How do you survive without Speaking Spanish

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05 Nov 2008 00:00 by Rob in Madrid Star rating in Madrid. 275 posts Send private message

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Even though I'm not British I am a typical Birt in Spain, I don't speak the language, as I live in an English bubble. Generally not a problem. Unfortunately last week our heating went again (oh the joy's of Spanish workmanship) so I got a friend to call and arrange to get the technician back in. Now I'm problems getting a time arranged becuase the techician called me instead of someone who speaks Spanish

so how do you survive if you don't speak the language????

PS I can live without heat, it's the cold shower that sucks!!!! Big Time!!!!!! 


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Decided after all I don't like Spanish TV, that is having compared both.




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05 Nov 2008 11:02 by EOS Team Star rating in In Spain of course!. 4354 posts Send private message

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My Spanish is okay but nowhere near the level that it should be but I couldn't live here if I couldn't speak any spanish at all because I get very frustrated when I can't communicate, it's bad enough going on holiday where you don't know any of the language. I like to talk so it would be no good for me if I didn't know any Spanish.

Susan

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05 Nov 2008 11:26 by Rob in Madrid Star rating in Madrid. 275 posts Send private message

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I am finally learning Spanish but it's slow. I working on day to day things, for example, numbers, I pretty much catch what the cost of things are. I figure over the next few month/years/decades I'll reach a level of fluency that will allow me to function day to day for the most part.

Untill then I aint leaving my English Bubble

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Decided after all I don't like Spanish TV, that is having compared both.




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05 Nov 2008 13:04 by Sanchez1 Star rating. 818 posts Send private message

Hi Rob,

I'm quite lucky.  My wife is Spanish, so I've gradually been learning from her.  We're moving out to Spain in January, so once we are there, it is going to make it a hell of a lot easier having her deal with Spanish red tape, dealing with utility firms etc.  My Spanish is still quite basic but I'm going to try and make an effort to learn it properly once I'm out there.

So, the only thing I can suggest is hook up with one of the locals ;-) (that's presuming you're single!!)

Cheers

David

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05 Nov 2008 13:30 by suemac Star rating in Jumilla, Murcia. 1015 posts Send private message

If you're not single, the two of you can still try and make Spanish friends, especially those who do speak some English.  We meet a friend twice a week for coffee (we are retired, but you could still meet up for lunch or in the evenings if you work), so she can improve her English and we can learn more Spanish.  We take a large dictionary though - just in case!  Also check with your town hall whether they run Spanish for Foreigners classes.  We go twice a week in the evenings, and as our teacher doesn't speak a word of English, it is making us work quite hard!  The classes are free, too, which is a bonus!

Sue

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05 Nov 2008 14:23 by J&N Star rating in Nottinghamshire. 384 posts Send private message

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We also have a number of places we can get help with our Spanish. Our cultural centre has just started classes twice a week, at 2 levels - for beginners and intermediates runf free by the council. We have a spanish lady that gives lessons to a group of us and I alsoi have lessons from an english lady who has been here for many years. There is a bar in Villaricos that has a spanish morning where they teach the basics for the cost of a coffee and we play golf with some of the locals who are always happy to help.

Even so, it's hard work and needs some work every day to keep making progress. I love to practice when we are out and about and once you get the confidence to try it gets easier - ok, it's not word perfect but everyone is really helpful.

Be brave, pop out of your bubble occasionally - it's actually good fun and you can always pop back in when it gets too much.



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05 Nov 2008 16:28 by Roberto Star rating in Torremolinos. 3583 posts Send private message

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The problem with living in a bubble, is that if you never venture out, you'll never start picking up Spanish or get to practice what you have learnt so far. 
I would have thought in Madrid you have ample opportunity, Rob, but to answer your question, you need to visit some of the Costa towns to find the answer. I read somewhere this week (maybe it was EOS?) about a village inland from Alicante where 80% of the residents are non-Spanish - 80%!!!!! The 4 most senior councillors had been arrested and hauled away on corruption charges, leaving the 5th most senior member of the council in charge, who happens to be English and speaks very little Spanish! I guess if you lived somewhere like that, learning Spanish may not be a particularly high priority.
Personally, I have felt far more comfortable here since my Spanish reached a reasonable level (mostly self taught at a painfully slow pace, but with a few lessons when I realized that without some rudimentary grammar, I would forever be stuck at pidgeon level), and do get some satisfaction from being able to hold a proper conversation with anyone. However, I am aware that it involves a constant effort of concentration to listen to (and understand) Spanish, and for that reason, unless someone is talking directly to me, I tend to filter out conversations around me. Although I'm not naturally nosey, I notice that I miss overhearing (eavesdropping, if you like) things that are being said around me. For example, when watching (the historic) F1 GP at the weekend, every time the ad break came on ITV, I switched to the Spanish broadcast. Although if I concentrate I can follow most of the commentator's (somewhat biased towards you-know-who) babble, I switched back to the more familiar pro-Hamilton babble ASAP! I missed the background chatter in English.
Furthermore, I always maintain, when a tourist marvels at the fact that I can order my coffee in Spanish, that speaking the language, even fluently, does not help overcome some of the cultural and mentality differences between northern Europeans and Latin countries, which IMHO make it far harder to "survive" here, that the initial language barrier.

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05 Nov 2008 18:09 by claire T Star rating in Torremendo, Orihuela. 700 posts Send private message

EOS Supporter
I have been here for 6 months now and took some spanish lessons before I came out - but I never did the homework and really didn't have much of a clue!  I have now started working in an estate agency in Torrevieja and have been put to shame.  We have 12 nationalities in the office (approx) and only myself and the other Brit cannot converse fluently in spanish.

I am now taking lessons twice a week and have teamed up with one of the spanish speakers and we share our work when required - so that clients can communicate with one of us.  As my "partner" doesn't speak english the only way we can communicate is if I speak spanish and it has improved my spanish very quickly.  My head hurts when I get home at night though! 

I also have spanish digital TV but when my head hurts too much I switch my favourite programmes back to english!

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06 Nov 2008 08:37 by Rob in Madrid Star rating in Madrid. 275 posts Send private message

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From experience (lived in Germany for 7 years before moving here) I can tell you one of the best ways to learn and understand a language is to have friends who have learned a language as an adult. You tend to learn only as much vocabulary as necessary to get by. Which means you speak simple easy to understand Spanish. I've started volunteering at the local food bank run by our sister church. The volunteers are mostly British who speak Spanish, so I get ample opportunity to hear simple Spanish. More importantly the context is very simple, food or clothing. So even if I don't understand everything I pick out the most important words. Than you slowly build on that.  If you work with Spanish speakers pay attention when they are talking business or something where the lingo is specific, over time you begin to pick up the necessary words.

Some people like watching TV, personally I found documentaries to be best, unfortunately Discovery channel has the OV option I find myself unwilling to watch it in Spanish.

I am surprised that someone could live in a country for years and years and not learn the language. Even in Germany I lived in an English bubble but learned enough German to get through day to day. Which is probably why I find it so frustrating here. The only reason why I held off so long learning Spanish was we were unsure if we'd be moving back or not. Now that's it's settled we are staying I'm pushing to learn Spanish.


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Decided after all I don't like Spanish TV, that is having compared both.




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06 Nov 2008 15:41 by georgia Star rating in Algorfa (As seen on .... 1918 posts Send private message

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Quite a lot of Town Halls offer the "Cambio" classes,this where you can go and sit in a classroom and trade languages.
If you speak English you will be sat with a Spaniard and you will comunicate in each others language good fun and sometimes highly amusing...
Quite a few people don't bother with the language but it is so much better if you do,after all the bubble can become quite claustraphobic after a while and there is so much more to see outside of it.....
I have a spanish friend who kills himself laughing when he hears my Spanglish accent but he cant say "v" properly so we are quits....

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06 Nov 2008 23:23 by Roberto Star rating in Torremolinos. 3583 posts Send private message

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I have a neighbour from Slovakia, who has been in Spain less time than me, but speaks far better Spanish than me, on account of the fact that when he arrived here, strangely, nobody spoke Slovakian! He speaks about as much English as I do Slovakian (we can order beer in each other's languages!) so Spanish is the only language we have in common. I find chatting with him is much better for my Spanish than with Spaniards, as he speaks grammatically correctly, and with very clear (& correct) pronunciation.
With TV, like Rob, if the option is there I lazily choose the English alternative, and in a similar way, when with other Brits who also speak Spanish, it just seems weird, and you always end up speaking English. If you really want to learn, I do believe you have to remove yourself from an English speaking environment. And sadly, it has to be said, that most Brits speak Spanish with an awful accent, and it's too easy to emulate them if you are not careful.

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23 Nov 2008 16:53 by lisainspain Star rating. 4 posts Send private message

You know, I wouldn´t worry too much about not being able to speak Spanish. I speak it almost fluently, and it doesn´t make my life any easier in Spain!!!!!!!!! Telefonica still act like incompetent idiots, I still get overtaxed etc.... the language is not the obstacle, it is more cultural if anything!!!!!!!!

On a serious note, there is only so much one can learn en la calle etc. formal classes are vital...





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23 Nov 2008 19:54 by Roberto Star rating in Torremolinos. 3583 posts Send private message

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Exactly the point I made below: "speaking the language, even fluently, does not help overcome some of the cultural and mentality differences between northern Europeans and Latin countries, which IMHO make it far harder to "survive" here, than the initial language barrier"

Ahh, Telefónica..........don't even get me started!!!!



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17 Dec 2008 22:16 by Jewel Star rating. 34 posts Send private message

Why should you survive without learning the language?  Spain is a psanish speaking countyry, same as UK, USA and Canada are english pseaking countires......

 

Learning the idioms and idiosyncrasies and all the sutff to get you 100% accepted will take all your life.....





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18 Dec 2008 06:14 by pilgrim Star rating in Costa Calida. 234 posts Send private message

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My wife is Venezuelan, so I am fortunate in that I can check pronunciation with her, albeit in Latin American Spanish, that has no "lisp", which I understand, started many, many years ago, with a King that lisped, so it became the norm??

Anyway, sometimes when I speak the language to a Spaniard, I get a "Ah??", so my wife makes the request. When I check my pronunciation with her, she usually tells me it is quite correct but because I am a foreigner, they expect to not understand me?

I sometimes ask "correcto señor?". They then reply, "si, señor?" Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrh!!

Age is a language retention blocker I find but I can usually hold my own when my wife is elsewhere. Biggest problem is she loves the English language, so we use it more than we should.

Anyway, speak the idioma fluently or not, España es mi vida. I always have "Spanglish."



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27 Feb 2009 17:17 by Rob in Madrid Star rating in Madrid. 275 posts Send private message

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I'll give you a specific example of where I ran into problems. I called the Telefonica and Digital Plus English lines arranged both TV and telephone to be installed..

THAN she said "a technician will call in a few days to arrange an appointment"

Well he don't speak English and I don't Spanish so now I'm stuck trying to arrange an appointment. A have a friend who helps but she's been busy of recent and isn't available.

Another one, I need to arrange physico for my knee. A friend recommended an excellent clinic, problem is no one speaks English so I'm stuck trying find someone who can translate for an appointment or two.

you get the point. you can live in an English bubble for a while but at some point you have to step out.

 

 



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Decided after all I don't like Spanish TV, that is having compared both.




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09 Mar 2009 17:46 by callula Star rating. 11 posts Send private message

i cannot imagine moving to spain until i have learnt more spanish - my biggest problem is the speed at which the Spanish speak

- i have found the Michel Thomas CDs really helpful, but couldnt find anywhere on the web or in CDs that taught vocabulary in groups.  i wanted lists of words in english and spanish that i could listen to over and over again until they sank into my poor old brain - well as i couldnt find it, i created it -

i have recorded groups of words  - me saying the English and a native Spaniard saying the Spanish (slowly) - all in MP3 format for anyone to download for free - it is at learnparrotfashion com and if you have ideas for other groups of words that should be added, then you can use the contact button on the website and i will try to get them included.

hope this is of help to some people





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09 Mar 2009 18:38 by Roberto Star rating in Torremolinos. 3583 posts Send private message

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One of the problems I find, is that sometimes Spanish just doesn't have enough words.

For example: I was standing at a pedestrian crossing the other day, and the lights were taking an eternity to change, even though I had pressed the button. I pressed it again, and noticed that it said "espere verde". I began to wonder whether it meant wait for green, or hope for green. You see, the verb esperar means both to wait and to hope. It's a subtle difference I suppose, but one which, apart from the context it is used in, is impossible to differentiate in Spanish. Later on I asked a Spanish friend (who speaks excellent English) how he would say, for example, I'm hoping for good weather, and then, I'm waiting for good weather. Guess what? Both replies were identical. So, I'm off to the F1 testing in Jerez, but if you're my Spanish friend, you have no idea whether I'm waiting until the weather improves, or if I'm just hoping I don't get soaked again like I did last week!

I've been re-reading some Paul Theroux travels, and came across a chapter in which he visited the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges. Being now blind, Borges asks Theroux to read to him - in English. Borges keeps interrupting, exclaiming how much he loves English, because "you can't say that in Spanish!"

My Spanish vocab is not great at the best of times, but sometimes I really struggle to express in Spanish what I'm thinking in English. There is always another way to say something, using words you do know, but often this means the sentiment is lost. Usually it doesn't matter too much (it doesn't really matter that my Spanish friend doesn't know if I'm waiting or hoping!) but I've been in tricky situations (arguing on behalf of the community with the developer for example) when I've said something that I thought was fairly innocuous, only to have someone on the other side of the table jump up and nearly rip my head off for some apparent offence I caused. Cultural differences aside, I wonder sometimes whether things can get so misunderstood, confusing and complicated in Spain, simply because the language has limitations?

Another example to ponder: if someone is poorly educated, but never rude, how would you say that? Look up "rude" in your dictionaries - you'll see the problem. I came up with this:

El es mal educado, pero nunca esta mal educado.

 

P.S. before anyone else comes up with it, the best solution I can think of is: espero que el tiempo mejora (I hope that the weather improves); espero para tiempo mejor (I'm waiting for better weather).

And: El no tiene buen educacion, pero nunca habla malos palabras (he doesn't have a good education, but never says bad words)



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16 Apr 2009 18:31 by Roberto Star rating in Torremolinos. 3583 posts Send private message

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Continuing on the same theme (you'll have to read my previous post too if you don't remember what the theme was)

The verb probar: to test, to try, or to prove. OK, there is another verb to prove, demonstrar, in my dictionary, but it wasn't in my head last night at the AGM and it wouldn't have helped anyway. I was searching for a way to explain that we need proof  that the garage floods when it rains. Proof, from probar, is prueba, but this also means test, so some thought I wanted to go down to the garage and test the drains with a hose! For all I know, some may even have thought I actually wanted to try and flood the garage!

A Spanish neighbour who did not attend the meeting last night, rang me this morning in a panic to ask why we had to pay €1000 to paint the building when we're in the middle of a crisis. His wife (Spanish) had got this information from another neighbour (Spanish), who did attend last night. I let him sweat a bit first, saying that if you fail to attend AGMs and don't give your vote to someone else, you have no "voice" and have to abide by any decisions taken at the meeting, before explaining that we had only agreed to increase the overall annual budget by €1000 (split between all owners it's not a big hit) to cover the deficit we had last year - nothing to do with painting, which we've shelved for this year. But HOW can such a simple thing get so misunderstood between native Spanish speakers? And more to the point, why does a foreigner have to explain it to them? Especially as I'm NOT the president any more!!! Are they just thick? Or, is it because the language is inadequate? I really do despair sometimes!



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"First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure"

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16 Apr 2009 21:37 by J&N Star rating in Nottinghamshire. 384 posts Send private message

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Roberto, I understand your frustrations totally. Having discovered some verbs can stand for several meanings, I also find that some times there are 2 or 3 verbs that all mean the same and I struggle to know when to use which.

There are 2 verbs meaning 'to know' - conocer (to know someone)  & saber (to know something), ok, simple enough. But then when I was telling one of my Spanish friends yesterday that I had met someone for coffee last week and used encontrar (to meet), they told me I should have used conocer -effectively saying I knew my friend last week!

So, just as I think I'm getting it, back to square one! But I do enjoy trying, the locals are so helpful and we have a good laugh.

 

 



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http://relocatetospain.blogspot.com our adventure from deciding to move to Spain to being here and moving back to the UK.


 




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