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Mac's Poll - Let's Vote

Curious to know what the general opinion is? Cast your vote and let's see!!

How well do you speak Spanish? Have you improved?
01 June 2017 @ 14:48

George Orwell wrote in 1938: "The only way I could get along was to carry everywhere a small dictionary which I whipped out of my pocket at moments of crisis. But I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than in most countries. How easy it is to make friends in Spain!"

 More than 70 years after the publication of Homage to Catalonia, hundreds of thousands of Orwell's fellow countrymen have followed his lead, eventhough many have now returned due to the crisis. The British are still the largest contingent of foreigners in Spain. But how well does that population speak Spanish? 


These are a few views of expat journalists, expat politicians and locals on the subject:


  • "Brits tends to live in a bubble. With more and more information available in English, there's less reason to learn Spanish and, as a consequence, less opportunity to understand the local culture. Many residents speak no more than 10 Spanish words in an average week – usually restaurant Spanish – and they pride themselves on 'getting by'.”
  •  "By moving to Spain, most have opted out of the rat race, substituting social responsibility for social activity within the numerous Brit clubs, amateur theatre and charity groups that have mushroomed over the entire Costa Blanca." 
  • "It's difficult. I try to practise my Spanish but people come back to me in English."
  • "British people do not seem to integrate terribly well.They are very good at societies, book clubs, social organisations of different kinds but, in general, they seem to associate more often with other expats.”

Can you relate to any of these thoughts?


Recent research has shown,  using Spanish in everyday situations and sticking to regular classes can help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease, say doctors.

Learning a foreign language could put back the first signs of dementia by at least five years, 

Expatriates in Spain are at a particular advantage, since those who regularly use the language they have learnt are even more likely to fight off Alzheimer's than those who have merely studied one and let it lay dormant. Whilst crosswords, sudokus and other 'thinking' puzzles have long been lauded as a tool for fighting off memory loss and confusion in old age, experts believe that those who speak two or more languages have even more chance of retaining their mental faculties.

They say learning a language is a more powerful type of mental exercise, and builds up a bank of 'spare' brainpower which helps the mind to keep working for longer and more effectively, slowing down the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's.

Medics behind the research, which took place at York University in Toronto, Canada, say this is rather like keeping a spare battery for your mobile phone or an emergency tank of petrol in your car.

"It means your brain can keep going for longer because there is more in the safety tank," they say.

The part of the brain that controls memory, decision-making, reasoning and expressing oneself in words is made stronger, more flexible and more resistant to damage by learning and using a foreign language.

Doctors claim the sooner a person starts to learn a language, the more beneficial it is for slowing down the process of dementia and age-related confusion.

Researchers found that the average Alzheimer's sufferer began to see the early symptoms of their condition in their mid-70s, or younger, where they only spoke one language.

But those who spoke two or more languages - or were actively learning one - tended to be in their 80s before they were diagnosed with dementia.

Additionally, the process of the mind breaking down - including loss of short-term memory - took hold much more rapidly in monolingual patients.

However, they warn that learning a language will not actually prevent Alzheimer's - it will simply slow down the associated mental deterioration and stop the condition from manifesting itself for much longer.


Nearly 4 years ago we ran this poll and the results were not that surprising for some...



I thought it might be interesting to see if the EOS members have improved at all in recent years and if there is now a larger percentage of Spanish speakers amongst us....


So please cast your vote:



Like 2


tamaraessex said:
02 June 2017 @ 19:08

Interesting! Thanks for this. I feel we're missing a category between "fluent" and "well enough to have a decent conversation". A conversation about what? Shopping and the weather? Or an in-depth analysis of either country's political situation, explaining complex issues in Spanish? I'd put myself in the "complex conversations" category but I fight shy of the word "fluent", which means not pausing for vocabulary, always using the subjunctive or third conditional without having to think, never mixing ser y estar! I make mistakes, but speak "con fluidez". That's not fluency.

anthomo16 said:
03 June 2017 @ 09:30

I think I have a little more that basics but no where near fluency, whatever that is. Unfortunately the cost of learning it does come into factor. I went to school here for a year but due to operations etc. couldn't go for the second year and now I am partially disabled so to get anywhere I would have to either get a taxi or the bus (which would get me to the school, 1 hour before it opens) I just do not have either the stamina or the finances for this.
I have tried learning online but do need someone to push me to study.
Maybe the way forward for someone like me is to get a pen pal someone in my age group who wants to learn English and is prepared to put up and correct my Spanish - if such people exist.

Brian said:
03 June 2017 @ 09:59

I try very hard in respect of the Spanish people.
I try very hard but they often come back to me in English
They should make us try This is not little England it is Spain

The only Brit in the village. said:
03 June 2017 @ 10:35

The new poll makes disappointing reading but probably to be expected. We live in a small village in the hills and the locals are very friendly and do not speak English, so, we are lucky in that we do not have English thrown back at us. We are more likely to be in the enough to get by category but can and do have conversations with people. Listening to other conversations in the village, they are most often about the weather because that is important to them and their land, animals etc.
One conversation we had was a struggle and so, I went to get our dictionary and the person was astounded at the thickness of the book. I tried to explain it was half Spanish, half English and he asked what the blue pages were at the back. I said it was grammar and he shrugged his shoulders and implied something along the lines of it didn't matter.

Mar Elison said:
03 June 2017 @ 11:43

This is good and very true article - I wonder, every time when I am in Spain, South-Spain, at my house (and I speak fluently spanish)... I wonder how the british manage to live honest live down there, acting like they own the place, not and never speak the spanish language in their arrogance, mostly drinking all day, doing really nothing and yes, as said here above...having charity events again and again. - What game is that ?..And what kind of show biz are the playing..? - I am from Iceland, icelandic, and this is mostly what irritating me about the british heard down there. They, them self talk about "german influence" all around spanish territory but that´s not correct. - They took the islands. Some times I feel shamed for the british which think they can move to Spain to forget their miserable live in rain in England and GB but are really taking all their bad habits and misery in the luggage down to Spain and keep on sitting noisy in bars and restaurants with a big cans of beer, but then in the sun instead of dark and smokie pubs in GB. - In their arrogance they don´t know that 70% of english words fit(s) perfectly into spanish language.

Jo said:
03 June 2017 @ 12:59

Think we need something between the second & third categories.
Often many can have a conversation but need a bit of a push to understand everything that comes back. Actually hearing & understanding quickly is the hardest part.

JRH said:
03 June 2017 @ 14:33

I think that if you speak a little more slowly, then the other person will do the same. If you understand some Spanish, then ask others to speak a little slower. If you can get the pronunciation correct, Spanish will reply in Spanish. If not, they may reply in English as they pick up the way we pronounce words. It is as simple as "vino", sounds more like Beano, not Vino, and ensuring the gender matches, especially the ones that do not follow the general rule. Keeping sentences simple helps, rather than trying to complicate a sentence. Any effort you make is appreciated. Don't be afraid to make mistakes - in fact it can be fun. Practice makes perfect. Missing out words is a common mistake when learning any language. "Quiero comer mis amigos" instead of "Quiero comer CON mis amigos, makes me laugh, Do you want to eat your friends, or eat WITH them?

Not (really) the only Brit in the village said:
03 June 2017 @ 16:29

I agree totally with Jo, it's sometimes difficult to pick up peoples words and then have to compute both theirs and yours.

johnzx said:
04 June 2017 @ 10:42

I started learning Spanish, for real as opposed to ‘playing at it,’ about 20 years ago. My incentive was that I was looking for a girlfriend. Having Spanish meant I was likely to meet many more potentials.

Having attended classes for a few months, during which time I devoted practically all day to studying, I joined the library and took out Spanish books from the children’s section. So easier to understand. I progressed to the adult section were I found reading authors who had published in English were easier to understand in the Spanish version, Julies Verne, Agatha Christie, CP James were on my favourites list.

When I spoke to Spaniards who replied in English I said (in Spanish) “You do not speak Spanish ?” I said I was from Russia and did not understand English. That meant I got plenty of Spanish practice.

Not long after starting to learn I created a team of volunteer translators to help non Spanish callers at my nearby National Police station. I recruited initially from my Spanish class. In a few months I had been asked by the Police Chiefs (Comisarios) of 4 other police stations to create teams for them too.

Working at the police stations meant I was head first into the deep-end so had to just plough on.

That was 20 years ago. I am still a volunteer with the National Police although I relinquished running the four other teams after 10 years (when I married a non-Spanish speaking Filipina).

I find in general I get a much better response from officialdom not having to ask them if they speak English.

So good luck to those who make a serious attempt to learn.

PS The question of how well people speak is almost impossible to answer except for ‘fluent’ and ‘none.’ I quite often have people come to the police station who say they can get by without my help but then often find they cannot,

mac75 said:
04 June 2017 @ 19:56

Thank you all for taking the time to do the poll and I will take into considerations your suggestions for the next re-run!

Maybe this will help clarify :

I would describe 'fluent' as having no difficulty discussing any topic that you could discuss in your mother tongue. The odd grammatical mistake may happen, even as it does when using your mother tongue. We all make grammatical errors everyday without realising it most of the time, but they normally go unnoticed. You would also have a very good control of phonological features of the language.

"Having a decent conversation" is basically being able to talk about most topics that you would in your mother tongue but you may be occasionally limited by vocabulary or grammar but most certainly able to communicate with a good degree of fluency although with some degree of hesitation.You would also have a good control of phonological features of the language.

"Enough to get by and be undestood" would fall short of being able to produce well constructed and extended discourse, but you would be able to communicate and be understood. But your vocabulary is limited as would be your phonological control of the language.

The rest are self explanatory I think...

Thanks again!

Anne Stevens said:
06 June 2017 @ 03:45

One person from Iceland made a comment about pubs in England being smoky. Smoking has not been allowed in pubs in England for a few years now.

onlooker said:
07 June 2017 @ 11:26

It is not only the costa brits. Some of the Spanish villages have cliques of ex-pats who speak no Spanish and who just meet up every day and drink. They think this is living the dream.

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