Home Expat Blogs Do I Need to Speak Spanish?

Do I Need to Speak Spanish?

Speech bubble illustration
Credit: Fine Art America
Maria O'Connor blogs for Expats In Mexico Blogger
Maria O’Connor

“Do I need to speak Spanish in order to live in Mexico?” I suppose the easy answer is no, you don’t.

In Puerto Vallarta, where I live, the majority of the Mexican people that expats encounter on a day-to-day basis will speak some English, certainly enough to understand what you want or need and direct you to the right place. Restaurant menus generally have English translations, the cash machines allow you to choose your language when making transactions and there are even banks that have special customer service facilities for their English-speaking clients.

Professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, architects and engineers, have found that being bilingual or multilingual can add a great dimension to their business. The English language is a difficult language to learn and I am constantly amazed at how many local Vallartans speak so well, even those who have never lived abroad.

“Should I learn to speak Spanish if I am living in Mexico?”

This is a matter of opinion and anyone who knows me knows that I personally feel that it is very important to at least try to learn the language of the country in which you live. I think that people miss out on a lot of the wonderful culture, history, literature and LIFE of a nation if they cannot speak its language. There are terrific options for learning Spanish in Mexico and the perfect setting for being able to actually test out the results. Some people like one-on-one private classes while others find it more enjoyable to be with a group. It’s an individual decision and what works best for one may not be the right fit for the other.

“I’m too old to learn a new language!”

“Old” is subjective and if you had the guts and sense of adventure to move to a new country, you can certainly meet the challenge of learning Spanish. Even if you don’t become fluent, trying is fun, and the local people love when you make the effort to speak to them in their own language.

Sure, you’ll make mistakes, we all do. But just think how you feel when a foreigner tries to speak to you in English. It makes communication a lot easier. I have a friend who is 72 and has just purchased a home here in Puerto Vallarta. She has never learned a foreign language but now has embraced Spanish with gusto. After just a few months she speaks Spanish quite well. There always are those inevitable errors when you’re learning a new language, though. Once, very proudly, she told everyone within earshot that she was a desk rather than saying she was a writer.

“You don’t understand how difficult it is because you already speak Spanish.”

That is true. I do speak Spanish and without speaking Spanish I would not have been able to study here or work in the field in which I work. And true, I was much younger when I learned to speak, which of course has advantages. But I do understand what it is like to learn a new language after 50 because that’s what I find myself doing right now. Next week I will be blogging from southern Italy and I will let you know how I am getting by with my Italian.