Spanish Lessons


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Valentine's Day in Spanish: Vocabulary and Traditions

In preparation for El Día de San Valentín (Valentine's Day), let's listen to several pertinent clips from the Yabla Spanish video library... and learn some vocabulary in the process!


Aunque no crean, existe el amor a primera vista

Believe it or not, love at first sight does exist.

Caption 56, El reencuentro Las amigas hablan del trabajo y el amor.

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Cupido vuelve a apuntar con su flecha

Cupid aims with his arrow again

Caption 5, Tito El Bambino Llueve el amor

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Mande a pedir un ramo de doce rosas rojas

Order a bouquet of twelve red roses,

Caption 45, Programación de oficina El dictado del jefe

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Chocolate Perfección: el chocolate para enamorados.

"Chocolate Perfección": the chocolate for lovers.

Captions 43-44, Extr@: Extra en español Ep. 5: Ha nacido una estrella - Part 2

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Valentine's Day in North America 

The captions above include some common themes and traditions of Valentine's Day in North America, which is meant to  festejar el amor  (celebrate love) for romantic partners and family members, and, increasingly, to show appreciation for friends. Typical ways of doing so include  intercambiar regalos (exchanging gifts) and tarjetas de San Valentín  (valentines), mandar flores (sending flowers), most typically rosas rojas (red roses), giving cajas de chocolate en forma de corazón (heart-shaped boxes of chocolate), and planning special citas (dates), such as salir a cenar (going out to dinner). Valentine's Day in North America is celebrated on el catorce de febrero (February fourteenth).


Valentine's Day in the Spanish-Speaking World

Valentine's Day is celebrated in a similar fashion on the same day in many Spanish speaking countries, with varying degrees of popularity. In addition to El Día de San Valentín, many countries refer to this holiday as El Día del Amor y la Amistad (Love and Friendship Day) or El Día de los Enamorados (Lovers' Day), while some use these terms interchangeably. And Guatemala has a unique name: El Día del Cariño (Affection Day).


Many Valentine's costumbres (traditions) in the Spanish-speaking world overlap with North American ones:


La floristería. ¿Sí? Es una tienda donde la gente compra flores, plantas, ¿sí? Por ejemplo, para cumpleaños, o para... en... en primavera, o para el Día de los Enamorados, por ejemplo.

The florist. Right? It's a store where people buy flowers, plants, right? For example, for birthdays, or for... in... in spring, or for Valentine's Day, for example.

Captions 3-6, Curso de español Tiendas y edificios públicos en la ciudad

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However, there are some differences. In Chile, las orquídeas (orchids) are the flowers of love rather than roses. And some countries, like the Dominican Republic, have the tradition of a game called Amigo secreto (Secret Friend) or Angelito (Little Angel) among friends or colleagues, which is similar to the idea of Secret Santa. 


Valentine's Day Alternatives

Some countries celebrate their Valentine's Day on a different date, while others commemorate both February 14th and additional love and friendship holidays. 


Colombia's El Día del Amor y la Amistad falls on the third Saturday in September, while Argentina's La Semana de la Dulzura (Sweetness Week), where amigos (friends) and amantes (lovers) exchange chocolate and other dulces (sweets), lasts from June 1st through 7th. Argentinians also recognize El Día del Amigo (Friend Day) on July 20th, whereas Mexico has its El Día Internacional de la Amistad (International Friendship Day) on August 30th. Additional romantic holidays include El Día del Estudiante, de la Juventud, de la Primavera, y del Amor (The Day of the Student, Youth, Spring, and Love) on September 21st in Bolivia and El Día de San Jorge (Saint George's Day) in Catalonia on April 23rd, where red roses are traditionally gifted to women and books to men. On El Día de San Dionisio (Saint Dionysius Day) in Valencia on October 9th, the gift of choice is the Spanish sweet mazapán (marzipan) wrapped in a pañuelo (handkerchief).


Valentine's Day Verbs

Now that we know about various international Valentine's-like festivities, let's learn some romantic Spanish vocabulary, starting with some verbs:


abrazar: to hug/embrace

acurrucar: to cuddle 

adorar: to adore/love

amar: to love

besar: to kiss 

coquetear: to flirt 

casarse: to marry/get married

enamorarse: to fall in love

encantar: to [cause] love

gustar: to [cause someone to] like 

querer: to like/love


Related to these words are, of course, essential Valentine's Day nouns like  el beso (the kiss) and el abrazo (the hug) and adjectives like enamorado/a (in love). Let's hear a few of these words in action:


Me quiero casar con ella. Estoy enamorado, ¿eh?

I want to marry her. I'm in love, huh?

Caption 59, Muñeca Brava 2 Venganza - Part 9

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¿Y no te alcanza el tiempo para coquetear con cierto chico... rubio, guapo, encantador?

And don't you have enough time to flirt with a certain guy... blond, handsome, charming?

Captions 116-117, NPS No puede ser 1 - El concurso - Part 10

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Siento que cada día te quiero más

I feel that each day I love you more

Caption 27, Alberto Barros Mano a mano

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Since the subtle differences between the different "love" verbs can seem a bit confusing for English speakers, we recommend our lessons on three different ways to express love in Spanish and Amar y Querer. And, since the way that verbs like gustar and encantar  work can feel a bit counterintuitive, we recommend this two-part lesson on Querer vs. "To Like": A Difference in Perception.


Terms of Endearment

Let's conclude today's lesson with some ways to refer affectionately to your romantic partner, although you might additionally hear many of them used among friends. While we will provide their literal translations below, many of them can be used similarly to the way that the terms "honey," "dear" or "sweetie" are used in English. 


Amor: love

Cariño: affection

Corazón: heart

Mi cielo: my sky

Mi rey/reina: my king/queen

Mi vida: my life

Querido/querida: dear


Let's hear a few of these in action:


y te mando un beso, corazón.

and I send you a kiss, sweetheart.

Caption 11, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 3 - Part 7

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Dame un beso. -¿De verdad, mi cielo?

Give me a kiss. -Really, my dear?

Caption 64, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 1 - Part 3

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¡Mi reina! Mi amor, cómo te extrañé. -Hola, yo también.

My queen! My love, how I missed you. -Hello, me too.

Captions 1-2, Yago 6 Mentiras - Part 2

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And remember that while gordo/a literally means "fat" or "fatty," it is also used as a term of endearment in some Latin American countries (although we definitely don't recommend employing it's English equivalent!).


Ay, gordo, muchísimas gracias por haber estado aquí. -A ti por invitarme.

Oh, honey, thank you very much for having been here. -To you for inviting me.

Caption 13, Club 10 Capítulo 2 - Part 4

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We hope that this lesson rife with Valentine's Day vocabulary has been useful to you, and  ¡Feliz Día de San Valentín (Happy Valentine's Day)! And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments


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El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead)

In recent years, the holiday known as Día de los muertos, or Día de muertos (Day of the Dead), which is most typically celebrated on November 1st and 2nd but sometimes also on October 31st and/or November 6th, has gained considerable popularity. The 2017 release of Coco, a Pixar animated film inspired by this tradition, has likely consolidated this originally Mexican holiday's spot in mainstream culture far beyond its birthplace. Let's learn more about this unique festivity.


Día de los Muertos Origins 

Scholars continue to debate whether Día de los muertos dates back to pre-Hispanic civilizations like the Aztecs, Olmecs, Zapotecs, and Mayas or is an adaptation of Catholic and pagan traditions brought in during the Conquest. Likely merging the two, this festivity meant to honor the dead has religious undertones but has also evolved into an important secular holiday with distinctive practices that are shared across the country. As Don Salo, an artisan from Yucatan, tells us, there are also many regional variations:


Aquí se le llama Janal Pixan.

Here it's called Janal Pixan.

En maya es "comida para difuntos".

In Mayan means "food for the deceased."

Captions 67-68, Yabla en Yucatán - Don Salo

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Día de los Muertos Traditions

As Adriana shares with us in the following clip, Día de los muertos aims not to mourn, but rather to remember and honor, family members and friends who have passed away:


La celebridad del Día de los Muertos, más que celebrar la muerte, es celebrar el recuerdo de nuestros santos difuntos,

The fame of the Day of the Dead, rather than celebrating death, it's to celebrate the memory of our saintly departed

Captions 40-42, Hispanoamericanos en Berlín Adriana y la fiesta de los muertos - Part 1

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There are many ways to do this. One is by preparing a deceased person's favorite dishes:


Y la manera de honrarlos es, eh... haciendo sus platillos favoritos, 

And the way to honor them is, um... making their favorite dishes,

Caption 16, Tatiana y su cocina Chilaquiles

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Another is by building an altar de muertos (altar to the dead) or ofrenda de muertos (offering to the dead) in one's home. Such altars might include skulls (calaveras) made of sugar and meringue, marigold flowers known by their Aztec name cempazúchitl, candles (velas), the "bread of the dead" (pan de muerto), salt (sal), water, traditional food and beverages, and papel picado (decorative pierced paper), which Meli teaches us to make:


tengo tips super fáciles para decorar tu altar de muertos o tu casa. Vamos a hacer papel picado con dos diseños, 

I have super easy tips to decorate your altar to the dead or your home. We are going to make "papel picado" with two designs,

Captions 7-8, Manos a la obra Papel picado para Día de muertos

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Meli additionally teaches us how to make squishy calaveritas (sugar skulls) and explains to us yet another Day of the Dead tradition: spending the night at the cemetery:


En algunos lugares de México, las personas pasan parte de la noche en el panteón

In some places in Mexico, people spend part of the night at the cemetery.

Captions 60-61, Manos a la obra Papel picado para Día de muertos

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While gifts for the departed in the form of the aforementioned items are often left at friends and family members' graves, Día de los muertos is not solely focused on the dead, as giving gifts such as candy sugar skulls and sharing pan de muerto and other festive food and beverages with living friends and family members is common practice. Some additionally pen light-hearted verses in the form of mock epitaphs for their friends and family, a literary genre known as calaveras literarias (literary skulls).


Día de los Muertos Abroad

Día de los muertos continues to gain popularity outside of Mexico as well, particularly in areas with large Mexican immigrant populations as Adriana, a Mexican woman living in Berlin, explains: 


lo que me vincula muy fuertemente a mi tierra es una festividad que se celebra aquí en Berlín hace más de treinta años. 

what ties me very strongly to my land is a festivity that has been celebrated here in Berlin for more than thirty years.

Captions 30-33, Hispanoamericanos en Berlín Adriana y la fiesta de los muertos - Part 1

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Día de los muertos is also important in many other Spanish-speaking countries, each with its own version. According to Julia, in Ecuador, people customarily drink colada de mora (blackberry smoothie) for Día de los muertos:


...y que en Ecuador y en otros países se la toma

...and that in Ecuador and in other countries is consumed

el dos de noviembre de todos los años, el Día de los Muertos.

on November second every year, the Day of the Dead.

Captions 52-53, Otavalo - Conozcamos el Mundo de las Frutas con Julia

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That said, in spite of such regional nuances, the goal of all Día de muertos celebrations is not to forget our grief, but remember to also happily celebrate life:


Pero metámosle también este otro poco de... de recuerdo, de memoria, de alegría, y honremos a los que ya se fueron celebrando nuestra propia vida.

But let's add to it as well this other bit of... of recollection, of memory, of happiness, and let's honor those who already departed by celebrating our own lives.

Captions 50-51, Tatiana y su cocina Chilaquiles

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Do you know about any additional Día de los muertos traditions? Write us and let us know!


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