After two months in the UK due to unforeseen circumstances, LIVING LA LANGUAGE LOCA returns for this September instalment. As we enter the ninth month, so do we change season to autumn otoño /oh-TONN-yoh/, well in theory, the weather suggests otherwise. So it is with this thought that we broach (a little nautical reference for you) the subject of seasons estaciones /est-ah-THIONEZ/ and weather el tiempo /ell tee-EMPOH/.
Don’t confuse el tiempo with el clima /ell cleemah/ in castellano, which refers to climate rather than weather, as it does in South America. Now that we’ve got the semantics out of the way, let’s move on to el tiempo. As in many other languages, the weather can be an ice-breaker in small talk or simply a topic in awkward silences; the lift, taxis or a first date. So, how do you ask about and respond to the weather in Spanish?
¿Qué tiempo hace hoy? – What’s the weather like today? /keh tee-EMPOH AH-thay oy/
Qué mal tiempo hace hoy – What awful weather today /keh mal tee-EMPOH AH-thay oy/
Qué buen tiempo hace hoy – What a nice day today /keh bwen tee-EMPOH AH-thay oy/
I’m sure the seafarers amongst you have many tales of adverse weather. With my lack of sailing experience, I am forced into reminiscing about the travelling I have done and the weather conditions I have come across. One particular phrase, although commonly attributed to Mark Twain about the weather in New England, but one that has always stuck in my mind about Antipodean weather, comes from my dear friend Fern, who hails from NZ.
When visiting Fern and her now sadly late husband, Javi, in Auckland she told me that if I didn’t like the weather there, I should wait 20 minutes, and how right she was!! You’d have a windy cold front with some spots of rain and then you’d have blistering sunshine at the drop of a hat. I don’t use the word ‘blistering’ here half-heartedly either, my delicate fair skin was getting cooked in the City of a Thousand Sails and I welcomed the ‘four seasons in one day’ for some respite.
Back to Spanish weather, whereas in English our weather expressions are rather simple. It’s + adjective; foggy, windy, sunny, chilly etc. Spanish is much more complicated. We must take a three-pronged approach – weather that ‘does’, weather that ‘is’ and weather that ‘there is’, simply put, hace /AH-thay/, está /ess-TAH/ and hay /eye/ respectively.
Weather that ‘does’
Hace sol – it’s sunny /AH-thay sol/
With around 300 days of sunshine per year in Mallorca, this is definitely one for your weather phrasebook and those lovely Mallorca days
Hace frío – it’s cold /AH-thay frEE-oh/
For those cold and humid Mallorquín winters invierno /in-bee-YEAR-noh/ – yes it does get cold here!! Try to roll the ‘r’ a little here, but not too much!!
Hace fresquito – it’s chilly/it’s a bit nippy /AH-thay fres-KEE-toh/
Useful in Mallorca for those fresh mornings when the sun hasn’t had the chance to warm anything up. The -ito makes it a bit more colloquial and differs from hace fresco – it’s cool /AH-thay fress-koh/
Hace calor – it’s hot /AH-thay cah-lorr/
Very useful for the Mallorcan summer verano /beh-RAH-noh/. You can make it more emphatic by adding ‘vaya’, for example, ¡vaya calor que hace hoy! /baia cah-lorr ke AH-thay oy/ – the same goes for frío.
Hace viento – it’s windy /AH-thay be-YEN-toh/
My friend Amy came to visit recently (Hi Ames!!) and a friend of hers had said that Mallorca was a windy island. Amy and I used to work together in Palma and both of us were adamant that Mallorca wasn’t a particularly windy isle – consider ourselves corrected – ever since it was pointed out, I realise just how windy it is, so a useful phrase for visitors and locals alike. The popularity of vela /BEH-lah/ sailing should have given the game away, really!!
Hace bochorno – it’s muggy /AH-thay boh-CHOR-noh/
You may not have come across this in your Spanish classes, but if you have bumped into a local on the street on a hot summer’s day with that kind of whitish cloud cover, they will have spoken of bochorno. It’s that suffocating humidity where the air doesn’t move around and it is super hot. You can even use the vaya I spoke of earlier – if you’re damp with sweat, but not wet, it’s an apt phrase for the conditions. If you’re dripping with sweat, go for calor.
Weather that ‘is’
Está lloviendo – it’s raining /ess-TAH yoh-VEE-endoh/
Mallorca doesn’t do things by halves and when it rains, it bloody pours down, and I am talking something biblical.
While I’m on the topic of rain, I want to clear something up. I’m not quite sure where foreign speakers of English get it’s raining cats and dogs from because no native speaker of English actually uses that expression, and yet even elementary speakers of English seem to know it!! Anyway, if you want to use the much more common it’s pouring down, go for llueve a cántaros /yu-EH-veh a CAN-tah-rohs/ or quite literally, it’s raining jars much like the English it’s bucketing down.
Está nublado – it’s cloudy /ess-TAH nu-BLAH-doh/
Nube /NU-beh/ cloud or marshmallow, love that image, so nublado, cloudy. Typically plaguing us at the weekend after a cloudless week, this expression is useful on a sábado u domingo in spring primavera /preema-BEAR-ah/.
Está despejado – it’s a clear day /ess-TAH des-PEH-haddoh/
I usually find learners of Spanish think this has a negative meaning because of how it sounds, but you’re definitely onto a winner if it’s despejao /des-PEH-how/ for those wanting a more colloquial pronunciation.
Weather that ‘there is’
Hay niebla – it’s foggy /eye nee-EB-lah/
One for the sailors, I hear there are a few in our readership!! For a lighter fog like mist, go for hay neblina /eye neh-BLEE-nah/.
Now for two expressions no sailor wants to hear; Hay tormenta and No hay brisa, it’s stormy and there’s no breeze. With the bochorno weather we get in Mallorca hay tormenta /eye tor-MEN-tah/ is never far away although it can be trying for a few days before we get the relief when the air is finally cleared.
No hay brisa /noh eye BREE-sah/ is also synonymous with the bochornoso weather. If you’re sitting there baking on the beach or if you’re going nowhere in your sailboat, be sure to holler no hay brisa to warn others. Extremely fitting in both situations.
Not really weather-related, but worth a mention. If you want to see some amazing sunsets in Mallorca, I highly recommend getting up to Sa Foradada near Deià. This magnificent hole in the rock is a great place to watch a wonderful puesta del sol /PWE-sta dell sol/.
I leave you with a final weather thought. I was chatting to a family friend when I returned from my stint in Australia and New Zealand. For my farewell trip some friends and I went to Bali, as all good Aussies do when they need a blow-out and a relaxing holiday in one. On this monumental final trip, I happened to burn my legs quite badly, I still bear the melanin scars to this day. On my return to the UK I was recounting my woes of terribly burnt pins to this family friend who came out with, (read in a Geordie accent), “Oh it’s a different sun out there like, you ‘as (sic) to be careful.”
I must admit, as ridiculous as it sounds, he was kind of right, the strength of the sun in Asia and Australasia does not compare to the relatively weak sun of the Mediterranean and northern Europe. That being said, always wear sun cream!!
By Alex Stoker