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English on the Camino Frances

MagnoMurmure

New Member
Past OR future Camino
August 2013
I'm leaving for the camino in late July, and I'll be there through August. I'm just curious, how difficult will it be for me to communicate as an American mostly English-only speaker? I can understand Latin American Spanish pretty well; I lived in New York for a few years and have traveled to Central America, and I have a good deal of Ltin study, so I can usually understand about 80% of Spanish, I just can't say anything back. I also speak pretty good German.

Will I be able to get by or am I going to need to bone up significantly on my Spanish? I assume English is a kind of lingua Franca on the camino.
 
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2012
There are several threads on this topic. Consensus is learn to speak some Spanish. The courtesies at least- Buenas Dias, Buenas Tardes, por favor, gracias, una cerveza por favor, tiene un camas para la noche. Being able to understand the information provided when asking for directions will be a real advantage, but asking in the first place in the lingua Frances will show true courtesy to our hosts.

Linguists will cheerfully point out the flaws in my limited ( very limited ) Spanish but it has got me by. I just wish I could have a proper conversation sometimes.
 

clearskies

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francés - 2011 to 2018
Camino Portugués - 2018, 2019, April 2021
Celtic Camino - 2019
I have just finished my camino today. I know a little Spanish but you can easily get by with what you have. The majority of Spanish know english but it would be handy to know the odd welcome, greeting and thank you.
 

robventures

Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francés (1995 & 2002 & 2009), Via de la Plata (2012 & 2013), Oporto-SdC beach route (2013)
"The majority of Spanish know English."

This is very much not true.

Whilst it may be true that many Spaniards in the tourist industry in areas popular with foreigners know some English, it certainly can't be relied on in the general case.
 

MagnoMurmure

New Member
Past OR future Camino
August 2013
robventures said:
"The majority of Spanish know English."

This is very much not true.

Whilst it may be true that many Spaniards in the tourist industry in areas popular with foreigners know some English, it certainly can't be relied on in the general case.
I've heard that generally, the further south in Europe you go, the less English you'll encounter. That said, the Camino, for good or bad, has become a tourist route. So I'm expecting at least to be able to get by with SOME English.

That said, I do know the basics of Spanish, albeit of the Latin American variety and I don't foresee having major issues doing simple stuff like reserving a room, ordering food and drink, etc. And again, I understand pretty much 80% of the Spanish I hear, depending on the speed. Plus, I speak German.
 
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annakappa

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Part frances jun 07/rest frances may- jun 2008/Frances sept-oct 2009/ Sanabres Oct 2010/Frances sept-oct 2011/Aragones Sept-Oct 2012. Hospitalero Sept 2010, Amiga in Pilgrim's Office Oct 2013. Part Primitivo Oct 2013. Portugues from Porto June 2015.
First if all,if you understand Latin American Spanish, you are half way there! We, at home, speak Latin American Spanish and, apart from making a few adjustments on specific words, ( just as the difference between British and N. American English), you should be fine.
If I was you, I would try and brush up your Spanish before you leave for Spain.
Personally, I do not think that English is the lingua Franca on the Camino. What happens, rather, is that so often people speaking the same language tend to stick together, however you/we are in Spain and therefore I think that it's only courtesy to at least start the ball rolling, by speaking in Spanish. It's their country, after all. You will probably be walking for 5/6 weeks. Use this time as an invaluable present on total immersion!
I do not agree that most Spaniards speak English, at least the older generation (say 50 years and older)! But that goes for a load of other nationalities too, especially the French and the Germans. Austrians, who also share German as their language, seem to do better!
Anne
 

november_moon

Veteran Member
With my job, I work on projects for international clients, and when I started working with the Spanish clients, I was suprised at the number of Spanish people that I interacted with who didn't speak much English at all. And I am talking about university educated people in their 30s and 40s. This is very different from my experience in a lot of other European countries, where pretty much everybody under the age of 50 speaks at least passable English and many people speak quite excellent English.
 

fraluchi

RIP 2019
Past OR future Camino
One every year since 2007
MagnoMurmure said:
I'm leaving for the camino in late July, and I'll be there through August. I'm just curious, how difficult will it be for me to communicate as an American mostly English-only speaker?
If either your knowledge or your sign language does not appear to have results (which is improbable :wink: ) you may find "Camino lingo" a useful asset. Check this out: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ACMBHTY/?tag=casaivar02-20 :wink:
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
I found that many pligrims have at least some English. I also found that many do not.

French people do not as a rule. Neither do Spanish people.

The average waiter will likely have experience with people who have only english and therefore may have a few words to determine what it is you are wanting.

English as lingua franca? Nope. Keep in mind that, for many Spaniards, Spanish is already a second language. The Basque people have their own language and so do Galacians.
 

scruffy1

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Holy Year from Pamplona 2010, SJPP 2011, Lisbon 2012, Le Puy 2013, Vezelay (partial watch this space!) 2014; 2015 Toulouse-Puenta la Reina (Arles)
The most important word to know in Soanish is "bali| sometime "vali" meaning ok or I agree or I heard you or any general agreement. In South American Spanish they say "claro".
 
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Deleted member 3000

Guest
It is not a big problem. A smile and gestures work quite well. Remember that louder is not clearer! If the listener does not speak English, and most will not, shouting in English will not be teaching them a new language. It may teach them something about your country of origin, so if you are going to be irritating, tell them you are from Canada!
 

SabineP

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
some and then more. see my signature.
scruffy1 said:
The most important word to know in Soanish is "bali| sometime "vali" meaning ok or I agree or I heard you or any general agreement. In South American Spanish they say "claro".

Actually it is " Vale" but the " V " in spanish is a soft " B ". But true Scruffy, " Vale " gets you a long way in Spain... :lol:

And I absolutely agree with Annakappa : it is only a matter of courtesy to learn some spanish when walking a camino in Spain.
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
On the other hand there is not a telephone answering system in the U.S. that does not deal with the customer in Spanish. Have you ever tried to get assistance from Vodafone in English?!!
 

piogaw

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino frances (05/06 2012) sjpdp-sdc; vdlp/camino sanabrea (02/03 2013) sevilla-sdc; hospitalero sdc june 2013, august-september 2013; caminho portugues (03 2014) lisboa-sdc
First of all welcome to the forum.

You should not have any problem speaking latin american spanish. With the exception of a few different words and pronunciation, castellano is not very different from latin american spanish.

I beg to diagree that spanish is a second language in spain. Of course the galicians, the basques, the catalans have their own languages. However everyone of them speaks spanish, but not every spaniard speak the other languages.

English is not the lingua franca of the camino. The fact that many peregrinos use the english language to communicate is that the camino is full of peregrinos from different nationalities, and everyone tries their best to use english. Most older spaniards do not speak english, but many of them speak french or german. This is because many of them went to work in france and germany and have retired and returned to spain. However the younger generation are taught english in their school.

From my experience of 2 caminos and frequent trips in and out of spain, i do noticed if you engage the spanish people in spanish, you will get a better service from them. Even if you don't express it or pronounce it better, they do appreciate it very much. As a common courtesy, do try to speak spanish. With each of my trip to spain, i constantly picked up new words.

Que tengas un buen camino. Que dios los bendiga.
 
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DavidsRetired

Guest
I recently walked the Camino and have been to Spain several times prior. Although I am able to use basic words, my ability to learn and speak Spanish (and/or other foreign languages) more fluently has been unsuccessful. Regardless, being patient, kind, respectful and courteous, regardless of language, will see you managing well. I personally had no difficulties and found most, if not all extremely helpful and I had a wonderful experience.

As for falcon269 statement, "It may teach them something about your country of origin, so if you are going to be irritating, tell them you are from Canada!"

I see no relevance nor need for such a comment in this discussion.

Enjoy your Camino, as it truly is a remarkable opportunity and experience/adventure.
 

Lennyh1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Sept(2013)
X2 David's statement. No need for Falcon's quote " if you are going robe irritating , tell them you're Canadian". Not nice.
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
piogaw said:
First of all welcome to the forum.

I beg to diagree that spanish is a second language in spain. Of course the galicians, the basques, the catalans have their own languages. However everyone of them speaks spanish, but not every spaniard speak the other languages.

That's how I should have presented it; everyone speaks Spanish and has a second language (which may be their main language) such as Galacian, Catalunian, or Euskera according to the area they live in.
 

Jennifer Juniper

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances fall 2014 or 2015
Grayland,
For my own two cents worth, I am Canadian, knew that falcon was obviously kidding and took no offense.
 
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Deleted member 3000

Guest
Once again the Canadians are unfailingly nice! Yes, humor. See: Blame Canada...
 
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DavidsRetired

Guest
Quick response, as I wish to state that I too am Canadian, and took no offence to any remarks. :D My point was a simple reminder, that there was no need to infuse any national reference, which some may find offensive (yet I get the humour). As to long time forum posters understanding the nuances of others, has no bearing in this regard. We should never assume that others assimilate the same meaning, especially as many in this forum are new pilgrims seeking advice from those who have completed the Camino. Lastly, I found this comment ".... do not post personal remarks directed at other posters." somewhat striking, as the original issue was directed to a nation :D

Anyway, the Camino, regardless of obstacles, personal or otherwise, is a road without languages and speaks only with the beating drums of the heart and soul. Therefore, the only spoken words relevant are those by each foot, which bear the right to tell their own journey and tale. As for the human factor, a smile will suffice.

To Mr Falcon, who flies this forum, I'll gladly buy you a beer and we'll toast to humour.
 
Past OR future Camino
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Another Canadian posts--- I will cheerfully buy Mr Falcon a drink as well, but it will be one of our beers.
 
Would it be considered strange/rude to use an audio translation app on a smart phone? I don't want to be off putting by shoving a strange device into someones face. Are there places that it would be tolerated? Even useful?
 

redjeep63

New Member
No! We used ours several times. They seemed happy to really understand what we needed,instead of "guessing"
Plus, my husband is allergic to all shellfish ,so we used it at all bars and restaurants. Mainly,because how you pronounce a word in Pamplona is different than in the Galicia region. Bring it, use it, they are happy to accommodate you. And you are making it easier for them to help
 
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karinotzen

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Pamplona - Burgos (September 2013)
Hærvejen Vejen - Rødekro (June 2014)
Camino Frances Burgos - SdC (Sept/Oct 2015)
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Now I'm getting a little bit scared - I don't speak spanish. At all! My second language is English and I also speak some German. Will I be able to get by with that? I plan on buying a small phrase book to carry with me so that I (hopefully) can translate what I don't understand and so that I can order what I need in e.g. the pharmacy if needed... I'm leaving in two weeks so learning Spanish is not an option for me... I'm from Northern Europe and here Spanish is not taught in all schools. Only after English, German and sometimes French.
 

Anne100

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte, Sept.-Nov. (2013)
Use a translator app or point to a phrase in a phrasebook. I have never encountered anyone on my travels who found that to be inappropriate in any way. Would you have a problem with someone politely pointing to a phrase in English via a phone app or phrasebook? Usually people are just relieved to understand what it is you want or need and happy to proceed from there.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Now I'm getting a little bit scared - I don't speak spanish. At all! My second language is English and I also speak some German. Will I be able to get by with that? I plan on buying a small phrase book to carry with me so that I (hopefully) can translate what I don't understand and so that I can order what I need in e.g. the pharmacy if needed... I'm leaving in two weeks so learning Spanish is not an option for me... I'm from Northern Europe and here Spanish is not taught in all schools. Only after English, German and sometimes French.

No need to worry, karinotzen! Yes, it is nice to try to use some words and phrases in the language of the country you're visiting and you'll learn that soon enough. I mean at least: Gracias, por favor, uno-dos-tres, buenas dias/tardes/noches, hola, aqua potable, litera etc. Try with some of the links on this forum posted regularly regarding Spanish (Castillan) language.
Like this thread that includes some links: http://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/menu-translations.19368/

Ultreia!
 

Annie Little

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances Sept-Oct 2016
Grayland,
For my own two cents worth, I am Canadian, knew that falcon was obviously kidding and took no offense.

Thank-you Sister... we do need to retain our sense of humour and take ourselves lightly Chaps;) ... Aussies and Kiwis are the bain of many a joke But we dont mind so long as it is delivered with a smile:D
 

Annie Little

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances Sept-Oct 2016
Now I'm getting a little bit scared - I don't speak spanish. At all! My second language is English and I also speak some German. Will I be able to get by with that? I plan on buying a small phrase book to carry with me so that I (hopefully) can translate what I don't understand and so that I can order what I need in e.g. the pharmacy if needed... I'm leaving in two weeks so learning Spanish is not an option for me... I'm from Northern Europe and here Spanish is not taught in all schools. Only after English, German and sometimes French.

I travel every year... always learn thank-you etc ... but that is as much as I can retain.... I have never had a problem anywhere in fact people have been very endearing ......

we have a league of nations in our family ... I have learnt to say thank-you in Indonesian.. terimakasih and Turkish ..teşekkürlar ....BUT after receiving a wonderful massage by a Balinese lady while in TURKEY ... I got confused and all I could come out with was tiramisu :p true story ..

I love Italian language..even if they are fighting it sounds romantic... as soo as you get off the plane in Italy the beautiful linguistics are as memorable as the beautiful food smells..... am sure I will find the same in Spain :). Prago is my favourtite Italian word... oh sorry think I have gone off track.. travel talk will do that :cool:
 
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