If you’re thinking of retiring to Latin America, you should learn at least a little Spanish. Not only will it enrich your experiences living, traveling, and interacting with people in your new home country, but it will certainly save you money and could make life a lot easier.
Sure, there are plenty of locals in Latin America who speak English and will kindly come to your rescue in every situation…from asking directions to making an inquiry at the bank or a doctor’s office to requesting a toilet plunger at the hardware store, or—heaven forbid—something of an even more personal nature.
(Pantomime works, yes—but only so far—and at what damage to your self-respect?)
Even just knowing your numbers is a good start. As a beginning Spanish speaker, I had difficulties with dos (two) and doce (12). Pronounced dohss and dohss-ay, they sounded similar enough to my untrained ear that when I was quoted a price, I had to stop and think—was it $2 or $12? I’m sure I may have erred once or twice and spent more than I should have.
And once, on a small island off the coast of Venezuela, we waited in the hot sun for the ferry to take us back to our hotel on another island. It leaves at “dos,” they told me. At least that’s what I thought they’d said. So off we went to grab a bite of lunch and when we returned at 2 p.m., we learned the ferry had come and gone, at… you guessed it… 12 noon.
Those are minor inconveniences, of course. But if there hadn’t been a later ferry, we’d have been stuck.
At the very least, you must learn your numbers so you can recite your telephone number and address in Spanish. It’s not at all hard to do. In fact, that’s the reason we were taught to count as children. Numbers are about the easiest thing to learn.
So right along with all the other things you do to prepare for your move overseas, I heartily recommend getting a jumpstart on your basic Spanish skills. It’s as easy as uno-dos-tres.
Editor’s note: Suzan Haskins tried her best to learn Spanish before she moved to Ecuador—spending countless hours and dollars on everything from books to classes to computer programs. Nothing seemed to stick… until she stumbled on a strategy that had her speaking Spanish… in just 20 minutes.