Category Archives: Spanish

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



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!