The Spanish you’ll come across in the workplace is as different from the textbook version of the language as it is from the sort you’ll hear used on the street.
In professional scenarios, Latin Americans fiercely respect ‘protocolo’; the unwritten linguistic rules governing how you should interact with your superiors.
Using the “usted” form, instead of the more familiar “tú“, is but one small part of these linguistic conventions. You’ll also need to get used to littering your work emails with the kind of long, flowery and ever-so terribly polite expressions that the locals enjoy.
Skip them out and you run the risk that people will think you’re rude, or even downright disrespectful. Neither outcome is overly favourable for your long-term job prospects.
I’d advise that anyone who plans on using Spanish in commercial situations to start compiling a little cheat sheet with a bunch of these phrases ready to deploy in future messages. You can copy these directly from the emails you receive from Spanish-speaking clients or from local businesses like your internet provider, bank, utility company and so on.
To get you started, I’ve drawn up a list of some of the Spanish email phrases that I’ve picked up over the years, together with a short explanation of how to use them / their English equivalent.
“Reciba un cordial saludo”.
A polite opening line in messages that is roughly equivalent to our use of “I hope you are well”.
“Un gusto estar en contacto [con usted]”.
“A pleasure to be in contact”.
“Me dirijo a usted con el fin de [preguntarle]…”
Something like “I’m writing to [ask you whether]”…
“Nos ponemos en contacto con usted para [informarle]…”
Similar to the above: “We’re writing to [inform you]…”
“Disculpe la demora en contestarle”.
“Apologies for the delay in getting back to you”.
“Me es muy grato comunicarle…”
“It is an honour/pleasure to inform you…”
“Muchas gracias por enviarnos el contrato. Acusamos recibo del mismo”.
“Many thanks for sending us the contract, of which we acknowledge receipt”.
“Antes que nada, quisiera agradecerle…[la oportunidad/invitación]”
“First of all, I’d like to express my gratitude for… [the opportunity/invitation etc]”.
Making requests and polite phrases
“Quisiera comunicarle / solicitarle / proponerle…”
“I’d like to inform you / request / propose that…”
“Le adjunto el documento / nuestra propuesta / el contrato”.
“Please find attached the document / our proposal / the contract”.
“Le ruego que…”
“Please can you… / I’d like to request that…”
“Lo (más) antes posible / en cuanto antes”
“As soon as possible”.
“A la brevedad posible”.
“At your earliest convenience / as soon as possible”.
“Si me permite”
A polite phrase roughly meaning “with your permission” though probably used more than the English version.
“Si lo considera oportuno.”
“Should you think it convenient [to do so].”
“Profundizar en el tema”.
“To go into greater detail” on a topic, business proposal etc”.
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Expressing opinions with tact
“Me inclinaría a decir que [sí/no]…”
“I’d be inclined to say [yes/no]”.
“Yo optaría por [la primera opción].”
“I’d opt for [the first option]”.
“Estoy de acuerdo hasta cierto punto, pero también hay que tener en cuenta que…”
“I agree to an extent, but we also have to bear in mind that…”
“Me temo que no podré asistir”.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to attend”.
“Me veo obligado a…[tomar esta decision]”
“I’m forced to… [take this decision]”.
“Lo veo complicado”
“[I think] That’d be difficult”.
“De antemano, muchas gracias por su colaboración”.
“Many thanks in advance for your assistance”.
“Quedo a la espera de sus comentarios”.
Roughly: “I look forward to hearing your thoughts / reading your comments”.
“Quedo a la espera de su gentil respuesta”.
Roughly: “I look forward to your kind response”.
The most usual way to sign off emails. Similar to “Kind regards”.
“Quedando a su disposición para lo que estimen necesario”.
Roughly: “I remain at your service for whatever else you need”.
“No dude en contactarme / escribirme / preguntarme”.
“Don’t hesitate to contact me / write to me / ask me”.
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Colombian expressions explained: ‘Pelar el cobre’
Inspired by a recent reader query, I thought I’d add some new posts explaining more advanced local expressions, which you may come across after talking with Colombians for a longer period. One is “pelar el cobre” or “mostrar el cobre“, which is broadly similar in meaning to the English “to show one’s true colours”.
¡Qué oso! – Slang from Bogota
As far as possible, on this blog I try to examine slang phrases which are used in the whole of Colombia. However, some expressions are so essential for anyone staying in a given city or area, that it’d be remiss of me not to explain these too. This is most definitely the case for the phrase “¡qué oso!” in Bogota.