speaks English fluently and I’m almost fluent in Spanish as well so we often switch languages when we talk to each other. He was super nervous during our first dance and kept talking super quickly. To calm him down I gently said, ‘Cállate’ to him. He basically glared at me and it turned out instead of telling him to calm down, I told him to shut up. I quickly apologized and we both laughed it off.
These Spanish phrases can really be used in any Spanish speaking country. The slang which I will include below, is more specific to Mexico. Here are some basic phrases that will help you ask where the bathroom is, order beer, ask to know someone’s name and more.
Hello? (when answering the phone). ‘¿Bueno?’
See you later. ‘Nos vemos.’
See you soon. ‘Nos vemos pronto.’
Good morning. ‘Buenos dias.’
Good afternoon/evening. ‘Buenos tardes.’
Good night. ‘Buenos noches.’
Nice to meet you. ‘Mucho gusto.’
Hello, what is your name? ‘Hola, como te llamas?’ or ‘Hola, cuál es tu nombre.’
My name is… ‘Mi nombre es…’
How are you? ‘¿Cómo estás?’
I’m fine, how are you? ‘Estoy bien, ¿cómo estás?’
How old are you? ‘¿Cuantos años tienes?’
I am twenty five years old. ‘Tengo veinticinco años.’
Where do you work? ‘¿Dónde trabajas?’
I work at the bank. ‘Yo trabajo en el banco.’
Where are you from? ‘¿De dónde eres?’
I am from Canada. ‘Yo soy de Canada.’
What is your favorite kind of music? ‘Cuál es tu tipo favorito de música?
Whether you can’t find the bathroom or you have no idea where you are, you may need to ask for directions. The main thing you should remember is ‘¿Dónde esta…?’ which means ‘Where is…?’. If the place you’re trying to find isn’t suggested in this article, then use Google Translate to figure out what the place is called in Spanish. For example, if I’m looking for the airport and I don’t know how to say airport in Spanish, I would just use Google Translate to find what airport is, and then put it together with ‘¿Dónde esta…?’ By the way, to say ‘where is the airport?’, just say ‘¿Dónde esta el aeropuerto?’
Where is the bathroom? ‘¿Dónde está el bano?’
Where is the beach? ‘¿Dónde está la playa?’
Where is the pool? ‘¿Dónde está la piscina?’
Where is the airport? ‘¿Dónde está el aeropuerto?’
Where is the bank? ‘¿Dónde está el banco?’
Where is the restaurant? ‘Dónde está el restaurante?’
I’m lost. ‘Estoy perdido.’
Mexican food is so amazing and you will absolutely love it. Below are some basic phrases for ordering food at restuarants but I want to give you an extra tip. When you go to a restaurant use Google Translate on your phone (with wifi) and click on the small camera button. There you will be able to hover your Google Translate camera over top of your menu and it will translate the menu items for you.
Can I have more beer please? ‘¿Puedo tener más cerveza por favor?’
Can I have more water please? ‘¿Puedo tener más agua por favor?’
Can I have more wine please? ‘¿Puedo tener más vino por favor?’
Can I order a beer please? ‘¿Puedo pedir una cerveza por favor?’
Can I order a water please? ‘¿Puedo pedir un agua por favor?’
I want the tacos please. ‘Quiero los tacos por favor.’
I want the salad please. ‘Quiero la ensalada por favor.’
Can we get the bill please? ‘¿Podemos tener la cuenta por favor?’ or ‘La cuenta por favor.’
To understand these time phrases or to ask someone for the time, you will likely need to have some knowledge on how to say numbers in Spanish. Here’s an article you can use to brush up on your knowledge of numbers in Spanish.
What time is check out? ‘¿A que hora es la salida?’
What time is the flight? ‘¿A que hora es el vuelo?’
What time is it? ‘¿Que hora es?’
It is 2 in the afternoon. ‘Es dos en la tarde.’
It is 8 in the morning. ‘Es ocho en la mañana.’
It is 10:30 in the evening. ‘Es dies y media en la noche.’
Slang is so different no matter where you go in the world but Mexican slang is some of the most interesting. In Chile, to say something is ‘cool’ you say ‘que bacan’. In Mexico, you say ‘que padre’, which literally means ‘what father’. Mexican slang, for this reason, is fun, funny and sometimes bizarre. Below are my absolute favorite slang terms in Mexico.
Cool! ‘Que padre!’ (Literally means ‘what father!’) or ‘Que chido!’
What’s up? ‘¿Que onda?’ (Literally means: ‘What wave?) ‘¿Que pedo?’ (Literally means: ‘What fart?’)
Snob/Stuck up. ‘Fresa.’ (Literally means ‘Strawberry’)
Asshole. ‘Pendejo’. (Literally means ‘Pubic Hair.’)
Mate/Friend. ‘Güey.’ (Pronounced ‘wey’.)
Fuck. ‘Chinga’. (Most commonly used to say ‘Chinga tu madre’ or ‘F”$k your mother’.)
Darn it. ‘Chin.’ (Basically just a nicer and more polite way of saying ‘fuck’.)
Someone from Mexico City. ‘Chilango.’
Hungover/Hangover. ‘Crudo/cruda.’ (Literally means ‘raw’.)
Hopefully these basic phrases and Mexican slang have helped you prepare for your next trip. If you are familiar with other Mexican slang or think I missed something, please leave a comment below! For other tips on traveling to Mexico, be sure to visit the Mexico section here on the blog. It’s full of other useful tips and travel advice for your next trip.
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies Leaving Footprints. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.