Phrases to learn before you visit Mexico

Article posted 27 September 2019

If you want to enjoy Mexico to the full then it makes sense to learn a little of the language before you travel. There’s no need to spend weeks at intensive Mexican language classes, but having a list of handy words phrases will make it easier to interact with the locals, buy things and get around. Here’s a short guide to Mexican basic words and phrases.

Which languages are spoken in Mexico?

It’s easy to get intimidated by the fact there are 68 recognised national languages in Mexico as a result of its rich history. Within these languages, there are hundreds of regional variations as well.

Don’t panic, unless you want to focus on a specific region the best bet is to concentrate on the Spanish spoken by the majority of the population. Your next choice would be Náhuatl, spoken by two and a half million Mexicans.

The Spanish won’t be exactly the same as you’d be using on the Costa Brava but it is very similar and, in fact, incorporates more English words due to Mexico’s close proximity to the USA.

A few basics

Let’s start with a few Mexican language basic words that can be used in pretty much any situation:

  • Good bye is “adiós”
  • Hello is “hola”
  • Yes is“sí”
  • No is quite simply “no”.
  • Good morning is “Buenos días”
  • Good afternoon is “Buenas tardes”
  • Good evening is “Buenas noches”
  • I beg your pardon is “¿Mande?”, handy when you need something repeated

Being friendly

Probably the most used word in Mexican language is “Güey”, which is usually written and pronounced as ‘wey’. It translates to ‘friend, ‘dude’’ or ‘mate’ and you’ll hear it used in lots of conversation. Here’s a useful phrase:

“¿Qué onda, wey?”

Which basically means, how are you doing? Use it as a friendly greeting to the locals.

Want to show your gratitude in Mexico? “¡Muchas gracias!” is a great standby to say thank you in most situations.

Or, if you’re feeling a little more hip, then try “Chido” which means something is cool or great.

Buying things

Whether it’s a delicious taco or a classy leather bag, it’s good to have phrases that allow you to make purchases.

First of all, asking if something is available can be done with:

“Tú tienes algún(a) (insert word for your item here)?”

Secondly, how much will it cost? Here’s how to ask for the price:

“¿Cuánto cuesta?”

Start the haggling process with “Es caro” which means it’s expensive.

Finish with saying it’s your final price: “Último precio” and, if you’re happy, then say “Bueno, me lo llevo.” to indicate that you’re satisfied and will take it.

When asking for a table at a restaurant use: "Una mesa para dos, por favor." That’s a table for two.

If you’ve been eating in a restaurant and need the bill then simply say “La cuenta, por favor.”

Mexican sayings

Want to sound like a real local? Why not try a few phrases that are popular across the country?

“Al mal tiempo, buena cara.” which means be positive or smile even if times are bad.

“Arrieros somos y en el camino andamos.” which translates as ‘We are all mule drivers in the fields’. Essentially, we’re all humans and we all make mistakes.

For the beach-goer this one might be useful:

“Ai wey déjame tranquilo, solo quiero echar la hueva hoy.”

Which basically means don’t hassle me as I just want to do nothing today.

Heading for the casino? How about:

"Con paciencia y un ganchito, hasta una fortuna se alcanza"

Which translates as ‘With patience and a little hook, even a fortune can be obtained’.

Don't be shy

We all feel awkward when using an unfamiliar language in an unfamiliar country. But even the worst attempt to speak Mexican will provide you with a bigger smile and better service than simply expecting the locals to speak English.

There are plenty of places on the internet to learn more and build your vocabulary so spend a little time before your big holiday for an even richer experience.

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