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15 encouraging phrases a Spanish speaker like me would love for you to learn.

Learning these simple yet meaningful phrases could make all the difference in the world.

I'm a 38-year-old bilingual Mexican-American, and I recently came to a very interesting realization about non-Spanish speakers.

I meet a lot of people at work, on the street, and in my community who want to make an effort by speaking my native language. It's great. But often, they default to the same handful of phrases: "Hola," "Buenos días," maybe a "Como está" once in a while.

I was chatting with a co-worker recently about my work as a writer. I could tell he was very proud of me. When our chat ended, he said, "Si se puede!" I thought, "Dammit!"


Let me explain: "Si se puede" means "yes we can," and it's a renowned cry of Latino pride made famous by American labor leader and social activist Cesar Chávez way before President Barack Obama made it a slogan. A lot of Latinos love that phrase.

But the phrase is so generic now that it has almost taken away the true meaning of his pride.

That wasn't his fault, of course. I just would've preferred an "I'm really proud of you" instead. Then I immediately felt terrible for thinking that because how could he know that?

Please don't get me wrong: I appreciate it oh-so-much when non-Spanish-speaking people take the time and effort to say something to me in Spanish. But it would be awesome if there were more common phrases floating around society (besides curse words).

So I wanted to offer up some other options for those friendly Spanish-speaking chats you might want to have. Allow me to be your friendly bilingual guide. :)

Here are 15 inclusive phrases in Spanish that I would love to see become part of our shared vernacular:

1. Great job. / Buen trabajo.

Pronounced: boo-en tra-bah-hoe.

All illustrations by Kitty Curran.

This phrase goes a long way, and it's always nice to feel like what you're doing is making a difference.

2. You have a beautiful smile. / Que bella sonrisa.

Pronounced: ke beh-ya sone-ree-sa.

Go ahead, try it; and I guarantee they'll flash those pearly whites even wider.

3. Would you like to be friends? / Quisieras ser mi amigo(a)?

Pronounced: key-see-air-aws sare me amigo (for a male) amiga (for a female)?

This question could spark the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Promise!

4. I appreciate your work. / Aprecio tu trabajo.

Pronounced: aw-pre-see-oh too trah-bah-hoe.

Recognizing someone's hard work — particularly if they're on the job — is a wonderful thing.

5. You make the world a better place. / Tu mejoras el mundo.

Pronounced: too meh-ho-raws el moon-doe.

This phrase has the power to stop anyone in their tracks and instantly make their day.

6. Your kindness is appreciated. / Aprecio tu amabilidad.

Pronounced: ah-pre-see-oh too aw-ma-bee-lee-dod.

There is no such thing as too much kindness in this world, so there's no way you can overuse this phrase if you truly feel it about someone.

7. How is your day going? / Como va tu dia?

Pronounced: como va too dee-ah?

A simple conversation-starter or perfect for friendly chitchat.

8. Are you enjoying the weather? / Estás disfrutando del clima?

Pronounced: es-tas dees-froo-tan-doh del clee-maw?

You know how they say talking about the weather is the perfect small talk? It's like that in Spanish, too!

9. You have a lot to offer. / Tienes mucho que ofrecer.

Pronounced: tee-en-es moo-choe ke oh-freh-ser

It's the perfect morale booster, especially when someone you care about is feeling down and out.

10. I'm proud of you. / Estoy orgullosa(o) de ti.

Pronounced: es-toy or-goo-yo-so (from a male) or or-goo-yo-sa (for a female) de tee.

This is another powerful phrase that you shouldn't use sparingly with anyone you feel deserves to hear it.

11. I believe in you. / Creo en ti.

Pronounced: kre-oh en tee.

This is beautiful compliment can be used in so many everyday situations at home, in school, and at the workplace.

12. Never give up. / Nunca te des por vencida(o).

Pronounced: noon-ka te des pore ven-see-da (to a female) or ven-see-do (to a male).

Another morale-boosting statement of positive reinforcement for anyone you believe in.

13. I know you can do it. / Yo sé que tú puedes.

Pronounced: yo se ke too poo-eh-des.

This phrase is especially nice to say to someone struggling with a task or facing a complicated situation.

14. You are very pleasant to be around. / Tu presencia es agradable.

Pronounced: too preh-sen-see-aw es aw-grah-dob-le.

Best. Compliment. Ever.

15. How do you say ___ in Spanish? / Como se dice ___ en Español?

Pronounced: ko-mo se dee-se [enter any word here] en ess-pan-yol?

For yours truly, this is the best request ever, which is why I humbly requested the friendly gal in the red shirt in the illustrations be drawn in my likeness.

Can you say, "I love it!" in Spanish? It's "Me encanta!" And that's how I feel about this brief but mighty guide to helpful phrases in Spanish.

I'm not the type to get offended when someone says something to me in Spanish while in public, assuming I'm Latina.

Because I am a Latina, and I look it, and I'm OK with that. But it is important to remember there are Latinos who prefer to blend, to not be approached by someone trying to speak Spanish simply because they look Latino.

Either way, there is absolutely no shame in saying "Hola" or "Buenos días," or anything else you know how to say. It shows your good intentions and lets Latinos like me know you're making an effort to speak our language.

But my hope is that you might also be able to add some other phrases to your arsenal, too should the need to express yourself in Spanish arise.

After all, learning how to better communicate with one another is one of the best ways to make the world a better place. ¡Ya verán!

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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