Overview for learning Spanish

When moving to Spain, of course one of the main things you will need to think about is learning the language

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When moving to Spain, of course one of the main things you will need to think about is learning the language. What may surprise you that here, you will often find 2 languages spoken in tandem: Castilian Spanish and a local language such as Catalan, Galician and Basque. This can be extremely confusing - many expats will be unaware that some Spanish regions use two different languages until they arrive and realise that the Spanish they have been learning is not the everyday language of the locals.
 
Regional accents and ways of speaking vary too, so the Spanish spoken in Barcelona will sound very different from that spoken in Andalucia. For most people coming to live in Spain, learning Castilian Spanish is the most useful as it is spoken across the country - as well as in South America and other ex-Spanish colonies. 
 
It really helps to begin learning in the UK. You will find many Spanish classes available for adults at all levels, and if you have no idea of the language at all a basic starter course will prove invaluable for when you first arrive in Spain. Just being able to ask for things in a shop or café will make you feel good in those first few weeks of finding your feet in your new country. Once settled, look for Spanish classes in your local town. Once you choose one to go to, make sure you go each week and promise yourself to faithfully complete any homework. You will be surprised at how quickly you improve your language skills and this will give you confidence generally.
 
For those of you who have school age children, you might feel it better to learn the local language first, as many classes will be held using that rather than Castilian Spanish - particularly in Catalonia where lessons are all in Catalan. By learning the language at the same time as your children, you will be able to help them with their homework, communicate well with their teachers and chat to other parents outside the school gates.
 
Frankly, learning any of the Spanish languages should be a priority. It is true that learning a foreign language comes more easily to some people than others, but it is really worthwhile to make a huge effort so as to be part of your local community and to engage in all sorts of activities.
 
Feeling isolated is a problem faced by some expats and this is partly due to the fact that they cannot socialise with their Spanish neighbours, join local clubs or associations or pursue hobbies they had in the UK. There are of course English-speaking expat associations in Spain, and they provide a useful social network and many activities, but if you rely on them alone for your amusement you are denying yourself many opportunities to get to know the local people and your community, which will truly enrich your life. The Spanish are generally friendly, welcoming people, so do everything you can to get to know them - and their language.
 
Before you move, it’s a good idea to see whether you should attempt to learn one of the regional languages rather than Castilian Spanish, or at least consider learning a little when you are in Spain. Catalonia offers free Catalan lessons to foreigners, and even if you just do one year’s course, you will have a basis for reading the local newspapers, understanding some TV programmes and ordering or buying food and drink. Both Spanish and Catalan are Latin-based languages, so if you learnt French at school this should make learning them easier.
 
Basque is a unique language which bears no relation to other European languages, and was probably spoken before the Romans came to Spain. If you are moving to the Pais Vasco in Spain, making just a small effort to learn it will reward you with respect from local people who are fiercely proud of their heritage and culture - as are the Catalans of theirs.
 
It really boils down to making an effort to communicate with the people around us in their language. We are in their country, so it’s up to us to try to speak as they speak, and we should not expect them to speak our language - though many do, of course, especially in the popular tourist areas. Try it - you will be delighted at the many doors speaking Spanish (or local languages) can open for you.

Further reading for Living In Spain

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Finding work

There are a number of ways that UK expats can fund their lifestyle in Spain.

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Social life in Spain

Find out as much as you can about your new community and find new friends.

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Heathcare

Arrange health insurance and locate your new local hospitals and practices.

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Education in Spain

Emigrating with school-age children? Learn more about schooling in your local area.

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