On my first university study trip to a Spanish-speaking land, one of my American peers let slip that her real goal was not to study at all, but rather to find romance and, heck, maybe stay in Santiago forever and ever in the arms of some new Chilean lover.
“Isn’t that your goal?” she said. “I mean, really, honestly, that’s everyone’s goal on this trip!”
I have to admit that in semiolgía (semiology) class my mind did start to wander to Chilean flings or love or whatever, and others’ minds wandered too, and I know for a fact that at least three out of the group of 40 American students ended up actually marrying Chileans that they met that semester.
Ah, but dating in another language wasn’t without some struggle, and if we had known then what we know now, etc., etc.
So, okay, look here you, the dear Spanish language learners of this blog: Here’s some vocabulary to help you find love and/or whatever else you’re on the market for in Spanish.
Meeting Someone in a Bar in a Foreign Land
The first question you’ll almost undoubtedly be asked when you’re out on the town is:
¿De dónde eres? — Where are you from?
You can respond with:
Soy de los Estados Unidos/de Inglaterra/de Canadá/etc. — I’m from the USA/England/Canada/etc.
If you get bored of answering the above question (I know I do), just lie:
Soy de aquí. — I’m from right here.
Follow it with:
Te lo juro, ¡soy de aquí! — I swear, I’m really from here!
Tengo un acento un poco raro porque un mono me enseñó a hablar. — My accent is a little strange because a monkey taught me to speak.
Meeting Someone Online
A note for you boys, who are generally expected to start conversations: Don’t use just ¡Hola! (Hello!) to start a conversation on Tinder or dating sites—say something specific! This is a huge pet peeve of my Spanish-speaking amigas (friends) who are on such apps. Show you have something smart to say or something in common. For example:
¡Veo que a ti también te gusta el buceo! — I see that you also like scuba diving!
Soy como en mi foto, pero más alto, guapo e inteligente. Tú también, supongo. — I’m like in my photo, but taller, more handsome and smarter. You as well, I suppose?
¡Parece que ya has visitado la mitad del mundo! ¿Adónde quieres ir para el próximo viaje? — It seems that you have already visited half of the world! Where are you going on your next trip?
Being Honest About Your Needs and Desires
They say that pillow talk is the absolute best way to learn a language, and it makes sense. You’re more motivated to remember and learn new things if you’re actually using them as a tool to communicate with someone you care about, or even just to meet someone you like. And it’s also true that your ability to charm the pants off of a special someone can be quite improved with better vocabulary.
I would even go so far as to encourage you to use dating apps like Tinder to practice your Spanish skills (the pro version allows you to change your geographical location, which is great if there aren’t Spanish speakers in your area) and conversely you may just meet someone you romantically click with on a traditional language exchange site like italki.
The important caveat is that you should be clear about what you’re looking for (just as you should be in any other form of dating or meeting people) so as not to lead anyone on.
Here’s some vocabulary to help you be up front about your intentions.
Busco amor. — I’m looking for love.
Busco sexo. — I’m looking for sex.
Busco algo casual. — I’m looking for something casual.
Busco algo sin compromiso. — I’m looking for something with no strings attached.
La verdad es que sólo quiero practicar mi español. — I’m actually just looking to practice my Spanish.
¿Quieres mostrarme tu ciudad? — Do you want to show me around your city?
Quiero hacer nuevas amistades. — I want to make new friendships.
Soy gay/lesbiana/bisexual. — I’m gay/lesbian/bisexual.
Soy asexual. — I’m asexual.
Soy poliamoroso/a. — I’m polyamorous.
Tomemos una copa y ya veremos. — Let’s get a drink and we’ll see.
Busco una pareja de baile. — I’m looking for a dance partner.
Note that once things go beyond this point, you may find yourself in the position of having an actual Spanish conversation with a potential friend or lover. So make sure you have all your authentic Spanish conversation ducks in a row with FluentU.
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Have you gotten to the point where some loving compliments are in order? Congrats! Here’s how you do them.
Te quiero. — I love you. Note that it really does suggest love, and not “I want you” (even though the verb querer also means to want, and with a strongly suggestive tone you might be able to make this mean “I want you” in the more physical sense). If you’d rather express carnal “wanting,” the two suggestions below will help.
Me excitas mucho. — You turn me on. Hopefully in some Spanish class you were told to be wary of the verb excitar, as it doesn’t indicate our (over-used!) Anglo emotion of “to be excited.” But now that you’ve met that sexy someone, you can finally use excitar.
Me das morbo. — You get me turned on.
Pop quiz! When your lovely date makes a grand appearance at the restaurant table, should you deliver the obligatory compliment with ser or estar?
The answer, of course, is estar! That foxy devil already knows that they are (ser) a beautiful person in the more permanent sense, what they want to hear is that they are (estar) looking fabulous tonight! So you have:
Estás guapo/guapa. — You look beautiful (said to a man/woman).
Estás lindo/linda. — You look beautiful (said to a man/woman; very much used in Latin America, but sounds a bit soap opera-y in Spain).
Reporting On Your Adventures
“Live!” Maude tells Harold in Hal Ashby’s 1971 classic film. “Otherwise you got nothing to talk about in the locker room!” She’s so right; here’s how you can recount your romantic adventures to your buddies in Spanish:
Nos enrollamos. (Spain) — We hooked up.
Ligamos anoche. — We hooked up last night. (The exact extent of the romantic activity is unclear.)
Salimos juntos. — We’re going out together.
Somos novios. — We’re boyfriend/girlfriend (usually pretty serious, sometimes also means fiancés).
Pololo/polola — (Chile) Boyfriend/girlfriend
Es mi ex. — He/she is my ex.
Estamos casados. — We’re married. Yes, it seems strange, but this info is delivered with that indicator of short-term states, estar!
Estamos divorciados. — We’re divorced.
Somos amantes. — We’re lovers.
Tenemos una relación abierta. — We’re in an open relationship.
In Chile, there’s a system for recounting the “grade” of sexual activity you have achieved with someone, somewhat like the American allusion to baseball (“she got to second base last night!”). Note that the stages are divided up differently, though (and remember, this is only for Chile):
Grado uno — Kissing, with perhaps mildly intimate touching..
Grado dos — Kissing with lots of intimate touching
Grado tres — Sex.
Grado cuatro — Some sort of hyperbole for kinky sex; hilariously, Chileans themselves never seem to know quite what this means.
The Near-million Words for Sweetheart in Spanish
Snagged and wedded your Spanish-speaking lover? Congratulations, because now you never need to use his or her name again.
Here are just some of the ways to say “darling” in Spanish, listed along with some of their more literal meanings in English:
- Querido/a — Beloved
- Adorado/a — Adored
- Predilecto/a — Favorite
- Preferido/a — Favorite
- Amor — Love
- Cielo — Heavens
- Cariño — Cuddle, affection
- Amado/a — Beloved
- Encanto — Delight
- Corazón — Heart
I hope you enjoyed this post, but moreover, I hope it proves to be of very practical use.
May you find sweet, lifelong love, or at the very least some fun, silly adventure worth dishing about in a Spanish locker room.
Mose Hayward is a polyglot and has flirted his way around Spain and Latin America for—this is the sad part—years. He blogs about “20-minute fluency,” drinking, dancing and romance for travelers at TipsyPilgrim.com.