Learn Spanish: 10 Things You Need to Know About Spoken Spanish

Spoken Spanish is quite different from written Spanish. If you want to truly learn a foreign language, you need to have the ability to speak and write in Spanish.

Native Spanish speakers talk at different speaking speeds. Take a look at this video from Spring Spanish on how to understand different speaking speeds in spoken Spanish. It’s brought to you by Maura:

This blog post will share 10 things you need to know about spoken Spanish.

1. Spoken Spanish Sentence Structure

One of the biggest differences between written Spanish and spoken Spanish is the sentence structure.

In the written form of Spanish, like in formal texts or Spanish textbooks, sentences are longer and of course, complex, with multiple clauses and strict adherence to grammar rules.

In spoken Spanish, sentences are often shorter and simpler because it’s more spontaneous.

Written SpanishSpoken Spanish
Después de hacer sus deberes, fue al parque a jugar con sus amigos. (After doing her homework, she went to the park to play with her friends.)Hizo sus deberes y luego fue al parque a jugar con amigos. (She did her homework and then went to the park to play with friends.)

As you can see, the spoken version uses a simpler sentences structure with fewer clauses and that makes it easier to follow when you’re speaking directly with your friends and acquaintances.

2. Word Order – Don’t Panic About Spanish Grammar

While the standard Spanish word order rules still apply in spoken language, there is more flexibility when it comes to word order in conversational contexts.

You can rearrange words or phrases for emphasis or to create a natural flow. Some word order variations might be technically incorrect in written Spanish, but they are common in spoken Spanish.

You can also choose to place the verb at the beginning of the sentence for emphasis or to add a new topic to your Spanish conversations:

Written SpanishSpoken Spanish
¿Tuviste un buen viaje? (Did you have a good trip?)¿Te fue bien en tu viaje? (Did you have a good time on your trip?)

3. Common Contractions in Spanish

Contractions are part of spoken Spanish and are common in everyday conversations.

These contractions and elisions are about combining or shortening words to make your speech flow smoother.

Some of the most common contractions in Spanish are:

ContractionMeaning
ala el
delde el
para’lpara el
pa’capara acá
por’stopor esto
dond’estádónde está
porqu’esporque es
cuánd’escuándo es
nad’másnada más
no’másno más
m’entiendeme entiende
t’explicote explico
s’enojóse enojó
d’esede ese
d’estade esta
n’importano importa
tant’asítanto así
pa’llápara allá
pal’otropara el otro
qué’ráqué era
quién’ráquién era
cóm’estácómo está
por’esopor eso
cóm’hizocómo hizo

4. Filler Words in Spanish

Spanish also has filler words that are used in spontaneous speech to fill pauses or even buy time when you’re thinking about your next words – just think about it, it’s natural in your native language, too.

Filler WordMeaning
esteum, well
o seathat is, I mean
buenowell
pueswell, then
yawell, so
ehuh
mmum
ahuh
ajáuh-huh
oseathat is
entoncesso, then
digoI mean
miralook
visteyou see
tipolike
comolike
sabesyou know
¿me explico?do you understand me?
digamoslet’s say
a verlet’s see
¿entiendes?do you understand?
quiero decirI mean
en realidadactually
la verdadthe truth is
la cosa esthe thing is
es queit’s that

These filler words will make you sound more natural and conversational.

5. Regionalisms and Spanish Dialects

Spoken Spanish has a range of regionalisms, Spanish dialects, and local idioms compared to formal written Spanish.

While written Spanish follows a standardized form, spoken Spanish is influenced by regional variations and dialects.

Barceloneta beach illustrating spoken Spanish dialects

In Mexico, you might hear expressions like “¿Vamos a echar unas chelas?” (Shall we go have some beers?), while in Spain, someone can say “¿Vamos a tomar unas cañas?” (Shall we go for some beers?).

In other Spanish-speaking countries like Argentina, you can hear phrases like “¿Qué onda?” (What’s up?), and in Puerto Rico, the phrase “¿Qué lo que?” (What’s up?) is a common greeting.

6. Intonation and Stress on Vowels and Consonants

Proper intonation, pitch changes, and stress patterns are also important to talk about emotions in Spanish.

And actually, ti can highlight some hidden meanings of Spanish sentences.

Like, let’s say the word “término” (term) can be pronounced with different stress patterns:

  • TÉRmino” (with stress on the first syllable) means “term.”
  • terMIno” (with stress on the second syllable) means “I finish.”

The placement of stress on certain syllables can change the meaning of a word entirely!

The word “líquido” (liquid) takes on a different meaning when the stress is shifted to the second syllable: “liquiDO” (liquidated).

So, pay attention to this!

7. Discourse Markers to Fill Your Spanish Sentences

Discourse markers in spoken Spanish connect ideas, engage the listener, and signal changes in thought or topic.

These small Spanish conjunctions are bridges between different parts of a conversation:

Discourse MarkerMeaning
pueswell
entoncesthen
perobut
sin embargohowever
¿sabes?you know?
oor
¿no?right?
o seathat is

You can use “pues” to introduce a new point:

  • Pues, ¿qué hacemos esta noche? (Well, what are we doing tonight?)

Pero” can be used to contrast ideas or introduce a counterargument:

  • Me gustaría ir al cine, pero está lloviendo afuera. (I’d like to go to the movies, but it’s raining outside.)

¿Sabes?” and “¿no?” are used to engage the listener:

  • Fue una película genial, ¿sabes? ¿No? (That was a great movie, you know? Wasn’t it?)

8. Colloquialisms and Spanish Slang

Informal colloquial expressions and Spanish slang phrases are used in spoken language but are avoided in formal written language.

Here are some examples of Spanish slang:

Spanish SlangEnglish
Tío/TíaDude/Bro/Sister
ChidoCool
No le entiendoI don’t get it
MiraLook, check this out
DéjaloLet it go, forget it
Qué ondaWhat’s up
Qué pedoWhat’s up (vulgar)
Güey/WeyDude
CabrónDude (vulgar)
Chido/ChingónCool
Qué tranzaWhat’s going on
Estar pedoTo be drunk
Echar un caldoTo hang out
Estar crudoTo be hungover
Ir de pedaTo go party
Estar hasta la madreTo be fed up
Estar fritoTo be tired/broke
Estar cañónTo be hot/good-looking
Irse de huevosTo fail miserably
Estar bien prendidoTo be tipsy
Ni de pedoNo way (vulgar)

Most of these Spanish slang expressions are not appropriate in formal settings, so pay attention to where you use them! And ultimately, check our dedicated article about Spanish slangs!

9. Incomplete Sentences vs. Written Spanish

In real-life conversations, you can omit words. And you can rely on shared context or non-verbal communication.

Let’s imagine this:

  • “¿Ya fuiste al nuevo cine?” (Have you been to the new cinema?)
  • “Sí, la semana pasada.” (Yes, last week.)

In this exchange, the second speaker’s response is an incomplete sentence, but the meaning is clear from the context of the conversation. You wouldn’t know what the second speaker meant with ‘la semana pasada’ but since we know the question, it’s all clear!

While this kind of language use may seem incorrect from the perspective of written Spanish, it is an acceptable thing in spoken Spanish.

10. Anyone can become fluent in Spanish with Conversation Based Chunking

Conversation Based Chunking is a method that is about breaking down long conversations into manageable and meaningful chunks. These chunks are natural building blocks of the language: native speakers use them all the time!

If you internalize these natural language chunks, you can start to speak fluent Spanish.

In the end, we have to say: the goal of learning a language is communication.

You have to understand these characteristics of spoken Spanish, and then you’ll be better at comprehending native speakers. Italki is a great platform to practice spoken Spanish with Spanish tutors. You can check our review article and decide yourself.

Until then, here’s your chance to change your language learning journey with the Spanish Chunking Starter Pack!

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