In today’s world, it’s almost impossible to not meet someone of a different nationality.
And if we trace back our own roots, we all seem to have a little bit of a mix inside of us!
But while we might not think about our own genes every day, when learning another language, it’s important to know how to talk about where we live, where we come from and who we are.
Plus, it’s always fascinating to learn about the people we talk to! It’s how we form relationships.
And odds are if you’re learning Spanish, you’ve already met some native speakers from different parts of the world!
So this blog post is all about nationalities in Spanish.
We’ll cover the grammar rules you need to follow, how to say 51 different nationalities and even how to talk about being mixed-race.
As a Venezuelan-American girl, learning how to tell people that my dad’s from South America and my mom’s from the U.S. in Spanish hasn’t always been the easiest task.
But learning how to break that barrier has not only allowed me to better describe myself to other people in Spanish, but to also reconnect with my culture and embrace my part-Latina, part-American blood.
And I’m sure you’ll find the inspiration to dive deep into your family heritage after reading this post, too!
What You Need to Know About Nationalities in Spanish
Since every language is different, you can’t just assume that you talk about nationalities in Spanish the same you would in English.
Things like capitalization, gender and other grammar-related nuances apply in certain situations.
Let’s take a look at six different rules you need to keep in mind when discussing nationalities in Spanish.
Nationalities can be used as adjectives in Spanish.
Actually, we do the same in English.
Nationalities are commonly used to describe people. For example, in the sentence “I am American,” the nationality American is being used as an adjective to describe me.
In Spanish, this would sound something like:
Mi abuelo es mexicano. (My grandfather is Mexican.)
Yo soy estadounidense. (I am American.)
Nationalities must match the gender in Spanish.
When used as adjectives, nationalities follow the same rules as other adjectives—they have to match the gender of the person or object being talked about.
And the reason I say “or object” is because nationalities can also be used to explain where certain items come from.
El carro es alemán. (The car is German.)
Me gusta la comida china. (I like Chinese food.)
As for people, if we’re talking about mi abuelo (my grandfather) again, we know that he’s a male. So the nationality (Mexican) has to also be male.
Mi abuelo es mexicano. (My grandfather is Mexican.)
But if we’re talking about mi abuela (my grandmother), the nationality has to be female.
Mi abuela es mexicana. (My grandmother is Mexican.)
Make nationalities plural when describing multiple people.
Just like other adjectives, nationalities must be made plural when they’re used to describe more than one person or object.
Let’s say I have an Italian friend who’s a boy. Since we’re talking about a singular male person, the nationality will also be singular and male.
Mi amigo es italiano. (My friend is Italian.)
But if we’re talking about my friend and his brothers, the nationality will be plural and male.
Mis amigos son italianos. (My friends are Italian.)
And of course, the same applies for females. La chica es china (the girl is Chinese) becomes las chicas son chinas (the girls are Chinese).
Some nationalities are gender-neutral.
You’ll soon notice that certain nationalities (like costarricense — Costa Rican) end in an -e.
So what do we do about nationalities that don’t end in -o or -a?
Well, you can think of these nationalities as being gender-neutral.
In other words, you don’t have to change the -o to an -a to match the gender! Instead, it already matches, regardless of the gender of the noun.
El chico es costarricense. (The boy is Costa Rican.)
La chica es costarricense. (The girl is Costa Rican.)
Both are correct, even though I didn’t have to change the gender of the word “Costa Rican!”
Ser de… means “to be from…”
If having to change the gender of nationalities sounds a bit too advanced for you, I have some good news—you don’t have to!
You can still tell people where you’re from (and ask where they’re from) without worrying about gender, and it’s very easy.
Just don’t use your nationality as an adjective!
The simple sentence pattern ser de… means “to be from.”
So by conjugating the verb ser (to be) and then saying the name of the country, you can easily tell someone that you’re from a specific place.
(Yo) soy de Estados Unidos. (I’m from America.)
(Ella) es de China. (She is from China.)
Names of countries are capitalized, but nationalities aren’t.
Here’s something new—unlike in English, we don’t capitalize the first letter of nationalities in Spanish. You might’ve already noticed this in the examples I used above!
To refresh your memory, let’s take a look at two more:
Yo soy estadounidense. (I am American.)
El chico es italiano. (The boy is Italian.)
But when we’re talking about specific countries—like when we use the pattern ser de…—we capitalize the first letter.
Yo soy de Estados Unidos. (I’m from America.)
El chico es de Italia. (The boy is from Italy.)
Where Are You From? 51 Nationalities in Spanish and Some Tips for Talking About Them
Now that you know how properly talk (and write) about nationalities in Spanish, let’s learn 51 of them!
Not only will learning nationalities in Spanish improve your conversational skills and add to your vocabulary, but it’ll also enable you to understand more Spanish media.
The Most Effective Way to Remember Nationalities in Spanish
In today’s multicultural world, we meet people from different places quite often. But we also listen to worldwide music, watch international stars on television and see them on the news! (Especially as language learners).
So if you want to really master talking about different nationalities in Spanish, the best way to do so is by immersing yourself in the language so you can hear them be talked about by native speakers in authentic environments.
And you can do just that with FluentU!
With FluentU, you can browse a library of thousands of Spanish videos taken directly from the internet. Simply select your level and choose one that grabs your attention!
Each video comes with key vocabulary and grammar points for you to learn, and then you’ll see them in use as you watch.
But if you still come across a word in the video that you don’t know yet, just click on it in the subtitles to instantly see its meaning, example sentences and relevant images! At the end, measure your progress with a self-quiz that covers all the new vocabulary you just learned from the video. And finally, never forget a word again by using FluentU’s flashcards, which store vocab into your long-term memory.
All this means that you can find and remember the words you need in context. For example, you can check out a video that introduces many of the Spanish-speaking nationalities mentioned in this post or hear a few more varied nationalities in use in this video, which lists different nationalities, or this other video, in which a woman talks to her friends about where they’re from.
Or, you can search for a specific nationality you want to learn and see the word used in different contexts in FluentU’s other videos.
Ready to become a Spanish language master with real-world videos? Give FluentU a test drive for free!
Useful Words and Phrases for Talking About Nationalities in Spanish
When talking about nationalities, knowing some relevant words and phrases will come in handy. Be sure to master these to make your conversations flow much smoother!
La nacionalidad (the nationality)
¿De dónde eres? (Where are you from; informal)
¿De dónde es usted? (Where are you from; formal)
Ser de… (To be from…)
¿De qué país eres? (Which country are you from?)
¿Cuál es tu nacionalidad? (What’s your nationality?)
20 Nationalities of Spanish-speaking Countries
Since you’ll likely be talking to people from Spanish-speaking countries, knowing how to say their nationality will come in handy.
Let’s take a look at 20 different nationalities that stem from Spanish-speaking countries in Europe and Latin America!
Remember, when used as adjectives, all of these nationalities must match the gender of the pronoun (except for those that end in -e).
For simplicity’s sake, I’ll introduce each nationality in its masculine form. But if you’re talking about a female person or object, remember to change the -o to -a!
31 Nationalities of Non-Spanish Speaking Countries
Of course, you want to know how to talk about your nationality even if you aren’t from a Spanish-speaking country!
And maybe you just met a fluent Spanish speaker or a fellow language learner who’s from a country that also doesn’t speak Spanish as an official language.
Or, you want to talk about a famous celebrity like Emma Watson (who’s from France)!
The possibilities are endless, so let’s jump into 31 nationalities from all over the world and their Spanish equivalents!
Norteamericano (North American)
Estadounidense (American, as in someone from the United States)
Alemán (German; masculine) or Alemana (feminine)
Japonés (Japanese; masculine) or Japonesa (feminine)
Francés (French; masculine) or Francesa (feminine)
Tailandés (Thai; masculine) or Tailandesa (feminine)
Inglés (English; masculine) or Inglesa (feminine)
Portugués (Portuguese; masculine) or Portuguesa (feminine)
Sudafricano (South African)
Taiwanés (Taiwanese; masculine) or Taiwanesa (feminine)
Sueco (Swiss; masculine) or Suiza (feminine)
How to Talk About Being Mixed-race in Spanish
Since we live in such a globalized world now, many people come from a long line of different races and ethnicities! I mean, so many of us are using products like Ancestry.com to get our DNA tested so we can trace back our lineage and reconnect with our heritage.
But for people who have parents who belong to two different nationalities—like me!—it can be difficult to choose which race you want to identify as when speaking another language.
For example, my father is from Venezuela, and he came to the United States when he was eight years old. But my mom is American.
When someone asks me what my nationality is in English, I can simply say “I’m Venezuelan-American!” But sometimes, that can get confusing to translate into other languages.
Let’s look at a few different ways to say both of your nationalities, or that you’re simply mixed-race!
La Raza Mixta (Mixed Race)
This phrase literally means “mixed race,” but it isn’t politically correct in Spanish. This is because the phrase talks directly about race instead of ethnicity, heritage or culture, which some people find offensive.
So for best practices, choose from one of the below words instead! But be aware that this phrase does exist.
The word mestizo (feminine: mestiza) is used to describe people throughout Latin America who have European and indigenous roots.
For example, my abuela (grandmother) is mixed with indigenous Venezuelan from the Andes mountains and Spaniard from the Iberian peninsula, like many other Venezuelan citizens. So she could be called a mestiza.
You can use this word just like another nationality. For example:
Yo soy mestizo. (I’m mixed race.)
Similar to mestizo, the word mulato is used to describe people with other roots. If someone has white European and Black African roots, they can be described as a mulato/a.
Mi amiga es mulata. (My friend is mixed-race.)
Use the structure: nationality-nationality.
Just like in English, you can say you’re mixed race by saying both nationalities you identify as.
For example, just like I say I’m Venezuelan-American in English, I can also say I’m venezolana-estadounidense in Spanish.
Yo soy venezolana-estadounidense. (I’m Venezuelan-American.)
Mi madre es japonesa-estadounidense. (My mother is Japanese-American.)
Say you’re half and half.
If you’re approximately 50% one race and 50% another, you can say that you’re half of both.
Yo soy mitad colombiano y mitad estadounidense. (I’m half Colombian and half American.)
Mi madre es mitad japonesa y mitad estadounidense. (My mother is half Japanese and half American.)
And there you have it! The one-stop guide to talking all things ethnicity, heritage and nationality in Spanish.
Master these words and phrases to connect with people from all over the world and become a global citizen!
Plus, take this as an opportunity to feel proud of where you came from.
And if you aren’t familiar with your family heritage, I highly recommend you take the time to find out. Scavenge the internet for resources, take a DNA test or simply give your abuelos (grandparents) a call!
Brooke Bagley is a Venezuelan-American freelance writer, passionate language learner and entrepreneur. She’s learned Mandarin Chinese for seven years, Spanish for three and Indonesian for one. Not only are languages her hobby, but they’re also her portal to new worlds. When she’s not learning languages, she can be found running her freelance writing business and holistic health and wellness blog—Ayurveda Angel.
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