Spanish Vocabulary: Community in Spanish-Speaking Countries

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Like everywhere else, people in Spanish-speaking countries often volunteer or decide to come together in order to fight a community problem. This lesson gives you the vocabulary you need to discuss the idea of community in Spanish.

Get to Know the Community

Today, we'll talk to people who have experience doing community work in Spanish-speaking countries. This is great for you because you can learn the expressions they use along with some key vocabulary. But first, let's talk about the word 'community' in Spanish. The word comunidad (koh-moo-nee-DAD), which means 'community,' is not only used to refer to groups of people with common interests. In some countries like Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, it's used to refer to indigenous communities. For example, we can say, La comunidad indígena Shuar vive en la Amazonia ecuatoriana. (The Shuar indigenous community lives in the Ecuadorian Amazon.)

A second key word you need is el barrio (ehl BAHR-ree-oh), which means 'neighborhood,' referring to groups of people that belong within a specific area. Now that you have this basic vocabulary, let's review how you can discuss community topics in Spanish.

We begin with some basic vocabulary that involves volunteer work as well as the work neighborhoods do to address issues that affect them. In each case, you'd need to know some vocabulary about organizations that are formed to address community issues. Let's start.

Volunteer Work

Volunteers work through organizations. Here are some words that may help you connect with these groups;

  • el voluntariado (ehl voh-loon-tah-ree-AH-doh): volunteer work
  • el voluntario (ehl voh-loon-TAH-ree-oh): the volunteer (use la voluntaria for a female)
  • la fundación (lah foon-dah-see-OHN): the foundation
  • la organización sin fines de lucro (lah ohr-gah-nee-sah-see-OHN seen FEE-nehs deh LOO-kroh): the nonprofit organization
  • la organización no gubernamental (lah ohr-gah-nee-sah-see-OHN noh goo-behr-nah-mehn-TAHL): the non-governmental organization (people refer to this with the acronym la ONG, which is pronounced 'lah oh EH-neh heh')
  • el proyecto (ehl proh-YEHK-toh): the project

Now let's talk to Cecilia, who has years of experience working in international nonprofits.

El trabajo de voluntariado es muy satisfactorio. (Volunteering work is very rewarding.) En América Latina y España, una fundación puede ser una organización sin fines de lucro o una ONG. (In Latin America and Spain, a foundation can be a nonprofit organization or an NGO.) La diferencia es que la ONG no tiene vínculos con ningún gobierno. (The difference is that the NGO has no ties to any government). Un buen ejemplo en América Latina es la ONG Planeta Verde-Azul, que tiene el proyecto de luchar por la protección del medio ambiente.(A good example in Latin America is the ONG Green-Blue Planet, which fights to protect the environment.)

Translation: A group of volunteers in Mexico works on a project to protect the environment.

Neighborhood Work

People in Spanish countries perform a variety of work within their neighborhoods.

  • la organización barrial (lah ohr-gah-nee-sah-see-OHN bahr-ree-AHL): the neighborhood association
  • la casa comunal (lah KAH-sah koh-moo-NAHL): the community center
  • el presidente del barrio (ehl preh-see-DEHN-teh dehl BAHR-ree-oh): the neighborhood association president (use la presidenta for a female)
  • la reunión del barrio (lah reh-oo-nee-OHN dehl BAHR-ree-oh): the neighborhood meeting

Now, so we can understand neighborhood issues, let's talk to Alfredo, who's the president of the neighborhood Los Rosales in Mexico City.

En Los Rosales tenemos una organización barrial para luchar contra la inseguridad. (In Los Rosales we have a neighborhood association to deal with safety issues.) Normalmente, la reunión del barrio es una vez por mes en la casa comunal. (Normally, the neighborhood meeting is once a month at the community center.)

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