Five common mistakes you really don't want to make in Spanish

The Local Spain
The Local Spain - [email protected]
Five common mistakes you really don't want to make in Spanish
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Learning a new language is fraught with difficulties, not least overcoming the fear of getting your wires crossed and making a blunder that could easily confuse, offend or provoke unbridled laughter.


At some point in your quest to learn Spanish, it is quite likely that you will put your foot in it and make the kind of error that will leave those around you either scratching their heads, or clutching their sides as they try to control the laughter.

You can avoid at least five mortifying moments by taking note of these common mistakes as told to Tash Aleksy a Spanish teacher at Spanglishcity

Be warned - they wouldn’t be funny if they weren’t a little rude.




Lorraine loves wine and one of the first words she made sure to learn was vino. Vino tinto, vino blanco, you name it, she drank it. The problem came when her new Spanish friends invited her over for dinner. “¿Tienes un sacachochos?” she confidently asked in order to open the bottle of Rioja.

Her friends fell about the place laughing, as chocho is a slightly vulgar term for a part of the female body that has nothing to do with drinking wine. Nowadays, she is always careful to pronounce sacacorchos correctly.


Photo by Caterina Berger on Unsplash

Who hasn’t made this mistake? By now, you should know that there is a difference between the letter ‘n’ and the letter ‘ñ’ in Spanish. I’ve lost count of the amount of students I’ve taught that gleefully tell me they have 20+ anuses rather than years of age. Remember with age, the Spanish use the verb tener rather than ser. It’s a lot less shocking to the general public when you say “tengo 65 años” (I’m 65 years old) than when you say “tengo 65 anos.” (I have 65 anuses).


In the age of heightened health awareness, we all want to consume products that are as close to their natural state as possible - without added sugar, E-numbers or preservatives. The next time you want to ask a waiter or shop assistant whether a food item contains these ill-advised ingredients, don’t say “¿Tiene preservativos?” like a close friend of mine did. Right before he found out that preservativos are actually condoms. Luckily, the waitress took it well and informed him that preservatives are actually aditivos in Spanish. And no, she didn’t have any.


Photo by Andrea Seiler on Unsplash

A low-key trip to IKEA turned out to be a somewhat memorable event for another student of mine. She’d recently arrived and wanted to add a feminine touch to her new apartment. Which is the total opposite to what she actually asked for. “¿Dónde están los cojones?” is what came out in place of “¿Dónde están los cojines?” You can ask your Spanish friends what went wrong here. Just make sure they are close friends.



Photo by Syed Hussaini on Unsplash

You can use the expression “Me das un/una ____,” when you want to ask somebody to give you something. You know - a moment of their time, their telephone number or when you’re at the dinner table and the glasses are just out of reach. Greg knew that vaso was glass, but what let him down on this occasion was his pronunciation. “¿Me das un beso?” he asked his new flatmate, pronouncing vaso like bay-so. After a moment, she realised he needed a glass and passed him one without any of the others noticing, mitigating his embarrassment. Not long after this, she explained it to him. It was the start of a beautiful romance and they are still together today. ¡No hay mal que por bien no venga! (Every cloud has a silver lining)

This article has been contributed by Tash Aleksy, Spanish teacher at, online classes and events for the English-speaking population living in Spain or thinking about making a move to Spain



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also