My Spanish teachers lied to me

By Brianna D.

Feb. 8, 2016

¡Buenas! I have to warn you that today’s post is written a tad out of frustration because in the 25 days that I’ve lived in Spain, I have discovered that my high school and college Spanish teachers have done me wrong. OK, that was a little dramatic. I’m not saying that they totally taught me the wrong type of Spanish, but I am quickly learning that so many words and phrases are different in Spain versus Latin and South America. I’ve been learning Spanish for years, so it’s frustrating to find out that entire lists of vocabulary words have to be thrown out the window. Sometimes a verb is the same, but is used in a completely different context. And sometimes a word simply doesn’t exist here at all.

I’ve shared some of my daily frustrations with you below. Words I thought I knew, but didn’t, really:

  • Tomar: A verb that means to take, right? Wrong. Here, tomar is only used when talking about taking a drink of something. Tomar una cerveza means to drink a beer. In Spain, they use the verb coger to mean “to take/pick up” — for anything from taking the bus to picking up a cup from the table.
  • La computadora: This one seems like it should be pretty universal. In Latin/South America, it means computer. It’s also a cognate, and therefore an easy word to learn. But that would be much to easy, so no one uses it here. They chose a much harder and inconspicuous word: orderador means computer and ordenador portátil.
  • La bufanda: All of my Spanish life, I thought that this word meant scarf, which indeed it does. However, in Spain there are two types of scarves. I tried to tell my Spanish teacher that I liked her scarf one day, using the word bufanda, and she told me it wasn’t a bufanda (to which I gave her a questioning look because I was positive it was the right word). She explained that, in Spain, la bufanda means a large, warm scarf that you would wear in the winter, and el pañuelo is a lightweight, fashionable scarf. Duly noted, Señora.
  • Frijoles: If you’ve ever been to a Mexican restaurant, chances are you’ve probably eaten these. It’s the Spanish word for beans, right? Well, it doesn’t exist here. Frijoles was on a worksheet in class today, and my teacher literally had to Google it because she had no idea what it was. In Spain, the word for bean is la judía (not to be confused with Judío, which means Jewish).
  • Vosotros: Don’t even get me started on this one. “Oh, you’ll never have to use this form,” said every Spanish teacher I ever had (sans one who was actually from Spain). For you non-Spanish speakers out there, the vosotros form is basically “ya’ll” or “you all” when you conjugate verbs. Most Latin American countries use a more formal and widely use form for “you all” (ellos/ellas/ustedes) when talking to groups of people, so I never bothered to learn the vosotros form. I’m definitely playing catch-up now because everyone uses it, and I’m expected to know how to use it and conjugate it in every tense.

¡Madre mia! That’s all for today, so I hope you’ve enjoyed that little Spanish lesson. Stay tuned for more about mi vida en España. Sidenote, I’m going to Barcelona in a few weeks, so I’m sure I’ll have tons of pictures and stores to tell when I get back. ¡Hasta luego!

About the blogger

Brianna D. is studying abroad on the Universidad de Alicante: ALI Abroad program in Alicante, Spain.