Author Archives: Dr. Jennifer Wagner

About Dr. Jennifer Wagner

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

Teach English in Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversacion 2017-18

Teach English in Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversación 2017-2018

Apply to teach English in Spain through the Auxiliar de Conversación program!

Application available between January 9 and April 18, 2017.

The application is now open to teach English in Spain or Andorra through the Spanish Ministry of Education. Auxiliares teach for 12 hours a week from October 1, 2017, to May 31, 2018, for a salary of 700€ per month – or 16 hours a week from October 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, for a salary of 1,000€ per month if placed in Madrid.

This program is open to citizens of the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and English-speaking citizens from Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands, and Sweden. For the US/Canadian application, the main requirements for applicants are being a native speaker under 60 years old, being at least a junior in college or having a Bachelor’s degree, and passing a background check. You do not have to prove knowledge of Spanish, though you are supposed to have basic communicative skills.

Regions of Spain

All 17 autonomous regions of Spain and the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa now participate in this program, although Cantabria suddenly cancelled their program for 2016-17. Schools run by the Spanish Ministry of Education in Andorra – the country between Spain and France that is neither in the EU nor the Schengen Space – also appears to be an option as of 2017 but I couldn’t find any other information about it.

Autonomous Communities of Spain - Comunidades autónomas de España

Autonomous Communities and Cities of Spain (Andorra is located on the northern border of Cataluña)

On the application, you first need to choose between Spain and Andorra. If you choose Spain, you can give your preferences for regions, but only one from each group. This means you cannot choose Madrid, Murcia, and Andalucía as your three choices since they are all in the same group.

Group A: Asturias, Ceuta y Melilla, Extremadura, La Rioja, Navarra, País Vasco

Group B: Aragón, Canarias, Cantabria, Castilla la Mancha, Cataluña, Galicia

Group C: Andalucía, Castilla León, Comunidad Valenciana, Islas Balearas, Madrid, Murcia

Auxiliar de Conversación Application

Information and the application can be found at the official Auxiliares de conversación extranjeros en España site. Instructions in English can be found on the page dedicated to North American language and culture assistants in Spain.

There is no application fee to apply, but keep in mind that you will probably have to travel to your nearest Spanish embassy to get your visa. This program is essentially first-come first-served, so get your application in as soon as possible for the best chance to be accepted and to get your first preference of region. Renewing for subsequent years is also possible if you decide you want to Spain; however, you may or may not be able to stay at the same school or even in the same region.

If you have questions about the program or application, I suggest joining and searching the many Auxiliares de Conversación groups on Facebook.

Want to teach English somewhere besides Spain?

If you’d like to teach as an English assistant in France, the application is open until January 15 for US citizens and February 15 for Canadian citizens. There are also other opportunities to teach English in Europe as well as in Latin America.

Scandinavian Languages Compared - Learn Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish Together

Scandinavian Languages Compared – Learn Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish Together

Learn three Scandinavian languages together

If you are studying a Scandinavian language, it is quite easy to learn other Scandinavian languages at the same time due to how closely related they are. Comparing the vocabulary among languages makes it easier to see the similarities and differences.

I have recently updated the multilingual vocabulary lists to create Scandinavian lists that include Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish. I am still adding more Norwegian vocabulary so not all categories include that language yet. If you are studying other Indo-European languages, the Romance lists include French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese while the Germanic lists include German, Dutch, and (some) Afrikaans.

Three Scandinavian languages compared in vocabulary lists

Just like with the Romance and Germanic vocabulary lists, you can change the order of the columns as well as hide columns for the Scandinavian lists. View the video below to see this in action:


Go to Scandinavian Vocabulary Lists now to start learning three languages at once.

I am also creating videos that compare Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish so don’t forget check out the Youtube channel too.

If you can help add more Norwegian or the vocabulary for other Scandinavian languages, please let me know!

Apply to the Teaching Assistant Program in France

English Teaching Assistant Program in France for 2017-2018

The application for the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) for Americans and Canadians is now available at

The Teaching Assistant Program in France offers 7 month English teaching assistant positions at public schools in France or the DOM-TOMs. The only contract is October 1 to April 30. Applicants must be between the ages of 20 and 35 by the start date and have a B1 level in French at the time of application. The US program also requires completion of 3 years of university/community college while the Canadian program only requires 2 years.

English assistants work 12 in-class hours a week and receive 790€ net each month plus have health insurance. Assistants assigned to the DOM-TOMs receive a higher salary because of the higher cost of living (however, assistants in Paris do not.) Travel to/from French embassies to obtain a visa, travel to/from France, and housing in France are NOT provided. Assistants can also renew for a second year, but a new visa is required.

The application is due January 31, 2017, for Americans and February 15, 2017, for Canadians. Chek the official US and Canadian program websites for more information. There are roughly 1,100 positions for Americans and 200 positions for Canadians available.

Read all about my personal experience with the Teaching Assistant Program in France and get helpful tips and advice at my TAPIF guide. You can also download all the lessons I created for my French students (as well as international students in the US) at Free ESL Lesson Plans.

Speak another language besides French and want to teach in Europe?

If you would like to teach English abroad on an official program, but do not speak French, you can also try the similar Spanish program if you want to go to Europe. You do not have to prove your level of Spanish so it is possible to apply with a very limited knowledge. The contracts are 8 months long (October 1 to May 31) and the pay is 700€ net for 12 in-class hours outside of Madrid or 1,000€ net for 16 in-class hours in Madrid.

If you speak German, try the US Teaching Assistantship at Austrian secondary schools.

If you speak Italian, try the Study Intercultural Training Experience to teach English at schools in Lombardy.

Want to teach English abroad but don’t speak another language?

In South America, Colombia and Chile have also recently begun similar programs to bring in native or near-native English speakers to help teach in public schools. These programs are classified as volunteer programs, however, so the monthly stipend is much less than the European programs and require more hours of work per week. Neither country requires knowledge of Spanish before applying. They also have a different academic year than Northern Hemisphere school systems, so the contracts typically run from January or March to November for a full academic year. There are one semester options as well if you only want to commit for 4-5 months.

Teach English in Latin America: Paid and Volunteer Programs

Teach English in Latin America: Paid and Volunteer Programs


If you would like to teach English in Latin America so that you can improve your Spanish while getting teaching experience and living abroad, here are some official programs and options for native speakers of English:

Get Paid to Teach English:

If you’d like to teach English in Colombia, the English Teaching Fellowship offers placements in primary/secondary schools or vocational training for young adults. The age limit is 21 to 50, and a Bachelor’s degree plus basic Spanish competency is required. The monthly stipend is 1,500,000 Colombian pesos (around $500) for 25 teaching hours and 15 administrative hours per week. A deposit of $400 is also required, but will be returned once you complete the program. There are many start dates throughout the year (January, March, June), with contracts ranging from 6 to 11 months.

If you’d like to teach English in Chile, the English Open Doors Program began in 2015 thanks to the Educational Reform to provide students in public schools with more opportunities to learn English. Volunteers can be placed almost anywhere in Chile during the fall and spring semesters (March to July and August to November). The age limit is 21 to 35; however, applicants over 35 may be considered on a case-by-case basis. A Bachelor’s degree is required, but knowledge of Spanish is not. The monthly stipend is 70,000 Chilean Pesos (around $100) to cover transportation, supplies, or extra food not provided by the host family. The application is usually available in mid-September, with start dates in March/April and July/August.

The WorldTeach Global Education Fellowship program recently began in Ecuador as part of President Correa’s “It is Time to Teach” initiative. Fellows spend 10 months in the Amazonian and Andean regions of Ecuador, teaching English full-time in public K-12 schools. Airfare and TEFL certification are included, and a professional development project is required in addition to teaching. Fellows live with host families and receive around $150 per month for basic living costs. Applicants must have a Bachelor’s degree and be between the ages of 21 and 74.

There are some schools in Panama that teach classes in English. You can always check the job listings for the Oxford International School or the International School of Panama.

For US citizens, don’t forget that you can apply to any job in Puerto Rico. There are a few English-language international schools, such as Baldwin School and Commonwealth-Parkville School.

The English Fellow Program through the US Department of State is probably the most well-paid option for Americans (stipend of $30,000 for the 10 month placement), but you do need a Master’s degree to apply and there is no guarantee where you will be placed. They have several assignments all over the world, so you may not even be placed in Latin America.


Program Fee plus Monthly Allowance:

Teach Abroad with CIEE offers paid programs to teach English in the Dominican Republic or Chile. Even though you receive a monthly stipend, you also have to pay a $1,900 fee for the Dominican Republic or $2,900 for Chile. The stipend is about $550 for the Dominican Republic and just over $750 for Chile, so you’ll essentially be volunteering for almost half the time. A Bachelor’s degree and upper intermediate Spanish skills are required for both countries, and a TEFL certification is also required for Chile.

CIEE also has a few programs to teach English in Spain if you’re just looking to work in a Spanish-speaking country, but note that the regular program is essentially the same as the free auxiliar de conversación program run by the Spanish government.


Pay to Volunteer Programs:

It may seem odd to pay to volunteer, but the fees cover almost everything except your plane ticket and visa. You will usually stay with a host family, be provided with three meals a day, have health insurance, and possibly transportation costs covered. You will have support from the program coordinators if you need help, and some programs offer a TEFL certification as part of the volunteer experience.

CIEE offers a one month volunteer program to teach English in Peru.

World Teach has programs in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Guyana (which is an English-speaking country so the subjects will be math, science, history, etc.)

Projects Abroad includes programs in Argentina, Belize (English-speaking country), Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica (English-speaking country), Mexico, and Peru.


Check out Go Overseas for more programs and reviews. Remember that you can always study abroad, intern abroad, or volunteer abroad for programs involving conservation, agriculture, archaeology, etc. if you decide that teaching English is not your thing.


Also read through Offical Programs to Teach English in Europe if you think you’d rather go across the pond.


Official Programs to Teach English in Europe

Official Programs to Teach English in Europe

Do you want to teach English in Europe?

A few countries have official programs to bring in native English speakers to work as language assistants in the public school system. If you are currently an undergraduate student or have a BA and are under 30 years of age, then there are several programs to teach English in Europe to choose from. However, there are a few programs that will consider applicants over 30, especially in Spain.

I will update the deadline dates when the 2017-2018 applications become available, typically from October to January. Deadlines tend to range from December to April.

Teach English in Europe - Official programs for native English speakers to teach in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and Hungary

English Teaching Programs in Europe

1. France (For citizens of all major English-speaking nations)

The Teaching Assistant Program in France (managed by the CIEP) is open to English-speaking citizens of several countries: the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Trinidad & Tobago, as well as students from any of the members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States who are enrolled at the University of the West Indies.

Monthly salary: 790€ net; assistants placed in DOM-TOMs receive higher salaries but NOT those placed in Paris

US program: Must have completed 2 years of a BA and be between ages of 21 and 30, with intermediate level of French. Application fee of $40. Dual French-American citizens are not eligible.
Deadline: January 15, 2017

Canadian program: Applicants must have completed two years of higher education by October 1, 2015. Dual French-Canadian citizens are not eligible, and there is an application fee of $40 USD.
Deadline: February 15, 2017

UK program through British Council
Deadline: December 19

Irish program: must be between ages of 20 and 35 and have completed 2nd year of BA
Deadline: February 20

Deadline: December 17

New Zealand
Deadline: February 27

Deadline: December 2

Jamaica and the Bahamas
Deadline: January 5

2. Spain (For citizens of US, Canada, UK, and Ireland)

US & Canadian program: must hold a minimum of a BA or BS by the end of the academic year preceding the start of the program, be a junior or a senior, or have become a university graduate. Age limit is 60 years of age (as of 2016, the age limit of 35 for Madrid has been removed and all regions in Spain are now participating).
Monthly salary: 700€ for most locations; 1,000€ for those placed in Madrid
Deadline: April

UK program through British Council: undergraduates studying Spanish at a UK university will be treated as priority candidates
Monthly salary: 700€ for most locations; 1,000€ for those placed in Madrid
Deadline: December 19

Irish program through ELA Scheme
No age limit; must have completed one year of university
Monthly salary: 700€ net
Deadline: March 2

A few other language assistant programs in Spain which have no age limits include UCETAM (Madrid only), Meddeas (private schools), and BEDA (Catholic schools mostly in Madrid).


3. Italy (For citizens of the US, UK, and Ireland)

US program: Placements available in Lombardy only
Monthly salary: 700€ net
Deadline: February

UK program through British Council
Monthly salary: 850€ net
Deadline: December 19

Irish program through ELA Scheme: Undergraduates who are studying Italian at a university/third level institution of education, are under 30 years of age, and have completed two years of third level studies are eligible to apply.
Monthly salary: 850€ net
Deadline: March 2


4. Germany (For citizens of the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand)

US program through Fulbright
Deadline: Usually in October

UK program through British Council
Monthly salary: 800€ net
Deadline: December 19

Irish program through ELA Scheme: must have completed 2 years of university and be under 29
Monthly salary: 800€ net
Deadline: March 2

Australian program: must have BA, be under 29, and have good knowledge of German
Monthly salary: 800€ plus one-time travel grant of 1,000€
Deadline: February 28


5. Austria (For citizens of the US, UK, and Ireland)

US program: Must have BA and working knowledge of German
Monthly salary: 1,105€ net
Deadline: January 15

UK program through British Council
Monthly salary: around 1,133€
Deadline: December 19

Irish program through the ELA Scheme
Modern language undergraduates after their second year of study are eligible to apply; Austrian authorities request that applicants are under 30 years old.
Monthly salary: approximately 1,000€ net
Deadline: March 2


6. Switzerland (For citizens of the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, and Australia)

UK and Irish applicants are considered first, then if necessary, those from the US, Canada and Australia. Aimed at students and graduates of universities and teacher training colleges; must be between ages of 21 and 30
Monthly salary: 2,550 CHF net
Deadline: February 27


7. Czech Republic

Knowledge of Czech not required. No age limit. Positions in Prague are scarce.


8. Hungary (For citizens of the US, Canada, UK, and Australia)

Applications accepted at all times, but there is an application fee of $750. Bachelor’s degree required. Knowledge of Hungarian not required. No age limit.

For US citizens, the Fulbright program has several English Teaching Assistant positions (throughout the world, not just Europe) but these positions are quite competitive. The largest program in Europe is Germany, with 140 positions available. The deadline for Fulbright grants is typically in October for a program that starts in the following year. Applicants 29 and younger receive special consideration, and you cannot apply to a country for which you hold citizenship.

For UK citizens, the British Council offers assistantships in several countries both within and outside of Europe: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland in Europe; and Argentina, (Francophone) Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador or Mexico outside of Europe. Applications are usually due by December for programs that start in the following year. For Irish citizens, the English Language Assistant Scheme offers positions in France, Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain.

If you’re looking to teach English in Europe but don’t have much experience, go to my ESL Lesson Plans page to see what I’ve used in my courses (and you can download them for free!)

A Linguistic Analysis of Telenovela Spanish - What are the most frequent phrases in telenovelas?

A Very Informal Corpus Linguistic Analysis of Telenovela Spanish: Pasión y Poder

A Linguistic Analysis of Telenovela Spanish, or How this Nerdy Linguist Spent her Friday Night

Ever since I discovered that Univision started including transcripts of their telenovelas online, I had been wanting to experiment with the free corpus linguistics software AntConc to analyze the most common phrases used in telenovela Spanish. I chose Pasión y Poder because it had the most transcripts still available on the website, even though I rarely watched it. It was a fairly typical telenovela, unlike El Hotel de Los Secretos or Yago, with plenty of fighting and drama and a (mostly) happy ending. Unfortunately Telemundo does not provide transcripts of their telenovelas (which tend to be better) which is a shame since I’d love to analyze the language of La Esclava Blanca, a Colombian telenovela set in the mid 1800’s.

Here’s how I created the corpus and found the most frequent phrases, if you feel inclined to be as nerdy…

How to be a linguistics/telenovela nerd:

  1. Downloading the html files was easy and quick thanks to the DownThemAll add-on for Firefox and the fact that the URL of each episode only differs by the number so I was able to use batch descriptors. (I know webscraping is possible with Python, but my programming knowledge is still pretty basic and I knew that I could get the files with the add-on in about 20 seconds.)
  2. Then I needed to find a way to extract the text from all of the <p> tags – since the transcript was the only text enclosed in these tags in all of the html code – and create text files for each episode. I managed to find some Python/BeautifulSoup code online after an hour of searching that did what I needed, after a couple tweaks, a few tears, and many error messages.
  3. Finally, I loaded all the text files into AntConc and played around with the Clusters/N-Grams option and N-Gram Size to find the most frequent phrases between five and ten words.

NEW! Watch a video explaining the steps:

Most Frequent Phrases in Pasión y Poder

So here are the most frequent phrases used in Pasión y Poder, starting with ten word phrases and ending with five word phrases. Keep in mind that some of the phrases are typically Mexican, and some are overly dramatic because, well, they’re from a telenovela!

  • A ver, a ver, a ver, a ver, a ver. (A ver is usually translated as let’s see, but I have no idea what a good translation for this many a vers together would be in natural English.)
  • No te metas en lo que no te importa. (Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong./Mind your own business.)
  • No sabes el gusto que me da que… (You don’t know how happy it makes me that…)
    ¿No te das cuenta? ¿No te das cuenta? (Don’t you realize? Don’t you realize?)
  • Esto no se va a quedar así. (This isn’t over. [said as a threat of revenge])
    No me lo tomes a mal, pero… (Don’t take this the wrong way, but…)
  • … lo que te voy a decir. (… what I’m going to tell you.)
    Lo único que quiero es que… (The only thing I want is that…)
    No, eso no va a pasar. (No, that is not going to happen.)
    No tiene nada que ver con… (It has nothing to do with…)
    Lo que pasa es que no…  (What is happening is that … not)
    No te lo voy a perdonar. (I’m not going to forgive you for it.)
    No te voy a permitir que… (I won’t allow you to…)
    Eres el amor de mi vida. (You are the love of my life.)
    No tiene la culpa de nada. (S/he is not guilty of anything.)
    A pesar de todo, lo que… (In spite of everything, what…)
    Creo que lo mejor es que… (I think the best thing is that/to…)
    Lo que me preocupa es que… (What worries me is that…)
    Lo único que espero es que… (The only thing I hope is that…)
  • Todo va a estar bien. (Everything will be fine.)
    Me da mucho gusto que… (I’m very happy that…)
    No voy a dejar que… (I’m not going to let…)
    No, por supuesto que no. (No, of course not.)
    ¿Que fue lo que pasó? (What happened?)
    Sí, lo sé, lo sé. (Yes, I know, I know.)
    Ya me tengo que ir. (I have to go now.)
    No me importa lo que… (I don’t care what…)
    … lo que vas a hacer. (…what you’re going to do.)
    Te pido por favor que… (I am asking you please to…)
    Ya me di cuenta que… (I already realized that…)
    De una vez por todas. (Once and for all.)
    ¿No te das cuenta que…? (Don’t you realize that…?)
    Yo no tengo nada que… (I have nothing that…)
    Y lo peor es que… (And the worst is that…)

Telenovela Battle of Screams and Insults

I was also interested in finding out which words I heard yelled all the time were more frequent:

In the battle suéltame (let go of me) vs. lárgate (get out), the winner is: ¡lárgate! (59 vs. 61)

And in the battle infeliz (fool) vs. desgraciado (bastard), the winner is: ¡infeliz! (74 vs. 69)

However, the winner of them all was ¡No puede ser! (It can’t be!) with a frequency count of 151.

So what have we learned?

To sum up, Telenovela Spanish is hilarious and corpus linguistics is amazing.

If you’d like to learn more about Corpus Linguistics, there is a great free Corpus Linguistics MOOC at Futurelearn and the hands-on exercises in the new textbook Practical Corpus Linguistics will get you started with AntConc, plus there are tutorials on Youtube on how to use this software. If you’re interested in learning Python, try Dr. Chuck’s Python for Everybody lessons.

Teaching and learning French with Buzzfeed

Teaching and learning French with Buzzfeed

If your students already use Buzzfeed to waste time online, make sure they know about the French language version so they can turn that wasted time into learning opportunities. Not only is French Buzzfeed useful for learning informal language, it is also useful for learning about cultural differences.

Learning French language and culture with Buzzfeed

The list, 28 choses bizarres pour tous les Français qui visitent les États-Unis, is great content for teaching and learning about cultural differences between France and the US – especially for students who have never spent time in France. There is a slightly different version in English, with more explanations, which you can also use for a few more differences.

The lists include practices related to shopping, eating out, school, fashion, money, etc. which can guide discussions on what is common in America and why the French find it weird or odd. For students who have not experienced living or studying in France, they may have never thought about these American practices, and maybe assumed that they were the same in other countries. Personally, I was delighted to find out the air conditioning wasn’t so extreme and there were fewer commercials on TV, but annoyed that there were no 24 hour stores. I liked that tax is already included in prices, yet I hated having to get the server’s attention in restaurants.

These practices can also lead to deeper discussions about what is considered normal, correct, polite, rude, or strange to different cultures. Americans might not understand why people smiling all the time would be odd to the French. What is so “wrong” about flying the flag everywhere? Why do the French think that coffee must be drunk only at a café or while sitting down?

The information learned from these lists is certainly useful for students who are about to go abroad and what to expect. They will learn that 24 hour stores are very rare in France, you can’t buy food and drinks at pharmacies, waiters will ignore you in restaurants, wearing pajamas in public is not acceptable, you won’t get ice in your drinks, and you won’t have to figure out how much to leave for a tip.

Another interesting list is Comment les Américains imaginent la France vs. la réalité, which offers a more realistic look at life in France through stereotypes and the extreme opposites.

Buzzfeed has versions for other countries/languages as well: Brazil, Germany, Spain, MexicoSpanish, and Japan.

Mexican Slang I Learned By Binge-Watching Telenovelas

Mexican Slang I Learned By Binge-Watching Telenovelas: ¿Quién es Quién?

I’ve recently been binge-watching the Telemundo telenovela ¿Quién es Quién? to learn more Mexican slang. Comedic telenovelas often use tons of informal expressions and slang words compared to the more dramatic ones, but the characters also talk really fast so you’ll most likely need access to the subtitles and the internet to look up words in order to really understand much. I use and Así to find definitions. Not all of the following words and phrases are considered slang, but they are words that I never learned from books and thought were useful, especially if they have other meanings in addition to the informal one.

¿Quién es Quién? has now finished its run on Telemundo, but you can watch the episodes online with Spanish subtitles, though they are probably geo-blocked to the US. Episodes 1-61 plus 91 are 45 minutes long, while episodes 62-90 are 90 minutes long. The best way to watch the episodes is through the Telemundo Now website or app, but I believe you need to log in with your cable subscriber. The full episodes are still available on Telemundo’s regular website that doesn’t require you to log in, but beware that episode 27 is actually episode 25 again, and all the 90 minute episodes have the parts out of order – all parts 2 and 3 should actually be the final two parts. I’m not sure when the videos will be removed from the regular site, but they should remain for some time on the Now site. Plus you can always skip around and read English language recaps at El Cohete to get caught up.

Mexican Slang Vocabulary from ¿Quién es Quién?

aguafiestas – spoilsport, party pooper, wet blanket

andar de parranda – to be out partying; go out on the town

apapachar – to spoil, indulge

babosada – nonsense; stupid thing

baboso – stupid, silly

bajeza – vile deed, nasty thing to do

berrinche – tantrum, fit

billullo – money

bola – lie, fib / ball, marble, scoop of ice cream

bote – jail / container / small boat / bounce / jackpot

bronca – fight, quarrel, scolding

burrada – nonsense / a lot of

callejón sin salida – dead-end; problem without a solution

canijo – untrustworthy / good at sports / weak, sickly, puny

carnal – brother, buddy, pal

chafa – lame, shoddy, cheap

chamba – job, work / fluke, pure chance

chambear – to work

chela – beer

chido – fantastic, cool

chorro – loads, tons / stream, jet

chueco – crooked, dodgy, illegal

chulo – pretty, good-looking

coscolino – playboy, womanizer

cuate – friend, buddy, mate

cursi – sickly sweet, corny

dar carpetazo – to put an end to

despachar – to finish off, bump off

dizque – so-called, supposed

encuerada – stripper; nude

entero – calm, collected, have it together

fanfarrón – show-off

feria – money, change, coins / fair, festival

flojo – slacker, deadbeat, good for nothing

fregada – mess, mix-up

fregar – to mess with, hurt, ruin

fulano – so-and-so, what’s-his-name

gacho – mean, nasty, cruel, unlucky, ugly

gandalla – thug, scoundrel, lowlife

gatada – sly trick

jalarse – to run, hurry, rush, dash

jarabe de pico – sweet talk, verbal persuasion

lana – money

lata – bother, nuisance, hassle / tin, can

matón – thug, brute, bully

méndigo – despicable, terrible, loathsome [not to be confused with mendigo – beggar, panhandler]

menso – stupid, silly, dumb

mono – cute, adorable / overalls / cravings / monkey [not be confused with moño – bow, ribbon / bun (in hair) / sweet bun (pastry)]

morra / morrita – girl

mujeriego – playboy, womanizer

neta – truth

padre – good, great

pelado – lowlife / peel, skin / bare, empty, bald

picaflor – playboy, womanizer

piropo – flirtatious remark

pleito – fight

raite – ride, lift (in car) [this is very American/Northern Mexican Spanish; you can also use aventón]

re- / rete- – very, a lot

ruca – old lady, spinster

tarado – idiot, fool, moron / crazy, loony

tarugada – nonsense, stupid thing

tarugo – stupid (blockhead as a noun)

tener la espina clavada – to be dying to do something

trago – drink, sip, gulp / hard time

trepadora – social climber


Reductions in Spanish Speech

‘tá instead of está

‘perate instead of esperate

pa’ instead of para

Estamos? instead of estamos de acuerdo?


Phrases and Expressions

¿a poco no? – isn’t it, don’t they, etc. [general tag question]; isn’t that right?

ahueca el ala – beat it; get out of here!

al grano – get to the point

hijole – gosh! wow! jeez!

me lleva – damn it!

me vale gorro – I don’t give a damn!

menos mal – just as well; lucky for me

ni hablar – let’s not even go there/talk about it

ni que ocho cuartos – my foot! yeah right!

o sea – I mean; in other words

vé tú a saber – who knows; your guess is as good as mine

yo qué sé – don’t ask me!


Cultural Notes

The emergency number 911 is pronounced nueve once.

When answering phone calls, most characters said si, bueno? or si, diga?


¿Quién es Quién? is set in Los Angeles, but was largely filmed in Miami in case you’re wondering why some house doors open outwards (a Florida building code for hurricane safety).

French for Spanish Speakers Courses at California State University Long Beach

French for Spanish Speakers Courses at CSU Long Beach

Did you know that California State University at Long Beach offers French for Spanish speakers courses? They also offer similar courses in Italian for Spanish speakers that emphasize the similarities between these Romance languages. I haven’t heard of other universities (yet) that offer courses like this, though the University of Texas at Austin’s Portuguese courses usually include many students who already learned Spanish and their Tá Falado podcast is designed with Spanish speakers in mind.

Fundamentals of French for Spanish Speakers Course at Cal State Long BeachFundamentals of French for Spanish Speakers course description at Cal State Long Beach

The professors at Cal State Long Beach have also been working with local high school and community colleges to help them develop their own courses. The concept of intercomprehension and taking advantage of the similarities between languages to learn them faster and easier is nothing new in Europe, but I’m always surprised about the few resources available for learning multiple related languages together in the US or for English speakers. I hope more universities, especially Hispanic-serving institutions, follow Cal State’s lead.

Please let us know in the comments if you’ve heard of other schools or universities that offer courses like this!

If you are interested in learning several languages simultaneously, don’t forget to check out our comparative languages resources, including videos for learning French and Spanish together.

Learn Two Languages Together with Duolingo

Interested in learning two languages together, or learning a third language through your second?

Although the majority of courses at Duolingo in other languages are for learning English, there are some courses designed for native speakers of other languages to learn languages such as French, Spanish, German, etc. If you’re already used to the interface in English, it is quite easy to change to another language and try the courses available.

And of course, if you already speak another language, you can always use that language to learn another. Depending on how closely related the languages are, it may be easier to learn a third language through your second language instead of your native language. Personally, I prefer to learn Spanish through French rather than English.

As of mid 2016, the following languages offer Duolingo courses in more than just English:

For Spanish speakers – English, French, Portuguese, Italian, German and Catalan, while Guarani and Esperanto are almost ready

Learn two languages together with Duolingo

Duolingo courses currently available for Spanish speakers

For French speakers – English, Spanish, Italian, German, and Portuguese

For Italian speakers – English, French, German, and Spanish

For Portuguese speakers – English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian

For German speakers – English, French, and Spanish

For Russian speakers – English, German, French, Spanish, and Swedish

For Arabic speakers – English, French, German, and Swedish

For Turkish speakers – English, German, Russian, and French

For Chinese speakers – English, Spanish, and French

For reference, English speakers can currently learn the following languages on Duolingo: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Irish, Russian, Turkish, Danish, Norwegian (Bokmål), Esperanto, Ukrainian, Polish, Welsh, and Vietnamese. Hungarian, Greek, Hebrew, Czech, and Romanian will be released next, with Swahili, Hindi, Klingon, Korean, Indonesian, and Yiddish to follow (but not for a while!)

Don’t forget that you can learn two languages together, or multiple languages simultaneously, with our multilingual comparative resources