Spain sin EspañolApril 22nd, 2012 | Posted by in What's Happening Madrid
The biggest reason I have heard for not moving to Spain has been “I don’t speak Spanish!” At first, I thought that was a good reason to avoid the country, given how difficult language barriers make communication in the most ordinary of interactions. However, I have come around to the point of view that, if you are a person with a chance to move to Madrid, it doesn’t matter all that much whether you know Spanish or not, and here are some of my reasons why.
- You’ll start learning as soon as you get here: if you choose to work without taking any Spanish classes, you will still start learning almost instantly; read Pierre’s piece on learning Spanish quickly for pointers, but even if you are lazier and having English-speaking friends, you will get to know the language based solely on the words and constructions you need to know; I spent years in the United States learning “donde está la biblioteca?” type phrases, and honestly, I have never had to ask where the library is. The Spanish you learn here will be more applicable and instantly fire-tested because you will be really trying to buy groceries or tell the taxi driver where you are going, not just practicing with a bored classroom partner.
- You are probably prized for your English speaking skills: whether you are here as an English teacher or as a business person in another field, knowing English will be a helpful if not essential element of your job, and there’s a good chance that (as long as you let them know ahead of time) Spanish won’t be. Every day there are more people who speak English in this country, and even those who don’t speak it really well often can understand you.
- Living in a country where you don’t know the language does something special to you: Everyday life is a bit more of an adventure if you are constantly trying to understand and express yourself in a language that isn’t your primary one. You will learn unforgettable lessons, laugh at yourself, and be frustrated, but you will not cruise through your days without any memorable experiences. I know this is true, because even though I came to Spain with a reasonable level of Spanish for someone who had never been immersed in the language, I myself have experienced it. I feel more alive here because every conversation has to be a little more intentional, and in the middle of a conversation I get to ask what a word means and learn something totally new.
Don’t let the reason why you don’t come to Spain be lack of knowledge of Spanish; while it won’t be an easy life at first, the benefits definitely outweigh the drawbacks.