Incorporating 'Vale' in Everyday Interactions

Dear David,

We’ve already talked about the word ‘vale’ and how you will probably hear it as soon as you arrive in Spain. And, because you will find that this word (and sentiment) is all around you, you will find yourself easily incorporating vale into your Spanish conversations. While we believe that using Spanish words, even as Spanglish, is a great way to gain confidence in speaking and improving your language skills, it is important to understand that how you say something might be just as important as what you say.

We put together this video to give you a little bit of insight into how, like many words in English, vale has different interpretations depending on how it is said and the context surrounding it. Even though it is a very simple word that often plays a role as a filler (for when you are nodding your head ‘yes’), it can also indicate complications in a conversation. Check out the video below and the short explanations that follow:

 
 

Vale as a filler:

It is common that vale is used in the same way we would use ‘umhmm’ or ‘okay’ in a conversation to indicate that you agree with what someone else is saying. Especially when you are talking to someone who cannot see your face, saying vale can easily replace nodding your head yes. In this sense, vale is used as a space filler—it is used as a way to indicate that you are still listening, and possibly even agree with what is being said, without cutting off the flow of conversation around you.

Vale as a positive okay:

Just like in English, when you speak Spanish the context and tone of voice you use will have an impact on how people interpret what you are saying. Vale said with a smile and a nod is pretty equivalent to a positive okay—when people are happy with the decision that has been made. This is the most common type of vale you will probably come across when talking with Spanish people as many things are no pasa nada (even if that can be difficult for us foreigners to always understand).

Therefore, when you hear people using vale, keep in mind that it is mostly used in a positive sense. At the same time, people are constantly giving little hints about whether or not this is actually the case or not. This means that when you incorporate vale into your own conversations and every day interactions, you should be aware that most people will be looking for social cues to understand if your vale is positive or negative.

Vale as a negative okay:

Just like we can use okay negatively in English (such as when you only respond ‘okay’ to a long message), you can use vale negatively in Spanish. As it is the exact same word, it is the context that will help you interpret the definition. This means that being able to interpret different situations will help you understand how this word is used distinctly depending on the circumstances.

As a guiri, you can begin to better understand how vale is used by paying attention to how people around you are incorporating it into their conversations. What is their body language like? What tone of voice do they use? If you pay attention, you will soon be able to understand how Spanish people use vale in different ways and distinguish between a carefree vale and an angry one.

What are the different ways you have seen vale used in daily life? Are you beginning to identify the filler vale from the positive reaction vale to the one that carries a negative connotation? Let us know in the comments down below!

Sincerely,
Spain