Speaking the Lingo in Tenerife

Wed, February 15th, 2012 - By Andrea Montgomery

Anyone who has ever spent time in a Tenerife holiday resort will already know that you don’t need a strong grasp of the language to get by, and that the occasional por favor and gracias goes a long way in establishing convivial Anglo-Spanish relations. But the amount of Spanish you’re likely to need on Tenerife varies according to the resort you have chosen to base yourself in.

Attempt to converse in Spanglish with a waiter in Costa del Silencio, Golf del Sur, Los Cristianos, Los Gigantes  or Playa de las Américas and the chances are they’ll answer you in English. Pass the time of day with a local in Puerto de la Cruz and they’ll launch into rapid fire Spanish as if they were chatting to their neighbour. Try to do anything other than order food and drink in Garachico, Buenavista del Norte or Santiago del Teide and you’ll find yourself honing your charade skills.

But don’t let any of that stop you. In my book anyone who attempts to converse in the language of their host country, no matter how well or badly, should be applauded and just for you, here are five little phrases that will get you a long way in speaking the Tenerife lingo.

Disculpe (dee-skull-pa) It’s worth a forewarning of ‘forgive me’ that the Spanish your unsuspecting victim is about to receive will not be of a standard to which they are accustomed with a ‘por favor, disculpe mi español‘ before you begin. If nothing else it will earn you humility points – a quality the Tinerfeños admire.

Hay (eye) The smartest little word in the whole Spanish language with more identities than a master criminal, hay will become your new best friend. Used as both a question and a statement depending on voice inflexion, it means ‘have you got’, and ‘we have’. You’ll see it on signs outside shops, bars and restaurants telling you what offers are on, and you can use it to ask for just about anything, just tag whatever it is you need onto the end of it.

Me falta/no me falta (may falta) Used much more commonly on Tenerife than its more formal necesito, use ‘I need/don’t need’ for anything from a trip to the chemist to saving the planet by refusing a paper bag in the local shop.

Mas despacio (mass des-pass-e-yo) When your brain is still trying to remember what the first word they used means, while they’re reaching the end of a verbal paragraph, a gentle request for them to speak ‘more slowly’ might just give you a fighting chance. But if a slow motion repeat still leaves you baffled, you’ll have to admit defeat and bring out the no entiendo.

No entiendo (en-tee-end-o) You can busk your way through most exchanges of Spanish with a generous sprinkling of si, si‘s thrown in at intervals and a staged laugh when it feels like they may have just made a funny. But when the flow of talking stops and they look at you with eyebrows raised, waiting for your response to that question you never even saw coming, there’s only one thing for it. Confess that you simply ‘don’t understand’.

Posted : Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 at 11:18 am
Category : about tenerife
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2 Responses to “Speaking the Lingo in Tenerife”

  1. Jo says:

    Thank you, every little courtesy said with a smile must help those like me! (avid user of Google translate to leave nice notes for the cleaners whilst on my holidays….) Gracias, cada poco de cortesía, dijo con una sonrisa debe ayudar a las personas como yo!

  2. Andy says:

    Nice one, Jo 🙂

    Incidentally, some kind soul pointed out that I had miss-spelled ‘despacio’ – clearly I was too busy listening and not paying enough attention to typing 🙁 Now corrected.

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