Home Expat Blogs @cabolife Do you need to know Spanish to live in Los Cabos?

Do you need to know Spanish to live in Los Cabos?

Fountain in Cabo San Lucas
Credit: Digishooter | Fotolia

Do you need to know Spanish to live in Los Cabos? Or more importantly to me, do I want to know Spanish to live in Cabo? With tourism being such a big part of the local economy, you can certainly get by without being fluent in Spanish. The question is do you want to?

When we moved here permanently last June, I decided I wanted to learn the language regardless of any necessity. I felt that I was moving to a country where Spanish is the national language, and I wanted to respect this fact. I had visited Cabo enough to know that you can go to a restaurant, or shopping or any other tourist-type activity and easily get by without speaking Spanish.

But, when we arrived here and started to figure out some of the daily living necessities, like getting our phones, Internet and bank accounts set up, it became a bit more of a crap shoot. Some people spoke great English and some spoke very little. When I set up my auto pay on line for my cell phone, the website was all in Spanish and the same was true with my internet account. I felt lost not being able to understand the prompts and I wanted to ensure I would be paying my bills on time and correctly!

So, I realized that having a grasp of the language was not only respectful, but definitely practical as well. Plus, I am in real estate and when I am touring clients, I often enter gated communities where some guards speak English and some don’t. For my business, I also felt it would be beneficial to learn the language. And finally, I realized that if I got lost or my car broke down, I could really be at the mercy of whoever was around to help, and what if they didn’t speak English?

My husband and I started taking lessons from a private tutor when we arrived last summer. She came to our house, which was great. I kind of thought that starting lessons would be enough – I would magically start speaking Spanish. I soon realized that I was oh so wrong. My husband quickly lost interest in being in a class setting so I was on my own, which was fine, but I stopped practicing and studying between lessons.

Life also got in the way and finding time for class was difficult. Too much going on and I didn’t feel like I was making progress. So, I did exactly the wrong thing if you are trying to learn something new. I just stopped. I stopped my classes. I stopped practicing, and I basically stalled out. And I got along just fine. Most of the people I was meeting and working with spoke English. But I had known that would be the case. My original intent to learn was based on a desire, not a need.

As the months went by, I felt like I had let an important personal goal go and I was disappointed in myself. I kicked myself back into gear and found a new Spanish school and a girlfriend who wanted to join me in taking classes. I started again about a month ago with a whole new attitude. I now realize that I need to study daily; I need to try to speak Spanish wherever and whenever I can even if the other person knows English (this is scary for me!) and I am trying to write emails in English and Spanish when I can.

It is so much harder (muy difficile!) to learn a new language as an adult. But I know it can be done with lots of hard work. I may never be totally fluent, but I want to master the basics and be able to converse – speak and understand – in Spanish. It will take time – maybe months or even years — but I am not going to give up this time! I am a permanent resident in this paradise called Los Cabos, Mexico and I want to respect the culture and the people of this place we now call home.