Spain - Language Barrier

Old Apr 24th, 2013, 11:04 AM
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Spain - Language Barrier

We are thinking about planning a trip to Spain next year and like to do our own driving with extended stays in the smaller cities and towns mixed with stays in larger cities. We have been to Barcelona and Madrid in the past but are thinking about a longer visit with stays along the Costa Brava or Costa Blanca region combined with some larger city visits.

We have visited France, Italy and Germany extensively and have found most people speak at least some English so we can communicate if needed. I've read that most people in Spain do not speak English. Will we have issues with communicating if we don't speak Spanish? Do the hotel operators speak English?
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 11:16 AM
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>>Will we have issues with communicating if we don't speak Spanish?
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 11:18 AM
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If you stay anywhere.in the tourist zone. 99% of the hoteliers will have an acceptable level of English. Otherwise, pointing and smiling always does the trick. I would learn the pleasantries that most people in the States already know. Hola, adios, por favor, gracias. The Soanish people are very happy to hear anyone attempt their language and you will be met with a smile if you try!
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 11:21 AM
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There are very few touristed areas in the world where you must speak the language to survive. And in the places you mention you may have trouble finding someone who doesn't speak English with the many decades-long influx of English retirees. Don't give the issue another thought.
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 12:47 PM
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It's good manners to learn the top 40 phrases, so that you can say hello, goodbye etc. If you have that off pat people will fill in the gaps
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 01:20 PM
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You will be fine under most circumstances as long as you stay in the most popular tourist destinations, but you will encounter some difficulty if you venture too far off the beaten track, say a small village in one of the autonomous communities of the Basque country, Navarra, Aragon, Catalunya, Galicia, Cantabria, Asturias, La Rioja, Castilla y Leon, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Andalusia, Murcia, Valencia and even the Community of Madrid.

English is fairly common with those who deal with tourist, but can be uncommon when outside of those main areas. Learning a few words of Castellan Spanish will help immensely.
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 01:23 PM
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Of course that should be "Castilian Spanish".
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 01:35 PM
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Thank you all for your replies. We always learn a few phrases of the language in the country we visit but I was more worried about asking something specific, like directions if we got lost

We look forward to our planning and more help from fellow Fodorites. Thanks again!
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 02:06 PM
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Part of the adventure and fun in traveling is language "challenges". Robert2533 is right on - in the larger cities (and in the tourist areas) you will likely find people with some English. But outside of these areas it will be helpful to know a few useful phrases.
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 03:11 PM
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>>

True - translate this - "El automobil es descompuesto". That was us on the phone to Hertz when the radiator in our car blew up in Arcos de la Frontera.

and trying to get the saleswoman at El Cortes in Madrid to understand that we were looking for sunscreen was not working!!
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 03:23 PM
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Yes, that's exactly how I learned the word for blowdryer (secador) - when the blowdryer in my hotel blew up on me

Or there's the time I had a particular ailment and my friend proceeded to mime the issue to the pharmacist....a little embarassing to say the least.

Then there's how I learned the word "beso" - but that's another story
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 04:12 PM
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El Cortes in MAD has a customer service desk..There are Eng. speaking people there if not around the cosmetic department. Sun Screen?? at the very minimum "por del sol" and gesturing to the face!!! Lots of help is available especially in cities..ask and ye shall receive. OTOH try asking a road crew for the nearest gas station on rural Portugal/Spanish border...LOL.. finally got out of the car and pointed to the gas cap and said "no mas". The crew chief took out a paper sceap and wrote 5KM..and pointed west!! Got us there. There are ways. Don't worry!!
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 04:16 PM
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I've been to places where no one spoke English and I didn't speak the local language and I communicated just fine. Never had to sleep on a park bench and always ate in restaurants. Found my way around and back home again and this was before the internet days when you had to rely on your wits.

I don't think you'll have a problem.
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 05:29 PM
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We managed just fine - in major cities, smaller towns and countryside - including non-tourist shops and an auto mechanic with zero english when we had a problem with our frenos - brakes - - with 25 year old high school Spanish.

So if you take the trouble to learn a very little, you should be fine. My most useful phrase was "mas despacio, por favor:. At a slower speed much is clear. And most people in Spain do;t speak Casitalian - and no one cares what sort of accent you have (our schools taught mexican spanish as standard).
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 07:59 PM
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You're correct, most people in Spain do not speak Castilian Spanish, but it is the basis of all of the local Spanish dialects. Most Spaniards know where you are from when you utter your first words, and many have trouble understanding Mexican Spanish as it has many words that have completely different meaning in Spain and Mexico. The word bodega being one, a grocery store versus a winery.
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 08:20 PM
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For some reason, this reminds me of the time in 1964 when I was in Tokyo and stopped at a pharmacy.

Luckily I had my little Japanese/English dictionary, so I looked in the English section, found the word "menstral cramps" and pointed to the Japanese ideograph.

I think I may also have made a face that indicated pain.
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 08:29 PM
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It must have been very painful indeed! Glad you survived...
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 08:36 PM
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Spanish has a small vocabulary compared to many other languages. You have a year...
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 08:43 PM
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Learn some Spanish. You will improve your mind and, who knows, it could be fun!

Easy for me to say, as I only travel to Spain with my wife, who is proficient in Spanish.
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 11:04 PM
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Some on line language help?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/spanish/talk/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/spanish/mividaloca/
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