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Etiquette for not speaking the same language?

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akela77

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Future
I am staying in Santiago de Compostela for 2 months to travel and learn Spanish (taking a course). Right now, I'm working off of what little high school Spanish I remember. It's enough to get by so far, but with difficulty. Mostly I'm just feeling awkward and bad for not knowing the language! Does anybody have any tips (for in the meantime as I get my bearings) for etiquette when you don't speak the same language? I know it's probably silly but I tend to internalize any perceived or potential annoyance at my not knowing Spanish. Any experiences, reassurance, and/or tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
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To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
In Spain they do not speak “español “but castillano . That is a big difference.
Español they speak in Latin America.
Is that really so? Just to avoid confusion: I am aware of the polemics and political sensitivities.

I usually start by saying: No hablo español. Solamente un pocito and we take it from there. No hablo español, said by obvious foreigners with foreign accents means that we don't speak Spanish but we speak other languages like English, French, Italian, German etc etc. No hablo castellano - I personally would say that only if I could speak Galician, Basque or Catalan but not Castilian. I am happy to be corrected, of course, but my current understanding is that, in today's Spain with the exception of one particular region perhaps, castellano and español are synonyms and interchangeable when referring to language.
 
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Ivan_Prada

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés-(septiembre 2018)
Portugués-(en planes)??
I am staying in Santiago de Compostela for 2 months to travel and learn Spanish (taking a course). Right now, I'm working off of what little high school Spanish I remember. It's enough to get by so far, but with difficulty. Mostly I'm just feeling awkward and bad for not knowing the language! Does anybody have any tips (for in the meantime as I get my bearings) for etiquette when you don't speak the same language? I know it's probably silly but I tend to internalize any perceived or potential annoyance at my not knowing Spanish. Any experiences, reassurance, and/or tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
Hi Akela77:
I do understand your situation; but don’t be discouraged. My suggestion is to let the other person that your communication in Spanish language is limited and that you’ll try your best. Use the opportunity to practice and learn more of the language. Remember the saying: “practice makes perfect”.
I’ll tell you my experience in language learning. I have being learning Italian on my own. My wife and I went to Italy on vacation, we were looking for a souvenir for our youngest son and entered into a store. The owner noticed that we were from the States and asked several questions; he spoke English very well; he learned it by his contacts with tourists. He then said that we in the language that we were learning ( he in English; me in Italian). To make the story short, we talked for about an hour, maybe more. Whenever someone had a doubt on the spoken language, the other would correct it.
It is simple, if you use it, it will improve, and you become more confident.
Best of luck in your learning of Spanish language.

Ivan_Prada
 

Ivan_Prada

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés-(septiembre 2018)
Portugués-(en planes)??
In Spain they do not speak “español “but castillano . That is a big difference.
Español they speak in latin America.
Hi Albertinho:

The Castellano became the language of Spain once the country was reunified after the “Reconquista” or the defeat of the Moors. Also, became the language brought by the “Conquistadors” to the Americas.

By decree of the United Nations and European Union says that the language spoken in a country should be a demonym of the country. For this reason, Spanish (español) is the name of the country and also the name of the people that live there. Ex. Portugal-Portuguese, France-French, etc.

So, for me either way is correct, my grandparents were from Galicia (O Barco de Valdeorroa). This theme is delicate, as many of the regions are seeking to become independent countries themselves. One of requirements of the European Union to consider creation of a country is that the language be unique; that it is ancient, no traces of another language. The only in Spain that qualifies under this requirement is: Basque Country, their language is older than Greek and Latin. That’s why the other two major areas, Cataluña and Galicia, are very expectant of the independence events.

Hope this helps bring some light into the ring.

Ivan_Prada
 
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Marbe2

Active member
Past OR future Camino
2015-2019 walked all or more than half of CF 7 times... CP recently cancelled by Covid 19!
I usually start in my limited Spanish. After a few words, they certainly know I am not a native or even fluent speaker. Trying to begin in Spanish is already polite! I find, if you begin by apologizing for your language limitations…that is, that you only speak a little Spanish,…that is all you may wind up saying! The person may immediately accommodate you in English, if they can. Better IMO to start by trying, trying, trying in Spanish. If you can go to places that aren’t too busy, or at off peak hours that may help as well. Be persistent.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
I used to work for some years in Spain as a salesman and my area was the four provinces of Catalunya [...]
One can write a lot about languages and foreign languages and it is interesting stuff.

However, the question here is posted by someone who will spend time in Santiago in the autonomous region of Galicia and has already knowledge - a little high school Spanish, enough to get by so far, but with difficulty. Would it matter to the locals in Santiago in the region of Galicia whether you say that you speak only a bit of español instead of only a bit of castellano? Would it be part of the local 'etiquette' to avoid referring to the language as español? As I mentioned already, I am more than a little aware of political issues related to minority languages as they are called in various EU countries (many have them in addition to their official language or official languages); in Spain, the preferred term is perhaps autonomous languages or what is the usual term in Spain?
 

Albertinho

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2022
Hi Albertinho:

The Castellano became the language of Spain once the country was reunified after the “Reconquista” or the defeat of the Moors. Also, became the language brought by the “Conquistadors” to the Americas.

By decree of the United Nations and European Union says that the language spoken in a country should be a demonym of the country. For this reason, Spanish (español) is the name of the country and also the name of the people that live there. Ex. Portugal-Portuguese, France-French, etc.

So, for me either way is correct, my grandparents were from Galicia (O Barco de Valdeorroa). This theme is delicate, as many of the regions are seeking to become independent countries themselves. One of requirements of the European Union to consider creation of a country is that the language be unique; that it is ancient, no traces of another language. The only in Spain that qualifies under this requirement is: Basque Country, their language is older than Greek and Latin. That’s why the other two major areas, Cataluña and Galicia, are very expectant of the independence events.

Hope this helps bring some light into the ring.

Ivan_Prada
Interesting.
untill 1200 Spanish and Portuguese was one language . Thereafter it developped into two languages . About Galician I do not know but I see lots of similarities. I speak Portuguese when I am in Galicia.
Speaking Portuguese in Spain is a bit of a problem
The other day when I was volunteer at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago I had contact with my former director who lives in Altea nearby Alicante and he asked me if I had the opportunity to visit a big heavy transport company in Padron just to say hello.
But.. do not speak Portuguese to them he said . They kick you out.🤭
At the end I sent them an e-mail , in Spanish..Got a friendly answer back.
i know about the Catalans. I am aware of that and had many experiences when I worked there. But I do not talk about that others than about the football.And the moderators here will give me a yellow or even red card . No way so 🙃
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
what little high school Spanish I remember. It's enough to get by so far, but with difficulty. Mostly I'm just feeling awkward and bad for not knowing the language! Does anybody have any tips (for in the meantime as I get my bearings) for etiquette when you don't speak the same language? I know it's probably silly but I tend to internalize any perceived or potential annoyance at my not knowing Spanish. Any experiences, reassurance, and/or tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
I understand these feelings. Quick own background: passive (reading) knowledge now quite good, active (speaking and listening) knowledge still very poor. I walk in sections and started the Camino Frances with zero active knowledge in Navarra and ended it in Galicia with enough knowledge to order food in a bar or a restaurant, buy bus or train tickets, check in at an hotel or albergue, have very simple conversational exchanges. (I practised at home between those sections).

People are patient and helpful. I think that most pilgrims will tell you that. Many of us have anecdotes where we communicated marvellously with someone and next to no knowledge of each others' languages. This works particularly well with local people who have time: your taxi driver on a long drive, the passenger next to you on the bus, a fellow walker or someone sitting on a bench or perhaps even working in their garden.

Don't be afraid of getting things wrong. Accept that you will not be reasonably fluent on each and every topic for a very long time, not even after your language class. Immerse yourself as much as you can. I read local newspapers, occasionally I buy even a magazine like ¡Hola! where I even read the ads to understand the words; I can now read short books when the style is not too elaborate; I watch the news and the weather (repetitive vocabulary and phrases are easier to retain than words you rarely hear); I look up the lyrics of songs in Spanish that I like and listen to them repeatedly and attentively.

Don't shy away from switching to English when you need to exchange information or discuss something important, and English is an easier vehicle of conversation for both of you than Spanish. Believe me, you do your interlocutor a favour.

How's that for a start for a list of tips? ☺️
 
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Albertinho

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2022
I learned my Spanish from cowboy movies but soon found that phrases like "manos
arriba" and "mata los gringos" were of limited use on the Camino. So I learned cafe con leche grande" and now I get by just fine.
Hee Haw !
Do not say.” Manos arriba “ when your are in the bank to get some money or “ mata los gringos “ in Spain , buying a beer in a bar 🤣
 

Wendy Werneth

Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
2020
One can write a lot about languages and foreign languages and it is interesting stuff.

However, the question here is posted by someone who will spend time in Santiago in the autonomous region of Galicia and has already knowledge - a little high school Spanish, enough to get by so far, but with difficulty. Would it matter to the locals in Santiago in the region of Galicia whether you say that you speak only a bit of español instead of only a bit of castellano? Would it be part of the local 'etiquette' to avoid referring to the language as español? As I mentioned already, I am more than a little aware of political issues related to minority languages as they are called in various EU countries (many have them in addition to their official language or official languages); in Spain, the preferred term is perhaps autonomous languages or what is the usual term in Spain?
Good question, and from my experience as a native English speaker who has learned both Spanish and Galician, the answer is no, avoiding reference to the language as "español" is not necessary from an etiquette point of view. Castellano and español are synonyms.

It's true that locals use the term "castellano" more frequently (or "castelán" when speaking Galician), but I've never known anyone to be offended by the term "español". In fact, I've heard someone who is passionate about promoting the use of Galician say that the language in question SHOULD be referred to as español. The logic he used was that calling it castellano is perpetuating a false idea that it's just one of many regional languages, on an equal footing with the others, when the reality is that it is very much the dominant language and has a position of advantage over the others throughout the country.
 

Harington

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Vézelay/Francés 2011, Primitivo 2012, VdlP 2013, Via Domitia 2014, Inglés 2015, Francigena 2016
I am staying in Santiago de Compostela for 2 months to travel and learn Spanish (taking a course). Right now, I'm working off of what little high school Spanish I remember. It's enough to get by so far, but with difficulty. Mostly I'm just feeling awkward and bad for not knowing the language! Does anybody have any tips (for in the meantime as I get my bearings) for etiquette when you don't speak the same language? I know it's probably silly but I tend to internalize any perceived or potential annoyance at my not knowing Spanish. Any experiences, reassurance, and/or tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
Smile. It goes a long way.
 
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Anthony Rocco

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, Ignaciano, Aragones, Arle, Tolosana, Salvador, Primitivo, Madrid, Olvidado/Invierno (2020)
I am staying in Santiago de Compostela for 2 months to travel and learn Spanish (taking a course). Right now, I'm working off of what little high school Spanish I remember. It's enough to get by so far, but with difficulty. Mostly I'm just feeling awkward and bad for not knowing the language! Does anybody have any tips (for in the meantime as I get my bearings) for etiquette when you don't speak the same language? I know it's probably silly but I tend to internalize any perceived or potential annoyance at my not knowing Spanish. Any experiences, reassurance, and/or tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
Just got back from France. My fractured French was always an embarrassment to me, but I always was able to communicate. Here's the key, which I learned from walking the camino: 1. Look plaintive (there's nothing more endearing than looking like a miserable peregrino), 2. Always open by apologizing for your miserable Spanish...doing so in Spanish (or French or whatever). They will always deny that you are pathetic, no matter how bad you are. This makes you even more endearing! 3. Don't be afraid to ask them to repeat...again using their language. 4. Talk as naturally as you can and never, ever raise your voice. They can hear your bad language perfectly fine; don't make it more painful for them.

Engage as much as you can. I had excellent Spanish when I was young since I studied for a year in Chile. But I hadn't used my Spanish in a long time. I was truly worried. My first evening in SJPDP, I was at a communal meal seated across from a delightful guy from Valencia named Jose Maria. He loved to talk, and the more I listened, the more came back to me. After nearly two hours together, my ability with the language had soared. I was comfortable the rest of the trip, whether in person or on the phone.
 

sjdaotearoa

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Primitivo (2018)
If love to hear about the language school you’re going to, packages etc! ‘Looking at doing something similar next year.
 

LesR

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2017, 2018; Camino Portuguese 2019
I am staying in Santiago de Compostela for 2 months to travel and learn Spanish (taking a course). Right now, I'm working off of what little high school Spanish I remember. It's enough to get by so far, but with difficulty. Mostly I'm just feeling awkward and bad for not knowing the language! Does anybody have any tips (for in the meantime as I get my bearings) for etiquette when you don't speak the same language? I know it's probably silly but I tend to internalize any perceived or potential annoyance at my not knowing Spanish. Any experiences, reassurance, and/or tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
As a humble pilgrim who speaks only a handful words of Spanish - I found that "No hablo español. May we speak English?" generally kept me out of trouble...

I recall only two occasions when I was caught out - once when I tried to order a freshly squeezed orange juice and two nearby pilgrims (i was later told) mocked me for travelling in Spain without knowing the basics of the language, and when I tried to order orujo de hierbas and the lady behind the counter told me quite firmly that "we don't speak English here!". Fortunately for me, another lady behind the counter came over and we quickly sorted out what I wanted.

And, should you ask, why did I not learn more Spanish? I have a hearing impediment (age and industrial deafness) that makes it very difficult to discern and remember the nuances of another language...

Moral of my story - it is generally OK if you do not speak any Spanish (except perhaps for Hola and gracias) on the Camino, if you are humble about it... Commerce and humanitarian needs/acts speak all languages.
 
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AlexB

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés
In Spain they do not speak “español “but castillano . That is a big difference.
Español they speak in latin America.
Sorry in Spain and Latin America both speak Spanish, Castellano was the language spoken in Castilla, the same language Don Quijote was written, we can say Castellano it’s old Spanish.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
Castellano was the language spoken in Castilla, the same language Don Quijote was written, we can say Castellano it’s old Spanish.
Castellano is a name for modern Spanish. Using castellano instead of español to denote the overall official language of Spain is a fairly recent development. This may not be widely known in other countries. Pay attention to Spanish websites where you can choose from a number of languages in which the text of the website will be displayed: You will often but not always see castellano for Spanish in the menu options, for example on the website of the Tourism Office of Galicia, see this screenshot:

Language menu.jpg
 

Albertinho

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2022
Sorry in Spain and Latin America both speak Spanish, Castellano was the language spoken in Castilla, the same language Don Quijote was written, we can say Castellano it’s old Spanish.
Now I understand why my Spanish customers thought I was born in Medieval times and my real name is Sancho Panza .🤣🤣🤣 I spoke antique Castillano to them 🤣🤣🤣
I was selling special trailers for e.g. windmill transport and now I see the link with Don Quijote. He fought against windmills.🤣🤣🤣

Did not James Bond say -and he spoke español or castillano or whatever you call this,
” HASTA LA VISTA BABY” ?
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
You will often but not always see castellano for Spanish in the menu options,
As this random collection shows: The pilgrim albergue of Roncesvalles opted for Español, as did the Alsa bus company while the Spanish railway operator Renfe does not only offer the usual four - Castellano [Spanish], Catalán, Euskera [Basque] and Gallego [Galician] but also Valenciano [regional language spoken in the east of Spain].

Luckily, @akela77 who started this thread is not planning to study all five of them. ☺️

Menu options.jpg
 
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Wendy Werneth

Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
2020
As this random collection shows: The pilgrim albergue of Roncesvalles opted for Español, as did the Alsa bus company while the Spanish railway operator Renfe does not only offer the usual four - Castellano [Spanish], Catalán, Euskera [Basque] and Gallego [Galician] but also Valenciano [regional language spoken in the east of Spain].

Luckily, @akela77 who started this thread is not planning to study all five of them. ☺️

View attachment 127040
Not to derail this even further, but the name "valenciano" is interesting, as the language spoken in and around Valencia is commonly called catalán. It's a different variant than what's spoken in Barcelona but is generally considered to be the same language, though choosing to call it "valenciano" could also have political undertones.
 
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I am staying in Santiago de Compostela for 2 months to travel and learn Spanish (taking a course). Right now, I'm working off of what little high school Spanish I remember. It's enough to get by so far, but with difficulty. Mostly I'm just feeling awkward and bad for not knowing the language! Does anybody have any tips (for in the meantime as I get my bearings) for etiquette when you don't speak the same language? I know it's probably silly but I tend to internalize any perceived or potential annoyance at my not knowing Spanish. Any experiences, reassurance, and/or tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
I have not read any replies. You ask for tips. Find the Mercado. Go look at the stands. Ask the people behind the counters to tell you something about their offerings. They generally have the name of the items written, and the price. You could find a not so busy person and see if they have time and interest to respond to you, once you say: (of course they will see this anyway!) Soy extranjera/extranjero. Quiero aprender más Eg: Como se dice, or - la pronunciación? Y, para cocinar? I can't quite get my keyboard to respond properly, nor do I actually know for sure where all the accents go! I recall my first letter in Spanish. I inserted a few tildes here and there for effect...relax into it. The object? To understand be understood? Ok. Dive in! And then, buen camino 👣
 

Anthony Rocco

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, Ignaciano, Aragones, Arle, Tolosana, Salvador, Primitivo, Madrid, Olvidado/Invierno (2020)
As a humble pilgrim who speaks only a handful words of Spanish - I found that "No hablo español. May we speak English?" generally kept me out of trouble...

I recall only two occasions when I was caught out - once when I tried to order a freshly squeezed orange juice and two nearby pilgrims (i was later told) mocked me for travelling in Spain without knowing the basics of the language, and when I tried to order orujo de hierbas and the lady behind the counter told me quite firmly that "we don't speak English here!". Fortunately for me, another lady behind the counter came over and we quickly sorted out what I wanted.

And, should you ask, why did I not learn more Spanish? I have a hearing impediment (age and industrial deafness) that makes it very difficult to discern and remember the nuances of another language...

Moral of my story - it is generally OK if you do not speak any Spanish (except perhaps for Hola and gracias) on the Camino, if you are humble about it... Commerce and humanitarian needs/acts speak all languages.
Speaking of English...I will never forget walking on the Camino Ignaciano and arriving in Catalunya. We went into a restaurant in Verdu, the waiter came up to us, I ordered in Spanish and the waiter walked away. I signaled him to come back. He did...with the same result. After a few minutes, i sought him out and asked him what's the problem? He said to me in English, "You are in Catalunya. Speak Catalan or English. Otherwise, no service." We were stunned, but we then noticed not even one Spanish flag in town, or in many other subsequent towns in Catalunya. This was 5 years ago, so perhaps things have changed there. In any case, it was nice to have English as a fallback!

In the U.S., we have accents. In Europe, not only are there dialects but entirely separate languages. If there is one common thread in this modern era, it's English. Almost everyone under age 30 speaks it. We are soooo lucky.
 

Ultreia et Suseia!

Walking from Porto (da costa/litoral) Sept 2022!
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1st walk from O Porto in September!
I am staying in Santiago de Compostela for 2 months to travel and learn Spanish (taking a course). Right now, I'm working off of what little high school Spanish I remember. It's enough to get by so far, but with difficulty. Mostly I'm just feeling awkward and bad for not knowing the language! Does anybody have any tips (for in the meantime as I get my bearings) for etiquette when you don't speak the same language? I know it's probably silly but I tend to internalize any perceived or potential annoyance at my not knowing Spanish. Any experiences, reassurance, and/or tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
When I learnt French as an older adult, the best advice I received was:

1. To let my hair down and speak without fear of making mistakes. Normal people will help you and correct you and snobs will be annoyed but who cares about them.

2. Say "repita por favor" and listen carefully. Emulate enunciating. Nip your mistakes in the bud so you can build good habits and good brain muscle. This means that when you hear a new word or get a correction, really take heed, otherwise people will get tired of correcting you because you're not getting anything out of their altruism.

3. When listening to repetitions or corrections make mental images to remember things, whatever phonetics evoque in your brain; example: mil gracias (think of a mill). I often close my eyes to "hear" better lol.

The fact that you're asking means you're half way there ;)

Ultreia! (This means "let's go further/beyond" in Latin and it is an ancient Camino salutation predecsessing the good old "buen camino") (I memorised it by imagining Ultra gum whose taste goes on and on forever hehe)).

PS I am learning Portuguese now and it's hard too 😱 but we will succeed! 💪🏽
 
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