Expressions of courtesy are a part of our daily interactions. If a child is learning Spanish, these polite words should be part of her vocabulary. By learning a few basic words and phrases, children can understand and use appropriate Spanish expressions of courtesy in most situations.
It is polite to greet others with one of the following phrases:
Buenos días – Good morning
Buenas tardes – Good afternoon
Buenas noches – Good night
When asking for something, or giving someone something, use these phrases:
Por favor – Please
Gracias – Thanks
De nada – You’re welcome.
No hay de qué – You’re welcome.
When you leave the table, before moving away from a group, or if you are stepping in front of someone, say:
Con permiso – Excuse me.
When someone sneezes say:
Salud – The literal meaning of salud is “health.” This is used more extensively in Spanish-speaking countries than the English equivalent “bless you.”
When you sneeze and someone says salud, you should respond gracias.
When you bump into someone, if you want to attract someone’s attention or if you interrupt someone, say:
Perdón – Excuse me.
Disculpa – Excuse me.
Children will learn these Spanish expressions if they hear them used. Try to use them with your child as you go through your daily routine. You want to use the Spanish words as much as possible, so you may have to say them in slightly artificial situations until they are very familiar. For example:
When you step in front of the family dog or cat, say con permiso.
When someone in a movie or on television sneezes, say salud.
Bump into your child (gently!) on purpose, and say perdón.
Say por favor, gracias and de nada in even the most common exchanges where you might not use the English equivalent.
Good manners are behaviors that children learn over time and behaviors that need to be reinforced. It is helpful to have Spanish-language materials to provide additional exposure to the vocabulary. These are a few of my favorites that you may want to add to your home or classroom.
Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora is a beautiful picture book in Spanish and English. Although the concept is simple – a young boy gives thanks for the different things and people in his life – this book is a work of art. The language and the illustrations combine to draw the attention of the reader to the details that make life special. It is an inspirational book, and one that critics have recognized with many awards. Gracias/Thanks was selected as a 2010 ALA Notable Book, Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year 2010, Texas Library Association 2X2 Reading List 2010 and 2010 CCBC Choices book.
En la mesa (At the Table), En la calle (On the street), Con los niños (With Children), and Con los mayores (With Grown-ups) are books about good manners in different situations. Patricia Geis is an author, illustrator and graphic designer from Barcelona. Her illustrations are captivating, and appeal to children and adults. The straightforward text in these books is perfect for Spanish-language learners.
This song, Por favor y gracias is from the album Sing And Sign A Language: Spanish. It is as simple as you can imagine, and yet it is expresses the essentials of giving, receiving and saying please and thank you. The repetition of the forms of the verb dar with the pronouns is a perfect way to teach one of the most common structures of Spanish: te doy (I give to you), me das (you give to me). The two phrases por favor y gracias and yo te doy y tú me das make up the entire song. There is a lot of repetition, which is good because that is how children learn Spanish.
Now and then, we all need to be reminded to use good manners. There are lots of printable posters on Pinterest to hang and coloring pages about good manners. These are also a simple way to help create a text-rich environment at home.