Learn to speak Spanish
If you’re planning to move to Spain, even learning a little Spanish will be crucial in terms of how well you adapt to life in your new country.
That may sound obvious but it’s surprising how many ex-pats put little or no effort into mastering the basic vocabulary of their host country. The Dutch, Scandinavians, Germans and Americans – in fact, most other foreigners living in Spain – put the British to shame when it comes to making an effort to learn Spanish.
The British now represent the biggest proportion of Spain’s ex-pat community and it’s true that many of them seem to get by quite happily living in enclaves of their fellow countrymen where a word of Spanish is rarely heard or spoken. But those who are determined to do much more than just ‘get by’ will find that even the most excruciating attempts at speaking Spanish will open doors and enrich what might otherwise be a rather limited ex-pat lifestyle.
Learning Spanish makes for an easier life
Generally speaking, the Spanish are extremely friendly and hospitable people and will go to great lengths to make you feel at home especially when they see you’re making an effort to get to grips with their language and culture. The Spanish are extremely forgiving of bad grammar or mispronunciation. But many foreign property buyers who don’t even try to communicate in Spanish have found their lives being made unexpectedly difficult by disgruntled locals.
If you’re of pre-retirement age and intend to find jobs and work in Spain, obviously your prospects will greatly improve if you can speak Spanish even though you may not be fluent when you arrive in the country. And if you plan to send your children to Spanish school it’s essential to have a good command of the language so you can discuss their progress and any problems with the teachers. It’s a common misconception that all teachers in Spain speak English (some refuse to on principle even though they can!)
It’s important to remember that Spain has four official languages and you may find yourself living in a region where the most widely spoken language, Castilian(Castellano), takes second place. Catalan is the main language of Catalunya in the North East of mainland Spain and a variation of it (Valenciano) is used throughout the Valencian community. The ancient and highly unusual language of Euskadi is used in Pais Vasco (Basque Country) and Galego is the first language of Galicia in the North West corner of the country.
In a few remote areas, the older villagers may only speak and understand the language of the region. But in virtually all areas you can get by with Castilian Spanish although you will find that the accent can vary greatly. The easiest Spanish accent to understand is undoubtedly Madrid. If you want to improve your Spanish speaking skills, watch the big news channels as the Spanish spoken is crystal clear and makes understanding the words so much easier. In Andalucia, the letter is often dropped at the end of words with a kind of lazy drawl and words become shortened.
As with moving to any large country in the world, accents and localised variation can influence how easy it is for a foreigner to understand or speak. The Dutch will put their own slant and uniqueness on Spanish words and phrases just like the Germans or the English (There are some who make the effort to learn Spanish. Particularly amongst those who’ve lived and worked her for 30+ years). The French seem to find it much more straightforward when it comes to speaking either Castellano or Catalan. As with many of the languages rooted in Latin, many words are similar and thus easier to remember. After mastering Spanish you might find you fancy trying Italian.
Tools for learning the language
When it comes to the actual learning process, these days you’re spoilt for choice. You can learn online, invest in a DIY pack of CDs, books or other teaching materials, hire a private tutor or make a beeline for the bars where all the locals hang out. Nothing squashes those inhibitions better than a few glasses of the local firewater!
Classroom learning might seem too reminiscent of school days but if you’ve just moved to Spain it’s also a great way to meet new friends. More importantly, a class once a week will help you to keep the discipline required to learn a language at a certain pace. Learning a new language requires a little determination, a little self-discipline and a lot of practice. If you don’t start using your new Spanish phrases or words on a regular basis you will have trouble remembering them. Some homework from the language school once a week will also help you to build and retain your vocabulary.
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