“You’re in Spain. You can’t expect everyone to speak English, and an attempt at some Spanish will definitely be appreciated by the locals. It will also make your early days in Spain a lot easier – take it from me!” says Ailsa, a Spanish homeowner who is now 15 years into her Spanish language learning journey.
Ailsa shares her experience of why learning at least basic Spanish can be a lifesaver when buying a home in Spain and some tips for getting started.
For more advice on a smooth integration into Spanish life, read the Emigration Guide to find out everything you need to know about moving to Spain.
Some regions simply don’t speak English!
I started learning Spanish only after we had bought our holiday home, but in hindsight I wish I’d started sooner.
Buying a holiday home outside of the major tourist hotspots gives you a greater exposure to local culture and a more authentic experience, but it may also mean that languages other than Spanish are less widely spoken – and that is exactly what I found when we bought our home in Mazarrón 15 years ago.
I remember only too well the time when, with literally only one hour’s worth of Spanish under my belt, I found myself in a local branch of the bank asking “¿habla usted inglés?” (Do you speak English?) only to be met with a rather hopeless shake of the head, and that sinking feeling that setting up the direct debit for the water company was going to take some time…
“I found myself in a local branch of the bank asking “¿habla usted inglés?” (Do you speak English?) only to be met with a rather hopeless shake of the head”
Save time, feel confident and reap the benefits
Now, years on in my journey with Spanish, I can skip the queue for the solitary English-speaking member of staff in the bank/water company/tax office, etc, and get back to having fun with the family on the beach a lot quicker.
If you’re thinking of a holiday home, why not pool your resources and buy with family? Read our guide, Buying Abroad with Family to find out how to halve the cost and double the fun!
In restaurants, I can order with some confidence that what we end up with is what we expected.
I also think one of the best ways to integrate with the locals is to take part in local language ‘intercambios’ – a language exchange between a native English speaker and a native Spanish speaker. These often happen in informal settings, such as a bar or a restaurant, where you each practice each other’s language – and having some conversational Spanish will be very helpful here too.
How to start your Spanish language learning journey
Accessing Spanish tuition is very easy these days: online you can find hundreds of free lessons for all levels – just Google Spanish lesson to see for yourself. It can also be a good idea to find yourself a podcast for listening practice, and a native or fluent Spanish-speaking conversation partner.
If you feel that more formal, weekly sessions are for you, there are traditional sources such as the Adult Education Centre or one-to one tuition. Local networking sites such as Nextdoor can be useful to make contact.
The key thing is to get as much exposure as possible – learning a language does not happen magically, it takes time and effort, but ultimately it will reward you with a more enjoyable and more integrated holiday home experience.