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Mochileando para Aprender: Essential Spanish Travel Vocabulary Posted by on Mar 7, 2016 in Spanish Vocabulary, Travel

It’s common sense: one of the easiest and most effective ways to learn a language is to travel to a country where it’s spoken.

With a huge world language like Spanish, your opportunities are wide open. While Japanese learners are largely limited to a single island, aspiring Spanish speakers can backpack all the way from the Southwestern United States to Tierra del Fuego to practice their language.

And if you’re going to travel the world to learn Spanish, you should first learn how to talk about traveling the world in Spanish.

Los mochileros are the viajeros with the clear language learning leg up. Mochilear is one of the best forms of viajar for language learners, as avoiding the resorts and opting out of the beaten trail with nothing but your mochila can offer many more chances to meet and talk to locals.

Once you’ve identified a país, ciudad, or other lugar to visit, you’ll need to look into your options for hospedaje. Un hostal is the preference of most mochileros, but you might have other ideas for where you want to quedarse. Through social networks like Couchsurfing, you can find a local anfitrión to receive you as huésped in their house.

Getting around Latin America can be challenging, and sometimes just talking about moving around can be equally challenging. What’s called an autobus in one country may be a camión or a guagua in the next, and sometimes it seems like each individual city has their own word for things like the metro. Thankfully, an avión is usually always just an avión, so language mix-ups shouldn’t lead you to miss your vuelo.

Slow down for a few days or weeks somewhere and really give yourself a chance to conocer la ciudad and conocer la gente, but don’t be confused by the use of conocer. When locals ask you questions like conoces la capital? or conoces otros paises suramericanos?, they’re not asking if you’ve heard of these places, but rather if you’ve been there.

During your stay in la ciudad, you’ll want to pasear, walking around taking in the sights and maybe taking some photos or having a meal. Pasear is explorar, but if you’re hitting the local nightlife en la noche, then we’re talking about salir.

But don’t let the bright lights and tourist attractions distract you from your purpose: aprender (o practicar) el idioma!

The most important thing you can do on your trip is just platicar or charlar with the locals, striking up conversations in bars, hostels, and wherever else you may find yourself along the way. You may be surprised to find out how warm and welcoming the people of Latin America are in general, and in many places that calidez reaches a whole new level once you’ve impressed the locals with your Spanish!

Vocabulario
Viajar — to travel
El viaje — the trip
El viajero — the traveler
Mochilear — to backpack
El mochilero — the backpacker
El país — the country
La ciudad — the city
El barrio — the neighborhood; this word has many different connotations throughout Latin America, in some places referring to poorer neighborhoods, in others replaced entirely by words like zona or colonia, but in general with the neutral connotation of simply a neighborhood of any kind
El lugar — the place
El hostal — the hostel
El hospedaje — the lodging
El anfitrión — the host
El huésped — the guest
La calidez — the warmth, friendliness (of people)
El autobus/el camión/la guagua — the bus
El avión — the plane
El metro — the metro
El vuelo — the flight
Quedarse — to stay (in a place)
Conocer — to know, get to know; when talking about places, to have been there
Platicar/charlar — to chat
Ubicarse — to locate or orient; of places, to be located (“La tienda se ubica en la esquina” = “the store is located on the corner”)
Pasear — to stroll, wander, explore (i.e. pasear por la ciudad)
Explorar — to explore
Salir — to leave; to go out (as in nightlife)

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About the Author: Jakob Gibbons

I write about language and travel on my blog . I often share my experiences with learning languages on the road, and teaching and learning new speech sounds is my specialty.