Whether you’re committed to learning Spanish or not, it is undeniable that you need some essential phrases to get by. For day-to-day life in Mérida, we’ve picked out words or short phrases to help you get started. Take it slow and easy through these Essential Spanish Phrases for Mérida Mexico. For the purpose of this article, we are not including some of the most basic words such as sí or no, numbers, punctuation or details on grammar points where (unless necessary). However, these are also important Spanish Phrases for Mérida Mexico. Note: no curse or swear words are included in this list though we’re sure you’ll pick some up during your time here! Mexicans are quite open with using curse words particularly while driving…
This article was updated in August of 2023.
It’s respectful to learn at least a few words and phrases in countries where English is not the first language. Therefore, it’s important to take the time to learn a few key phrases in Spanish. Yes, learning a new language IS challenging. The good news is that you’ll find many help locals and extranjeros who want to help. When people speak Spanish around you, listen instead of tuning them out. Over time, the intonation, inflection, and flow of words helps you understand better. It’s easier to learn once you’re here and immersed. Notably, you’ll have to get out of your comfort zone and seek out Spanish speakers.
Surprisingly, there are people who have lived here for some time that don’t know any Spanish other than a few words. It’s a personal choice when deciding to learn the language or not. At times, there’s a sharp learning curve. Some just can’t get the grasp of a new language. And you know what? That’s okay! People don’t judge others for their mastery or lack of knowledge of the language. While it’s true some locals do speak English, it is not reasonable or respectful to expect that people speak to you in English. The same holds true for hotel staff, waiters, Uber drivers, and anyone in the service or even the tourism industry. This may not make sense so please accept this is how it is without trying to change it (this is also disrespectful).
Spanish is spoken with a very distinctive Yucatecan accent.
Yucatecan Maya is spoken by one third of the population in the state.
Duo Lingo App
The Duolingo App is a great way to start. You can learn basic phrases like “¿Dónde está el baño?” (Where is the bathroom?) With practice, you have the ability to advance as your knowledge increases. You’ll also learn quirky sentences like “Tu oso bebe cerveza.” (Your bear drinks beer.) With sentences like these, you are more likely to remember the words due to their peculiarity. This type of teaching also pushes you to think carefully about the language you’re learning.
Duolingo provides a strong foundational knowledge of a language and its rules. It also offers more explicit instructions in the form of Tips, which are mini explanations of grammar, pronunciation, and phrases. One of the main draws of Duolingo is that it is a universally accessible platform. 1.2 billion people use it worldwide to better their language skills.
In this next section, we’ll cover basic Spanish phrases to use every day. Get accustomed to the pronunciation, listening for responses, and how to increase your Spanish skills. Don’t be afraid to mess up. Be sure to listen how words are pronounced here. This is just as important as learning Spanish. Practice, practice, practice!
ALWAYS use a greeting at your first interaction with someone, even at the Oxxo. It is considered rude to start talking without a greeting first. When passing people on the street, it’s proper to greet them as well whether you know them or not.
Level 1: Basic Phrases for the Newcomer or Fleeting Traveler
Buenos dias, Buenas tardes, Buenas noches = good morning, good afternoon, good evening
This is the greeting to use. You won’t hear many people saying hola here when saying hello. They use the appropriate phrase depending upon the time of day. Sometimes, you’ll hear buenas as the short version for any time of day.
Hasta Luego / Nos vemos = see you later
Adios is not frequently used for goodbye. Hasta luego is more common and nos vemos is more informal.
Cuídate = take care
A lovely word to add to hasta luego or nos vemos.
Mucho gusto = nice to meet you
Use it upon arrival and as a farewell when meeting someone for the first time.
Salud = bless you / cheers
The literal translation is health. Use when someone sneezes or when making a toast. You’ll most commonly hear saludcita when toasting as this is the cute way of saying it.
Cómo estás / Qué tal? = how are you?
Cómo estás is more formal and Qué tal is the informal version.
Por favor = please
Used in almost all interactions, you may hear porfa as the short informal version.
Gracias = thank you
De nada = you’re welcome
Provecho = bon appetit!
Always said to your table companions before eating, people in restaurants say this to you when walking past your table. It’s polite to tell them the same.
La cuenta por favor = the bill please
Of course, you can always use the universal check mark signal in the air. This will be one of your most frequently used phrases.
Por supuesto / Claro = of course
Por supuesto is more formal and claro is more informal.
No entiendo = I don’t understand
Once you start speaking Spanish, locals get super excited because they think you are fluent. Many times, they start to speak to you rapidly. Use no entiendo to explain that you don’t understand.
Most people get this next set of phrases confused. So I’ll spend a little time to explain the differences.
Lo siento / lo lamento = sorry
Most common is lo siento but you may also hear lo lamento. This is the universal phrase to say, “I’m sorry.”
Perdón / perdóname = forgive me in a serious situation
When a stronger, deeper forgiveness is sought, then use this term.
Disculpe = to get someone’s attention
Most frequently, this term is used in restaurants when trying to get the attention of the waiter or waitress. You may also use it if you want to ask someone a question.
Con permiso = excuse me with permission
Use this phrase as excuse me when asking for someone to move out of the way or if you are in their way. It’s good manners to excuse yourself when leaving the table to go to the bathroom or other similar situations. You’ll also hear it when a service provider enters/exits your home, when someone gets on/off the elevator, or passing by you in close quarters.
No te preocupes = no worries
Mucho calor = it’s very hot
Used frequently throughout the year.
Qué pasó? = what happened? How are you?
You can use this phrase to ask what happened or to cause of the upset. It can also be used to ask someone how they are.
Dónde está? = where is it?
You’ll add whatever you are looking for at the end of the question. For example: Dónde esta la tienda? = Where is the shop?. Generally native Spanish speakers combine both words to say dondesta?
No sé / no lo sé = I don’t know
You’ll hear no sé more frequently as it’s common for people to shorten phrases and even words.
A que hora? = What time?
When asking the opening/closing time of a business or restaurant, this is how to ask. When asking the time use “Que hora es?” You may also hear “Que hora tienes?” which literally means “What time do you have?”
Muy amable = very kind
A common phrase used often gracias. Say it to someone who has done a little something extra such as answering a question or helping with directions. “Muy amable, gracias.”
No hablo español = I don’t speak Spanish
If you’re just starting out, resort to this important phrase or ask, “hablas inglés?” to find out if the person speaks English. Notice I put this at the bottom of the list so that it doesn’t become your default phase (wink). Don’t assume if a local speaks to you in English they understand you 100%. There are SO MANY cultural nuances that it is unrealistic to expect even a fluent English speaker to understand a perspective they don’t have. They don’t have the same frame of reference you do, so please be patient with this detail as well.
Final Thoughts on Essential Spanish Phrases for Mérida Mexico
Do you need to know Spanish? Once you arrive, you can answer that question better for yourself. If you don’t know the language, you’ll miss a large part of the beautiful culture and interactions with lovely locals. Living here is about embracing every single part of this amazing city which includes learning Spanish. There are many nuances and “lost in translation” you’ll find if translating from Spanish to English. Unfortunately, it creates a bit of a separation especially when trying to relay something important. Learning the language is part of being respectful as well as being respected. When I speak in Yucatecan Spanish, I am looked at and treated a completely different way by locals. Many words are qualified by adding ita, ito, cita, cito, ota, ote, sote, sota. For example, beso is kiss – besito is little kiss – besote is big kiss. I know, I know – more confusion. But wouldn’t you rather know about it than be left in the dark?
You’ll find when you speak or respond in Spanish that locals get very excited and start speaking to you rapidly. They naturally think you can speak and understand ALL Spanish, even if you are just beginning. Therefore, remember to use “no entiendo”. As you learn more and more, use the phrase “despacio, por favor” which means “slower, please”. This way people understand they need to slow down in order for you to understand.
If you want more professional lessons, check out some of these Spanish Schools.