How to talk about sports in Spanish: ultimate Spanish sport vocabulary

Sports play a significant role in Spanish-speaking countries.

It can help you to start casual conversations in any Spanish-speaking country. Take a look at this video we made at Spring Spanish (a project I co-founded!) about sports in Spanish. Brought to you by Juan:

Both in Spain and Latin America, there is a deep appreciation for sport, and – to probably no one’s surprise, football – (or if you’d like to call it, soccer) is the most popular sport of all.

But there are other classic sports in these countries, and in the Spanish-speaking regions, moving around and exercising is the natural part of life. If you travel to Spain, you’ll probably see lots of people walking on the beaches, or cycling casually in the mountains. For the good of their health, a hearty dose of sociability, sports play a crucial, high-stakes role in the everyday lives of these Spanish-speaking nations.

Let’s learn more about how you can talk about sports in Spanish – with one extra section about the olympics!

1. List of sports in Spanish

Not just for pros in the game, sports are super important for people living in Spanish-speaking places too.

They help bring people together, encourage a fit way of life, and fuel local and national honor. You see, in nations like Spain, Mexico, and Argentina, sports like football, tennis, and basketball aren’t just for fun! They are all super competitive…

They’re a major part of everyday life, an honest mirror of the culture, and something that everybody, no matter who they are, loves to chat about. If you want to go for sure, you have to learn these Spanish sports phrases.

The most popular sports in Spain

Popular Sports in SpainEnglish Translation
FútbolSoccer (Football)
Fórmula 1Formula 1

 The most popular sports in Mexico

Popular Sports in MexicoEnglish Translation
FútbolSoccer (Football)
Lucha libreWrestling

The most popular sports in Argentina

Popular Sports in ArgentinaEnglish Translation
FútbolSoccer (Football)
Hockey sobre céspedField Hockey

You can see that some sports appear in every country, while others are specific to a certain region. This should not come as a surprise because, well, football is the most popular of all, and some other sports are really specific.

sports in spanish padel match

For example, in Spain, sports like pádel and a national contest like bullfighting have cultural significance. In countries like Mexico and Cuba, baseball and boxing stand out due to their historical and regional influence. In Argentina, polo and field hockey are noteworthy, showing the country’s strong equestrian tradition and success in team sports. And also, let’s not forget about Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, the greats of football who were both born in Argentina and led their national teams to World Cup trophies.

While the passion for football unites these countries, the variety of popular sports shows the richness and the differences between cultures and regions that define each nation’s unique athletic profile.

While the sports mentioned above are incredibly popular, there are other sport activities in Spanish-speaking countries that attract huge attention.

Formula 1, known for Spanish drivers like Fernando Alonso, is followed massively. Motorcycling has a significant following in Spain, with events like MotoGP being very popular.

sports in spanish a motogpt race

In Latin American countries, other sports such as volleyball and martial arts like Brazilian jiu-jitsu also have a passionate following. These varied interests show the athletic talent and enthusiasm across Spanish-speaking nations, with each country celebrating its own set of preferred sports beyond the global love for football.

Here’s a table outlining other popular sports in Spanish language:

Sport in SpanishSport in English
Fórmula 1Formula 1
Deportes de inviernoWinter Sports
Fútbol americanoAmerican Football
Deportes acuáticosWater Sports

In a conversation, you could use these chunks like this:

Eva: ¿Viste la última carrera de Fórmula 1? (Did you see the last Formula 1 race?)
Katarina: Sí, fue increíblemente emocionante. Siempre he sido un gran fanático de Fernando Alonso. (Yes, it was incredibly exciting. I have always been a big fan of Fernando Alonso.)
Eva: Yo también. Pero también estoy esperando la temporada de deportes de invierno. ¡El hockey sobre hielo es un deporte fascinante! (Me too. But I am also looking forward to the winter sports season. Ice hockey is such a fascinating sport!)
Katarina: Absolutamente. Requiere mucha habilidad y trabajo en equipo. ¿Tienes un equipo favorito. (Absolutely. It requires a lot of skill and teamwork. Do you have a favorite team?)
Eva: Suelo animar al FC Barcelona Hockey Hielo. (I tend to cheer for FC Barcelona Ice Hockey.)
Katarina: ¡Buena elección! Yo apoyo al CH Jaca. (Good choice! I support CH Jaca.)

3. Spanish sports vocabulary to use in conversations about sports

Kicking off a chit-chat about sports can be your golden ticket to striking a bond with locals in regions where Spanish is spoken. You could potentially talk about the latest match results, or mention the upcoming Champions League derbys, or even indulge in a friendly game of football or basketball.

Being armed with sports-related lingo can turn these exchanges from tension-riddled to downright delightful.

Sometimes, you could even use some Spanish slang to make it sound more natural.

Here’s a table of 20 important Spanish sport-related verbs:

Spanish sport-related verbsEnglish Translation
jugarto play
correrto run
nadarto swim
saltarto jump
lanzarto throw
atraparto catch
golpearto hit
patearto kick
dispararto shoot
montarto ride
ganarto win
perderto lose
entrenarto train
lucharto fight
navegarto sail
caminarto walk/hike
deslizarseto glide
boxearto box
comenzarto start (a race)
animarto cheer (on)

Check out how these verbs function in a real-life conversation:

Tom: ¿Vas a ver el partido de fútbol esta noche? (Are you going to watch the football match tonight?)
Henrik: Sí, lo veré en casa con amigos. ¡Vamos a animar a nuestro equipo! (Yes, I’ll watch it at home with friends. We’ll cheer on our team!)
Tom: ¡Excelente! Espero que ganemos. ¿Sigues entrenando para tu medio maratón? (Excellent! I hope we win. Are you still training for your half marathon?)
Henrik: Claro, corro todos los días, aunque sea difícil. (Sure, I run every day even though it’s tough.)

4. La Liga – the top football league in Spain: how to talk about sports in Spanish

Football in Spain isn’t merely a sport; it’s a cultural phenomenon.

La Liga, a prominent football league, is highly regarded and attracts millions of spectators along with competitors like the Premier League, Bundesliga (look for German sports) or Serie A.

Founded in 1929, 20 teams participate every year in the championship title race. The league adopts a promotion and relegation system with its Second Division (Segunda Divisíon/La Liga2), presenting a complex contest structure. The clubs in the league represent different cities and regions. The match days are full of energy and competitiveness.

The bar for success has been set high by Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, unquestionably La Liga’s most triumphant clubs with an impressive number of league titles to their names. Their success has made them both formidable forces in Spanish football, the clubs other teams aim to defeat – not only in Spain, but across Europe. Real Madrid is the most successful club in the Champions League with 14 titles, while Barcelona had amazing success in recent years, totaling 5 titles in the same competition.

The most notorious and heated rivalry is ‘El Clásico’ – the face-off between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, two of the league’s high achievers. It’s more than just a match, it’s a clash between two identities, and often involves politics….

sports in spanish barcelona vs real madrid logo

In recent times, other clubs like Atlético Madrid and Sevilla FC are making efforts to etch their names in La Liga’s history.

5. The Olympics: playing sports every four years with great success

The Olympics remain one of the grandest stages for athletic achievement and national pride, and Spanish-speaking countries have consistently made their mark on this event held every four years. Spanish-speaking countries have not only participated but also found success, particularly in the Summer Games.

sports in spanish athletics field

In the Summer Olympics, Spain has shown to be a strong competitor, especially in sports like tennis, where players such as Rafael Nadal have achieved global fame. Spanish athletes have also performed well in team sports like basketball and handball, and in individual sports such as road cycling.

Countries like Cuba have an impressive boxing legacy and have garnered numerous medals in wrestling and judo as well. Argentina has historically excelled in sports like football, winning gold in the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 games, and field hockey, with the women’s national team, Las Leonas, achieving significant success. Mexico has made its presence felt in sports such as diving, taekwondo, and archery.

Although the Winter Games do not see the same level of success from Spain and Latin America due to the geographical and climatic differences, their achievements in the Summer Games are a source of national pride and inspire the next generation of athletes across the Spanish-speaking world.

Olympic words in Spanish

Palabra en españolTraducción al inglés
Juegos OlímpicosOlympic Games
Olimpiada de VeranoSummer Olympics
Olimpiada de InviernoWinter Olympics
Medalla de OroGold Medal
Medalla de PlataSilver Medal
Medalla de BronceBronze Medal
Ceremonia de AperturaOpening Ceremony
Ceremonia de ClausuraClosing Ceremony
Villa OlímpicaOlympic Village
Evento DeportivoSports Event
Equipo NacionalNational Team
Tabla de MedallasMedal Tally
Relevo de la AntorchaTorch Relay
Récord OlímpicoOlympic Record
Ceremonia de PremiaciónMedal Ceremony

6. Practice translation with sports vocabulary in Spanish

Below are several sentences related to sports and activities mentioned in the blog post. Your task is to translate these sentences from English to Spanish, using the correct sports vocabulary introduced in the post. 

This is just part of the exercise provided for sports in Spanish. Click the button below to request access to our Full Practice Worksheet Library!

7. Learn Spanish sports vocabulary with Conversation Based Chunking

Engaging in dialogues about sports ranging from football and tennis to cycling offers a practical way to immerse yourself in Spanish language learning.

The Conversation Based Chunking method facilitates this by encouraging learners to observe and use language patterns typical in sports chatter. As you engage in conversations with partners who are either fellow learners or native speakers, you’ll absorb the familiar phrases, and idiomatic expressions in their contexts.

Debating the latest results from La Liga or sharing your passion for tennis opens a multitude of conversational opportunities.

Sports can help you to grasp and retain new vocabulary and expressions by associating them with vivid experiences or specific actions within the sports realm. Harnessing the power of sports culture, particularly in Spanish-speaking regions, enriches your understanding of local customs and peoples’ way of life.

Through the lens of sports, the path to language proficiency becomes a captivating experience filled with personal growth and cultural discovery.

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