About four years ago I met a group of Americans who had come to Ecuador to volunteer with a non-profit.
They lived and worked near my city, so I was able to go there and hang out with them.
All of them were “chéveres”, which is a local word for cool people, but something interesting about one of them, is that she hated hiking. Every single time we went hiking, she just stayed home.
Once, I don’t know how, the rest of the group convinced her to go on a hike.
They went to a mountain that I hike frequently, and I can say, from experience, that it’s not too hard. If you are in good shape, you need about an hour to get to the top. But apparently she wasn’t in shape.
They started the hike, and at some point —and this is what the rest of the group told me— she just sat down and said she didn’t want to continue.
Of course, the entire group had to stop and wait to see if she would change her mind.
I don’t remember if she did. But what I remember is that she said: “Estoy caliente”.
To her American friends it was clear she was tired and the day was hot. They knew she was trying to say “I’m hot”. But the local people around them were surprised.
You see, if you want to say I’m hot, the Spanish phrase is “tengo calor.” Literally “I have heat”. But if you say “estoy caliente,” that actually means “I’m horny.”
Interesting difference, don’t you think?
That’s why the local people who were there were surprised.
Of course I laughed when they told me what had happened, but I really liked her reaction. Once they laughed about what she said and explained the meaning of those phrases to her, she just said: “But you understood what I meant, right?”
For her that was enough, and she didn’t care if they laughed.
Well, that is definitely the right attitude when it comes to learning a language. As long as you can communicate with other people, you’re fine.
Of course, if you can avoid those mistakes, it’s better. And I bet that after that day, she will never make that mistake again.
And now that you know how to correctly say “I’m hot” in Spanish, you should also learn how to say the opposite.
If the day is cloudy, it’s rainy and you are shivering, you should say “tengo frío”. Literally “I have cold.”
And if you are going to visit the highland region of Ecuador and you want to sound even more natural, you can say “achachay”. That’s an indigenous word that means exactly the same thing, and we native Spanish speakers in this region adopted it as part of our dialect.
So yes, depending on the region of Ecuador you are planning to visit, you might need to learn some kichwa, the indigenous language I just told you about. But this is a story for another day.