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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Speaking of Spanish


Do you know any Spanish words? Can you name some countries that speak Spanish?


In many parts of America (especially in the southwest of the country--California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Texas) you will often hear people speaking the beautiful Spanish language. In addition to "pure" Spanish, there are several words that have changed sounds and/or meanings as they became "English." (By the way, all of those state names, as well as Montana and Florida, come from Spanish or from an Indian word as understood by the Spanish.)

The Spanish language has contributed a huge number of words to English. Many of them are just direct borrowings, such as the names of foods: enchilada, taco, tamale, etc. Others have taken on a wider meaning. Salsa, for example, is a hot sauce, but has become the name of a dance. (You can find salsa dancing classes and clubs all over the world.)

Stop in at a Mexican restaurant (my favorite!) and you may hear the staff greeting you with a happy "Hola!" (pronounced "oh - la"), or, when you leave, "Adios!" These are the Spanish words for "hello" and "goodbye."

Instead of a restaurant, you may go to a barbecue on someone's patio. "Barbecue" and "patio" are Spanish.

Or you might go to a supermarket and buy bananas and papayas, or tomatoes and potatoes--all Spanish words. Pick up some ice cream: chocolate and vanilla come from Spanish. Drink some cocoa, or Coca Cola. "Cocoa" and "Coca" come from Spanish.

Sit down and eat your purchases in a "plaza'" which means "town square" in Spanish.

Care to smoke after lunch? "Tobacco" and "cigar"/"cigarette" come from Spanish.

Head back to your company or school for lunch in the "cafeteria," another Spanish word.

Lots of animals' names come directly from Spanish, like condor, jaguar, llama, and puma (a big cat, as on the shoes' logo). But others were transformed from Spanish: alligator came from el lagarto, "the lizard"; tuna from atun; and cockroach from cucaracha. Speaking of insect pests, mosquito is Spanish for "little fly," and the terrible disease it causes, dengue, is also Spanish.

A few cowboy-related terms: buckaroo (from vaquero, "cowboy"), corral, lasso, ranch, rodeo, and savvy (from sabe, "he knows.")

I should point out that many of the words I've given you here (tomato, potato, chocolate, tobacco, among others) came from Native American languages into Spanish before becoming English.

One more word: An old Spanish word for "roommate" is camarada. Any idea what that became, Comrade?


Read the story again carefully, and try to fill in the blanks with words from Spanish. Be sure to use the correct form.

1. My house has a __________ out back where we can sit in the summer.
2. I wish my roommate wouldn't smoke so much; he smokes two packs of __________ a day!
3. It looks funny when a man slips on a __________ peel, but it can really hurt him!
4. If you __________ vegetables, they taste much better.
5. At school, I usually eat in the __________, even though the food is terrible.
6. There's a shopping __________ near my house.
7. I like to drink hot __________ when the weather is cold.
8. I would never buy a bag made of __________ skin.
9. A __________ bit me in my room last night!
10. I love French-fried __________!


1. If you are not a Spanish speaker, do you know of any Spanish words in your language?
2. Look at the map above; what do you think could be the importance of Spanish in the business world today?


1. patio; 2. cigarettes; 3. banana; 4. barbecue; 5. cafeteria; 6. plaza; 7. chocolate; 8. alligator; 9. mosquito; 10. potatoes

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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