Category Archives: Spanish

Learn a Spanish Joke, a Spanish Riddle, and a Spanish Tongue Twister!

¡Hola amigos!

Every Spanish learner should know at least one riddle (adivinanza), one tongue twister (trabalenguas) and one Spanish joke (chiste), so here are a handful of our favourites at home (and at the bottom of the post, a favour to ask by Ben!)

¡Una adivinanza!

Oro parece,
plata no es;
el que no lo adivine,
bien tonto es.

Translation – It looks like gold, it isn’t silver, whoever doesn’t guess it is really stupid! (But don’t be fooled by the translation, the answer is hidden in the actual Spanish words!)

And here’s a bonus one!

Con una gran boca
Y un solo diente
Desde lo alto
Llama a la gente

(Translation – with a big mouth and only one tooth, from on high it calls to the people.)

Do you know the answers to these two riddles? Find the solutions at the very bottom of this post!

Un trabalenguas – A Spanish Tongue Twister

Try saying this as fast as possible in Spanish without getting your tongue in a twist!

Tres tristes tigres
tragaban trigo
en tres tristes trastos
sentados tras un trigal.
Sentados tras un trigal,
en tres tristes trastos
tragaban trigo
tres tristes tigres.

(Meaning: Three sad tigers swallowed wheat in three sad utensils sitting behind a wheat field).

Un chiste – A Spanish joke!

The only Spanish joke Ben has ever been able to remember is this one:

Dos peces en el mar. Un pez dice al otro pez, “¿Qué hace tu padre?” Y el otro pez contesta: “¡Nada!”

Do you get it? If not, it’s a play on words. In answer the the question, “What does your dad do?”, the second fish answers “Nada” – which means both “nothing”, and “he swims” – top quality humour! Spanish people will laugh at this joke!

Here’s one more:

¿Por qué comes caracoles?
Porque no me gusta la comida rápida.

(Why do you eat snails? Because I don’t like fast food!)

We hope you enjoyed these!

Un favor…

If you are one of the wonderful people that bought my book ‘Notes on the Internet Dream’ I’d be very grateful if you could take two minutes to leave an honest review of the book on your Amazon page (.com, etc) it would help me enormously when I publicise the book further afield after Easter (so far NIS listeners are the only people that know about it!)

More about the book and the Amazon links are here.

Solutions to the riddles:

The first one is…. Un plátano – a banana. Look at the words again – Plata-no es = Plátano es – it is a banana!)

The second one (Con un gran boca…) is…… A bell!

Here’s a bonus one in the same vein as the first:

Por un caminito adelante
va caminando un bicho
y el nombre de ese bicho
ya te lo he dicho.

(Going forth along a path a creature is walking, and the name of that creature, I’ve already told you.)

The answer is… Una vaca – a cow. (Va Caminando = Vaca!)

Out Now! Notes on the Internet Dream – Reach the Whole World, Free Up Your Life, Love What You Do

Queridos amigos,

My book Notes on the Internet Dream is available now on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats!

Buy now from Amazon:  – and all other Amazon stores.

The book tells the story of the ‘aha’ moments that led Marina and I (Ben) to start Notes in Spanish over 10 years ago, to leave our real jobs, reach 31+ million downloads, and pay off the mortgage. It contains inspiring ideas about how to easily start an online business (or any project!), a complete walk-through of how the website works and how we earn a living, plus a ‘philosophical’ section on things like working from home, how much money a business needs to generate, ‘moral marketing’, and what to do when an online business finally frees up lots of your time.

It’s the personal advice, secrets, techniques and information I share with close friends who want to start something online or get a business off the ground. The book is in English and is out now.

Buy now from Amazon:  – and all other Amazon stores.

Here’s the book trailer with more information:

P.S. If you read and enjoy the book then I have a big favour to ask – please pop back to Amazon to leave a review!

P.P.S. The first review is up on

Get your copy now from Amazon:  – and all other Amazon stores.

Thank you so much!


Help with a Book by Ben…

Dear Notes in Spanish listeners,

Here is one of our favourite phrases, for you to add to your list:

“Me viene al pelo”

Meaning: That’s just what I needed! (Literally: It comes to me to the hair!?)

Example: Gracias por dejarme los 10 Euros, me vienen al pelo = Thanks for lending me the 10 Euros, they’re just what I need right now.

Notes on the Internet Dream…

Os quería pedir un favor, que me vendría al pelo – I wanted to ask you a favour, which would be a great help.

People occasionally ask us how Notes in Spanish began, or for advice about how to set up a podcasting project/business like Notes in Spanish. To answer that question, Ben has written a short book, ‘Notes on the Internet Dream’ which will hopefully be out within the next two to three weeks in Kindle and paperback.

(If this doesn’t interest you, stop reading now, commit the above great Spanish phrase to memory, and continue with our podcasts! If you’ve listened to ALL our podcasts – Really?! You are amazing! – then check out this interesting resource: Radio Ambulante – real Spanish radio from NPR with transcripts to help you out.)

As I finish the final manuscript, I’d be grateful if anyone who might be interested in this book could send me ideas or questions for what it should cover. So I don’t miss anything out! No one knows Notes in Spanish like you guys, so you’re the best people to ask.

So far the book tells the story of the ‘aha’ moments that led Notes in Spanish to exist over 10 years ago, contains inspiring ideas about how to easily start an online business (or any project!), a complete walk-through of how the website works and how we earn a living, and a ‘philosophical’ section on things like working from home, how much money a business needs to generate, ‘moral marketing’, and what to do when an online business finally frees up lots of your time.

If you have any other ideas that you’d like to see in the book, or questions you’d like to see addressed, please let me know in the comments below. ¡Me vendría al pelo!

I’ll let you all know when the book is published, for those that are interested, and meanwhile will be back soon with more super-useful Spanish phrases.

Many thanks,


Spanish Books To Read, A Beautiful Song and More…

Queridos amigos,


First of all, have you seen the new ‘resources‘ link in the navigation menu above? Make sure you have seen all the great things on offer there if you haven’t got them already.

A beautiful song…

We’ve posted a link to ‘Gracias a la vida’ before, but we’ve never heard it quite like this version by Dom La Nena (follow that link to hear it on Bandcamp for free or to purchase for download). She sings with an Argentine accent (though she was born in Brasil), which leads to some really beautiful pronunciation in the song.

Reading advice…

Also, if you missed it on our Facebook page, we asked for advice on books to read in Spanish and got an overwhelming response, lots of useful information. Check out all the suggestions in the 60+comments here if you’d like ideas for reading in Spanish.

Feel free to add more books to the comments there, or to suggest books or equally beautiful Spanish songs in the comments for this blog post below.

And don’t forget, keep on listening to our audio, it’s the best Spanish learning resource we’ve got! And all free!

¡Gracias! Ben y Marina



A Spanish Lunch


This is a quick note to tell you about a new podcast project I (Ben) have started with my friend Mike Randolph for Spain and Spanish-lovers.

In every episode of “A Spanish Lunch“, Mike and I will be seeking out great Spain stories and experiences before and after a delicious lunch!

All peppered with the sounds of Real Spanish and Spain. (The podcast is mostly in English, but if you understand the Spanish guy who takes our order over lunch, consider your Spanish very very advanced!)

Head over to to listen to the first episode, subscribe in iTunes and help us with suggestions for future episodes.

Saludos desde Madrid,

Ben (y Marina!)

¡Felíz navidad! Spanish Christmas Carols and Audios

Madrid's Retiro Park in the snow
Image: Madrid’s Retiro Park in the snow

Queridos Amigos,

¡Felíz navidad! December is here, and Christmas is really starting to get going in Spain! Below we have two of Spain’s greateset Christmas Carols, plus links to all our Christmas related audios.

We also have a special Christmas sale running in our store until December 12th, and once again 5% of the entire year’s gross Notes in Spanish income will be going to charity – this year we will be supporting ACNUR again, the Spanish division of UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency.

So, first, perhaps the two most famous Spanish Christmas carols.

Los Peces En El Rio…

Campana Sobre Campana

 Christmas Specials Here On Notes In Spanish

If you would like to know more about Christmas in Spain, and learn some Spanish Christmas vocab and phrases, then we have special Christmas audio for every level:

Inspired Beginners 16 – ¡Feliz Navidad!

Intermediate 12 – Navidad

Advanced 86 – Feliz Navidad

Do take 10 minutes to listen to the audio for your level with the appropriate worksheet (available in our store), and make this a very Spanish Christmas as well!

Happy Christmas to Everyone!

Best wishes from Spain,

Ben y Marina

Classic Spanish Songs, From Chile to Flamenco…

There are so many wonderful Spanish songs in the world that it’s impossible to know where to start. Below are a few of our favourites, please share in the comments the ones that really touch you so that we can all look them up as well! A hint, to get the lyrics for any of these or other songs, just google the song name and the word ‘letra’, which means lyrics 🙂

In past years around Thanksgiving we have sent out this song by Mercedes Sosa, Gracias a La Vida, originally composed by Violeta Parra, the Chilean singer-songwriter.

Another classic Mercedes Sosa interpretation is Todo Cambia, written by Julio Numhauser…

This song below, Berlín by Coque Malla, featuring actress Leonor Watling. became a family favourite last year.

Below is a fantastic performance by Paco de Lucía, this song Luzia from the stunning album by the same name. OK, so you won’t learn much Spanish in this video, but watch the interplay between the musicians, the singer and the incredible dancer – as quintessentially Spanish, or perhaps Andalusian, as you could wish.

Here is a long-term favourite of Marina’s, Sin Embargo by Joaquin Sabina, who is something of a Madrileño Bob Dylan. The intro is sung by Olga Roman, and is pure poetry, “Te quiero más que a mis ojos, te quiero más que a mi vida, más que al aire que respiro, y más que a la madre mía”…

Finally, “Ojalá”, more great poetry from Cuban legend Silvio Rodriguez. Check out the original of this tune, dedicated to his first love, to listen to the words…

…but this live version ‘me pone los pelos de punta’, makes my hair stand on end (the way we’d say ‘give’s me goosebumps’)…

Tell us about your favourite Spanish songs in the comments right here on the blog!

Expensive Spanish Mistake!


Image – Madrid’s Retiro Park

When our boiler broke the other day (No hot water for showers! No heating just as it gets colder in Madrid!), I (Ben) was left in charge of dealing with the plumber that came round to fix it. He found the problem, and as he was getting to work on fixing it, I remembered to ask how much it was going to cost before he got under way…

Ben: ¿Cuánto nos va a costar entonces?

Plumber: Ciento y pico…

Now, I always understood …y pico to mean, ‘and a little bit’, so in my head I thought, “OK, it’s going to be about 120 or 130 Euros max”, and seeing as we’d paid 110 euros the last time, I said, “Pues adelante” – go for it.

Imagina my surprise when he presented me with a bill for 175 Euros at the end!

Plumber: Pues aquí tienes la factura, son 175 Euros – Well here’s the bill, it’s 175 Euros

Ben: Pero, ¿No habías dicho ciento y pico? – Didn’t you say it was one hundred and a bit?

Plumber: Sí, 175 Euros son ciento y pico. – Yes, 175 Euros is a hundred and something.

So, Marina, after getting over her surprise that I’d paid 65 Euros more than the last time to fix the boiler, explained that ciento y pico means anywhere between 100 and 200.

Mil y pico would be anywhere between 1000 and 2000. As the plumber pointed out, ciento y pico means ‘100 and something’, not, as I’d understood it, ‘100 and a bit’.

I felt pretty annoyed that I’d gone so long using y pico in the wrong way, but quite delighted to have learned (the hard way!) what it really means at last. Still it could have been worse, it was a ciento y pico mistake, and not a mil y pico mistake!

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve had any ‘put your foot in it’ Spanish mistakes in your Spanish learning life!

Remember, our Spanish audios and worksheets are full of Real Spanish to help you avoid mistakes like this!

A New Spanish Word, after 18 years!


Deep in the basement of Madrid’s beautiful old Mercado Vallehermoso, where fruit stalls are being replaced by cool eateries, I found this notice on the back of the toilet door. Can you guess which word I’d never heard after 18 years living in Spain?

Pulcritud! Who can be the first to look it up and give a definition in the comments? And feel free to leave your favourite new word too!

Tener Mano Izquierda and Other Untranslatable Spanish Words and Phrases


Today I was talking to a Spanish friend about parenting, and I said “Hay que tener mucha mano izquierda”. He asked how you directly translate Tener mano izquierda in English and I said… I don’t know!

Tener mano izquierda means to handle a difficult situation, or person, with skill, astutely, in a clever, wily, roundabout way. If a child doesn’t want to do something and just telling them to do it doesn’t work, then maybe you can come up with a clever, roundabout way of getting them to do what you want. That is to “Tener mano izquierda” and there is no direct translation!

Below is a list of a few of our favourite real Spanish words or phrases that have no simple, direct translation in English, do you know any more?

Estrenar – To use something or wear something for the first time, e.g. “estrenar un coche” – to drive a new car for the first time, or “estrenar un vestido nuevo” – to wear a new dress for the first time.

Madrugar – to get up very early in the morning. “Hoy he madrugado mucho para estudiar antes de ir a trabajar” – today I got up really early to study before going to work.

La sobremesa – time after a meal spent sitting around the table chatting, often for a very long time. “Después de la comida tuvimos una sobremesa fantástica” – after the meal we had a fantastic time sitting around chatting.

Un ligón – somebody who is always flirting with others or getting dates all the time. “Cuidado con ese chico, es un ligón” – watch out for that guy, he’s a real flirt.

Empalagoso – food that is ridiculously rich and sweet. “Esta tarta es demasiado empalagosa para mi, no puedo con ella” – that cake is too ridiculously sweet for me, I can’t deal with it.

Desfogarse – To let out all your energies, to let off steam by running around a lot, e.g. “Los niños tienen que desfogarse un poquito, diles que vayan al jardín un ratito” – the kids need to let off a bit of steam, tell them to go out to the garden for a while.

Futbolísticamente – used in post-match analysis or the football press, meaning ‘in footballing terms’, e.g. “futbolísticamente hablando, no hay nada perfecto” – in footballing terms, nothing is perfect.

Un tuerto – A one-eyed person. There is a typical Spanish phrase, “Un tuerto es rey en el país de los ciegos”, which literally translates as ‘a one-eyed man is king in the country of the blind’, and means that someone that doesn’t know much about something still looks very clever when surrounded by people that know even less! Sometimes used ironically when someone is trying to be clever but clearly doesn’t know very much.

Trasnochar – To stay up all night, for example partying or studying, and not go to bed until the next day. “He trasnochado cuando tenia que haberme ido a la cama pronto” – I stayed up all night when I should have gone to bed early.

Remember, our Spanish audios and worksheets are full of Real Spanish like this, it’s our speciality!