Category Archives: Spanish

January Q and A Video Number 1

Welcome to the first of our two January 2019 Q and A videos!

Below you will find all of the language notes and links for the video…

Question from Parker:

I often want to say I had a great time at something, that it was fun, or that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Often talking about a trip, a party, a date, etc. What are various ways to say: I had a great time?


Mil gracias, me lo he pasado muy bien – Thanks, I’ve had a great time
Me lo he pasado pipa – I’ve had an awesome time (a bit old-fashioned)
Me lo he pasado genial / ha estado genial – (I’ve had a great time / it’s been great)
He disfrutado un montón – I’ve really enjoyed myself
He disfrutado mogollón –  It’s been totally awesome (teenager speak!)

Question from Randi:

Ayer vi las noticias en TVE y pensé que algunos corresponsales hablan muy rápido. Me parece impresionante que pueden decir tantas palabras durante un tiempo corto. Conozco la expresión “hablar por los codos”, pero ¿hay otras maneras de expresar que alguien habla muy rápido?


“Hablar por los codos” is more that you talk a lot, it’s not so much to do with speed, though they often go together. Also, you can say “No se calla ni debajo del agua” – he never shuts up!

To say someone is speaking fast, we’d say:

Habla a mil por hora – he speaks really fast
Juan habla a mil por hora – Juan speaks really fast

Question from Daniel:

¿Por que se dicen “buenos días”, “buenas tardes”, etc. en lugar de “buen día”, en singular, como vemos en idiomas como ingles y portugués? Es un poco raro, ¿no?


Well, we do say “buen día”, and “buena tarde” in the singular form, but not so much – it’s not so common. Yes, it’s a bit odd! But it’s connected with a wish that all your days should be well.

Question 1 Mike:

Quedar is a verb much used. As far as I know it can mean to stay, remain, and many more things, but I’m not sure of its use. Do you have some examples?


No me he quedado con tu nombre – I don’t remember your name
Me quedo con tus datos – I’ll keep your details (In case I need to contact you in the future)
¿A que hora quedamos? – What time should we meet
He quedado con Ana a las ocho – I’ve arranged to meet Ana at eight
Quédate ahí, ahora vuelvo – Stay there, I’ll be back in a minute
Me voy a quedar aquí un rato – I’m going to stay here for a while
Me quedo tres meses más en Madrid antes de ir a Portugal – I’ll be staying in Madrid for three more months before I head to Portugal.
Solo me quedan tres meses en Londres – I’ve only got three months left in London

See Inspired Beginners Spanish Podcast 14 – Quedar (for meeting people and excuses for not meeting people!)

Question from Martina:

I have a question about the use of “Ya” meaning yes. I notice people use “Ya” in Spanish TV shows or movies a lot, and I can’t find anywhere what the difference is between “Sí” and “Ya”. Thank you for your help.

Answer: “Ya” is like an affirmation of something that someone has just said, the same way in English that we nod our head and say “aha, yes…”

See also: Our “Ya” video

Question from Paul:

My question is about the use of “está por”. I assume that it can be used in many ways, for example: I think that “está por ver” translates as something like “it remains to be seen”
and “eso está por…” means something along the lines of “that is why”? Are my translations correct and can you give some more examples using por in this way. Thanks and regards.

“Está por ver” translates as something like “It remains to be seen” – Correct
“Eso está por…” translates as “that is why” – Incorrect

Some examples of how to use “that is why” with “por” correctly:

That is why people live in Madrid – Eso es por lo que la gente vive en Madrid
That’s why I’m going to London on my holidays – Es por eso que voy a Londres de vacaciones

Another use of “está por…”:

Marta está por Juan – Marta fancies Juan.

See also our Inspired beginners episodes on Por and Para:

Inspired Beginners 27 – Por y Para 1: Por
Inspired Beginners 28 – Por y Para 2: Para

Thank you to everyone that sent in questions! Make sure you listen to our Real Spanish podcasts and pick up the accompanying Spanish-boosting worksheets in our store!

¡Que buen rollo! NIS Charity News – Newsletter for November 26th

We don’t publish all our Real-Spanish-packed newsletters here (so make sure you are signed up to receive them!), but this one has particularly good and important news for all our listeners/viewers, so we wanted to include it here on the blog…

Hello dear Spanish-lovers!

Today another very useful, real Spanish phrase (¡Que buen rollo!), a new audio, news of our sale (ends tomorrow, Tuesday!), and most important or all, the latest Notes in Spanish Charity contributions – with your help we’ve been able to send 4000 euros to very good causes – please take a minute to read about all of this below.

En primer lugar…  the phrase:

Siempre hay muy buen rollo en este restaurante – there is always a really good vibe in this restaurant.

Los audios de Notes in Spanish tienen muy buen rollo – Notes in Spanish audios have a good vibe (we think so!)

(The opposite of course, is ‘mal rollo’: ¡Que mal rollo hay aquí! – This place has a really bad vibe! – But we are much more into ‘buenos rollos’ – good vibes – at NIS!)

This phrase, ‘buen rollo’ is included in the ‘Real Essential Spanish’ list from this week’s Notes in Spanish Conversations transcript (available in the NIS Conversations Members Area).

All The Good News!!

New Audio: We have a brand new Notes in Spanish Conversations audio out today, ‘Españoles longevos’, all about the recent discovery that Spain is going to overtake Japan in the longevity stakes! We look at the reasons why, and add our own interpretations: Listen here now!

Charity: Thanks to all the support we receive via purchases in our store, and your donations, this week we have sent a total of 4000 euros (2000 euros each) to two charities that are very important to us.

The first is Aldeas Infantiles SOS – it’s mission is to protect vulnerable children. We have donated to their Madrid centre, which includes a large fostering centre in El Escorial (see their video 1, 2, 3… Casa to really understand what they do). The Madrid centre also provides vital emergency support throughout the Madrid region for families in grave risk of breaking apart.

The second charity, which we have supported in the past, is ACNUR, the Spanish division of UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency. We have donated to their Christmas Campaign to help women and children displaced by, and in danger from, the Boko Haram crisis in Nigeria.

Thank you for your help in allowing Notes in Spanish to fulfill this charitable role, as well as teaching people the real Spanish that we love so much.

Un abrazo desde Madrid,

Ben y Marina

¡Importante! Want to keep getting our newsletter?

Queridos amigas y amigos,

As you know we love to send you Spanish-packed newsletters with great phrases, and news of new Notes in Spanish audios and videos. You may also know about new European privacy laws that came into effect on May 25th 2018 which mean that we can’t send you any more of our super newsletters unless you re-subscribe to our newsletter list – As the Spanish say, ¡Qué rollo! – What a pain!

Please take a minute to sign up again so we can keep sending you our real-Spanish newsletters – we have lots of great things coming up! (If you don’t we can’t send  you any more newsletters – ¡Qué pena! – A big shame!)

Visit our Free Report Page here to sign up again to our new newsletter list

We really hope you’ll take a moment to do this, we love teaching you Spanish!

Un abrazo desde Madrid,

Ben y Marina

Real Spanish Christmas – ¡Pelos de Punta!

Given the choice, we’d rather be listening to this song by Paco de Lucia and Camarón de la Isla on Christmas day – ¡Nos pone los pelos de punta! It makes our hair stand on end! (But if you prefer a super well know tacky Spanish carol, see below too, plus our Christmas audios!)

(Song should start at 2m03s)

Christmas Audio Specials Here On Notes In Spanish

If you want to dig deeper into Christmas in Spain, and pick up lots of 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!

And now for the tacky Spanish carol (you grow to love it over the years!), then a final bit of news…

Campana Sobre Campana

If you feel like supporting our free audios, donations are welcome via the form on our Donate page. ¡Mil gracias!🙂

¡Feliz Navidad para todos!

Ben y Marina

Advanced 2: Real Immersion is for Motivated Intermediates Too…

When I learnt Spanish I was thrown in at the deep end, constantly! Here in Madrid every trip to the bank, every night out with Spanish people, every encounter in a shop, every real Spanish situation I walked into was, well, the real thing! Even when I was a complete beginner!

That’s why I say in the blog post for the first Advanced Season 2 episode that these new audios are suitable for Intermediate listeners too: “Don’t panic if the Spanish feels really challenging! It should! Listen to the Spanish conversation, ideally with the transcript from the worksheets – …this ‘real immersion’ is the best possible thing you can do for your Spanish!”

“No te pases” I thought when I wrote that, don’t push your luck, maybe it’s too hard for intermediate learners! But this comment on the first post made me very happy and reassured me that I was spot on:

“I am very much enjoying your new podcast. I’m one of those you describe as a “motivated intermediate”. I want to assure others in that category that this podcast is definitely approachable with the aid of the notes [transcript/worksheet]. I wasn’t surprised that I understood little listening to the podcast without the notes, but I was amazed at how much I could understand having the notes to read alongside.”

Real immersion in a language is ‘reality!’ It doesn’t do you any harm at all if you have the right support. In my case I walked around Madrid with a small dictionary in my pocket (1998, pre Google Translate!) Nowadays, you have our super worksheets to explain all the best bits, making sure you learn the real Spanish you’ll never find in a text book!

Listen to the first episode of Advanced 2 and get the worksheets here. Your Spanish will be zooming ahead whether you are a motivated Intermediate learner or already Advanced.

New Real Spanish Conversation Audio Coming Monday!

Dear friends,

Next Monday November 20th we release the first of our new audio series, Notes in Spanish Advanced Season 2!Update: Episode one is available now!

You have been asking us for ages for new audios, so…

Nos pusimos manos a la obra – We got to work! (that’s one of the many useful phrases we highlight in the worksheet for the first episode!)

Perfect for Advanced and Motivated Intermediates!

The new audios will be the same as the original Advanced series – 10 to 12 minutes of Ben and Marina with our best ever real Spanish conversation on real life, interesting topics – the kind of things YOU want to talk about in Spanish when you have a real Spanish conversation with real people you meet out in the world today.

If you are an Advanced or Motivated Intermediate learner, the combination of the new worksheets and audios will rocket you forward with your Spanish.

The new audios will be released free as a podcast as always, and for those of you that want to double or triple what you get from the audio and really supercharge your Spanish, you will be able to join a special members area where for a small monthly fee you can get the worksheet for every episode as we release them each week (plus another exciting members bonus we’ll announce on Monday!)

As usual the worksheets will include a full transcript of our conversation, a list of the essential vocab and phrases you must know from the audio, plus discussion questions and useful exercises.

As a monthly member you will be hugely improving your Spanish!

Listen to episode one now!

Saludos desde Madrid,

Ben y Marina

New Audios Coming, Halloween Spanish and Sale and More!

Dear Friends,

Lots of big news for you today!

First of all, we are just a few weeks away from releasing brand new Real Spanish Audios! We’ve recorded the first couple or episodes, our trademark, REAL Spanish conversation on really interesting real-life topics. In the next few weeks we’ll be releasing the first episode, and rolling them out weekly after that!

These new audios will in real-speed, natural conversation Spanish, but the Spanish in every episode will be accessible to everyone with the help of the accompanying worksheets. Stay tuned to the newsletter to find out exactly when the first episode is out soon!

While you wait, get your Spanish ready by listening to our audios and boosting your learning with our worksheets! This should help…

Halloween Vocab and Special 3 Day 25% Off Sale!

Halloween Spanish

Until Midnight Thursday 2nd November you can get 25% off anything in our store with the coupon code halloween17 Head to our store now and use the coupon to get your Spanish flowing in time for our new, real Spanish conversation audios coming soon!

Halloween Vocab! Do you know all of these?

Ghost – Un fantasma

Vampire – Un vampiro

Bat – Un murciélago (one of the few Spanish words to use all the vowels!)

Trick or treat – Truco o trato

I’m frightened! – ¡Tengo miedo!

Don’t frighten me – ¡No me asustes!

What a fright, a vampire! – ¡Qué susto, un vampiro!

You’re really scaring me! – ¡Me das mucho miedo!

Happy Halloween!

Ben y Marina

P.S. By popular request we now also accept Credit Card payments in our store, not just Paypal.

Remember, until Midnight Thursday 2nd November you can get 25% off anything in our store with the coupon code halloween17 Head to our store now!

Cool Spanish Encounter

A great sign I saw this morning – Watch out! Wild boars! Slow down!

Queridos amigos,

It’s time for some more real Spanish for you (and a secret page at the bottom of this post!)

I was walking to my car this morning in a small village near Madrid where I like to come and work some days, when a man approached me and said, ‘Caballero, ¿dónde puedo comprar una baraja?’

I saw his wife packing a picnic in the back of their car and so thought he had asked where he could buy ‘una navaja’ – a pocket knife. So, unsure, I said ‘¿Perdón?’

‘Una baraja’ he repeated, and made the sign of shuffling a deck of cards with his hands.

‘¡Ah!’ I said, ‘Aquí a la derecha hay una papelería’ – Here on the right there is a stationary shop.

‘¡Gracias!’ he said and off he went.

This encounter made me happy for two real-Spanish-related reasons. First of all, I love it how the Spanish will often start an encounter with a complete (male) stranger with ‘Caballero…’ which can be translated as gentlemen, honorable man, or knight!

And I loved the fact that he reminded me of the word ‘baraja’ for a deck of cards. There’s something satisfying about that word! It reminded me too of the verb, barajar, to shuffle, and the phrase ‘barajar varias posibilidades’ – to consider various options.

For example, ’Después de barajar varias posibilidades, acabamos reservando una mesa en La Taberna Miranda’ – After considering various possibilities we ended up reserving a table at La Taberna Miranda.

Special Spring Sale!

Queridos amigos,

We’ve got some cool Spanish phrases for you, and news of our spring sale.

After a dry start to spring we’ve had a wonderful rainy few weeks in Madrid, full of wild flowers. Here is one of our favourite phrases that we often hear at this time of year:

Hasta el 40 de mayo no te quites el sayo – Don’t take your raincoat off until May 40th!

This wonderful phrase, straight from the streets of Madrid, means that until May 40th, so about June 10th, don’t bet on nice weather, it can still be cold or wet… but after June 10th, watch out… ¡Va a hacer muchísimo calor!

To celebrate this beautiful time of year, until midnight on Wednesday May 24th, you can get 25% off any of the products in our store with the coupon code: spring17

Just head to our store now, select the product you’d like, and use the special spring17 code to get the discount.

More cool weather phrases!

Our Real Spanish Phrase Book is back on the home page of our store, it’s full of all the coolest
‘straight from the streets’ phrases Madrileños use every day. Here are two we love from the weather section:

Llueve a cántaros  – It’s pouring! ‘Cántaro’, means jug, or pitcher, and when it rains this hard it
feels like people are pouring them all over you!

Hace un día de miedo – What fantastic weather! Literally, ‘it makes a day of fear’, in reality this phrase is used when the sun is out, the weather is warm, and the skies are blue!

You can get 25% off our Real Spanish Phrase Book, and all the other products in our store, in our Spring Sale.

Just head to our store now, choose the product you’d like, and use the special spring17 code to get the discount.

Hasta Pronto, y gracias,

Ben y Marina


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



¡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!

Our Secret Real Spanish Supply



There is a huge wealth of real Spanish in our free special reports archive, and there’s a good chance you haven’t seen it yet!

Zero to Fluent in Spanish in 9 months, Conversation Starters, 11 Cool People Phrases in Spanish – these plus 8 more super useful PDF’s can be found right here (all free!)

Make sure you’ve got them all!

Finally, a quick reminder…

To celebrate this beautiful time of year, until midnight on Monday June 6th, you can get 25% off any of the products in our store with the coupon code: spring16

Just head to our store now, select the product you’d like, and use the special spring16 code to get the discount.

Hasta Pronto, y gracias,

Ben y Marina

Notes in Spanish Spring Special Sale


Queridos amigos,

We’ve got a cool Spanish phrase for you, and news of our spring sale.

Once again it’s been a wonderful rainy spring so far in Madrid, full of wild flowers. Here is one of our favourite phrases that we often hear at this time of year:

Hasta el 40 de mayo no te quites el sayo – Don’t take your raincoat off until May 40th!

This wonderful phrase, straight from the streets of Madrid means that until May 40th, so about June 10th, don’t bet on nice weather, it can still be cold… but after June 10th, watch out! ¡Va a hacer muchísimo calor!

To celebrate this beautiful time of year, until midnight on Monday June 6th, you can get 25% off any of the products in our store with the coupon code: spring16

Just head to our store now, select the product you’d like, and use the special spring16 code to get the discount.

Hasta Pronto, y gracias,

Ben y Marina

ACNUR Campaign – Thanks again for your support

Dear friends,

First of all, ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Happy New Year!

We wanted to start the year by thanking everyone that supported our end of 2014 campaign, whereby we donated all sales from 16.12.14 until 1.1.2015 to ACNUR, the Spanish division of UNHCR (the UN’s refugee agency).

We were able to raise 4,697 Euros for their Africa campaign, which states “1€ = 1 dia mas de vida”.

Running this campaign led to a huge amount of feedback from listeners, many with ideas about the nature and notion of charity, and how best to efficiently send support to those that need it.

A full analysis of these ideas, the results of this campaign, and what Notes in Spanish will do going forward, can be found on another of our sites:

Many thanks again, we’ll be in touch very soon and wish you a very happy, Spanish-packed 2015.

Ben y Marina

NIS and Un dia mas de vida

Dear friends,

We are immensely grateful to everyone who has continued to learn Spanish with us this year.

We are incredibly lucky to be able to continue to make a living from this business that we started nearly 9 years ago, and a few days ago we passed the sales figure we need to cover our cost of living for a year. So we’ve decided to donate the rest of the year’s sales (from 16.12.14 until 1.1.2015) to ACNUR, the Spanish division of UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency.

Their Africa campaign states “1€ = 1 dia mas de vida” – “One euro means one more day alive”, for the 1.2 million refugees in Africa who are currently at risk of dying of hunger.

The number of causes vying for everyone’s attention these days can be mind boggling, and personally we find it impossible sometimes to know who to help. In the end we think that any help sent to any good cause is better than being lost in indecision. This Christmas we’ve decided to help ACNUR, so all proceeds from any sales made for the rest of this year in the Notes in Spanish store will go to their Africa campaign:

Thanks for learning Spanish with us, and have a really wonderful Christmas.

Ben y Marina

UPDATE: The results of this campaign can be found here

Gracias a la Vida – Y a Vosotros…

We think this is the most beautiful ‘Thank You’ song on the planet and we share it every year on this day.

[Note: If an Ad appears, click the ‘x’ on the right of the ad at the bottom of the video to get rid of it (we didn’t put it there, or the red banner at the start about no rude/political comments!) and you can see the subtitles. The subtitles change to Portuguese after the song ends and she begins to speak Spanish.]

So… Gracias. Thank you. Thank you for helping us share this beautiful language all over the world. Thank you for your kind comments, your lovely emails, for telling your friends about us.

So once again, Happy Thanksgiving – Feliz día de Acción de Gracias. Muchas Gracias por tu dedicación y por aprender español con nosotros.

Saludos desde Madrid,

Ben y Marina

Cool Spanish Summer Phrases

Summer in Spain - Spanish

Photo: ..a hot Spanish summer afternoon, the Sierra shimmering in the background, the cool blue of the village pool…

Queridos amigos,

Here’s how to sound really Spanish when it’s 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) in the shade – which is what we expect in Madrid as usual this summer!

Cool Spanish phrases for when it’s roasting hot:

“¡Ay que calor!” – It’s so hot!

“¡Estoy sudando como un pollo!” – I’m sweating like a chicken!

“¡Me estoy asando!” – I’m roasting!

Try them out, you’ll sound super Spanish!

Hasta Pronto, y gracias,

Ben y Marina

Super Spanish Colloquial Phrases With ‘Miedo’

Happy Halloween!

Miedo (Fear) is a great Spanish word that changes meaning completely depending on whether it is used literally or colloquially:

Literal Meanings:

Ay, ¡me das mucho miedo! – Ah, you’re really scaring me! (For ‘ghosts’ at Halloween!)

Hubo una gran tormenta mientras íbamos caminando por el campo y pasamos mucho miedo – There was a big storm while we were walking in the countryside and we got really scared

Una película de miedo – A horror film

Colloquial Meanings:

Miedo is also used colloquially here in Spain (by people of all ages) to mean something is great:

Este helado está de miedo – This ice cream is amazing

Fuimos a los Alpes este verano y lo pasamos de miedo – We went to the Alps this summer and had a fantastic time.

Trick or Treat! Halloween Spanish

Halloween Spanish

It’s Halloween time in Spain, and the streets are full of witches, ghouls and ghosts! We’ve got some special treats for you (and no tricks!) – Some great ‘scary’ Spanish vocab and phrases!

The Super-Useful, Real Spanish ‘Scary’ Vocab and Phrases!

Here are some ‘frights and scares’ Spanish phrases for you to use all year round, and not just at Halloween!

Asustar – To scare someone or give someone a shock

¡No me asustes! – Don’t scare me

Ben: No arranca el coche – The car won’t start
Marina: ¡No me asustes, que acabo de recogerlo del taller! – Don’t scare me like that, I just picked it up from the workshop!

Un susto – a shock

¡Qué susto me has dado! – What a fright you just gave me (e.g. when someone comes into a room without you noticing)

¡Qué susto me ha dado el perro! – What a shock that dog gave me

Me llevé un susto que no veas / me he dado un susto de muerte – I got a really big shock (for really serious situations/shocks)

Ha habido un accidente de tráfico justo delante mío, y pensé que no iba a frenar a tiempo. Me he dado un susto de muerte. – There was a car accident right in front of me, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to stop in time. I got a terrible shock.

¡Qué susto, un vampiro! – What a fright, a vampire! (When your neighbour appears in his vampire costume this halloween!)

¡Feliz Halloween!

Happy Spanish Summer

¡Hola a todos!

We’ve been very busy for a while, working on projects like updating the Notes in Spanish website to keep it fresh and mobile friendly (important these days!) and more secure.

It’s been a while since we shared our favourite phrases, and here is one that we hear a lot at this time of year when the weather can’t quite make it’s mind up:

Hasta el 40 de mayo no te quites el sayo – Don’t take your raincoat off until May 40th!

This wonderful phrase, straight from the streets of Madrid (so it might not work in South America!) means that until May 40th, so about June 10th, don’t bet on nice weather, it can still be cold… but after June 10th, watch out! ¡Va a hacer muchísimo calor!

¡Un saludo!

Ben y Marina

Real Spanish Love Phrases, Audio, and a Song

Here’s a bit of ‘Love’ Spanish for you, our lovely listeners! We are pretty sure that, like us, you love learning Real Spanish!

El amor es lo único que crece cuando se reparte.
– Antoine Saint-Exupery

¡Te quiero! – Spanish love phrases

I (Ben) remember how odd it was to walk around the streets of Madrid in my first months in Spain many years ago, hearing young couples say to each other ‘Te quiero’… literally meaning ‘I want you!’ This sounded a little strange to be saying to each other in the street all day long, until I discoved that in Spain it simply means, ‘I love you’, and is used (here, at least) much more frequently than ‘te amo’.

Here are a few more Spanish love phrases we like:

Amor a primera vista – Love at first sight

… or more commonly used:

“Lo nuestro fue un flechazo” – For us it was love at first sight

Encontrar pareja – To find a partner

Or much more poetic and romantic:

Encontrar tu media naranja – To find your perfect other half.

Our Love Audios

This is a great week to listen to our love-related audios again!

Notes in Spanish Gold Season 1 – Ep.12 – Amor y La Galaxia – Ben’s sister finds love, despite it being more likely to find aliens in our galaxy, and online dating flourishes in Spain.

Advanced Spanish Podcast 65 – San Valentin – ¿Cuál es la manera más común de celebrar el dí­a de los enamorados en tu paí­s?

Intermediate Spanish Podcast 20 – Amor – ¿Que es lo que hace la gente de tu pais la primera vez que queda con alguien?

Once Again, Our Favourite Spanish Love Song

Here’s Y Sin Embargo – from the most Madrileño Joaquin Sabina – with the stunning intro from Olga Roman – with such classic, love filled stanzas as:

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.

Here’s the video:

(Lyrics for the main song with Sabina, here, and the opening section here.)

Happy Spanish Learning! Ben y Marina

Find the worksheets, with full conversation transcripts, for the above Notes in Spanish audios in our store.

Uno Entre Cien Mil: Charity Sale Results

Mil Gracias!

Thank you so much! As promised all total sales in our special ‘ciber lunes’ 4 day promotion, from this past November 23rd to November 26th, are going to‘s Proyecto Corre, a project set up by a dad in our son’s class to raise funds into investigation of Infant Leukaemia, an illness his son is now recovering wonderfully from.

The grand total of sales for this special promotional period is: 9,673.89 Euros!

130 of you, our wonderful listeners, made the most of this promotion to improve your Spanish and help this special cause at the same time.

As there are one or two people that had trouble with the coupon or payment but still aim to contribute with a pending sale, we’ve decided to round the figure up to:

Total Donation: 10,000 Euros

So, this week, Notes in Spanish will be transfering 10,000 euros to and their ‘Proyecto Corre‘ to help save every child that suffers from Infant Leukaemia – not just 8 out of 10 (the current survival rate), but 10 out of 10 children with this illness.

Thank you so much again.

To find out more about how and Proyecto Corre came to life, I really recommend reading Jose’s Spanish blog post here. It’s incredibly moving, inspiring and motivating.

If you missed out on the promotion but still want to donate to this cause, you can do so directly by donating whatever sum you see fit via the Proyecto Corre donation page here (You’ll get a Proyecto Corre running badge emailed to you too to help spread the word as you run round the park – or for the bus!)

Mil gracias,

Ben y Marina