Travel South America

South American Survival Kit: The Spanish You Need to Know For Your Trip

October 1, 2017

It’s been a long day and I’m standing behind two bewildered Chinese girls. They continue repeating the same question in English. When is the last bus back to Quito? 

Ironically, the guy selling the tickets knows what they’re asking and repeats ‘a las seis’. However, they just don’t understand. People behind me are getting agitated. Time to intervene. I translate for them. They ask another question. I translate again. Smiles all around. I then ask when my bus is leaving, only to discover that it’s the green bus currently pulling out of the bus station. Although they’re trying to thank me, I’m running and waving at the same time. 

Of course, I’m lucky to speak Spanish and I understand that not every traveller in South America needs to speak the language. However, outside the bubble of traveller hostels and tours, not everyone speaks English. Put it like this, a little bit goes a long way towards making a trip run more smoothly. 

Spanish Numbers 

Numbers, in particular, are a lifeline. More even than basic greetings, a basic knowledge of numbers will help travellers in many situations. Underneath are the Spanish numbers with an approximate English pronunciation to use as a guide, as well as YouTube links so that it’s clear how native South American Spanish speakers actually say the words. The approximate pronunciation is meant to help a little, but you should actually practise using the video links. 

Spanish Numbers 1-10

Number

Approximate English Sounds

1- uno

Oo-noh (like spoon)

2- dos

Doh-ss (crisp ’s’ like soup)

3-tres

Tray-ss (crisp ’s’ like soup)

4- cuatro

Kwat-roh

5-cinco

Sing-koh (crisp ’s’ like soup)

6-seis

Say-ss (crisp ’s’ like soup)

7- siete

See-ay-tay

8- ocho

Otcho

9- nueve

Nu-way-vay

10- diez

Dee-ehss

Follow this YouTube link to hear the numbers 1-10 pronounced in Latin American Spanish

Spanish Numbers 11-20

Now, look at the numbers from 11-20. Numbers 16-19 are compounds. In other words, they are formed using the words from 6-9. 

Number

Approximate English Sounds

11-once

On-say

12-doce

Doh-say

13-trece

Tray-say

14-catorce

Cat-or-say

15- quince

Keen-say

16- dieciséis

Dee-ehss-ee-say-ss

17- diecisiete

Dee-ehss-ee-see-ay-tay

18- dieciocho

Dee-ehss-ee-otcho

19- diecinueve

Dee-ehss-ee-nu-way-vay

20- veinte

Venn-tay

Follow this YouTube link to hear the numbers 10-20 pronounced in Latin American Spanish

Spanish Numbers 20-30

The numbers from 20 to 30 follow a clear pattern. After that, all the numbers from 31 to 100 follow the same pattern, so they are easy enough to remember. 

Number

Approximate English Sounds

21- veintiuno

Venn-tee-oo-noh

22- veintidós

Venn-tee-doh-ss

23- veintitrés

Venn-tee-tray-ss

24-veintiquatro

Venn-tee-kwat-roh

25- veinticinco

Venn-tee-sing-koh

26- veintitséis

Venn-tee-say-ss

27- veintisiete

Venn-tee-see-eh-tay

28-veintiocho

Venn-tee-otcho

29-veintinueve

Venn-tee-nu-way-vay

30-treinta

Tren-ta

Spanish Numbers 31-100

Here are the numbers from 31 to 100. Follow this YouTube link to listen to the correct pronunciation. 

Number

Approximate English Sounds

31- treinta y uno

Tren-ta-ee-oo-noh

40- cuarenta

Kwar-enta

50- cincuenta

Sing-kwenta

 60-sesenta

Sess-enta

70- setenta

Sett-enta

80- ochenta

Otch-enta

90- noventa

Nov-enta

100- cien 

See-eng

101- ciento uno

See-eng-toh-oo-noh

110- ciento diez

See-eng-toh-dee-ehss

Spanish Numbers Over 100

To count in 100s is quite easy. Here are the numbers from 200 to 1000.

Number

Approximate English Sounds

200-doscientos

Dohs-see-entos

300- trescientos

Tray-ss-see-entos

400-quatrocientos

Kwat-roh-see-entos

500-quinientos

Keen-nee-entos

600- seiscientos

Say-ss-see-entos

700-setecientos

Set-tay-see-entos

800- ochocientos

Otcho-see-entos

900-novecientos

Noh-vay-see-entos

1000- mil

Meel

Follow this YouTube link to learn to count more numbers over 100. It also includes currency. 

At the market

Mother and son at Pisac market, Peru

Learn to bargain in Spanish at the market in Pisac, Peru

Now, let’s look at how travellers can make practical use of these numbers in everyday settings. Markets and shops are an example of when number knowledge in Spanish is often indispensable.

To ask how much something costs, you might use the following structures:

¿Quánto cuesta? (Approximate English pronunciation: Kwan-toh kwes-tah)

How much is it?

¿Quánto cuesta esto? (Approximate English pronunciation: Kwan-toh kwes-tah ess-toh)

‘Esto’ here means ‘this’ without defining the grammatical gender (masculine or feminine as in Latin languages) of the object. Using your knowledge of the numbers, you should be able to understand the price that the seller says.

If she says, for example, ‘sesenta y cinco pesos’, you’ll know that this is 65 pesos.

You can use the following expressions to say that it is too expensive:

Es muy caro. (Approximate English pronunciation: Ess mu-ee caro)

It’s very expensive. 

Me resulta muy caro. (Approximate English pronunciation: May resooltah mu-ee caro)

I find it very expensive.  

Here, your knowledge of numbers might even result in you making a purchase at a bargain price. 

 

Time 

Time is a little more specific. However, as long as you already have a good grasp of Spanish numbers, it should be a little easier. After all, telling the time is based on the use of number. 

To ask the time, use the following expression:

¿Qué hora es? (Approximate English pronunciation: Kay ora ess)

The table below should help you with the basic times.

Time

Spanish

1 o’clock

Es la una (ess la oo-nah)

2 o’clock

Son las dos (son lass doh-ss)

3 o’clock

Son las tres (son lass tray-ss)

4 o’clock

Son las cuatro (son lass kwat-roh)

5 o’clock

Son las cinco (son lass sing-koh)

6 o’clock

Son las seis (son lass say-ss)

7 o’clock

Son las siete (son lass see-eh-tay)

8 o’clock

Son las ocho (son lass otcho)

9 o’clock

Son las nueve (son lass nu-way-vay)

10 o’clock

Son las diez (son lass dee-ehs)

11 o’clock

Son las once (son lass on-say)

12 o’clock

Son las doce (son lass doh-say)

To say other times, you can just add the number following the examples below: 

Son las once y diez (11:10)

Son las once y treinta y cinco (11:35)

Es la una y ventidos (1:22)

Use the pronunciation guides above to help you with the numbers if you’re still having trouble. Remember that practice makes perfect and you’ll get there over time (no pun intended).

Review numbers and time by following this excellent YouTube link

At the Bus Station

Interior of view of bus station in Cali, Colombia

Cali Bus Station

Back to the point where it all started- the bus station. Here are some phrases to help you:

¿A qué hora sale el bus para La Paz? (Approximate English pronunciation: ah kay ora salay el booss para La Pass)

It means ‘at what time does the bus leave for La Paz?’

You might also say the following expression with the same meaning: 

A qué hora parte el bus para La Paz? (Approximate English pronunciation: ah kay ora partay el booss para La Pass)

The answer might be something like this: 

A las once y treinta y cinco ( at 11:35)

A la una y venticinco (at 1:25)

To find out the time of the last bus to a destination, add the word ‘último’ before ‘bus’.

¿A qué hora sale el último bus para La Paz? (Approximate English pronunciation: ah kay ora salay el oolteemoh booss para La Pass)

Want to go further in Spanish?

These are just basic expressions using numbers in practical situations. However, many travellers want to go further. Consequently, they choose to learn Spanish in South America. Bolivia is a great destination due to its low costs. Buenos Aires, on the other hand, is some travellers’ choice because it is often the start or end point of trips to the continent. Find out more about learning Spanish in these countries by following the link.

Green bus in Miraflores in Lima, Peru

Don’t let the bus leave without you- learn Spanish

Have you been to South America?  What Spanish would have been useful for your trip?Share your experiences here! Leave a comment below or send your story to me by email at Unlatinoverde@gmail.com

Next Post: Monday, November 20th, 2017

Please follow and like us:
onpost_follow

You Might Also Like

close

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

%d bloggers like this:
Top