When I started learning Spanish in Spain some years ago, I never envisioned how helpful it would become. Mostly, I just wanted to know how to order food, talk to people a bit and avoid embarrassing myself as much as possible.
While it’s not necessary to know Spanish (or any other language) before taking the plunge to travel or live in a different country, there are some definite benefits to getting a handle on the local dialect. Here are the three best reasons I’ve found to learn Spanish:
Traveling: When it comes to exploring the country where you are living, being able to speak the language makes travel richer, less stressful and more independent. Being able to talk with non-English speaking taxi drivers, waitresses, and locals along the way gives you insider tips and bargains that you just don’t get when you can’t communicate with the people who best know the area. As a result of speaking Spanish, I’ve often been given a last-minute tip by someone who casually mentions the best time to go to a place or an event that I didn’t know about that has turned out to be the highlight of my trip.
Logistics: Let’s face it—when you have a toothache or need a plumber or electrician in a foreign country, it’s a bit of a headache to find someone reliable if you can’t speak a word of the language. I speak from experience: I’ve lived in a Spanish-speaking country without knowing anything beyond how to say “hello” and “please help me.”
I still cringe when I think about the time I went to the dentist when my language skills were almost non-existent. I was nervous—firstly because I do not enjoy dental work at the best of times but also because all I had to communicate with was a piece of paper where I had written what I thought my Spanish teacher had told me to say. Don’t ask me how, but instead of telling him I had a cavity, I managed to inform him that there were canaries in my mouth! Thankfully my experiences with doctors, telephone companies, banks—and dentists—nowadays are much less stressful.
More meaningful relationships with people: Apart from all of the other benefits that speaking Spanish has given me, the one I am most happy with is the ability to make deeper connections to the people I meet and live among as an expat.
Being able to have in-depth conversations with your neighbor or make long-lasting friendships in your adopted country is priceless. In my case, being able to communicate in Spanish has positively influenced my life quite a bit. If I hadn’t learned Spanish I probably wouldn’t have met and fell in love with my husband! Married to a native Spanish speaker, and currently based out of Mexico, I now speak Spanish more than I speak English.
And to think—all I wanted when I first began learning was to be able to order lunch without making a fool of myself!