Words You Didn’t Need to Know…Until You Did

I was reading Danielle’s blog (note to self: add to blogroll) and she mentioned how you learn certain words only when you need them?

You know how you also learn lots of Portuguese words when you need them? Like how you learn that sink is pia when it breaks, or that you need to say estou rouca when you’ve lost your voice…

Estou ronca = Estoy ronca = I’m hoarse

Her post, while not focused on the topic, resonated with me because it’s spot on! I got to thinking about what words and phrases I learned in the heat of the moment because I needed them, not because I was in the learning mood. Thus, I made you a handy dandy list! Who doesn’t love lists?

¿Dónde está la embajada? One time, back in 2008, I went to Barcelona. It was a fun trip, don’t get me wrong, but while there, my traveling companion decided to take a photo. With his tripod. Thus, I set my purse down, inside his backpack. I was carrying my passport? (Yes, yes I know – I also want to slap my 2008 self silly.) They took it. The purse, not the backpack. Of course. Luckily, there was no money / credit cards in there. But when you’re traveling around Europe, your passport comes in pretty handy, especially when you don’t have a NIE. Being the “estudiante de español” that I was, I didn’t know how to say embassy. Thank goodness for guide books. Thank goodness for nice taxi drivers.Right before the passport was taken. Also, not coincidentally, the last photo taken.

Estoy constipada / resfriada. The first time I got sick in a foreign country, I had to go to the school doctor. Luckily, I had my directora with me to help me. I learned something, though – constipado/a does not mean what you think. It’s what you say when you’re all stuffed up. So when your intercambio tells you he’s constipado, do not giggle. You’ll have to explain yourself.

Household vocabulary. When I first got to Spain, I had no idea how to say the following: doorknob, light bulb, faucet, shower head, drain, handle, hanger, comforter, blinds, and many more. Just, ya know, your basic vocabulary when talking to your doorman (which we had at our residence). I mean, I did know how to say some things, don’t get me wrong. Those things included: door, sheets, bed, shower, sink, toilet, floor, etc. However, when your light bulb needs change you can’t just keep repeating “light…light” to the confused maintenance man.

Te quiero. I don’t want to get all sappy on you, I swear. But I used to really not get the whole te quiero/te amo thing. Like, when do you use each one and why? Can you say “I love pizza?” in Spanish? (Yes, you just say “Me encanta la pizza.”) I didn’t like saying what I saw as “I want you” to mean “I love you.” However, with time, I came to understand and appreciate the Spanish way of saying I love you. While it is a phrase I would only utter to one person (guess!), it has been most useful to me.

Gratuitous photo of my favorite person. Oh, and me.

What are some words/phrases you learned in the heat of the moment?

10 thoughts on “Words You Didn’t Need to Know…Until You Did

  1. I’m totally there with you on the “Estoy resfriada.” I also learned that “moco” is not just boogers, but mucuos.

    One of my first words in Spain was “contraseña,” which I learned asking for the hotel’s login info.

  2. Hmm my Spanish is lacking right now so I’m having trouble coming up with specific examples, but during the whole apartment search phase I picked up some new words – most memorable of those was “amueblado.” Also when my luggage got lost my very first time in Spain, I quickly remembered all of the “travel” vocab from high school spanish. Mostrador? Check. Equipaje y maleta? Check. Perdido. Afortunadamente.

  3. After one particularly eventful class, I will never forget “bomba fétida.” While not the handiest of phrases in other situations, it was necessary for describing what had happened and what needed to be done…

  4. The only that comes right to mind is like your last one – Nakupenda which means I love you in Swahili (trying to surprise Kanyi but of course what I looked up online was slightly incorrect haha). But I really just wanted to comment that I think this is a neat post and a cool idea!

  5. Another word I learned while I was traveling in espana was their word for computer…it is ordenador! Being a spanish speaker in america, we use the word, computadora…I tried it there a few times and received many confused and blank stares!

    1. That’s a very good example! I learned computadora when I was studying in high school. I basically relearned a lot of words. Now I’m back with Latin Americans and trying not to use Spain Spanish.

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