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Deciphering Spanish menus


Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2024 Le Puy - Cahors + Saint-Jean - León

Can anyone recommend a site where I could download a comprehensive Spanish to English (or French) lexicon of the terms used in Spanish restaurants?

Last time I did the Camino I photocopied a list from a popular guide book but in practice it turned out to be quite inadequate.

Thank you for your help!

God bless you all!
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Hmm... not sure if I have any recommendations for you. Please note that in Galicia most menus are in Gallego (not castellano), this will of course add some complexity to your dictionary-search.

Have a look at this menu to see if you can understand (in Gallego):

Would it be enough just to have a list of the most commonly used words, like "Meat", "Fish", "Seafood" and so on.... then try to talk to the waiter and see if you could figure out the rest..

Even within Galicia they have different names for some of the dishes served here.

Sorry for posting a not-so-very-helpful post, anyone else have an idea for eamann?
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Thank you for posting your solution Éamann.

Do you think you would be able to share your document once completed? If so, e-mail it to me (ivar.rekve [at] gmail.com) and I will pdf it and post it here for future pilgrims.

Buen camino and thanks for your post,
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Translating Spanish

You can buy a credit-card size, Seiko English-Spanish translator ET 2240 for $29.95 with advanced verb conjugation that will really help to translate menus in Spanish. Multi-language ones manufactured by Franklin or Lingo range in price from $50 to $500
spanish menus

I looked at eamann's menu dictionary and it looks great but may I suggest a few more words for the non-spanish speaker?
For a start it has no drinks and so agua =water, cafe = coffee, cerveza = beer, te = tea and vino (tinto/blanco) = wine (red/white)
Also almuerzo = lunch (or snack), cena = dinner/supper
Then for courtesy etc, por favor = please, gracias = thank you, quiero = I would like, la cuenta = the bill, cuanto cuesta = how much does it cost, los servicios = the toilets ( though other words such as aseos may be used), senor = gentleman and senora = lady.
Finally at the hostal, cama = bed, habitation = room and noche = night.

I learned most of my (dodgy) Spanish in South America where outside the middle class little English was spoken, and agree with those that say that so long as you are willing to have a go you will get by. Gestures, smiles, bad Spanish, pictures and careful listening got me a lot further
than sticking my nose in a dictionary, worrying about getting it wrong.

Good walking

room=habitación; single=individual; double=doble

Eamann's list has a distinctly Latin American tang. One obvious thing that's missing is the ubiquitous pulpo = octopus. The pulperia (bar serving pulpo) is a Galician institution. And how can anyone compile a list of food-related terms that doesn't include tapas. :shock: Conversely, what Spaniard ever offered Yorkshire Pudding? ¡Dios mio! :roll:

I often find fish problematic, as a wide variety is available, particularly in Galicia. Quite often, even when I've looked up the English word, I'm none the wiser. :)

Other useful words are 'beber', to drink (if you hear the waiter ask something which includes the word 'beber', you'll know what you're being asked). And 'que aproveche' (bon appetit, enjoy your meal), to which the reply is simply gracias or muchas gracias; teacher will give you extra marks if you wish other diners 'que aproveche' when you enter a dining-room. And if you want to express your satisfaction, try delicioso or buenisimo.

A problem in some of the smaller places is that there may not be a menu. The waiter will simply tell you what's available and ask what you want and how you want it cooked - something to really test your Spanish :)
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I would be the first to admit that the list I have forwarded is far from complete. It seems to me to be a Spanish translation of a list of English terms. What we need is a translation of Spanish terms. For example, my list does not contain the following terms to be found in Spanish menus, to name but a few:

Arbeyo, Ragu Prisuelo Picadillo Rebeco Borrachinos Escanda Panchon Pichon Ancas Rosquillos Churrasco Nabo Panceta Hornazo Zorongollo Perronillas Aguja Migas

well, I'm afraid I haven't a clue what most of those are :-(
Ragu = ragout
Pichon = pigeon
churrasco is quite well-known from Argentinian restaurants - a sort of barbecued beef/steak
pancho is on the list; see under perro. -ón is a common augmentative, so panchón is probably a big pancho. Possibly perronitas are related. -ito/a is a common diminutive in Spanish - as in senorita, a little senora.

At least with a menu, you get hints as to whether it's a meat, fish, veg or dessert. If it's a complete dish, it may be a regional name and even other Spaniards may not know what it is. It's probably untranslatable too - how do you translate paella for example? (another thing missing from the list)

P.S. 2 things I regretted ordering: callos=tripe, sesos=brains (particularly as I had it when there was all the fuss about BSE)
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