No one wants to sound like a gringo when speaking Spanish.
Sounding less gringo means less hassle, lower prices and a more satisfactory travel/living experience.
The following are five common gringo Spanish pitfalls and how to avoid them:
1. Puedo tener
This is the holy grail of gringo Spanish errors. You will never, ever hear a native speaker say this when ordering something.
“¿Puedo tener una hamburguesa con queso?” in Spanish, for example, would be like saying in English, “Am I able to have a cheeseburger? Am I physically able?”
When ordering in Spanish you have many options, and these two are the best:
It’s not rude. It’s fine. Just add “por favor” at the end.
b) ¿Me da…?
While in Colombia ¿Me regala…? might be more common, the good thing about ¿Me da…? is that it works throughout all of Spanish-speaking Latin America (go to Peru and say ¿Me regala…? and they’ll think you want something for free).
These constructions are also comfortable for gringos because they’re questions – they feel like the “Can I have…?” “Can I get…” we’re so used to.
2. Quisiera/Me gustaría
This is textbook Spanish. I’ve heard native speakers use “quisiera” before when ordering, but maybe one in a thousand times.
And “me gustaría” doesn’t really work unless you put a verb after it. When ordering, refer to the suggestions above.
3. “Un otro”
This sounds horrible to my ears, so I imagine to a native speaker’s ears it must sound like a house-cat dragging its claws across a 15-foot chalkboard.
“Un otro” simply doesn’t exist in Spanish. If you want to say “another” or “another one”, just say “otro/a”.
“Por” and “para” are tough. I still have nightmares about them. Two of the most common errors associated with these prepositions are “gracias para” (use “por” because it’s an exchange), and “estoy esperando por/para ti”.
“Estoy esperando por ti” is actually technically OK, but it’s better to say, “Te estoy esperando” or “Estoy esperándote”.
And “estoy esperando para ti” is just wrong.
5. ¿Es posible…?
Ahhhhhh, how gringos love the “¿Es posible….?”. They use it for everything. “¿Es posible tener un BigMac? Es posible usar el teléfono? Es posible entregar la tarea tarde?”
Using this construction isn’t wrong, it just makes you sound like a middle-aged school teacher from Indiana on vacation in Cartagena.
If you want to know if it’s OK to do something, say, “¿Se puede…?” or “¿Está bien si….?”
Again, grammatically “Es posible” is OK, it just makes you sound like a huge gringo. Which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid.