Do you need to speak Spanish to live in Marbella?

If you are considering relocating to Marbella or anywhere on the Costa del Sol, learning the language may be the last thing on your mind. Depending on the reasons why you are moving, you'll be thinking of the hot sunny climate, the beaches, the relaxed pace of life and the general change of scenery.

Perhaps you've decided to retire in the sun? Or start a business on the Costa? Whatever your motivation for upping sticks and moving abroad, you can't get around the fact that Spain is a different country with a substantially different culture, and where they speak Spanish.

Of course, if you've chosen the Costa del Sol as your destination, you'll be following in the well trodden path of many other British expats. There are 761,000 British citizens living in Spain altogether, and many of them have never bothered to learn the local language. They seem to be doing just fine. Is that a bad thing? 


Are you retiring?

If you have decided to relocate to Spain long term for your retirement, getting to know a foreign culture may not be top of your list; in fact the upheaval may put you off. Perhaps just a little snifter will do – the favourable climate, the local scenery, food and drink that's bit different. It's worth asking yourself how much change you are really comfortable with.

With an established expat community to provide support and companionship in beautiful surroundings, Marbella can give you everything you're hoping for and more. New friends, perhaps in similar circumstances to yours, can show you the ropes of how to get the most enjoyment out of living on the Costa del Sol. There are support networks to help with administrative tasks, banking, shopping, healthcare, local estate agents and so on – and anyway, everyone speaks English, even the locals! It's a nice position to be in.

Depending on how much you want to expand your horizons, you can take Spanish lessons if you really want to – but unless you choose to leave the safety net of your anglocentric community and explore the rest of the country, there's really not much need.


Are you working?

Are you moving to Spain for work related reasons? Whether you have a job lined up or are thinking of starting your own business, and even if you're a non-working spouse, it will make life much easier to have some knowledge of Spanish.

Even if you're only dealing with other expats – perhaps in the tourist trade or property business – you cannot get around the fact that you will need to engage with Spanish society, probably on a daily basis. Of course, there are people to help (see above) – but do you really want to restrict yourself to living in an inward looking community?

Some would argue that you need to learn Spanish if you want to lead a successful life in Spain. Of course, knowledge of the language will enrich your experience. Spanish people are generally a warm and welcoming bunch and really appreciate foreigners making the effort with their language. In the same way as we expect immigrants to Britain to speak English and show an interest to learn about our culture, the same applies in Spain.

If you don't know any Spanish at all, it's a good idea to prepare before you go. Take a beginners' class, get a phrasebook or follow an online course – anything is better than embarrassing blank stares all round once you get there.

Once you're there, take every opportunity to talk to people, watch TV and go to the cinema, listen to the radio… anything to help get you into the zone. Obviously, taking Spanish classes will be immensely beneficial too. With a bit of interest and motivation, you'll be surprised at how quickly your language skills will improve once you allow yourself to be immersed in Spanish surroundings. You may even find that you like it. 

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19 October 2017
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