Lost in Translation? Time to pull down the language barriers ?.

It´s true to say, that thanks to the diverse population that resides here on the Costa del Sol, you can happily live your life in Spain and never have to speak a word of Spanish! But ?.can you truly get the best from your new life on the Coast if you don´t speak the language and are you actually putting yourself at a disadvantage in terms of dealing with administration and even emergencies?

Spanish is not only a fascinating language but an important one as well, and so in the interests of good international relations we take a look at how everyone can improve their Spanish and subsequently their life in Spain!

Why learn Spanish? ……….It´s a good question, after all there are thousands of native Brits living on the Coast and many more Europeans who speak English as a second language and if you want to you can conduct your life here in such a way that you will never need to speak Spanish. When first moving here, the one thing that immediately became apparent was how bizarre it was, that in a foreign country you can go for weeks without hearing a word of the native language!! If you live on the Costa del Sol you can work in an English speaking environment, you can shop in English speaking shops, you can drink in English bars, you can eat in English owned restaurants and you can socialise at English clubs and events.

This may be true yet there is a strong element of belief that says if you choose to live in a foreign country you really should make an effort to learn the language. While you can exist quite happily in an all English environment, surely you will get much more from your life in Spain if you can converse in Spanish. Suddenly a whole new world opens up?. In recent years the demographics of the typical ex-pat has changed. Now younger couples, single people, and young families are moving to the Costa del Sol. For these groups working in the Spanish community is more useful, they will need more access to Spanish administration channels and of course in terms of young families there is the danger that unless you learn Spanish your children will grow up speaking a language you don´t understand. Plus as the popularity of living inland grows, more and more Brits are realising that contrary to the Coast, if you live inland basic Spanish is not only useful but indeed a necessity. All in all, if you choose to live in Spain you should learn some Spanish.

For many of us who come here as adults this is a lot more difficult than it sounds. It´s fair to say that most of us didn´t learn Spanish at school and that the logistics of relocating, setting up home, finding work in a new country and so on are very time consuming. To really get to grips with a new language you need to put in the time, and yet finding this time can be difficult. Still broadening your linguistic horizons opens a wealth of new opportunities. Suddenly you can ask for things you need in Spanish shops or offices, you can read Spanish magazines and menus and most importantly the job opportunities available to you increase ten fold. You only need to look through the situations vacant adverts in the English papers to notice that most of them imply that Spanish if not essential is certainly a benefit. And if you´re still not convinced, it´s worth considering some general facts about the Spanish language.

It´s a well known fact that Chinese is the largest spoken language in the world yet Spanish and English are in a virtual dead heat to be the second most spoken language, meaning speaking Spanish will not only enhance your lifestyle in Spain but also in many other parts of the world such as South America, France, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and The Philippines. At present it is estimated that approximately 330 million people in the world speak Spanish as their first language and the demand for Spanish courses has doubled worldwide in the last ten years. While Spanish is often the official language in many American countries and is widely spoken in many central American states, it´s ironic to note that here in Spain nearly 30 percent of the residents have a first language other than Spanish!

If your setting up a new business it´s worth remembering that approx 5.8 percent of internet users speak Spanish, making it the fourth most popular language in the Internet community ( after English, Japanese and German ) So if you´re looking to market to a wider audience, conducting your business in English and Spanish could be a profitable step forward!!

Grammatically Speaking, Spanish is a difficult language for the native English speaker to master. First we have to take on board the concept of masculine and feminine. Then there is the complex grammar, the scarily confusing past tenses, the almost brain boggling subjunctive and the difference in sentence structure.

If that all wasn´t hard enough when you confidently step into the street excited about trying out your newly developed Spanish, you are met with several different dialects and accents and you quickly find that the speed with which the Spanish answer you is so fast you´re in danger of being knocked out by it!

But all this aside, learning Spanish is an incredibly fulfilling experience. Once you start to come to grips with the language you begin to appreciate it´s beauty and it´s roots and discover that many of the words are indeed similar to their English counterparts.

More importantly the Spanish love Brits who are attempting to learn their language, and it doesn?t matter how silly you feel trying to speak, because all Spanish people will help and encourage you in whatever way they can.

The wonderful thing about learning Spanish is that it?s never too late. Whether you come out here as a teenager, as a young professional, as a parent or as a retired person ?. You can learn Spanish. The beauty in fact of attending a class here is that you get to meet people from all walks of life and of all ages, and swapping stories is a great way to get information about living in Spain as well! There are many ways to learn Spanish. Before your plane even lands you can start the process in England. Many people prefer to learn via books and nowadays you can buy self teaching books and tapes and study at your own pace. For others however classes are the answer and again in England there are a wealth of local classes and groups, not to mention private tutors.

If you don´t get the chance before you arrive then it´s not too late once you?re here! Again most towns on the Costa del Sol have classes and tutors.

You can find lists of these in the local papers and it´s also worth asking at the Town Hall or Foreign Residents department. Most Town Halls also run their own classes.

Classes here tend to run either on an intensive basis, which means they are daily and you can take a course for a specific length of time such as a month, or 3 months, or a weekly basis whereby you simply go once or twice a week. If you´re a complete beginner and you have the time intensive courses are a great way to get to grips with the language. In three months you can go from a complete non speaker to someone who can converse ( slowly but surely! ) in the present, past and future tenses. Courses like these can be expensive so it´s worth shopping around and asking for recommendations. Some people prefer to study one on one with a tutor, and again it´s a good idea to ask around as prices vary widely and it´s important to find someone with whom you feel comfortable. If you don`t fancy learning in the conventional way there are also a number of more non conventional methods available such as learning by hypnosis!

On top of taking classes, just living in Spain provides the perfect way to learn the language ? after all however much or little time you have you can read a Spanish newspaper or magazine anywhere! Or when you go to the cinema or rent a movie watch the film in Spanish with English subtitles and then vice versa, you soon begin to get a feel for the language. Listen to Spanish radio and watch Spanish TV. A great way to build up your vocabulary is through listening to the radio as reports tend to be about new and weather and the same words start to pop up again and again. Similarly a very entertaining way to improve your Spanish is by watching some of the Spanish ´Trisha´ type shows and quiz shows, where the words and dialogue are often highlighted on the screen as subtitles. And of course you can hang out in Spanish coffee bars, visit Spanish museums and exhibitions and generally try to move your everyday existence into a more Spanish way of life. So for example instead of shopping somewhere where you know the staff speak English, try using a Spanish shop instead. Plus of course it´s never too early. Experts recommend that if your child is still young it´s a good idea to send them to a Spanish school. Most children pick up the language in a matter of months and are fluent in matter of years therefore hugely improving their prospects for the future.

These days many ex?pats are keen to learn Spanish and embrace their new life fully. Never learning Spanish is a bit like missing out on a great slice of Spanish life, it´s a little similar to living in Spain and never trying a paella, experiencing a village fiesta or watching a professional Flamenco artist. The real Spain is right outside your door and by speaking even a small amount of Spanish, you will quickly find life is so much more exciting!

Reproduced by kind permission of www.barsinspain.com