Ola is the funnest form of hello

When I came home from Mexico last weekend, even though I had only been for a week, I found myself wanting to say “Ola!” to literally everyone I saw.

It’s official, Ola is my favourite ‘hello’ word from any language. It outshines any english form (hey, hi, hello [yawn fests]), french form (bonjour, salut), italian form (ciao, salve), chinese form (ni hao), or japanese form (konnichiwa, moshi moshi) that I know. [I mean, moshi moshi is fun but it’s only applicable over the phone so you can’t just say it while you’re walking around, you know?]

I realise that this is just a small sampling of the languages available on earth, but these are the ones that I happen to know off the top of my head.  I love trying to speak in other languages, so anytime I get to travel somewhere where they don’t speak English is a real treat. I know some people feel nervous about speaking in other languages, and it’s totally understandable. So many fumbles will happen when you are trying to convey your meaning in another language, but I actually love the challenge and the resulting hilarity that can ensue from misunderstandings. (I have many of these stories from my time in Japan.) But this post is about Spanish, not Japanese!

My knowledge of Spanish is so completely basic, previous to this last year I only knew Ola, gracias, and cómo estás. Back in September I spent 2 weeks in Peru where I learned a teensy bit more. Just a few crucial things like “Tienes leche de soya?” (do you have soy milk? truly important), “¿Dónde está?” (where is ____? not as important as the last one, but still useful), “un poquito” (a little)… and that’s pretty much it. What’s amazing, though, is how many times I went out of my way to speak just those few sentences.

For example, walking around the town of Puerto Vallarta, I went out of my way to ask people where things were, even when I knew the answer.

Permitame senor/senorita, dónde está Starbucks?
Permitame senor/senorita, dónde está la Catedral?
Permitame senor/senorita, dónde está Planeta Vegetarianos?
Permitame senor/senorita, dónde está el Plaza?
or a few times at my resort:
Permitame senor/senorita, dónde está chips de plátano? (Where are the banana chips?! Seriously, they kept moving them around on me.)

“Tu hablas español?” they would ask, to which I would always reply, “ci! un poquito!” Then they would proceed to answer my question with more Spanish, explaining the location.  At the end of the explanation when I was stood scratching my head and staring blankly back at them, they would repeat again, slower, and with more gestures… because clearly I don’t speak even a little Spanish. But still, it’s fun to pretend and to try.

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Ola, boardwalk!
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Ola, catedral! Found you
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Ola, lord!
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Ola, Senor!
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Ola, ocean!
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Ola, puppy! (Cuddling is a universal language for cute puppies)
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Ola, kitty!

Spanish is certainly a fun language to speak, so it’s no wonder that in my head walking down the street in chilly Toronto I am saying “ola!” to everyone. Even when I was around other English speakers in Mexico I would say ola and gracias. It’s infectious in my brain, like my brain wants to be rewired into Spanish.

Which languages do you guys like to speak other than English? Even poorly! Do you get nervous speaking in another language? Which ones sound the nicest to you? And most importantly, what’s your favourite form of hello?

Most languages are prettier than English, don’t you think? (Sorry, English.)

Happy hump day, everyone. 🙂

24 thoughts on “Ola is the funnest form of hello

  1. That’s a great practice, to try to speak a language even if you don’t know how! It’ll help you learn faster. That looks like a great trip. I speak Japanese very poorly, try to practice my tiny bit of Spanish every time I go to my carniceria, speak a little French, and enough Russian to get me in trouble. Russian has my favorite “hello.” Zdrastvuytye!

  2. What a great post – narration and photos both. I lived vicariously through it for a wonderful moment – a pleasant respite from winter still going here in the Northeast. —CC

  3. Ola! This is wonderful. Anytime you try to speak to someone in their language it is appreciated. I’ve had a few moments such as you mention, but the most recent was at our local Chinese takeaway. When I was ordering, one of the children of the family said, “Hello.” What a shock he had when I replied, “Ni hao.” He was totally lost for words 😊 Mind you, I’m glad he didn’t try to continue the conversation. All I could have done would be to order a cup of tea!

  4. I admire your willingness to speak a little in a foreign language, Heather. It would make me nervous to try it! I do like to know how to say “hello” and “thank you” in different languages, though — not so much to say as to write. For example, when a new person follows me on Twitter, I DM them with a thank you based on their geography. In writing to followers outside the English-speaking world, I’ve said thank you in languages of all sorts — even Esperanto: dankon! ;- )

    1. I always thought Esperanto would be quite funny to learn (mostly because of Red Dwarf if you’ve ever seen it.) I bet it surprises your international followers when you thank them in their language! Actually, the more I talk about languages the more I want to study one again… Gracias, Bill 🙂 🙂

      1. Italian is like Spanish. You have to pay close attention to how Spanish and Italians pronounce their words and sentences. It’s odd but I caught myself last year learning how to understand Italians but I can’t speak it. hahahaha!!!

  5. Ha! This is great. I always learn how to say hello and thank you when I go to a different country. I liked Vietnamese! Xin chao. 🙂

    I’m actually learning German at the moment… which is not a pretty language. Nor is it that useful. In fact, I’m not really sure why I’m learning it! lol I’m finding it fun though!

    1. As long as it’s fun it’s worth it! I used to wonder why I studied Japanese since it’s totally useless living in Canada… still wish I could speak it fluently. It’s probably good for our brains to learn another language anyways.

  6. Too funny! I was reminiscing earlier today about my Spanish girlfriend when I was stationed in Spain with the Navy. I pictured us walking together wearing t-shirts with arrows pointing at each other and this message: “Doesn’t Speak English” and “No Habla Espanol.” She would have loved it! The communication barrier was crazy, but there were a lot of things we didn’t need words for 🙂

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