"Donde esta el baño?" is good to know, but if you are travelling Latin America, having a few more helpful terms and phrases under your belt will make some otherwise difficult situations, a breeze.
The idea that putting an "a" or "o" on the end of an English word, will make it Spanish, actually does apply to certain words, but if you are trying to catch a boat, asking for the "boato" won't get you far. Also, please, I beg you, do not be one of those people who think that by simply speaking slower, and louder in English, this will allow someone who has no knowledge of English, to understand you. It won't work, but it will absolutely make you look ignorant and generate some laughs from others, so learn a few phrases, words, verbs, and just try your best. No matter what Spanish speaking country you are in, the locals will appreciate the effort!
What are some MUST KNOW terms in Spanish?
Knowing the words in Spanish is vital, but will not get you far if your pronunciation cannot be understood, so to break it down, here are a few helpful Spanish words, and their pronunciation, written out, as they sound, in gibberish. Note, some of the common terms in Spanish speaking countries, may vary once you cross a border, for example, licuado (fruit shake) in Colombia is referred to as a batido in Ecuador, but they should know what you are referring to.
Let's start wit getting around. Don't get cocky though, this group is the easiest!
Boat -> Barco[bar-koh]
Car -> Coche [koh-chay]
Bus -> Bus [boo-s]
Train -> Tren [tren]
Plane -> Avion [ah-vi-ohn]
So now that you have some Spanish phrases for travel, lets move on to eats!
Pork -> Puerco [pwair-koh]
Beef -> Res [r-ehs]
Chicken -> Pollo [poy-oh]
Rice -> Arroz [ah-rohs]
Beans -> Frijoles [free-ho-lays]
Meat -> Carne [car-nay]
Vegetables -> Vegetales [veh-hay-tal-ehs]
Those are the staples of the Latin America diet, so you should be sorted for food! Moving on!
Where -> Donde [don-day]
How -> Como [koh-moh]
Who -> Quien [key-yen]
What -> Que [kay]
Why -> Por que [por-kay]
When -> Cuando [kwan-doh]
How much -> Cuanto [kwan-toh]
You can point at a map, and say "donde" now. You'll never get lost! Now, a few useful phrases!
I am hungry -> Tengo hambre [teng-go ahm-bray]
I don't know -> Yo no se [yo no say]
I don't understand -> No entiendo [no en-tea-en-doh]
Help me please -> Ayudame por favor [ayuh-da-may pour-fah-vor]
How much? -> Cuanto es? [kwan-toh ace]
No thank you -> No gracias [no grah-see-ass]
The last one may seem very basic, but when you are in Latin America, you are seen as "rich" so many people will try to haggle you to buy souvenirs, do tours, or just simply have their hand out, so understand that, don't be rude, just smile and say "no gracias." Comes in handy!
Now, VERY IMPORTANT, are some words in English that are EXTREMELY similar to Spanish but do NOT mean what you think they mean.
Courtesy of a great little magazine in Costa Rica, known as Howler, here is a chart of some easily confused verbs and words from English, to Spanish.
You can see why!
Please note, this is just a basic overview for people who have "next to nothing" Spanish. If you viewed this and knew all of the terms, great, go download an app like DuoLingo to help you progress your Spanish!