Monthly Archives: February 2021

Rhythms of Latin America: Bachata

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There is a name that is today a synonym of modern Latin dance: bachata, which goes hand in hand with salsa and merengue as the high representatives of Latin American pop music all around the world.

Where did bachata come from? It was born in the Dominican Republic’s countryside during the first half of the 20th century, as a genre mixing the bolero with some African instrumentation and rhythms. Today’s standard bachata group comprises the following instruments: the requinto, the segunda (a kind of rhythm guitar), the electric guitar, the guitar, the bass guitar, the bongos and the güira.

Since its early years, bachata was rejected by the local high class because it was considered a variant of bolero songs strongly linked to rural settings and life in the slums. In this regard, bachata did not enjoy the same privilege granted to merengue during the three decades of military regime under dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo.

After Trujillo’s death in 1961, bachata had a golden opportunity to flourish. Musician José Manuel Calderón is credited as the first person having recorded a true bachata song, “Borracho de amor” (‘Love Drunk’) in 1962.

“Borracho de amor”, by José Manuel Calderón.

Following Calderon’s debut, more recordings came from artists Rodobaldo Duartes, Rafael Encarnación, Ramoncito Cabrera, Corey Perro, Antonio Gómez Sacero, Luis Segura, Louis Loizides, Eladio Romero Santos, Ramón Cordero, and many more.

However, the 1970s ended up being dark years for the genre. Bachata was rarely played on the radio, and it almost went ignored on the media. It goes without saying that bachateros were also barred from performing in high society venues—practically forced to play in the country’s poorest neighborhoods.

Naturally, the music was influenced by its surroundings. Despite its unofficial censorship, bachata remained widely popular, while orchestral merengue still benefited from the country’s major publicity outlets.

As of the 1980s, bachata was still regarded as crass and not refined enough to deserve a slot on any TV or radio broadcasting. Then, by the 1990s, bachata’s instrumentation changed from nylon string Spanish guitar and maracas of traditional bachata to the electric steel string and güira of its modern version. This change made the genre to be more oriented to dancing.

With that, bachata kept evolving into the 21st century thanks to the urban subgenre of bachata, which became an international success, putting this style among the well-established salsa and merengue in every dance hall in Latin America. Names like Monchy y Alexandra, Romeo Santos, Aventura, and Princes Royce are the most important artists carrying the name of Bachata on the international stage.

“La Carretera”, by Prince Royce.

The post Rhythms of Latin America: Bachata first appeared on Spanish Language Blog.

Just learning Spanish

What is really throwing me off is learning individual words then trying to place them in a sentence I’m not in sync. For example el hombre grande, to me right now that says the man big but I know it breaks down to…the big man. How do I know when words need to be switched in a sentence so I don’t sound like an idiot? Why are words in a sentence not one after another for the meaning of each individual word?

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How to Order a Coffee in Spanish

Me gusta mucho tomar café. Tomo café todos los días. ¿Y usted? (I really like drinking coffee. I have coffee every day. How about you?). If you’re a big coffee drinker and a Spanish learner, I think you’ll enjoy this post on how to order a coffee in Spanish. From Mexico all the way down to Chile, I’ve been drinking coffee everywhere I go in Latin America to research this post for you!

¡Necesito café!

Coffee Vocabulary in Spanish

Ordering a coffee in Spanish is pretty easy, but you’ve got lots of options. First, we’ll get started with a list of useful vocabulary:

  • el café = coffee/cafe/coffee shop
  • café molido = ground coffee
  • granos de café = coffee beans
  • tomar un café = have a coffee
  • la taza = cup/mug
  • la leche = milk
  • la espuma = foam
  • el azúcar = sugar
  • la miel = honey
  • el endulzante = sweetener
  • la canela = cinnamon
  • caliente = hot
  • frío = cold
  • café solo = espresso
  • doble = double
  • café con leche = coffee with milk
  • cortado = espresso with steamed milk
  • café americano = American coffee (filtered)
  • café irlandés = Irish Coffee
  • descafeinado = decaffeinated
  • para aquí = for here
  • para llevar = to go

You probably noticed that the Spanish word for coffee and cafe/coffee shop is the same. How do you think you would ask someone, “Do you want to have a coffee in the cafe?” If you guessed “¿Quieres tomar un café en el café?” then you’re right!

Different Country, Different Name

As you might expect, different Spanish-speaking countries have their own unique vocabulary when it comes to coffee. For example, I don’t usually hear or use the word café solo in Latin America, but apparently that’s a common way to order espresso in Spain.

In Colombia, most people just usually order un tinto, which is just a long, black coffee. I’ll never forget doing the Real City free walking tour of Medellín and learning the correct way to order un tinto from a local coffee stall:

How to order coffee in Medellín.

Meanwhile in Mexico, there’s café de olla. It’s prepared in an earthen clay pot and sweetened with cinnamon and piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar). If you weren’t confused enough, that same sugar also goes by the names panela, chancaca, or raspadura depending on which country you’re in.

On the other side of the pond, it seems like café bombón is a popular choice in Spain. A specialty of Valencia, it’s espresso mixed with sweetened condensed milk. I’ve never been to Spain but that reminds me of the coffee in Vietnam.

How to Order a Coffee

The simplest and most efficient way to order a coffee (regardless of which Spanish-speaking country you’re in) is by saying “Un café, por favor” (A coffee, please). That’s easy enough, but what do you do if your barista or waiter asks “¿Cómo lo quiere?” (How would you like it?). You thought you had your order placed and now you have to come up with some more Spanish on the spot…

That’s why it’s always better to be a bit more specific. Whenever I order a coffee, I usually just say “Para mí, un café americano caliente, por favor” (For me, a hot American coffee, please).

Unless you specify, they’ll typically ask you “¿Con leche?” (With milk?). These days, you’ve got lots of options for adding milk to your coffee:

  • leche entera = whole milk
  • leche semidesnatada = reduced fat milk
  • leche desnatada = skim milk
  • leche de almendra = almond milk
  • leche de soya = soy milk

Personally, I’m a big fan of leche de almendra y miel de agave (almond milk and agave honey). ¡Es una combinación deliciosa! (It’s a delicious combination!).

You can always just ask for un poco (a little) of something, such as “un poco de leche” (a little milk). If there’s anything you don’t want, you can just say “Sin…” (Without…), such as “Sin azúcar, por favor” (Without sugar, please).

If you’re looking for something specific, you can always ask “¿Tienes…?” (Do you have…?), for example “¿Tienes panela?” (Do you have cane sugar?) or “¿Tienes leche de soya?” (Do you have soy milk?).

A cafe in Santigao de Chile.

In many little coffee shops, you’ll also be asked “¿Para aquí o para llevar?” (For here or to go?). I typically respond with “Para aquí, por favor” (For here, please) because I love sipping my coffee in a local shop instead of carrying a hot cup of it out on the street! Which brings me to my final point…

Cafe Culture

Wherever you go in the Spanish-speaking world, cafe culture is a big thing. I’ve been to some amazing cafes over the last few years of living and traveling in Latin America. After all, there’s some pretty amazing coffee grown here!

Whether you’re in Guatemala, Peru, or Argentina, I recommend dropping into a cafe, ordering up your favorite cup, and enjoying the atmosphere. You’ll get a chance to practice your Spanish, do a bit of people watching, and of course get a nice caffeine buzz!

I’d like to end this post by asking you a question…

¿Cuál es tu café favorito?
What’s your favorite coffee?


The post How to Order a Coffee in Spanish first appeared on Spanish Language Blog.

Colloquial Spanish Course – Talking about Camping in Spanish

In this Spanish lesson we are going to practice talking about Camping in Spanish. First we will learn some relevant vocabulary and then see if you can follow a short audio conversation in Spanish. The transcript to the audio will be given at the end of the post but please try not to look at it until you have tried playing and understanding the audio a few times.

talking about camping in spanish

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Talking about Camping in Spanish:

el bicho : bug
el bosque : forest
las botas : boots
la botella : bottle
el botiquín : first aid kit
la brújula : compass
la caminata : hike
el campamento : camp
la canoa : canoe
la caravana : camping van
la cerilla : match
el cuchillo : knife
el fuego : fire
el hacha : axe
la hamaca : hammock
la hoguera : campfire
el lago : lake
la leña : firewood
la linterna : lantern/flashlight
el malvavisco : marshmallow
el mapa : map
la mesa de picnic : picnic table
la mochila : backpack
el paseo : walk
el saco de dormir : sleeping bag
la salchicha : sausage
el termo ; thermos
la tienda de campaña : tent

Now play the audio to listen a conversation. Can you understand what is being said? Play the audio a few times before you look at the transcript. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every single thing the two people are saying. Try to catch whichever words you can and then try to piece things together to work out what is being said.

(Play the audio a few times before you scroll down and look at the transcript)



Carolina: Hola Joseph. ¿Estás listo para ir de camping mañana?
Joseph: Sí, tengo muchas ganas. ¿Quién va a venir?
Carolina: Isaac, Miguel Ángel, Alicia, Luisa, tú y yo.
Joseph: ¡Genial! Va a ser divertido. ¿Dónde vamos a acampar, no me acuerdo?
Carolina: En las montañas al norte de Madrid. Hay un lago muy bonito entre unas montañas increíbles y vamos a poner las tiendas de campaña junto al lago.
Joseph: Suena maravilloso.
Carolina: Lo es. Fui allí varias veces el año pasado. Si hace buen tiempo podemos nadar en el lago. Isaac va a traer dos canoas.
Joseph: ¿Hay buenas rutas para caminar?
Carolina: En todas direcciones. Es idílico.
Joseph: Es un camping ¿no?
Carolina: No, vamos acampar en la naturaleza. No hay restaurante ni bar ni electricidad. Cocinaremos sobre el fuego.
Joseph: ¿Y baños?
Carolina: No hay baños.
Joseph: ¿Alguien va a traer un baño de camping?
Carolina: No, solo usaremos el bosque.
Joseph: Está bien. Creo que al menos traeré un poco de papel higiénico.
Carolina: Trae cerillas, comida, bebida, linterna y saco de dormir también.
Joseph: No tengo tienda de campaña. ¿Qué voy a hacer?
Carolina: No te preocupes. Lo tenemos todo organizado. Puedes compartir tienda con Miguel y Alicia.
Joseph: Vale, gracias.
Carolina: ¿Tienes mochila y botas de montaña?
Joseph: Tengo botas, pero solo una mochila pequeña.
Carolina: No te preocupes. Yo te dejo una.
Joseph: Gracias Carolina.


So, how did you get on? How much did you understand of the listening? Please let me know in the comments section below…

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand that much, keep reviewing the vocabulary and phrases and you will soon be up to speed and ready for the next lesson in this course. See you next time!

The post Colloquial Spanish Course – Talking about Camping in Spanish first appeared on Spanish Language Blog.