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Interacting in spanish with locals in general and specially on the CF

2020 Camino Guides

sugargypsy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First one planned for May 2019: Camino Francés
I`ve just started studying spanish - once a week a four-hour-unit. Rest of the week is needed to catch up with the stuff we've just got explained and memorize the vocabulary :eek:. I'm a quick study and fortunately there`s a major focus on dialogue, so hopefully I'll be able to to talk about basic topics when walking in Spain starting in May 2019 plus of course hopefully being able to understand the answers :D.

This afternoon one thought came up which I'd be very interested to get an estimation of from pilgrims who're speaking spanish as a second or third language and who've already walked a camino: Are the locals still interested in interacting with pilgrims - especially on the CF? Since there are so many pilgrims turning up year after year - specially during springtime, summer and autumn - are they patient with someone who's not really fluent in their language or do they - understandably - get tired of it and keep any conversation sort of short?
 

angus55morrison

Uist beach
Camino(s) past & future
walked Camino Frances 2012, future June 26 2016 / Burgos to Santiago July 2017 future Camino Fran
Good luck with that , i was like a mime artist on the Camino, speaking a broad Scottish accent even the English had problems understanding me but luckily the Irish came to my rescue and relayed my conversation.
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
LePuy, Frances, Aragones, Ingles, Vezelay, Toulosana, Muxia, Fisterra, Portugues, Sanabres
The locals are accustomed to pilgrims. They will be very supportive of your use of Spanish. However, they don't need new friends (that guy who got his cafe ahead of you out of arrival order is one of their friends). Instead, remember that half the pilgrims are from Spain, and they will love conversing with someone from elsewhere in the world, and they will be very supportive of your Spanish (they may not know much English, so probably have been avoiding non-Spanish pilgrims except for the pleasantries). Take advantage of the experience that you are sharing as a conversation starter. You can expand on that as you walk or share a meal, though religion and politics may not be good subjects!
 

Darby67

Enólogo caminando
Camino(s) past & future
2018 CF Jan-Feb
2019 CF Jan-Mar
...Are the locals still interested in interacting with pilgrims - especially on the CF? Since there are so many pilgrims turning up year after year - specially during springtime, summer and autumn - are they patient with someone who's not really fluent in their language or do they - understandably - get tired of it and keep any conversation sort of short?
I lived in Logroño for 2 years in the late 90's and have visited Spain many times over the years. My experience is that for the most part the locals, especially in villages, are very social and friendly. I'm about 194cm tall (~6'4") and the old spaghetti western entering a bar moment never gets old.

This is particularly true in bars and cafes where you can watch walk in, say hello to the group and start speaking to the person next to them as if they have known each other for years. That is not to say that everybody is going to be excited to have you ask for their wifi password as the first point of communication as this seemed to be the pet-peeve of many people locals that I chatted with. I would have to imagine that that the summer "tourigrinos" get challenging at times.

Speaking Spanish is certainly advisable but it isn't necessary. As @angus55morrison mentioned above, sometimes a good hand gesticulating vocabulary can make things so much easier!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2016, Mansill de las Mulas to Finisterre and Muxia 2017, Camino Aragones 2018
My experiences in converations with the many of the locals has been dependent on three things, how much interest you display in them and their village, how well you speak Spanish, also how busy they are. Last year complimenting a especially delicious tortilla turned into a lesson in how to prepare one. This year learning the name of the piquillo peppers earned a gift of a bag full to share with other pilgrims. They will appreciate your efforts as long as you do not mangle the language too badly and can conjugate the verbs.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF, Burgos-SdC (May-June 2016); CF, SJPDP-SdC (April-June 2018); Norte (June-July 2019)
I think folks everywhere appreciate your efforts when you speak to them in their own language, whether you’re in Spain or China. My Spanish is pretty basic, but it was 1) helpful in getting things done (reservations, directions, etc.), and 2) served as an icebreaker in some situations. This spring in the Rioja region, we took time to ask a man working in his vineyard why some vines were trained on wires and some weren’t. We had a nice long conversation (I didn’t understand all of it but enough) about viniculture, middlemen and economics. A very enjoyable diversion for all of us, and it wouldn’t have been possible without some Spanish.

Even more than language — be sure and treat the folks you meet with respect and courtesy. Show them you appreciate their hard work, their food and wine, their villages and beautiful country, their care for pilgrims, and you will have ample opportunities for meaningful interaction. We saw too many pilgrims treat locals, especially in the bars and restaurants, as a means to their own ends, rather than as human beings.
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
I'm 2800 km along the Via Francigena at the moment in Puglia but have walked Caminos in France, Spain and Portugal too. I have reasonable Italian, fair French and learned Spanish two years ago. I walk alone and prefer the "lonelier" routes. Every word of the language you can muster will repay you tenfold and perhaps one hundred fold I think. I love speaking to farmers and fishers and "ordinary" people. For me, this is much more rewarding than a "Camino family". If I wanted to speak.to English speakers I'd stay at home! 99% of people are happy that you make the effort.
€100 euros of lessons is a great investment and you really can learn the rest off YouTube. And I keep saying this : there are no discounts on Bookingdotcom, but if you ring up your accommodation you'll get your 100 euros back very quickly.
 

notion900

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
>
I speak Spanish to B1.4. I get treated like a queen wherever I go. I just looked up a Skype message I sent my mom in August from Salamanca:

"In Spain 24 hours. Already been called cariña, corazón, kissed 4 times by a lady I asked directions from, invited to a wedding and a fiesta"
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
A few tips: Use the word castellano instead of espanol. Practice talking about yourself so you can answer people's questions about you. Collect a good vocabulary for topics of interest to you so you can get in good conversations about common interests. Learn and use greetings, courtesy sayings, etc. in Euskadi/Basque and something like "I can't speak Euskadi; may we speak castellano?" In either Spanish or Euskadi. I say this because my sweet, pleasant Spanish greetings ;) to people I encountered in Basque country got a reaction more like this :mad: than this :). I didn't see this in Galicia but knowing the same statements in Gallego wouldn't hurt.
 

MichaelC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug 2017: Le Puy to Santiago
Nov 2018: Kumano Kodo (partial)
2021: ?
Since there are so many pilgrims turning up year after year - specially during springtime, summer and autumn - are they patient with someone who's not really fluent in their language or do they - understandably - get tired of it and keep any conversation sort of short?
It varied. In Navarre and La Rioja, in October, I got the definite impression that the locals were just over it & ready for the season to end. They'd speak Spanish with pilgrims with a good command of Spanish, but I didn't meet anyone who had any patience for an intermediate-level speaker until well into the second week.

After that, in Castille and Galicia, the locals would speak Spanish with me close to 100% of the time. They'd only switch to English if needed. But by then I was also walking off-stage, and mostly avoiding the crowds.
 

Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
One night on the CF this summer I hooked up with a couple of French guys who were totally fed up with what they called Disneyland Camino and the use of English. The albergue staff spoke in English by default, there was an English menu and the waiters at dinner spoke in English. The two French guys who spoke fluent French, Spanish and English played dumb and refused to understand anything until they were asked in Spanish! Their antics tickled me. I had taken my phrasebook to dinner for additional help which was how we got talking :)

Have to say although I had a lovely stay, very friendly welcome and good food at Hostal Restaurante Camino Real, Disneyland Camino was a pretty good description of the place. There was a bus of load people with suitcases getting them transported. English was the lingua franca. Lots of very, very loud people at dinner living up to national stereotypes. I guess it just depends where you stay. On the other hand on the VDLP I really missed out being unable to communicate properly.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
On the other hand on the VDLP I really missed out being unable to communicate properly
In lots of ways the VdlP is far closer in spirit to the Camino Frances of the 1990s than the Camino Frances of today. The absence of English is one of those features. It is a route which demands a lot more from those who walk it but that has probably spared it from the worst of the three-ring-circus that the Frances has become.
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
I'm 2800 km along the Via Francigena at the moment in Puglia but have walked Caminos in France, Spain and Portugal too. I have reasonable Italian, fair French and learned Spanish two years ago. I walk alone and prefer the "lonelier" routes. Every word of the language you can muster will repay you tenfold and perhaps one hundred fold I think. I love speaking to farmers and fishers and "ordinary" people. For me, this is much more rewarding than a "Camino family". If I wanted to speak.to English speakers I'd stay at home! 99% of people are happy that you make the effort.
€100 euros of lessons is a great investment and you really can learn the rest off YouTube. And I keep saying this : there are no discounts on Bookingdotcom, but if you ring up your accommodation you'll get your 100 euros back very quickly.
Wish I were there.

Buen camino.
 

witsendwv

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2015)
Just speak the language as much as you can and don't worry about making mistakes. One of my best memories in Santiago de Compostela after walking the Camino Primitivo was in a restaurant. I mispronounced the word mochila (backpack), and the waiter asked me if I was carrying a small city on my back. He laughed (not in a bad way) and explained what I had done. All locals I have met appreciate you trying, and with humor will correct you so you will never say that particular word or phrase wrong again!!
 

sugargypsy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First one planned for May 2019: Camino Francés
Muchas gracias for all your helpful answers.

Today we practiced almost all the time talking in our spanish class. It took again some time till almost all of us got over their initial shyness to speak in another language ;), but then it was fun.

I've also found an online-offer of a language exchange to find native speakers in ones hometown, so both can help each other learning the other language. There are surprisingly quite a few spanish native speakers living in my hometown, so I hope I'll be able to find one or two who'll be interested in an exchange vice versa.

PS Just in case anyone else wants to check out for themselves: click.
 

howlsthunder

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2018)
Camino Francés (2020)
I don't speak any Spanish and wasn't able to absorb any before my trip, but I took several years of French about 20 years ago that I never kept up on. I was able to get by in France (I understand more than I speak but can ask for basics) and I was able to communicate on a VERY basic level with French pilgrims to the point of at least being able to elicit smiles from them when they saw me.

I'm a seasonal worker in the tourism industry myself and understand how tiring it can be for endless strings of guests trying to socialize with me so I never bothered employees along the Camino. There were definitely times I wished I spoke Spanish - and not just because I feel impolite not speaking the language. But I had some great experiences communicating with Spanish people despite language barriers:

On the first day of sun, I got sunburned (I'm a pale strawberry blonde) so went to a pharmacia to get sunblock. As I sheepishly approached the counter I smiled broadly, gestured to myself and said, "I am from Alaska". She seemed to understand and said, what I guestimated to be "Oh! This must be hot for you! Alaska is cold!" And I responded in the affirmative and we laughed. :D Yay for French/Spanish cognates!

In Gallicia I spotted a modern hórreo in someone's yard (I became obsessed with them) just as the owner was leaving for work. The pilgrims I was with stopped him to ask about it, none of us speaking Spanish and him not speaking English, but he invited us into his yard and proudly described with basic Spanish and gestures about making his metal hórreo as we indicated how impressed we were.

Lastly, I was in Santiago in a local cafe having dinner by myself and as I was about to leave this local elderly lady (who turned out to be FROM Santiago) came over, asked if I was English and said her husband is English and could they sit with me? They proceeded to talk to me for 3 hours and invited me to their next 2 dinners (I wished I could of gone! But I left the next day); I met every single police officer that came in as she proudly introduced her new Alaskan friend to them, learned about how corrupt all the politics were, how the politicians call her an anarchist, how to make tortilla patatas AND how to make pizza properly. I also learned all about the festivals that were about to happen, as well as the history of how she and her husband met in London through work. They were amazing and lovely and though it was HOURS past my bedtime it was worth every second. :)
 

howlsthunder

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2018)
Camino Francés (2020)
Oh, drawings will also get you a long way. I lost my phone cable and charger so I drew a picture of an iPhone USB, a USB charger, and the Apple logo and went on a "treasure hunt" showing this to locals, none of whom spoke English. I started in a pilgrim's office; they pointed me to the next town (Belorado). At the first albergue at the edge of Belorado I showed the drawing to the hospitalero and he drew some dots on a map of town for where I should check, the first being a little mercado. I went to the mercado and bought some snacks then showed the cashier; she walked me to the street, pointed up the street and gestured to the left. I followed those directions and there was an electronics store! I showed the merchant and he showed me the two relevant products and even offered for me to plug in and charge there (wasn't necessary). Sometimes people were stern, but they were not unkind in their taking a moment to tell me where to go and I was grateful.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
Would, could, should. :)
I have no idea how that truncated reply, apparently from me, got in there. But, as I am sitting in the sun in Puerto Vallarta before my first margarita of the day, I am not at my best. Nor is my iPhone, which is behaving very oddly indeed. Maybe the humidity is getting to it. The lack of internal humidity is certainly getting to me. If I could work up the energy, I “would” get back to my Spanish study, which is what I am supposed to be doing here. I have walked a few kilometres today, and with that and the Spanish I tell myself I am preparing for my fall camino. This morning’s -20C in Calgary has nothing to do with it. Buen camino to all.
 

Darby67

Enólogo caminando
Camino(s) past & future
2018 CF Jan-Feb
2019 CF Jan-Mar
I think your phone is trying to tell you it’s ready again! Which is funny because I had just finished eating at Casa Botín in Madrid after my 1600 arrival. Waiting for my wife to arrive and we get started in a few days from Roncesvalles.
 

Leibniz

Peregrina
Camino(s) past & future
Frances from Astorga (2018)
Frances/Invierno from SJPP (2019)
A question for those familiar with the Spanish language and with the particular world of the Camino: if you address a fellow pilgrim would you generally address them as tú or usted?

How about a hospitalero/hospitalera? I mean I think if they were much older than me I would automatically say usted but I’m wondering about what is normally done.
 

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