I have to admit that a lot of the Spanish jokes my children told when they were little, or English jokes for that matter, did not make me laugh. They were usually basic word play or just silly. Of course, even when I didn’t think they were very funny, the kids thought they were hilarious.
There are lots of simple Spanish jokes that children can understand. Some depend on the double meaning of a word. Other jokes play with the way sounds combine in Spanish, or with how the meaning of a word changes when the gender of the noun is changed. Depending on the child, and the joke, you may find yourself explaining why it is supposed to be funny. That is often the case with jokes in English, too. The language experience is still valuable as long as the word play is something your child can understand once you explain it, even if she doesn’t catch it when she hears the joke the first time.
Children learn language from listening, so they do not have to tell Spanish jokes themselves to learn from them. They will learn from listening to you tell them. Some jokes are little stories, and kids will ask to hear them over and over.
To make the most of Spanish jokes with language learners:
-Tell your child that you are going to tell a joke. Teach the word chiste (joke) and the phrase ¿Te cuento un chiste? (Should I tell you a joke?)
- Establish a context for the joke. For example, if the joke is about a fish, tell it when you can point to a fish in a book, an aquarium, or draw a picture of a fish.
- Tell jokes with expression and give the characters different voices.
- Act out jokes that lend themselves to actions. For example, in the list below, with #5, extend your hand over and over, with # 9, point to your ear and nose when you say those words, and with #10, touch each body part and act as if you are in pain.
When children do tell jokes, they repeat them from memory, much like songs or poems. This helps kids use vocabulary in natural structures. Jokes do not have the strict wording of songs, so children will not always be completely accurate in their grammar. That doesn’t matter. Much more important is the pleasure of playing with Spanish and their growing awareness of the language. Grammatical accuracy will come with time. The easiest first jokes for kids to learn are simple questions and answers, like #1, #3 and #4.
The vocabulary in jokes varies a lot, so your child may understand some perfectly and others not at all. You can look for jokes that she will understand, teach specific words if she is only missing one or two, and come back to other jokes when she has acquired more Spanish.
Here are a few simple jokes that many Spanish language learners understand:
1. Qué le dice un pez a otro pez?
(What does one fish say to the other? This joke is based on nada meaning nothing and swim – the command form).
2. Un pececito le pregunta a otro pececito:
- ¿Qué hace tu papá? /¿Que hace tu mamá?
(One little fish asks another little fish,” What does your dad/mom do?” This answer uses the same word play as 1; nada means he/she swims and nothing.)
3. ¿Qué le dice una pared a otra?
- Nos encontramos en la esquina.
(What does one wall say to the other? We’ll meet at the corner.)
4. ¿Qué le dijo la cucharita al azúcar? -Te espero en el café.
(What did the teaspoon say to the sugar? I’ll wait for you in the café. This joke is based on the word café meaning coffee and cafe)
5. La mamá pulpo le dijo a su hijito:
-Tomáte de mi mano, de mi mano, de mi mano, de mi mano…
(The mother octopus said to her little boy: – Take my hand, my hand, my hand, my hand…)
This joke can be told as a question – ¿Qué le dijo la mamá pulpo a su hijito?
6. Por telefono / On the phone. Kids can tell this joke mostly easily by using their own phone number.
- ¿Es el seis, cuatro, nueve, ocho, seis, siete, nueve?
- Sí, sí, no, sí, sí, no, sí
(Is this 649-8679? Yes, yes, no, yes, yes, no, yes)
7. Repítelo. – Lo, lo, lo. (Repeat it. – It, it, it, it)
8. Dime. – Me. (Dime, literally tell me, is a common way of indicating that you are listening, like saying yes? in English. This joke is based on dime meaning tell me and also say “me.”)
9. Un paciente llega a ver al doctor con una zanahoria en un oído y una cebolla en la nariz. Preocupado, pregunta al médico:
- Doctor, ¿Qué me pasa?, ¿Qué me pasa?.
El doctor le responde:
-Yo creo que no estás comiendo bien”.
(A patient goes to see the doctor with a carrot in his ear and an onion in his nose. Worried, he asks the doctor,” Doctor, what is wrong with me? What is wrong with me?” The doctor answers “I don’t think you are eating well.”)
10. This is a great joke for reviewing body parts. You can add as many as you like when you tell it.
Un paciente le dice al doctor:
-Doctor, si me toco la oreja me duele.
Si me toco la boca, me duele.
Si me toco la nariz, me duele.
Si me toco el brazo, me duele.
Si me toco la rodilla, me duele.
¿Qué puede ser, doctor?
El doctor le responde:
- Pues, que tiene el dedo roto.
(A patient says to the doctor:
Doctor, if I touch my ear, it hurts.
If I touch my mouth, it hurts.
If I touch my nose, it hurts.
If I touch my arm, it hurts.
If I touch my knee, it hurts.
What could it be, doctor?
The doctor answers,
“Well, that you have a broken finger.”)