If you are about to embark on your very first camino, perhaps after seeing the Way like my very mother, it will be very helpful to have some Spanish up your sleeve. The universally known ‘hola’ is a wonderful starting point upon which you can develop a useful vocabulary which will serve you well upon reaching each ciudad, pueblo or aldea.
I begun the camino with a less than rudimental knowledge of the Spanish language. Quite fortunately for me, the aforementioned British-French second-timer agreed to pass her time walking teaching me some very helpful basic Spanish phrases. I recall the first full sentence that she taught me, “Puedes llenar mi botella porfa?”, meaning “Can you please fill up my water bottle?”. You can imagine how much I had to ask this one. Just a basic pronunciation tip – the ‘ll’ is a ‘y’ sound in Spain, just like ‘Paella’ (“Pie – Aye – A”). You may just confuse some Spaniards by adding the L sound.
If you’re not fortunate enough to have someone at your side to teach you, don’t fret. There is a wealth of information online which can give you a basic idea. It may seem a little overwhelming at first, so I’ll just add what I found helped me greatly below.
Buenos días – Good day – An Australian “G’day”
Buenas tardes – Good afternoon (a little later than our western standards – from approximately 3pm-8pm).
Buenas noches – Good evening (Definitely later than western standards – after nightfall)
For the two above – a simple “Buenas!” said in a rather enthusiastic tone will be well-received by both town-folk and it will be a nice welcoming sound for the peregrino (Pilgrim).
BUEN CAMINO! – This means “Have a good camino (walk)” and is a definite for all peregrinos. It was so wonderful to hear this and shout it right back at passers by and share the enthusiasm.
Cuánto cuesta? – How much is it? (It would be good to say “Cuánto cuestan?” if there is multiple things to which you are referring).
On this note, I would highly recommend you to learn to count in Spanish. This will help you greatly from noting how many water bottles need filling to how many people and nights will be staying at the albergue (pilgrim hostel).
Learning a new language is a thrilling and highly rewarding experience. In saying this, it can also be a frustrating process. Whatever the case, your Spanish hosts or checkout chicks will definitely regard your attempt as a good thing and with enough smiles and points (certainly in the beginning!), you’ll be able to get yourself by!