Learning Spanish Food Vocabulary: Make Your Mouth and Your Mind Work Together

A couple months ago, some of our friends did something called Whole 30. It’s an eating program that helps you break bad habits and cravings, and identifies any food sensitivities that might be causing you digestive issues. It emphasizes eating foods with few ingredients and nothing processed, so that means a lot of meat, veggies, fruit, and nuts. They said it was great so we’ve been thinking about doing it for a while. I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables anyway, so that part wouldn’t be hard, but no chocolate or baked goods (no sugar allowed!) would be tough.

We haven’t quite gotten started but have looked into it and are planning to make it happen soon. There are tons of materials out there about the program, including a version of the four page introduction in Spanish. I was excited to see this because it means that the Whole 30 people are inclusive and want to reach a wide audience, and also because it meant I got to practice my Spanish. I read through it and enjoyed understanding familiar content along with encountering some new words and phrases.

connect the language

For example, the intro included the phrase “alergias estacionales.” “Alergias” is of course a cognate (allergies), so that part was easy, but at first I wasn’t sure what “estacionales” meant. I broke down the word into a more basic form that I might recognize, “estacion,” and was pretty sure that meant “season.” I googled it and saw that I was correct. Thus, the phrase “alergias estacionales” is “seasonal allergies.” Using previous knowledge and contextual information, I was able to acquire a new phrase. I am an allergy sufferer so I have a tangible experience to tie this phrase to, which will help it endure in my mind.

When encountering new words in a language, making associations with real life things (visualization, memories, etc.) can be an effective way to remember them. If you can connect the language with something you’ve actually seen, done, or experienced, it is more likely to be truly integrated into your knowledge. After all, the purpose of language is sharing information about reality: ourselves, the world around us, and all the things it contains.

Learning Spanish food vocabulary is an area where this is fairly easy to do. Since I read the introduction to Whole 30 in Spanish, throughout the 30 day program I will be able to think about what I’m doing in Spanish. I have (at least some of) the vocabulary and phrases I need to conceptualize and reflect on what’s going on in my actual life, and that is powerful for language acquisition. We eat at least three times a day so food is a regular part of our lives. It is also a multi-sensory experience – sight, smell, taste, touch, perhaps even hearing something cooking – which makes for excellent learning material because it gives your brain multiple points of association to grab on to. Try cooking a traditional Argentinian dish or ordering Peruvian food for lunch when you’re at work to really connect the food with what you’re learning.

If you want to acquire Spanish, integrate it into your real life. For a great way to immerse yourself in authentic Spanish, download Pars Omni Spanish Voices for free today and get access to native spoken Spanish right from your computer.

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