Language and culture, although distinct, are inexplicably intertwined.  You can’t separate the two, because each is infused into the other in an almost mystical way.  Nothing makes this concept clearer than when you find yourself incapable of translating a certain phrase into another language.  Although súper pesado (pesado = irritating+heavy+tiresome+annoying), it’s kind of cool to realize that you understand a language well enough to acknowledge that converting it into another strips away all emotion and soul from what you’re trying to communicate. For me, these situations usually occur in two different categories:  frases hechas (literal English translation: done phrases; best English translation: idioms) and interjecciones (best and literal English translation: interjections).  Claro que I’m going to share some of my favorites.
Frases Hechas/Idioms:

  • “Por la boca, muere el pez”
    • Literal translation:  By the mouth, the fish dies.
    • Best translation:  To stick your foot in your mouth
    • When to use it:  When someone doesn’t know when to shut up and says something completely inappropriate or insensitive or just plain awkward.
  • “Me importa un pimiento”
    • Literal translation:  A pepper matters to me.
    • Best translation:  I couldn’t care less.
    • When to use it:  When you’re brother is trying to annoy you or when someone makes a stupid argument.
  • “Enchufar”
    • Literal translation: To plug in
    • Best translation: To pull strings (<- in the figurative sense)
    • When to use it:  When you’re kind of skeptical how Steve over there got the most coveted office suite.
  • “Mover hilos”
    • Literal translation:  To move threads
    • Best Translation: To send word out or talk to ‘your people’
    • When to use it:  When you’re looking for tickets to a sold-out concert or when you’re planning a international trip and need first-hand advice.
  • “Tí@”  (<- @ is a way to say both a and o.  In this case tía and tío.)
    • Literal Translation:  Aunt/Uncle
    • Best Translations: Dude/Gurl/Pal
    • When to use it: When you bump into your friend in the street… or really conversation you have with your bestie.
  • ” Molar”
    • Literal Translation:  molar (as in the tooth)
    • Best Translations:  To be cool (it’s a verb)
    • When to use it: When you’re admiring the latest trendy gadget, as in “ese móvil mola” or when you’re swooning over your new heartthrob, as in “Él me mola muchísimo” or when you need to explain to your friend that her clothes are no longer ‘in’, as in “Esa ropa ya no mola, tía”.
  • “Ser la leche”
    • Literal Translation:  To be the milk
    • Best Translations: To be the best
    • When to use it: When you need to thank someone for going out of their way to help or when you want to give a heartfelt compliment about a person/item.
  • “Juernes”
    • Literal Translation: Thriday? Frursday? Some combination of Thursday/Friday.
    • Best Translation: Turn up/Thirsty Thursday
    • When to use it:  When you want to call someone out for looking suspiciously hungover during a Friday morning lecture or when you don’t have to work Friday and want to take advantage of the long weekend.



  • “Ala!” (or “Hala!”)
    • Emotion:  surprise, wonder, shock.
    • When to use it:  When someone teaches you a beautiful new phrase in your second language or when someone tells you they have piojos .
  • “Vaya tela!”
    • Emotion: horror, astonishment, frustration.
    • When to use it:  When you hear stories about Black Friday shopping experiences or when you see the rent price of that flat you fell in love with.
  • “A tope!”
    • Emotion: excitement, encouraging, energetic.
    • When to use it:  When someone is going all out and giving their all or when you just need an enthusiastic ‘leggoooo!’.
  • “Ánimo!”
    • Emotion:  Optimistic, cheerful, supportive.
    • When to use it:  When your friend is feeling sick and needs your encouragement or when you’re trying to find the silver lining in a crappy situation.
  • “Toma!”
    • Emotion: pride, satisfaction, contentment.
    • When to use it:  When you somehow manage to correctly guess an answer to a trivia question or when the teacher picks your
  • “Uff!”  **must be accompanied by this hand motion: 
    • Emotion: astonishment, exasperation, dramatic.
    • When to use it: When you’re about to lay down the hot gossip or when you need to really emphasize your point (which in Spain is always).

2 thoughts on “ala.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s