As a semi fluent Spanish speaker myself, the benefits of knowing some Spanish are immeasurable. However, it has to be said that not learning the Spanish language has its advantages too and can sometimes make for a more pleasant experience when living in Spain. The truth is most adults in Spain will only learn what they need to get through everyday life as the likelihood is that they will live and work within the expat community. Even getting to a basic communication level is difficult for most expats who have so many other things going on in their lives. Sometimes, I wonder if I would actually enjoy the country more if I hadn’t learnt Spanish.
One of the major benefits is that once you have made the decision not to learn any Spanish, you have removed an enormous weight off your back. Learning a language is a life long project which you can never complete. It often feels that the more you learn, the more frustrated you become as you never feel that you are quite there. If you opt out, you take away this pressure in life and free up more time to do the things that you really want to do.
If you never learn Spanish, think of all those learning opportunities that you are providing for all those young professional types seeking to improve their English. Formal English lessons cost good money and you can go around giving conversation classes for free.
Life is more exciting if you don’t learn Spanish. You are always in suspense wondering if that new kitchen cleaner will cut through grease or make your surfaces sparkle since you haven’t a clue what the label means. Eating out in really Spanish restaurants can be fun too especially if they don’t have a menu in English as you never really know quite what you are getting.
A major plus is that you are less vulnerable to criticism or at least you won’t understand it. Your neighbours, shop keepers and anyone could be muttering all kinds of things about you but you still give them a friendly wave and at a push “hola” oblivious to any bad feeling. Likewise, if your Spanish is very limited you can only get so far with communicating with the Spanish not allowing any scope for offence or cultural misinterpretation.
If you don’t learn Spanish you may actually be making your life easier as you will be less likely to use Spanish services. For example, you wouldn’t ever dare to attempt the hairdressers without knowing any Spanish but even with just a smidgen of Spanish, you may be more daring. However, the vocabulary used in hairdressing is so specific that you could end up with not quite what you asked for despite feeling quite confident with your level of Spanish. So, ironically some knowledge of Spanish can get you into more trouble than none at all.
So, if you have tried your best or are anxious about learning Spanish, don’t beat yourself up as it isn’t always as advantageous to you as you might expect. I know of plenty of people who lead fulfilled and very happy lives with barely any knowledge of the Spanish language at all. I am not one of them as I do genuinely enjoy learning languages but I can fully appreciate the reasons behind why someone might choose not to.