If you are visiting the major cities or the coastal resorts of Spain you’ll find that more and more people speak English. However, living in a rural part of Spain, it is absolutely necessary to try and learn the Language.
None of our neighbours speak English and whilst the younger people learn to read and write English in school, they are often nervous about trying it out in conversation.
My sister, her husband and I along with several of our friends have sessions of SPANGLISH. This is where we meet up with Spanish friends either for coffee or in each others houses, for an hour or so several times a week, and speak part English and part Spanish.
The sessions don’t follow any real structure and it’s usually something that has happened in the village or at work that sparks a conversation which then leads on to all sorts of subjects.
I have also noticed over my 7 years of living here that many BRITS just want to learn ‘conversational’ Spanish. This often means they learn a lot of words and some standard phrases by rote to use in bars, shops and cafes. What I often hear in these cases in that the Brit is able to ask for the things they want, talk about the weather etc. but the problem they have is understanding the response from the Spanish people.
That’s why it is so important to understand the basics of Spanish grammar. Because it is so different from English grammar in many ways, if you don’t understand, for example, who is being talked about (determined by the conjugation of the verb) then understanding the response can not only halt the conversation but can get you in all sorts of trouble.
I spent many happy hours stating my perfectly learned phrases to my neighbours but only able to respond to their comments with an interested ‘si, si, si’. To this day I’m not sure what I was saying yes to!!!!
Pronunciation will also help you be understood, so one easy thing to remember is how to pronounce the vowels:
a not as in hay but as in cat
e not as in tea but as in eh
i not as in bill but as in tee
o not as in nought but as in oh
u not as in but but as in ooh
The good thing is that the vowel sounds are always pronounced the same (very rare exceptions) so a word such as Afeitar – the verb, to shave is AF EH IT ARE.
Remembering the vowel sounds will help you on your way to being understood.
Although learning to speak Spanish in Andalucia does mean that when I travel to Barcelona, for example, they don’t always understand my dialect…… Basitano (a person from Baza)!!!