In the first class of our Absolute Beginner Spanish course we are going to learn how to introduce ourselves, how to react to other people’s introductions, how to say hi, how to say bye, etc.
This is a basic matter when we interact with other people, native or not. Even though Spaniards are quite lax about all of this, you might still come across as rude if you don’t behave according to what is expected.
Let’s begin by reviewing the basic vocabulary. Try not to obsess about understanding why we say this or that or don’t say what you might expect. For the moment, you should just learn vocabulary as chunks.
This is also because this kind of words, sentences, etc., are quite idiomatic and don’t necessarily even make sense, strictly speaking. Just learn them by heart!
|buenos días||good morning|
|buenas tardes||good afternoon-evening|
|¿qué tal?||what's up?|
|¿qué hay?||what's up?|
|¿qué pasa?||what's up?|
|¿cómo estás?||how are you doing?|
|me llamo X||my name is X|
|¿cómo te llamas?||what's your name?|
|hasta luego||see you soon|
|nos vemos||see you|
Some of these words need some clarifications:
- buenas is more casual than hola
- buenos días and buenas tardes are separated by lunch time, which in Spain is between 14:00 and 15:30
- buenas noches is used mostly when you or somebody else is leaving, but you wouldn’t start a conversation with it
- me llamo X is the most idiomatic way to say your name; mi nombre es X sounds robotic…
- hasta luego is probably the most neutral way to say goodbye, even if you don’t plan to see that person ever again
- nos vemos is quite casual
- adiós might sound too formal
- hasta la vista is only used by Terminator
Of course, there are many other formulas that natives use in their everyday life, but these are the most frequent and a great way to start.
Also, it is quite common to combine more than one of these:
¡Hola! ¿Qué tal?
Reacting to people’s introductions
Knowing how to react to people’s introductions is as important as introducing ourselves. If we fail this simple test, it is quite easy to feel embarrassed or awkward, even if the other person will probably understand your position and sympathize.
As a rule of thumb, the safest and easiest way to react to non-question formulas is to just repeat:
As simple as that.
The trickiest part is the questions. Take into account that most of the times these are not actual questions, but just politeness formulas. Natives don’t actually expect you to answer the questions in detail.
—¡Hola, buenos días! ¿Qué tal?
—Bien, bien, gracias. ¿Y tú?
—Muy bien, gracias.
(Just bien is always a good answer to all the questions, even when it wouldn’t make grammatical sense. If you want to emphasize, you can say muy bien. As an exception, you might prefer to answer something like nada, aquí estamos, todo bien to ¿qué pasa?).
Unless you know the person already or they do insist, don’t give any more details. Even if you had a terrible night, at first people don’t want to hear about it.
Until you calibrate your politeness, the safest way to go is to just be reactive to natives’ interactions. Don’t lead.