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Can I say "Sé el español" and "Puedo hablar español/ el español/en español)". Sé hablar español/el español.

What other ways are possible? (I cannot find any list)

My question is more specifically about the use of "el", and "en":
In which expressions we can use them, and when they sound unnatural.

10

Hablar works both transitively (hablar español) and intransitively with a complement (hablar en español).

The definite article is not needed in these cases. You would refer to el español in other contexts, such as when talking about the language as such in general ("El español me parece un idioma difícil") and also when talking about particular varieties ("Su tesis fue sobre el español rioplatense") and other definite qualified usages ("Ella habla el español que le enseñaron en la escuela").

When referring to your ability to speak a language, you can say "Sé hablar (en) español". Or simply, "Hablo español".

Using the verb poder is not recommended when you're talking about skills. It's a very common calque from English can and it often produces sentences that are sensible but not idiomatic. You would use "Puedo hablar (en) español" in a different context, e.g. when offering to speak Spanish to someone who doesn't understand English. In this context puedo means "I am able and willing to".

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I would say either of these:

  • Sé español
  • Puedo hablar en español
  • Hablo español

I prefer the last one.

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The simplest thing is of course "Hablo español." I will give you some other idiomatic formulations.

You are in the Home Depot and a monolingual Spanish speaker is having trouble getting assistance from a monolingual English speaking clerk. You can tell the customer he can talk in Spanish with you:

  • Me puede hablar en español, a ver si puedo ayudar en algo.

If a colleague of yours is unsure whether it's okay to talk to you in Spanish, you can encourage him like this:

  • Manejo [bien] el español, dígame.

Your study group is meeting and one of the members is new. He is struggling to try to talk to you in English, because he thinks you won't understand Spanish. You can reassure him:

  • Domino el español. No hace falta que me hables en inglés. Pero oye, qué bien que hablas inglés, hombre.

"Dominar" is a stronger word -- you have mastered Spanish; wherease "manejo" is more like "I get by in Spanish."

In certain contexts in an English-speaking environment, one might say "Soy bilingüe," or one might jump to an explanation such as "Mi papá es español," "Tengo familia en México," "Mi esposo es gallego," etc. Such an explanation can put the other person at ease.

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  • I’ve also heard ‘sé defenderme’ as an informal way of letting someone know you speak Spanish to a reasonable level. – Traveller Dec 28 '19 at 10:12
  • @Traveller - That's a good one too. Do you want to add a supplementary answer? You have 145 rep and this would be a great opportunity for you to move up the needle, to increase your access to the site. – aparente001 Dec 28 '19 at 16:56

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