How to learn (urban) youth language in European Spanish

Are you learning Spanish as a foreign language and would like to learn some vocabulary that young people use in Spain? Maybe you would love to be able to say something like “Cool!” but you don’t know if there is a similar word in Spanish. Well, there is, and it is not cool but “¡Guay!” or “¡Qué guay!”. For example:

– My boss has told me they are going to publish my work on a magazine.

– Really? Cool!

Mi jefe/-a me ha dicho que van a publicar mi trabajo en una revista.

¿De verdad? ¡Qué guay!

The word “guay” is not only used by young speakers of European Spanish but also by people of all ages in Spain. Besides, don’t forget that almost each Latin-American country has its own word for “cool”, for example:

  • Argentina: bárbaro, masa, groso, copado, etc.
  • Colombia: chévere, bacano, etc.
  • Ecuador: chévere, etc.
  • México: chido, padre, etc.
  • Perú: chévere, choy, etc.
  • Puerto Rico: chévere, nítido, etc.

Back to youth language of Spanish in Spain, I would like to help you to acquire some new vocabulary on this matter. This is why I will recommend you this audio (transcription with glossary included) called “EL LENGUAJE DE LOS JÓVENES” on Hablacultura website. The audio really helps you to learn some urban vocabulary as well as to improve your listening skills while listening to the presenter and the people who are interviewed throughout the audio. The article is for free and no registration is needed. You will need a B1 (intermediate) level of Spanish. It was previously published on the 13th issue of “ELE Punto y coma” magazine, a bimonthly publication for learners of Spanish as a foreign language.

After your have worked with this audio of the website Hablacultura, which by the way was created by Carmen Aguirre, teacher at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, I invite you to test your acquired knowledge using this little test I have created with Educaplay. You will not need registration. In this activity, created to check your knowledge about urban youth language of Spain, you will have to pair words according to which of them have the same meaning.

learn urban Spanish


Shanghai Summer School scholarship at SISU University 2019

As you may know, during the summer of 2018 I obtained a scholarship to study Chinese in Shanghai for six weeks. You can read about my experience here.

On this post we are conducting an interview with Julieta Viglino, an Argentinian student who obtained the same scholarship in summer 2019: the Shanghai Summer School scholarship. As you know from my previous post about this academic opportunity, the program is hosted by Shanghai International Studies University (SISU University in Shanghai) (上海外国语大学)

Hello, Julieta. Thanks for answering our questions. I think your answers about the Shanghai Summer School scholarship 2019 (3S) will be deeply appreciated by future scholars.

1. According to the information you found on this blog about the main features of the SISU summer school (3S) scholarship 2018, are there any differences with the SISU summer school (3S) scholarship 2019?

As in the 2018 program, we had Chinese classes every morning in building number 2 of SISU Hongkou Campus. The first day of the program there was a placement test for students who had taken Chinese classes before. As I hadn’t, I just went to ‘Level 1’ class.

I must say I found the classes intense. We had a lot of homework and daily dictations. However, the final exam wasn’t that difficult, so you shouldn’t freak out about it!  Besides, our teachers were really good and committed and most importantly, nice persons. We even went for dinner with one of them once (with Miss Wang) which was a pretty nice experience. Here are pictures of my Chinese classmates and teachers:

Shanghai summer school 2019 level1 Chinese class

Shanghai summer school 2019 Chinese class Level1_1

Shanghai summer school 2019 level1 Chinese class2

Shanghai summer school 2019 Chinese class Level1_2

We also had non-mandatory extracurricular activities in the afternoons. We had some traditional Chinese classes such as Tai Chi, Chinese calligraphy and paper cutting; and some lectures about Chinese medicine, Chinese Philosophy and Economy. In the 2019 program we had two company visits: we went to Schindler and General Motors. We also visited some historical places and museums.

As regards food, this time the cost of daily meals was not included for the Spanish-speaking countries scholarship. That was a surprise for me as I expected it to be! However, I met some girls from Europe who had gotten canteen tickets for meals as part of their scholarship. I think weather you get food included in the program or not depends mostly of the agreement of the specific program.

Anyway, eating in Shanghai is really cheap when compared to other cities, especially if you eat in the canteen of the University.

Unlike 2018, we had 2 trips organized by SISU but none of them was to Beijing. First, we had a one day trip (during a weekend) to Suzhou which is small city two hours away from Shanghai. Suzhou it’s best known as ‘The Chinese Venice’ as it has a lot of canals and stone bridges. It’s very picturesque.  Here is a picture of one of the canals and a garden:

We also had a four day trip to Yanzhou and Nanjing. We stayed in Yanzhou for two days and then went to Nanjing which is a big city full of history and culture. On the opposite, Yanzhen it’s not that interesting but we had a nice time.

I also organized by my own (it was not included in our Summer School program) a one day trip to Hangzhou, which is a beautiful city near Shanghai.  It has a lot of incredible landscapes and historical buildings. I strongly recommend it!

2. Was again SISU hotel the designated accommodation for SISU summer school scholarship holders? Do you have the feeling there was a renovation between 2018 and 2019?

As I had a scholarship I was designated to stay at SISU hotel.  People who didn’t have scholarships and paid for the program stayed at the SISU Guest House Hotel which is much more comfortable and fancier. Besides, some scholars from the Confucius Program stayed in a SISU residence complex outside campus. I would say that was also a good option, as the buildings and the furniture of the rooms had been recently renovated and everything looked nice and clean.

In regard to SISU hotel, well, I would say there wasn’t any notorious improvement between 2018 and 2019.  My room was big enough for two people to live there. I had a small fridge and a decent Wi-Fi connection. The mattress of my bed was a little broken so it could be uncomfortable sometimes, but I got used to it.

The worst part of the accommodation was cleanness. My room was only slightly cleaned 4 or 5 times in my 6 weeks stay. I must admit I saw small cockroaches getting inside the baseboard of the walls a couple of times!

As in 2018, there still was a poorly equipped kitchen in the 4th floor of the hotel but it was almost impossible to use as it was dirty, small and full.

On the other hand, SISU hotel is full of SISU’s scholars which made everything very fun! During my stay I shared my room with a really sweet Egyptian girl named Hager. For me that was one of the best parts of the summer school. Being able to share the everyday activities with someone who spoke a different language and had a completely different culture was quiet an experience. Here is a picture of us together when we visited a Temple located in the city of Suzhou as part of the SISU’s activities.


Julieta and her friend Hager during Shanghai summer school 2019

3. Would you like to share with us any recommendations about restaurants in the area?

Well, before going to China you should know that almost any dish has some kind of meat in it.  I am a vegetarian and I wasn’t aware of this, so I was really frustrated the first days.

Here are some things I’ve found out that may be useful for other vegetarians going to SISU summer school. 

Most of the restaurants located near to Buddhists temples have meat-free meals as Buddhists are supposed to be vegetarians. Unfortunately, there is no Buddhists Temple near SISU, but I did find some restaurants with veggie-friendly options (apart from SISU’s canteen).

In front of Chifeng Road metro station there is a nice Chinese-Muslim restaurant. It had mostly rice and noodles with different kinds of sauces and vegetables. My favorite part of that restaurant were the seasonings and condiments used. Food was really tasty!

Chinese food 1

There was also a Korean restaurant that had some interesting options. It’s in the same block that the Muslim restaurant. Here is a picture of one of my meals there:

Chinese food 2

Eating in restaurants in the area wasn’t expensive, usually between 15-20 Chinese Yuan each dish, which is less than 3 US dollar for each meal. Of course, it wasn’t as cheap as SISU’s canteen, but food was much tastier! I had a limited budget, so I normally changed between canteen and restaurants, but I would recommend eating outside campus if you have enough money!

4. Would you like to share with us any other general recommendations?

Well, I would recommend you not freaking out if you find China a little shocking at the beginning!

I have to admit that my first days in Shanghai were a little hard. This trip was my first time in China and I didn’t know any single world in Chinese before coming.  Before travelling I expected everyone in Shanghai to speak English (as it’s supposed to be a very intercultural city!). Imagine my surprise when I realized I needed the translator in my phone even to go to the supermarket. Besides, I was also feeling the cultural shock. Chinese culture can be very different to South America’s sometimes.  I’m grateful to say that this feeling completely disappeared after the first week! After spending there almost 7 weeks I can honestly say that Shanghai is the best city I have ever been to, and I can’t wait to go back!

Shanghai it’s a very intercultural and cosmopolitan city. The incredibly large number of people in the streets makes the city feel alive by itself. The contrast between cutting-edge buildings and Chinese traditional architecture is fascinating. No matter where I was standing, I could always raise my head and see impressive modern skyscrapers and at the same time ancient buildings and Chinese traditional decorations. This makes the city unique.


Shanghai at night (Photo: Julieta Viglino, during Shanghai summer school 2019)

Besides, I was absolutely amazed by all the lights of the city at night time, especially in The Bund and in Pudong Financial District. I should admit that Pudong skyline night views was what I loved the most in Shanghai.

Besides, SISU’s program it’s an opportunity to meet students from every part of the world. It was absolutely enriching to open my mind to different thoughts and to such different backgrounds and cultures. I was able to make friendships with people from South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Here is a picture with Sia. She is from Greece and was one of the greatest persons I met during the summer school! (The picture is also from out trip to Suzhou):


Julieta (Argentina) and Sia (Greece) in Suzhou during Shanghai Summer School 2019

Regarding the activities of the program, as I mentioned before, I found the Chinese classes demanding and hard but I learnt so much during the course!  I was even able to communicate the basics after the first weeks of the program. Besides, the Chinese teachers I had were both really nice and understanding; and did their best to immerse us into Chinese culture. I also found very interesting all the cultural activities we had in the program. I particularly enjoyed the lectures about China’s economy and the company visits.

Moreover, I really liked SISU’s visit to the place where the First National Congress of the Communist Party took place. It was very interesting and the guide, Bob, shared a lot of information with us that helped me understand the importance of the place for Chinese people. I’m glad this activity was part of SISU’s program as I wouldn’t have taken the most out of this place without a guide.  Other touristic places I enjoyed were the Yu Gardens, Jade Buddha Temple and the Confucius Temple. The Propaganda Museum and the Jews Refugees Museum were also very interesting!!


I would definitely recommend everyone to apply to SISU Summer School. It was a life-changing experience and one of the best trips I’ve ever done. I’m already looking forward to go back to China.

Thank you, Julieta, for the interview. I am sure that it will be very inspiring and helpful for future students. 

Remember you can read our post of Shanghai Summer Scholarship 2018 to get more information about the scholarship (Chinese classes, transportation, money exchange, water, etc.).

‘al fin’ VS. ‘al final’

Hello there!

One of my C1-level students of Spanish language (let’s call him Juanito) asked me the other day: what is the difference between “al fin” and “al final” in Spanish? I had to stop for a bit and think twice about it. But after a while I think I was able to give him a decent explanation that I would like to share with you here.

First of all, we have to speak about the word “el final” and “el fin”:

  • el final = the end –> El final del libro no me gustó. / Estamos en la fase final de producción.
  • el fin* = the goal –> Esa empresa persigue fines inmorales.

*–> The problem is that very often “el fin” is used as a synonym for “el final”. But the good news are that this happens mainly on set phrases. Let’s see some examples:

  • Para algunas familias, es difícil llegar a fin de mes. (make ends meet)
  • Este fin de semana vamos a ir al cine. (weekend)
  • Algunos dicen que el fin del mundo está cerca.(world’s end/the end of the world)
  • Tenemos que poner fin a la guerra y el odio entre naciones. (put an end to)
  • ¡Por fin has llegado! = ¡Al fin has llegado! (at last)


After all this we can now better say that:

  • al fin = por fin (at last) ¡Al fin dejó de llover! (At last the rain stopped!) o ¡Por fin dejó de llover! (At last the rain stopped!)
  • al final (at the end). Al final no hemos hablado sobre ti (At the end we didn’t speak about you).

MORE: Sometimes we use “al fin” when in English you can use “finally”: After 15 minutes I finally found the keys. –> Después de 15 minutos, por fin encontré las llaves.

MORE: we use “finalmente” as “para terminar” when in English you can use “lastly” o “to sum up”: (Después de una larga presentación) Finalmente, me gustaría recordarles que nuestra reunión de mañana será a las 12:00h. (After a long presentation) Lastly, I would like to remind you that tomorrow’s meeting will be held at 12:00. 

‘mientras’ VS. ‘mientras que’

This week I visited Universidad de Alcalá (UAH) (Madrid, Spain) to attend the workshop COROLA “Copulas within and across Romance Languages”. As you can infer from the title of the workshop, it was a perfect event for me to learn more about ser and estar, the verbs around which my PhD revolves. The workshop was really interesting and I am looking forward to attending next editions!


After the workshop, while I was taking a night walk in this beautiful Spanish city (Alcalá de Henares), I met a group of exchange students from Ireland and UK. Their knowledge of Spanish was simply amazing. We had a great time and they also asked me a great question that I was not able to answer with ease at that moment: What is the difference between ‘mientras’ and ‘mientras que’?

So in this post I am going to explain the distinction between ‘mientras’ and ‘mientras que’ and I would like to dedicate it to these nice exchange students! It was great meeting you, people!

Let’s see. Here you have a simplified overview of the meanings.

  1. mientras + indicativo = while
  2. mientras + subjuntivo = as long as
  3. mientras (between punctuation) = meanwhile
  4. mientras que = while (with the sense of BY CONTRAST)
  5. Other considerations:
    • mientras más…, más… = the more…, the more…
    • mientras que in Latin America.

Now, let’s see explanations and remarks of these five options.


Example 1 (present): Mientras tú cocinas, yo preparo las bebidas, ¿vale?

Example 2 (past): Mientras tú cocinabas, yo preparaba las bebidas.

When mientras is followed by indicativo we are using “mientras” as a conjunction with temporal aspect which could be translated to English as whileLet’s see the translations:

Example 1: While you cook I (‘ll) prepare the drinks, ok?

Example 2: While you were cooking I prepared (was preparing) the drinks.

–> german_flag In German, the translation would be während.



Example 1 (present): Los jóvenes pueden entrar gratis al museo mientras presenten su carnet de estudiante.

Example 2 (past): En aquel tiempo, los jóvenes podían entrar gratis al museo mientras presentaran su carnet de estudiante.

When mientras is followed by subjuntivo we are using “mientras” as a conjunction with conditional aspect which could be translated to English as as long asLet’s see the translations:

Example 1: Young people can enter the museum for free as long as they show their student card / upon presentation of their student card.

Example 2: At that time, young people could enter the museum for free as long as they showed their student card / upon presentation of their student card.

–> german_flag In German, the translation would be solange.
–> You can also say “siempre que + subjuntivo” with the same meaning: Los jóvenes pueden entrar gratis al museo siempre que presenten su carnet de estudiante.


3. ‘MIENTRAS’ when used alone, between punctuation

Example 1 (present): María estudia. Mientras, Laura escucha música.

Example 2 (past): María estudiaba. Mientras, Laura escuchaba música.

When mientras is used between punctuation we are using “mientras” as an adverb which could be translated to English as meanwhileLet’s see the translations:

Example 1: Maria studies. Meanwhile, Laura listens to music.

Example 2: Maria was studying. Meanwhile, Laura was listening to music.

–> german_flag In German, the translation would be mittlerweile or währenddessen.
–> You can also say “mientras tanto” with the same meaning: María estudia. Mientras tanto, Laura escucha música.



Example: Mis asignaturas favoritas son inglés y español, mientras que las tuyas son Geografía e Historia.

We use mientras que for contrasting two things. It is semantically similar to “by contrast” or “while” in English. Let’s see the translation from the given example.

Example: My favourite subjects are English and Spanish, while yours are Geography and History.

The same way we can use, in English, “by contrast” and “while” for this situation, in Spanish we can use not only “mientras que” but also “mientras” (Dear reader, please, do not desperate!) So it would be also correct to say: Mis asignaturas favoritas son inglés y español, mientras que las tuyas son Geografía e Historia.

–> german_flag In German, a valid translation would be dagegen.
–> You can also say “en cambio,” with the same meaning: Mis asignaturas favoritas son inglés y español. En cambio, las tuyas son Geografía e Historia.


5.1.  In Spanish, to express “the more he has, the more he wants” we can say it using ‘mientras’. Also, and only in this case we can use ‘cuanto’ instead of ‘mientras’. Both ‘cuanto’ and ‘mientras’ are correct but ‘cuanto’ is a little less formal than ‘mientras’.

Mientras más tiene, más desea.

Cuanto más tiene, más desea.

5.2. Although as expressed in section 4, ‘mientras que’ has only a contrastive aspect, in American Spanish you can use “mientras que” also for temporal purposes. This means that in Spain this is not correct:

*Mientras que tú cocinas, yo preparo las bebidas, ¿vale?

But it is accepted in American Spanish.

I hope this was useful. As a compact summary, we could say that…

…you should always use “mientras” unless you want to express “while” with an aspect of CONTRAST, where you can choose between “mientras” or “mientras que”.


‘desde’ VS. ‘desde hace’


Do you know when to use “desde” and “desde hace” when you talk about time?

Let’s think that we are in December and that we want to translate into Spanish the following two sentences:

  • I haven’t seen Maria since October.
  • I haven’t seen Maria for the last two months.

In English, as you can see, we can choose between giving an specific point of time as a reference (October) or providing a period of time (two months). In English, you use [“since”+specific point of time] and [“for”+period of time]. Right?

In Spanish, we also have both options. When you decide to go for the specific point of time, you will have to use “desde”. Instead, if you prefer to provide a period of time as a reference, you will have to use “desde hace”.

  • I haven’t seen Maria since October. –> No he visto a María desde octubre.
  • I haven’t seen Maria for the last two months. –> No he visto a María desde hace dos meses.
–> german_flag In German, we use the word “seit” in both cases (seit Oktober, seit 2 Monate).

More examples in Spanish:

– Soy vegetariana. No como carne desde 2004.

– Soy vegetariana. No como carne desde hace 15 años.


– Vivo en Londres desde enero.

– Vivo en Londres desde hace 3 meses.


– No voy al cine desde Navidad.

– No voy al cine desde hace medio año.


BESIDES, if you want to say “ago” in Spanish, then you will have to use “hace”. Let’s see an example:

  • I saw Maria two months ago. –> Vi a María hace dos meses.
–> german_flag In German, we use the word “vor” in this case (vor 2 Monate).

I hope this post was useful and helped you to understand the difference between “desde” and “desde hace” while talking about time. Do not hesitate to ask me any question!