Travel

Anyone been to Spain recently?

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  • Aug 18th, 2017 2:34 pm
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Anyone been to Spain recently?

I'll be there in a few days and it's been ten years since I was there last. Back then, I found the overall level of English comprehension among the Spaniards a bit weak, especially compared to the rest of Western Europe. I know enough basic Spanish to do most tourist-related things (restaurants, transportation, attractions, etc.) but was just wondering if any recent visitors to Spain found any major difficulties in communication.
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We found English speakers hard to find away from the main tourist spots even within the cities. In smaller towns and villages, it was near impossible. We did have some problems and a phrase book helped. People are nice and they will make an effort. Some hand signals are universal :)
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Talamasca wrote:
May 13th, 2017 10:52 am
I'll be there in a few days and it's been ten years since I was there last. Back then, I found the overall level of English comprehension among the Spaniards a bit weak, especially compared to the rest of Western Europe. I know enough basic Spanish to do most tourist-related things (restaurants, transportation, attractions, etc.) but was just wondering if any recent visitors to Spain found any major difficulties in communication.
was there last november or so.
no problem whatsoever in Barcelona and Madrid.
Even if they didn't speak english, they understood and could piece together the meaning pretty quickly.
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My experience is as recent as Nov 2016. I've been to Spain a number of times too and know basic words/phrases in Spanish.

Madrid - surprisingly, English was a struggle for most. In restaurants, you will luck out with someone that speaks some English. However, like the menus everywhere are straight up Spanish.

Valencia - pretty much comparable to Madrid.

Barcelona - English seems to be the most spoken here. It's probably due to the fact that there are a lot of foreigners residing in the city.

I would suggest getting google translate on your phone and downloading Spanish language to help you get by when you're stuck.
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I've been all over Spain (most recently March 2017 in the Canary Islands).

What stands out from memory Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Costa Del Sol, Ibiza- English is widely spoken.
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Why do some people think it's "progress" for traditionally non-English speaking countries to start speaking English? It's worse enough that some parts of Spain are being overrun by British expats.
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heymikey wrote:
May 14th, 2017 5:36 am
Why do some people think it's "progress" for traditionally non-English speaking countries to start speaking English? It's worse enough that some parts of Spain are being overrun by British expats.
I don't think it is a matter of "thinking it is progress". English is seemingly the most accepted language (not most spoken) particularly in business, aviation, travel etc. No one is saying not to try and learn another language, just wanting to know if English is easily used in some tourist spots.
As a person that is traveling a lot (as a tourist now), going to many different countries, I appreciate knowing where English is spoken. I will always try and learn a few words and phrases but, I need not become fluent or even partial in the language of the country I am visiting.
Last edited by Pete_Coach on May 14th, 2017 7:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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heymikey wrote:
May 14th, 2017 5:36 am
Why do some people think it's "progress" for traditionally non-English speaking countries to start speaking English? It's worse enough that some parts of Spain are being overrun by British expats.
No one has said that in this thread at all. But the simple fact is that English is the lingua franca of travel. Put any group of travellers together from all over the world (like in a hostel) and guess what language they will speak. Any airport in the world will always have English signage in addition to the local language(s). Even France, who I would say is the country most passionate and supportive about its own language, acknowledges that English is the most common language spoken by its foreign tourists, and caters to them accordingly.

It is Spain's own insular policies from the Franco-era dictatorship that has resulted in this in the first place, which they are slowly getting away from. Little wonder that knowledge of English is the most desired and sought after skill among its young people today.

As a conscientious traveller, I always try to learn some basic phrases in the local language, but if the locals know some English, it certainly facilitates ease of travel. I am going there for a fun vacation after all, not a language exam.
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Communication can be a significant challenge. Spain of course is a multilingual country (Castillian Spanish, Basque, Catalan and Galician). French, Portugese and Arabic are geographically closer. The British tend to congregate/retire in places of little interest to the average Canadian, so the average Spaniard where you will be really doesn't get much exposure to English. And even if he does know more than he admits, he will be reluctant to admit speaking/understanding a tad of English to someone for whom it is their first language.

On a recent trip I found people who speak fluent English, who deal with tourists every single day, will only admit to speaking English a little, and would much rather you try your Spanish until they are sure their English is better than your Spanish. Especially if they think you are American or already speak a Latin language. After all, the US version of Sesame Street does teach Spanish.

However, clearly the average Spaniard knows about as much English as the average Canadian knows Spanish (what we learned from Sesame Street on PBS).
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Was in Barcelona last week and no problem what so ever but last time I was there few years ago, I did have some trouble.

What we did different this time was we tried to talk to younger people, when we needed help, even random youngers on the street seems to know and speak much better English than the older. I was told they watch a lot of English TV Programs, Movies, etc.

Funny side story, was at the hotel reception checking in and the young gentlemen asked us where we were from and we said, "Canada." Then he asked, "Where in Canada ??" It turns out he was living in Tornoto for a few years with his relatives so his English was nearly perfect.
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Talamasca wrote:
May 14th, 2017 8:27 am
Put any group of travellers together from all over the world (like in a hostel) and guess what language they will speak.
French is widely spoken around the world: France, Belgium, Canada, Africa, Roumania, Haiti... Same goes for Spanish. I have had many youth hostel conversations in French and done my best with Spanish with attractive non-English speaking Spaniards.
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Talamasca wrote:
May 13th, 2017 10:52 am
I'll be there in a few days and it's been ten years since I was there last. Back then, I found the overall level of English comprehension among the Spaniards a bit weak, especially compared to the rest of Western Europe. I know enough basic Spanish to do most tourist-related things (restaurants, transportation, attractions, etc.) but was just wondering if any recent visitors to Spain found any major difficulties in communication.
Been there in Oct 2016; I had some difficulty in Ronda. No issues in Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada. Google Translate is the best tool in case of any difficulty. You can download Spanish to use it offline.
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Talamasca wrote:
May 13th, 2017 10:52 am
I'll be there in a few days and it's been ten years since I was there last. Back then, I found the overall level of English comprehension among the Spaniards a bit weak, especially compared to the rest of Western Europe. I know enough basic Spanish to do most tourist-related things (restaurants, transportation, attractions, etc.) but was just wondering if any recent visitors to Spain found any major difficulties in communication.
Well, now that I just got back from my trip to Spain, I can answer my own question. Madrid was fine, especially in neighborhoods predominately populated by younger people like Malasana, but Leon was not, other than at their cathedral's ticket office. Nobody at my hotel in Leon could speak English. While in Madrid, I took a day trip to the nearby town of Aranjuez and nobody that I spoke to there could speak English either, any they have a major tourist attraction there with the summer palace. Luckily, my Spanish was sufficient for ordering food, asking for directions, and basic conversations.

Interestingly, the locals there will assume you speak Spanish no matter what you look like, unless you're somewhere very touristy like a museum. Cashiers will rattle off to you in Spanish what the total is, which I found kind of fun. In most other countries in Western Europe, they seem to have a sixth sense that you are not local and will speak to you in English immediately.
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It isn't a problem. I only knew 5 Spanish words and it was fine. Besides, in Barcelona, they prefer speaking Catalan anyway.
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