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Can You Teach English Abroad Without Certification?

Can you teach English abroad without certification?

Teaching English has become the sexy career choice for young people. I mean, we’ve all got Instagram, and my Instagram has to be the best, right? I want “candid” photos of me dancing in a sundress through ancient walls! I want followers!!

Or, even if you want the experience just for yourself, to learn a language or experience a new culture, teaching English abroad is pretty much one of the easiest ways to accomplish actually getting over there.

But, in today’s world of professional Instagram accounts, we also have expensive college degrees and other kinds of certifications generally standing in the way of the jobs we really want. With a bachelor’s degree you can get a solid minimum wage job (if you can beat out your competition who has more experience than you), but if you can’t get a degree? Well, you can get a certification to teach English abroad, which means you get to keep the left leg you’d have to sell to afford college, but that can still be a few thousand bucks, which a lot of us can’t afford.

So we’re left back where we started. We have a dream, but we might not have the paperwork. So can you teach English abroad without a certification? What about teaching English abroad without a degree?

Requirements for teaching English overseas

As a general rule, you’re going to want a bachelor’s degree of some sort. It doesn’t really matter what the degree is in, but you’ll find the lack of one kind of narrows down the countries you’ll be able to teach in. If you want to teach English abroad without a bachelor’s degree, I suggest you try looking in Europe and Asia - about half those countries require a degree if you want to get paid to teach English abroad, but the other half only prefer it.

Unless the following information has changed since the posting of this blog (entirely possible, so always double check), below is a list of countries that do not require a college degree for you to teach English.

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teach English abroad without certification

And do be warned that these things do change, like how the requirements for teaching English in Cambodia have recently changed from only needing a TESOL certification to a college degree AND a certification.

So if you don't have a degree, is there still hope? Can you teach English abroad without a certification?

Teaching English abroad without a degree

Now, certifications are the next step up. While a bachelor’s degree basically communicates the idea that you’re competent, a TESOL, TEFL, or TESL certification says that you’ve put in the time to really learn how to teach. If you’re looking to teach English abroad with no degree, I highly recommend you look into one of these certifications.

You should note that these certifications do not take the place of a college degree - while the experience and resources you get are more or less the same as what you’ll get from a college degree, they don’t hold the same weight on paper. That being said, just because you don’t have a college degree doesn’t mean you need any kind of certification - it just means that you might want to consider the extra bump to your resume.

Now, if you’re really slumming and feel the gut-wrenching need to travel abroad, but don’t have the time or money, teaching private lessons is always an option, as well. While it is a more difficult option, it is an option. As with starting any sort of business, you’ll need to put the time into creating a network, honing your skills, and you’re going to be going quite some time without paying rent. So hey, if you’re up for a challenge, bombs away!

But this does all mean that, like any other job, teaching English is a commitment. Katie from Study Hard Travel Smart, for one, has talked about the struggle with people moving abroad to teach English without any qualifications, and therefore not having the slightest idea what’s going on. That there’s a pretty good reason to not teach English abroad, eh?

What’s the difference between TEFL, TESL, TESOL, and CELTA?

If you do get a certification to teach English abroad, you have a few to choose from, and they all provide need for slightly different situations, depending on how you plan to use your certification.

First we have TEFL, which is generally recognized as the certification for teaching English abroad. This is for the American going to a non-native English speaking country to teach students who speak a language that is not English. Going to Spain to teach English to Spaniards. That sort of thing.

Next we have CELTA, which is pretty much a TEFL; it's a specific kind of TEFL taught by Cambridge University. A CELTA is sometimes seen as more prestigious than a TEFL, though, and is kind of nudging the TEFL into a more standardized, respectable state. As time goes on, they are viewed as more or less interchangeable. Amy can tell you more.

Then we have TESL, which is more for teaching English to foreigners who uprooted themselves to live in English speaking countries. This one is staying at home in America and getting a job in an American school teaching English to people from non-English speaking countries.

Last but not least we have the TESOL. This certification is TEFL and TESL combined, though it’s newer, so it may not be as well-respected.

All these certifications are also a real good help if you’re considering the digital nomad life teaching English online, but do remember that TEFL is the golden standard!

How to get a TEFL certification

So, once you’ve decided which certification works for you, there are a zillion programs out there for you. If you haven’t decided which country you want to go to, or through which program or what you’re looking for, you have your options pretty open for you. One good piece of advice, though, is that if you’re going to pay for a certification, you need to make it work for you. This means having some sort of in-class time, gaining experience as a teacher of English as a second language.

Of course, these will generally be the expensive ones. I personally took a TESOL course for a couple hundred bucks, completely online, with no experience involved. I mean, I can put it on a resume for sure, but if it was put to any more scrutiny, like being interviewed and asked what this certification did for me, I would have to do some BSing. If you’re gonna do it, I suggest you do it right, and make sure there’s some actual classroom time involved.

One great option for you, if you have the funds and the flexibility to do it, is enrolling in a program that provides you TESOL training and then shoots you out to an actual guaranteed job. While I don’t have any personal experience with it, that seems like a great way to get genuine experience and to put something real on your resume. The TEFL Academy, for example, has several programs combining TEFL certification courses with actual jobs teaching English abroad.

So if you’re really interested in pursuing all this, degree/certification or not, check out a couple bloggers who have gone through this for themselves:

Michelle taught English in Ecuador with a CELTA certification
Nina taught English in Thailand with a TEFL

Once you're ready, get the job!

Phew, that was a lot to get through, I know. Worry not - you've got the hard part down. The next step is getting the job. Fortunately for you, I've collected all the resources you'll need in my guide that you can have for yourself below.

Sign up below to download your FREE guide to finding English speaking jobs in Spain!

Moving to Spain: How To Do It and Why You Should

Moving to Spain

Moving to Spain is an absolutely incredible experience - you get to experience a new culture, learn a new language, meet new people, face your fears, and have the time of your life that you honestly can’t find anywhere else. Spaniards really know how to live, so it’s a great place to learn how to do just that!

So, now that you’ve decided that you want to move to Spain, or even if you’re just kind of tossing the idea around in your mind right now, what is there to know? Well, there’s a lot to know. There’s things like what you should be expecting, things you should avoid doing, how to get about getting to Spain in the first place, and how to meet people so that you’re not totally alone. Read along, my friend!

Pros and Cons to Living in Spain

If you’ve never traveled outside of your own country, you may have this idea in your head that everywhere else is better than your own. I know this is definitely true for Americans like me, who have gotten the idea by now that we’re the butt of a lot of other cultures’ jokes. Yeah, I get it. Beautiful, beautiful Europe. It’s romantic, it’s ancient....it’s gotta be better, right? Well, yes and no. Just like everything else, there are pros and cons to living in Spain, because you're just not going to love all the cultural differences you find.

A thing you’ll find by traveling is that there are parts of new cultures that you’re going to fall head over heels for, but others that you’re going to hate. You just are. You have a love/hate relationship with your own culture, right? It’s the same with any other culture. For example, the Spanish are sllllloooooowwwwwwww, especially in the metro. Americans are fast. Real fast. And I walk quickly even for an American, so you wouldn’t believe how stressful it got for me. I took a lot of Spanish culture in for growth purposes, but that just does not fly with me. Sorry, I got long legs. They’re going places.

But not matter how much the Spanish bother you, you will always be left blown away with beauty. You will love all the exercise you get walking around (no more painful diets for you!), the deliciously fresh food, and the energy of the Spanish. As a general rule, they are a calm, happy people. They know how to live. I mean seriously, they take 2 hour naps in the middle of the work day! That’s living.

So yes, while you do have to take the bad with the good, believe me when I say that the bad far outweighs the good. There is so much to get out of the experience of moving to Spain, you will feel so fulfilled. Yeah, fulfillment. That’s the feeling you’ll feel. Filled to the brim with beauty, the feeling of accomplishment when you face your fears (which is absolutely gonna happen), and really just joy. You want a pro? There are your pros.

The Biggest Mistakes When Moving to Spain

So, now that you’re absolutely, 100%, no-questions-about-it convinced that moving to Spain is the thing for you (which, by the way, it is), what do you not do? Well, a lot.

My biggest mistake when moving to Spain was bringing too much crap! Seasoned travelers have probably got this one down pat, but I definitely made an (almost literally) back-breaking mistake. So the rule of thumb is to look at all the stuff you want to bring, narrow it down to the stuff you’ll need to bring, and then cut it in half. Yeah, that was a little too painful for me. So I ignored it. Which meant the actual process of moving to Spain was physically painful, I broke my brand new backpack, and I just had way too much stuff considering how little space there is in Spain. That being said, if you’re new to the whole travel thing, don’t do that.

Second. Moving to Spain? For Pete’s sake, dress like a Spaniard! Americans have this awful habit of not dressing well as a whole. Europeans dress to the nines. Not only does Spain (especially southern Spain) have warmer climates than a lot of Europe, but they’re also right next door to Paris. There’s nothing worse than looking around and seeing a bunch of touristy-looking tourists. I mean, yeah, there’s nothing wrong with being a tourist at all. It’s great! But not looking like you belong does single you out and make it more probable that nasty locals will make a victim out of you.

What do I mean by that you ask? Good question, and a GREAT segue into my next point: pickpockets. Spaniards, and Europeans as a whole, do it well. Not being aware of where your stuff is, especially when it comes to wallets, passports (which, by the way, you should never carry on your person, unless you're actively traveling), and cellphones, is a ginormous mistake! Pickpockets are real good at what they do.

The rule of thumb is to always have your personals in front of you. No back pockets, no purses on chairs, not even a cell phone on a table at the restaurant - they’ll distract you by putting a menu between your eyes and your phone, swipe it, and you’ll never even know it happened. Ladies, I got into the habit of keeping all my things in my (small) purse, and keeping my purse in front of my body while I walked and in my lap when I sat down. Never, ever hanging off the back of my chair. Guys, same goes for you. Nothing in the back pocket. And never just in your hand. All you gotta do is put it down once...

So, now that you’ve got a decent idea of what you know before moving to Spain, how do you do it?

How to Live and Work in Spain

Are you a native English speaker? Then you’re absolutely set. Seriously. You don’t need an ounce of Spanish to find work in Spain. You might want it, for survival purposes, but over the last few years it’s become easier than ever to find English speaking jobs in Spain.

There are a ton of online resources for you to find work. The undoubtedly most popular job for you to find out there is a job speaking English - you don’t necessarily need any experience, or even have to have an interview!

Just starting with Facebook, for example, there are several groups to help you out and get you moving to Spain. Some of the common groups:

Teaching English in Madrid (Spain)
English Teachers in Spain
Teaching in Spain
Jobs in Spain

If you can’t find anything there, there are zillions more opportunities out there for you both with companies looking for English-speaking employees on the regular, and on open job boards. 

Submit your email below to get a list of resources to find English speaking jobs in Spain. FREE!

Meet Other Americans Living in Spain

Finally, you’ll definitely want to connect with some potential friends when moving to Spain. If you really want to learn Spanish while there, I highly suggest you avoid English-speaking friends if at all possible. It’s so so easy to revert back to English even with Spanish speakers who are comfortable in English, and it’s pretty much impossible to practice your Spanish when you’re always around English.

That being said, there are tons and tons of networks out there for you to find Americans living in Spain. Tons of ‘em. If you’re moving to Spain through some sort of organization, like a teach abroad company, you’ll probably meet other Americans like you, and they’ll have their own networks they’ll tell you about. If not, there’s a couple popular Facebook groups out there for you:

Expats in Spain
American in Spain
Digital Nomads Spain
Expats in Spain (same name, different group!)

Worse comes to worst, don’t forget just how social Spain is. The country and its people are really good at pulling you out of your shell - just go outside and people will talk to you!

Looking for More Information?

I've written a guide and accompanying resource list from my experiences moving to Spain, including all the legal information I used, what I wish I had known before leaving, and detailed reports of how I lived and how you can, too! Click the guides for more information.

How to Find English Speaking Jobs in Spain

How to find English Speaking Jobs in Spain

Spain is a great place to find English speaking jobs, mostly due to the recent shift by the government to stick native English speakers in public schools. The world is changing around them, so Spaniards are learning English in order to get better jobs, both at home and abroad. It’s really, really common to find English speaking jobs in Spain. Absurdly common.

Download the guide to English Speaking Jobs in Spain - FREE!

So yes, your dream to find English speaking jobs in Spain is totally realistic! While abroad, you’ll find that while children in school usually don’t like learning English (let’s be real, you and I both know exactly what I’m talking about!), adults are taking time out of their lives to meet with native speakers and practice their English. So why not get paid to do it, huh? The state of the Spanish economy dragging down the price of pretty much anything, mixed with the economic value of you having a skill that you can’t learn or buy (you can only be born into being a native English speaker!), means that some may pay a pretty penny (compared to the Spanish economy, not the American) for just simple conversations.

Teaching Jobs in Spain

By far one of the most popular ways to find work in Spain is by teaching English. There are literally thousands, if not millions, of expats all over the world using teaching English abroad as their way to see the world, in Spain and elsewhere, and I absolutely can’t blame them! While there are lots of options to buff up a resume for teaching English abroad, like TEFL, TESOL, and others that are basically the same idea, you really don’t even need to get certified to land a teaching job in Spain, depending on what you’re looking to accomplish.

For example, if you’re super into the idea of flying by the seat of your pants and heading abroad with every intention of just finding work when you get there, you might want some sort of certification. While nothing can replace a native English speaker, they’re a dime a dozen - they’re all doing the same exact thing that you are. You might want some sort of paperwork to show off how much better of a teacher you are. You’ll be competing with other teachers with experience and connections, which, if you’ve gone on any job hunt ever, you know how much that sucks. You can think of these certifications as a college degree - it just kind of bumps up your respect a little more, you know?

These certifications also help you figure out what you’re actually doing; many students want you to provide a more structured lesson or procure games and activities to help them learn. I spared a couple hundred dollars for an online TESOL certification and learned a couple tricks; it wasn’t a 200 hour sit-down course, but it was better than nothing at all!

However, if you’re looking for a bit more structure and stability while on the hunt for teaching jobs in Spain, there are plenty of opportunities for you, too! Do a little snooping and you can find an organization that wants to hire you for a semester, a school year, a summer break...all sorts! These opportunities have different requirements, depending on what you’re looking for. I’d suggest going in with a Bachelor’s degree; it doesn’t matter what it’s in, just that you’ve got it. I told you, it’s just like any other job search! Other than that, your native language will probably suffice.

Other English Speaking Jobs in Madrid

While finding a job teaching English in a public school, private school, or as a private tutor are highly sought-after, easy to find, and easy to land, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people just aren’t the most talented when it comes to language. Hey, even if you are good with languages, it still may not be a good fit, and that’s okay. I’m definitely a left-side-of-the-brain individual, but it really, really isn’t an inspiring job for me. So besides teaching English, how do you find other English speaking jobs? Well, international cities like Madrid are a good start.

If you’ve heard stories about travelers from back in the day who inspired all of their friends by moving abroad and working in some shop, or maybe found a small-town farmer that needed help feeding and riding their horses, you know exactly what to do. You can find all sorts of normal, run of the mill jobs without being fluent in Spanish, especially in more international cities like Madrid. If you want to get really immersed and live in a more rural town, you’re going to need some Spanish, but you’ll survive just fine in bigger cities where English speakers are all over the place - where there are other expats, there are English speaking jobs!

Again, you can do a lot of snooping yourself to find a job that sounds good for you, and that can take a lot of time. There are a lot of options out there, and, honestly, finding the job itself is only the beginning. Then you have to worry about Visas, transportation, learning at least some Survival Spanish, etc. But we wanna live the dream, right?

Work in Madrid: Find Jobs in Madrid for English Speakers

If you are at all familiar with my blog, you now that I’m insanely experienced when it comes to working in Madrid, after my stint teaching English in Madrid for a school year. There are literally thousands of opportunities for native English speakers to teach English all over the country, and even the world. Once you have an idea of where you're looking to go, it's time to dive in to the internet and see what kind of opportunities there are waiting for you.

And if searching the depths of the internet sounds overwhelming and stressful to you, no worries, I got you covered. Submit your email address below for your free linkfest to English speaking jobs in Spain - teaching and otherwise!

Download the guide to English Speaking Jobs in Spain - FREE!

Eating Abroad: What to Call Your Waiter in Spanish

How to say waiter in Spanish

This really shouldn’t be a complicated question. It definitely shouldn’t be an entire blog post, right? You should be able to find out how to say waiter in Spanish like you can translate dog or cloud. I mean, you can, you just might be wrong.

You see, Spanish has a long, long history of taking over other countries and moving into them and completely disrupting their cultures. There was a point in time where the Spanish kingdom was the largest in the world - Spanish is still the second most widely-spoken language in the world, beaten out only by Chinese.

That being said, different words have different meanings whether you’re in Spain or Argentina or Mexico or any other Spanish-speaking country. The Spanish language has evolved into so many different animals that you sometimes need to prepare for different situations in different countries.

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waiter in Spanish

Camarero

The word camarero (or the feminine camarera, but I want to keep this simple) comes from the word cámara, which translates to bedchamber. The Spanish mobility used to have a camarero, or bedchamber maid. These camareros would do things like make the beds, dress the nobles, the same sort of thing that a maid would do for the British Victorians.

These camareros would wait on the nobility. Translate that into our modern restaurant situations, and today the Spanish have employees to wait on them - bring the food, explain the menu, clean up after you, etc. It’s the same idea as the camareros reserved for the Spanish nobility, just brought into the present day.

Mesero

Mesero is our first not-so-common words. You might hear this word for waiter in Latin American countries like Mexico. While it’s not necessarily a “pure Spanish” word, the etymology of it is much more simple, if you can’t already tell from the word itself.

The Spanish word for table is mesa. Knowing that, it’s not too far of a stretch to come up with the term mesero. And, really, that’s all it comes down to!

You can also go straight for joven, the generic Spanish word for "young". Adjectives like these (guapo, bonito, etc.) are generally used to refer to a person in any case, so this term is pretty simple, too. Just like you may call someone walking down the street "guapa", it's perfectly acceptable to get a Mexican waiter's attention by calling them "joven".

Mesonero

Like mesero hijacking the Spanish word for table, this other Latin American term for waiter hijacked another word, as well. Mesonero derives from the word mesón, which refers to a large table. I’m sure you’ve seen TV shows or movies about rich elites who regularly dined on obscenely long tables, just to show off how much money they have, right? That is a mesón.

The mesonero of today refers more to a waiter working in a tavern, inn, or some other place that would entertain a significant amount of guests, usually enough to fill up a mesón. This is also a Venezuelan term, although if you know anything about languages, you know that they are living, breathing things that change regularly. You may hear this term referring to a waiter in other countries, as well.

Mozo

Next, we have mozo. This is another Latin American term commonly heard in Colombia, originally derived from the term for a page or apprentice. In Medieval Spain, where a young boy may be a page or apprentice, they would be referred to as a mozo, meaning "young man". Just as one might call a waiter over by saying “young man” or “young woman”, a Colombian waiter can be called by saying mozo.

Garzón

Lastly, we have garzón. This term is used in Chile (where, by the way, you should definitely not use "mozo" unless you want to offend someone), and it means the same as above: "young man". This one’s a great representation of cultural mixing, as it’s derived from the very same French term.

5 Words That Could Make or Break Your Trip to Spain

The thing with Spanish and English – and any other languages, really, since you’d never believe how some seemingly random languages are related – is that sometimes words seems really, really similar. Sometimes they mean the same things, but sometimes they mean something totally and utterly different.

Some of the words below are going to be like this, and some of them are going to be little cultural quirks you’ll find in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries that might throw you through a little bit of a loop. While these make for great stories sometimes, they also can make an already stressful trip abroad just a little bit harder.

Hola guapa/o

This translates to hello pretty (or handsome), and isn’t used in the sense that it would be used in English. You definitely won’t see any green witches cackling “hello, my pretty!” (Wicked Witch of the West joke, anyone?), but you’ll almost certainly come across complete strangers who will refer to you as such, as well as using other forms of greetings. Sorry guys, it’s not really a compliment, either – it’s just show Spaniards acknowledge each other. It is a nice touch though, don’t ya think?

Embarazada

Ah, false friends. False friends are words that are so similar across languages that you’d assume they mean the same thing, but they really, really don’t. This one’s a good one to get you into all kinds of weird situations. While it looks and sounds like embarrassed, it actually means pregnant in Spanish. I know, right? Like I said, SO much opportunity for an embarrassing situation (pun absolutely intended).

Bueno

This one’s more along the lines of hola guapo/a. Bueno can be used as a lot of things that don’t necessarily mean good (its direct translation). For example, bueno might be used as a placeholder, like well, okay, or so. You might also use it to answer the phone. Bueno is a nice, positive word that can be used in a variety of situations. Take your pick!

Molestar

Don’t worry, this one’s a false friend, too (fortunately). This one can definitely be a doozy for the beginner Spanish learner, because it really does not seem like the kind of vocab you’d be learning right off the bat, right? Molestar does not mean to molest, but to annoy or bother. So yeah, this translation definitely makes a lot more sense to learn pretty early on in your Spanish career.

Constiparse/una constipación

Well you already know you’re not going to be forgetting this one, right? Constipation? The thing where your body does that thing that maybe we shouldn’t be talking about on this blog? So this false friend would have you believe! Constiparse actually means to catch a cold, while una constipación is a cold. You’ll always remember the most ridiculous words, so you can count on this one!

What about you? What's your favorite false friend? Has it gotten you into any sticky situations?​

A Car, a Cuban, and a Chance: the Day Travel Saved Me $500

If you know anything about travel, you know that the lessons you learn out in the world can always be brought home. For example, learning a new language can get you out of (and into) a whole mess of situations. Here’s a story of the day my Spanish saved me a good chunk of change.

It was about 8 PM, so pretty pitch black outside. I got in my car, began backing out of my driveway, and felt a thud. Oh, no. I had hit something.

When I got out of my car to check out the damage, I found out a truck had been parked just outside my driveway. Like, close enough that while my car had hit it, my car still hadn’t totally left my driveway.

Then I met the driver.

Well, I heard the driver. I heard moans and huffs and “how could you do this to me?”-esque things. As it turned out, the driver of this truck didn’t speak much English. While I began taking fault and reassuring him that it wasn’t actually that bad, he got really….excited. He immediately began demanding I call the police (well, holding his hand up like a phone and saying the word “police”) and cursing me.

Fine. I called the police. Who was I to not? I mean, yeah, this guy had parked his truck that was so important to him right in front of my driveway, but I hit him and I was just trying to meet a friend and, you know, hopefully not get beat up or something.

Once I got off the phone with the police, I went back to calming down this very angry man. I could tell from his accent that he spoke Spanish, so I switched it up in the brain and continued in a weird, mangled version of Spanish, since I wasn’t prepared and was also really stressed.

You know what? He started calming down.

Then a neighbor came out, assessed the situation, and started handing out his cards. Turns out he owns an auto body shop, and he could get the guy’s door fixed no problem. He gave me a quote: with cash, $500; with insurance, it’ll be much higher, and my insurance rate would go up.

Once he left, I explained the damage to my Spanish-speaking friend. I told him that a new door would cost $500. The first thing he said was that we don’t need the police anymore. Sweet!

Then he demanded the $500. Uh, what? Maybe I’m weird, but I didn’t feel comfortable giving this strange man $500 and just calling it a day. Problem is, I’m a bad liar, so I stumbled around trying to find a reason behind not just producing the money.

I told him that I don’t have $500 right now, maybe after I get paid. No, no, he said, I need it now.

This is where I started to get lucky – he started haggling with me!

He brought it down to $300. Yeah, still feels iffy, right? $300 is a lot of money, and I didn’t know how legit this guy was. Even though he said he would leave me alone once I paid him for his door, who was I to trust him?

He kept haggling and haggling, until he broke: “soy Cubano. No tengo mucho dinero”. All of a sudden, I saw a hint of desperation in his eyes. Okay, this guy was legit. I mean, I still didn’t get why he cared so deeply about this truck that he had left haphazardly in the street, but that didn’t matter anymore.

He brought it down to $100. I weighed my options. Well, this guy was so desperate for whatever he was trying to get out of me, he had decided he only needed $100 from me. He had allowed me to call off the police, which meant my insurance rate wasn’t going up. I’d never tried to haggle before, but something told me that this was as good as it gets.

Fine. I told him I needed an ATM, so I got in my car, he got in his car, and he followed me to an ATM. Still kind of on the sketchy side, but you take what you can get. He waited outside while I went and got the money, I handed him the $100, and he walked away without even checking it.

And you know what? I haven’t seen him since.

So tell me, have your foreign language skills ever gotten you out of a messy situation? What about other things you’ve learned while traveling?

Adjectives and Nouns in Spanish: Which Goes Where?

The adjectives and nouns in Spanish are one of the first things we learn; more specifically, that nouns come first, as opposed to what they do in English. It’s such an interesting little quirk, and we spend a lot of time getting into the habit of sticking that adjective where it belongs!

And then we get a little better at Spanish, and we see sentences where the adjective is…before the noun? What? Wait, I thought the noun came first! Whose side are you on!?

As it turns out, sometimes the noun comes first, sometimes the adjective. And you have to learn the difference, because sometimes, depending on the order you choose, you may not be saying what you’re trying to say!

So what’s the difference? When it comes to adjectives and nouns in Spanish, which goes where?

Easy.


There are two reasons to put an adjective before its noun in Spanish: when the adjective is common sense, and when the adjective puts a little poetic justice into what you’re saying.


Let me explain.

The white snow. El blanco nieve.

Well, yeah it’s white snow. Obviously. I mean, unless it’s yellow snow, but that’s besides the point. Snow is white. We know this.

The black night. La negra noche.

Clearly, nighttime is black. The sun’s gone. We know this, too.

As you can see, adjectives and nouns in Spanish sometimes have a different relationship than we originally thought. We put our adjectives before their nouns when the descriptions are already known. We’re not trying to differentiate the black night from anything else, because the night is black and is always black. Compare this to, for example, la camisa roja, or the red shirt; in this sense, the adjective roja differentiates this camisa from the camisa verde. We need this adjective to tell us which shirt you’re talking about.

Okay, back on track. When else do we see the adjective before the noun in Spanish?

For one, when we’re talking about la increíble mujer who rescued a starving orphan from a burning house and raised him as her own! How incredible, right?! That’s an amazing woman!

Or how about for el pobre hombre who had his electronics stolen from his locked car? That’s such an unfortunate situation, we definitely want to truly express how sad it is.


So, we sometimes see an adjective before a noun in Spanish when we’re trying to highlight something. Really express a certain concept, maybe evoke a strong emotion.


This contrasts from using an adjective after the verb, as the language is, again, used in a different way. We don’t want to specify that we’re talking about this shoe as opposed to that one, but we’re trying to really accentuate the concept about el pobre hombre.

Now, with the concept of using adjectives in order to describe a concept regarding a noun, this means that sometimes, depending on where an adjective is placed, the adjective may carry a different meaning.

Let’s go back to el pobre hombre. This poor, poor man. He’s come across such misfortune, having his computer stolen!

But wait! If we put pobre after hombre, the man because someone who simply doesn’t have a lot of money. It’s a fact. We are differentiating the poor man from the rich man. We don’t feel sorry for the man with less money, just stating that he is not rich.

So, as you can see, in Spanish we use adjectives to make our statements a bit more precise than they are in English. We kind of brushed up on this before when talking about mal, mala, bien, and bueno, and when to use those adjectives. If we talk about the poor man in English, well, it could very well mean both poor as in unfortunate and poor as in not wealthy. Though, to be honest, in the English language, they both mean the same thing. You don’t have money? Poor, poor you.

When to Use Mal, Malo, Bien, and Bueno

Every once a while during your Spanish learning career, you stumble upon random concepts that take a bit to settle into a place of understanding in your head. For me recently, that was the different between mal and malo/a and bien and buen and bueno/a and why are all these words so similar yet clearly have their own reasons for existing.

I’ll start with mal and malo/a, since that’s what started my dive into this adjective/adverb nonsense.

Which is which? Well, malo/a is an adjective. Mal is an adverb (when it’s not a noun, but that’s besides the point right now).

Wait…what?

Adjectives describe nouns.

Adverbs describe verbs.

So, when you want to say “I feel bad”, you need an adverb to describe the verb (to feel). Therefore, you get:


Me siento mal


If you say “the food is bad”, this time you need an adjective to describe the noun (the food). So this time we get:


La comida está mala


Then we can get into the whole shtick about using adjectives before or after nouns, but that one’s for another day.

Now, what about bien and bueno/a (we’ll save buen for that next post about adjectives)?

This one’s a little bit easier, because these words actually have different translations. Bien translates to well (adverb), while bueno/a translates to good (adjective). So, if you’re into English grammar, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to which one to use when.

If you’re not, let’s use the same examples so you can see the adverb/adjective concept.

“I feel well”. Again, using an adverb to describe the verb ‘to feel’, we get:


Me siento bien


“The food is bad”. Here we need an adjective to describe the noun “food”, so we say: 


La comida está buena 


(carrying the feminine quality of comida to buena, of course).

Make sense? While you’re learning, it’ll take some thinking about what you’re talking about, whether it’s a noun or a verb or an adjective or an adverb. Don’t worry though, after a while, you won’t even realize you’re doing it.

Confused? Need a clarification? Absolutely lost? Let me know in the comments!

Language Learning is Hard! The Ultimate Guide

So you want to learn a foreign language. That’s a seriously awesome endeavor, and I commend you for it! For real though, there are literally zero reasons not to learn another language.

Okay fine. There is one. One tiny, insignificant reason to not learn a language.

Language learning is hard

It’s hard.

And you know what? Lots of people will let that teeny tiny little fact stop them from pursuing their dreams of being a world-class language learner. But you won’t. I know you won’t. You wanna know how I know?

You’ve got me.

I know every side of the language learning struggle. I’ve been at this stuff for years, and you know how far I’ve gotten? Not nearly as far as I’d like. But you know what I have done?

...but so, so worth it!

Language learning is life-changing. It can move you to the other side of the world. It can create relationships that otherwise would have never existed. It can get you out of tough situations. It can get you an amazing job, make you more money, and even make you smarter.

Basically, learning another language is a super power.

So, so what if it gets hard sometimes? So what if you have to learn new vocabulary, new grammar, even new alphabets (depending on your foreign language of choice)? All that stuff is one and done, and you know what?

I’m right there with you.

I’m learning right by you. I get to the point sometimes where I look at a word or phrase or sentence and say “welp, I haven’t checked Facebook in a while!”. I do, and I’m not afraid to admit it. You know what I also do? I get right back to it and I conquer it. And you know what I also also do? I write about it. I explain the hardest concepts in my language learning journey because it helps me to learn them, too. Like when I had to learn the Spanish past tense. Yeah, that crap is hard the first time you stick your face in it! But you know what the important thing is? That you stick your face in it at all, because you can’t conquer anything if you don’t even try.

Don’t worry, kid, I got your back. I like to write about the hard stuff. It’s interesting. And I like to write about the actual interesting stuff, too. I like to write about, for example, the weird, random rules that come with Spanish numbers.

Culture's important, too!

Of course, I can’t forget the most important part of this blog (to me). Crashed Culture’s namesake, its humble beginnings. Culture. The one thing that goes hand-in-hand with language (well, maybe besides food). Culture creates language which creates culture. Yeah, I write about that too.

And really, the culture corner of this blog is where things go saucy! I mean hey, I’m brutally honest. I’ll talk about the negatives, like the things I don’t like about Spanish culture. And more things I don’t like. But the important thing is that I keep it level. I also yammer on about what I love about Spanish culture. And more things I love, too! Because the thing that we as a people, as language learners, need to know about languages and cultures and other places with other people who are sometimes really different from us is that there are pros and cons to everything. There’s the beauty of Córdoba, Spain, and then there’s the controversy of bullfighting. Because you know what? Nothing, nobody is perfect. Sorry kid, but I keep it honest here

What’s THE most important thing to understand about language learning? You are just as capable as that polyglot you follow online. Because it’s not about skills that we walk out of the womb with, it’s about skills that we work for and earn. Skills that you have just as many rights to as anybody else.