Not speaking the language is one the biggest reasons for would-be expats returning to the UK. If you don’t understand the language spoken around you, you are more likely to feel isolated and unhappy in your surroundings. Learning a little Spanish, and practicing whenever you can, is a really good way to ingratiate yourself into your neighbourhood and make new friends!
It’s a common perception that Brits are terrible at learning another languages, and this is more than likely because wherever you go in the world you are likely to come across someone who can speak at least a few words of English! However, it’s not a good idea to assume that everyone will understand you – and what’s more, you’ll earn a bit more respect from your Spanish neighbours if you attempt to master at least the basics.
Expats moving to Spain with children in particular will need a grip on the Spanish language – your children will learn Spanish at school and may even become fluent. If their parents do not learn the language as well, this can lead to further feelings of isolation – which may well result in them moving back to the UK!
The official language is Spain is Spanish, known in Spain as ‘Castellano’. This is a Romance language that originated in Castille, a region of Spain. This is also the official language of many South American countries and it is estimated that there are around 414 million native Spanish speakers worldwide – making it second only to Mandarin in terms of numbers worldwide. A further 135 million speak Spanish as their second language, and 20 million students learn Spanish as a foreign language. It is one of the official languages of the United Nations and the European Union. It is also the second language of international communication, after English.
There are a number of regional variations of Spanish spoken across Spain; four of these are also official languages:
- Basque, spoken in the Basque Country and northern Navarre
- Catalan, the regional language of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Andorra
- Galician, this is co-official in Galicia and is also spoken in western parts of the Principality of Asturias and Castille and León
- Occitan (Aranese), this is spoken in the Pyrenean comarca of the Aran Valley, in north-western Catalonia There are language schools across the country, offering a range of different courses.
Private tuition and intensive classes are available, with some courses designed specifically for those who are planning to spend several years living in Spain.