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Want to Sound Like a Native Spanish Speaker?

by Jackie Dreyer
Tips for sounding like a native Spanish speaker

When you’re learning a new language, hitting the books and studying (memorizing) hard is the standard approach. But what about when you find yourself in a casual conversation with an acquaintance or friend? Carrying a textbook in your back pocket sounds heavy and generally useless for anything other than formal verb conjugations. We’ve got a few phrases up our sleeve to make sure you’re more comfortable in relaxed, everyday scenarios—and sounding like a native Spanish speaker.

The second video in our new “Speaking of Spanish” series covers five casual Mexican phrases that will seamlessly ease you into and out of any conversation with a local. These expressions are perfect to use with friends, family, or anyone who you don’t need to speak quite so formally to. Use them to talk to your Spanish-speaking neighbor, someone you run into at the grocery store, or some friendly locals in a bar while you’re on vacation. Trust us, they’re going to be impresionado.

Five casual Mexican Spanish phrases sure to wow

1. ¿Qué onda?

You’re probably used to hearing the more traditional forms to say “What’s up?” in Spanish—like ¿Qué pasa? and ¿Qué tal?—which are widely recognized in all Spanish speaking countries. ¿Qué onda? is a colloquial way to greet a friend, or start a conversation, in Mexican Spanish that will have people wondering where the heck you picked it up from.

2. ¿Cómo has estado?

What comes next? It’s time to ask how they’re doing, of course. In colloquial Mexican Spanish, they use, ¿Cómo has estado? This translates to, “How have you been?,” or if you’re from the Midwest in the U.S., like me, “How the heck are ya?” It’s a local take on the more formal ¿Cómo estás? and demonstrates a higher level of care and concern beyond however that person is feeling in the present moment.

3. Hace mucho que no nos vemos.

Hace mucho que no nos vemos is the English equivalent of “Long time, no see!” in Mexican Spanish. Do you want in on a little secret? While this phrase typically expresses general excitement at seeing someone you haven’t seen in awhile, it can also be used as a tongue-in-cheek statement to give someone a hard time about not having seen them in forever.

4. Bueno, me tengo que ir.

When you have to get going, you can say to someone, Bueno, me tengo que ir, which means, “Well, I have to go.” But don’t think you’re getting out of the conversation that easy! As someone who lived in a Spanish speaking country for many years, this is merely a precursor to the actual goodbye. You’re going to be talking for at least another 20 minutes.

5. Nos vemos. Adios.

Sure, people do say the classics, like ¡Adios! and ¡Hasta luego!, to say goodbye, but if you want to look padre (no, not father), you should say Nos vemos instead. Literally translated, the phrase would mean “We see each other,” but in casual Spanish conversation, it means “See you later/soon/sometime in the future.”

Bonus Phrase: If you really want to look cool, swap the above ¿Qué onda? for ¿Qué pedo? Depending on your level of Spanish, you may or may not know that pedo translates to “fart,” but in Mexican Spanish, ¿Qué pedo? is also “What’s up?” Be careful, though; sometimes pedo infers an argument or fight, so it could come off slightly aggressive in the wrong situation, i.e., “What’s your problem?”

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