The essential Spanish vocab for getting the vaccine and testing for Covid

If you have Covid-19 symptoms or it's your turn to get the vaccine, understanding what the doctor or nurse is telling you in Spanish can be challenging if you're not fluent. Here are some of the words and phrases you may need to know.

The essential Spanish vocab for getting the vaccine and testing for Covid
Photo: Cristina Quicler, Oscar del Pozo/AFP

It’s sometimes difficult to find an English-speaking doctor in certain areas of Spain, even in big cities like Barcelona, particularly in the national healthcare system, but often in private health care too. 

Doctors in Spain usually have a good reading knowledge of English, but may struggle with speaking to their patients or are simply too embarrassed to try, even if they know the basics. 

But if you live in Spain, it’s also very much your responsibility to speak some Spanish, so the following vocab, questions and sentences should help you along if you don’t have a strong command of the language.

Covid-19 vaccination vocab:

With so many of our readers asking about the Covid-19 vaccine, when it is finally your turn, here are some useful Spanish phrases that you might need to use. 

La vacuna – the vaccine

¿Cómo puedo pedir cita para la vacuna? How can I book an appointment for the vaccine?

¿Cuando será mi turno para vacunarme? When will it be my turn to get the vaccine?

He visto que le toca a mi franja de edad vacunarse pero no me habéis contactado. ¿Qué debo hacer? I’ve seen that my age it’s my age group’s turn for the vaccine but you haven’t contacted me. What should I do?

¿Me podéis dar un certificado de vacunación, por favor? Can you give me a vaccination certificate, please?

¿Qué vacuna recibiré? – Which vaccine will I get?

¿Me dará una reacción alérgica? – Will I have an allergic reaction?

¿Cuales son los efectos secundarios? – What are the side effects?

¿Cuando me pondrán la segunda dosis? – When will I have my second dose?

¿Cómo van a ponerse en contacto conmigo? – How are you going to get in touch with me?

¿Puedo elegir en que brazo me van a poner la vacuna? Can I choose which arm to get the vaccine on?

Essential vocab and symptoms:

Here are some of the most typical vocab and phrases you might need if you suspect you have been contracted Covid-19. 

Sospecho que tengo el Covid – I suspect I have Covid

¿Tengo que acudir al centro médico? Do I have to go the health centre?

¿Tengo que aislarme hasta que me den los resultados? Do I have to self-isolate while I wait for the results?

Querría pedir una cita – I would like to make an appointment

Me duele aquí – It hurts here

Tengo fiebre – I have a fever

Estoy mareado/a – I feel dizzy

Tengo tos seca – I have a dry cough

He perdido el sentido del olfato/gusto – I’ve lost my sense of smell/taste

Me cuesta respirar – I’m having difficulty breathing

Tengo náuseas y vómitos – I am feeling nauseous and have vomited

Me duele el estómago – I’ve got stomach ache 

Tengo diarrea – I’ve got diarrhea 


Medical tests:

In order to find out if you have Covid-19, the doctors will probably order some tests. Here are some useful words and phrases you might need to know, depending on which tests are ordered. 

La prueba PCR – PCR test

El test de antígenos – antigen test

El análisis de sangre – Blood test

La radiografía – X-ray 

¿Cuándo me darán los resultados? – When will the results come back?

Things the doctor might ask or tell you:

¿Has tenido contacto con una persona que ha dado positivo por Covid? –  Have you come into contact with a person who’s tested positive for Covid?

¿Has tenido contacto con otras personas?  – Have you come into contact with other people?

¿Dónde te duele? – Where does it hurt?

¿Desde cuándo tienes estos síntomas? – Since when have you had these symptoms?

¿Es la primera vez que le pasa esto? – Is this the first time it’s happened?

Tienes que venir en ayunas – You need to come with an empty stomach/or without eating

There are certain tests, particularly blood tests when you need to have the test without having eaten anything that day. The doctor will usually schedule it for the morning and tell you to come en ayunas.

¿Tienes alergias? – Do you have allergies?

Tienes que hacerte unas pruebas – You have to have some tests

Has dado positivo/negativo por Covid – You have tested positive/negative for Covid

Tienes que quedarte en casa durante 10 días y no puedes tener contacto con tus convivientes – You have to stay at home for ten days and you can’t come into contact with the people you live with.

Tenemos que ingresarte en el hospital/en la UCI – We have to admit you to hospital/the ICU

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Spanish Word of the Day: ‘Chiringuito’

Here’s one of the most summer-themed Spanish words out there, so you need to add it to your vocab. 

Spanish Word of the Day: 'Chiringuito'

When Spaniards think of summer, they often picture vacaciones (holidays), sol y playa (sun and beach) and tinto de verano (red wine mixed with soda/lemonade and ice – don’t diss it until you’ve tried it). 

And the place where they’re most likely to enjoy all these placeres del verano (summer pleasures) is at a chiringuito

Un chiringuito is essentially a beach bar. 

They’re usually small establishments that serve drinks and food to beachgoers during the sweltering summer months, meaning that many don’t open for the rest of the year. 

You’ll get the more rough and ready ones, wooden huts with dried out palm leaves providing shade as the radio blasts los éxitos del verano (the summer hits), to the more refined chiringuitos that are essentially like upmarket beachside gastrobars serving up plates of sardines as if they were haute cuisine. 

The word chiringuito (pronounced chee-reeng-gee-toh, the u in silent) was brought to Spain by los Indianos, the name given to Spaniards who emigrated to South and Central America in the 19th and 20th centuries and then returned to Spain, often with a lot more money under their belt. 

They would order a chiringuito when they wanted un café, a word used by Cubans who worked on sugar plantations to refer to how the coffee they made would filter through a stocking squirted out like a stream (chorro or chiringo).

The first beach kiosk to be dubbed a chiringuito was in 1949 in the coastal Catalan town of Sitges, where many wealthy Indianos settled. 

Then came the hippie movement in the sixties, the explosion of tourism in Spain and the hoards of beachgoers needing refreshing drinks to get some respite from the sun.

In 1983, chiringuito made it into the Spanish dictionary and in 1988 French pop singer Georgie Dann hit the charts with El Chiringuito.

These simple wooden beach huts were now officially part of Spanish culture.

But chiringuito has another meaning in Spain which pays heed to the informal nature of these establishments. 

Nowadays, chiringuito is often used to refer to a shady business, a government department born from cronyism, a bunch of cowboys basically.

Headline in Spanish right-wing news website OK Diario reads “Sánchez increased shady public enterprises (chiringuitos) by 10 percent as GDP plummeted due to the coronavirus”.

We certainly know what kind of chiringuito we prefer.

There’s also the expression “cerrar el chiringuito”, which means to finish a duty and leave.


Vamos a tomar unas cañas y un pescaito al chiringuito.

Let’s go and have some beers and some fish at the beach bar. 

Si quieres mantener tus inversiones a salvo has de alejarte todo lo lejos que puedas de lo que se conoce como chiringuito financiero.

If you want to keep your investments safe you have to get away as far as you can from shady companies.

Ya es tarde, habrá que pensar en cerrar el chiringuito e irse a casa.

It’s late, time to finish work and go home.