• Click to join the Casa Ivar mailing List
    (separate from the forum emails). This includes new videos created on YouTube and new prodcts on the Camino Forum Store. (Click the small "X" on the top right corner to remove this message)

Search 58,412 Camino Questions

A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it


Advertisement
Original artwork based on your pilgrimage or other travel photos.
Camino Way Markers
Original Camino Way markers made in bronze. Two models, one from Castilla & Leon and the other from Galicia.

Language on the Camino

CS Peregrina

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances sections 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, volunteer 2017
How do you think your language abilities affect your Camino experience?

If you speak only English…

Has that hampered your ability to connect with other pilgrims?

Has that hampered your ability to connect with people along the way (bar tenders, servers, store owners, albergue/innkeepers, etc.)

Has that enhanced your ability to experience the “liminality” or otherness of the Camino?

Has that enhanced your experience in some other way?

If you speak some Spanish…

Has that enhanced your ability to connect with other pilgrims and/or other people along the way?

Has that hindered your experience in some way (you end up having to do all the logistics, you find yourself quickly out of your depth, you are misunderstood or you misunderstand, etc.)?

If you speak fluent Spanish…

How do you think your experience is different from a monolingual English speaker?

If you speak English and another language (not Spanish)…

What advantages or disadvantages have you noticed?

Please share stories with me! Did you try to learn Spanish before you did the Camino? How did that affect your experience?
 
Donation to the Forum
A donation to this forum helps it continue to exists and also removes all ads for you.
Camino Way Markers
Original Camino Way markers made in bronze. Two models, one from Castilla & Leon and the other from Galicia.

SabineP

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
some and then more. see my signature.
My personal idea : the more languages you know , the better.
I feel blessed to live in small country that is officially trilingual so I learned in school not only my mother language Dutch, but also French as a second language, English as a third and basic German as a fourth one.
And as an adult I went four years to evening classes of Spanish.

Especially on the lesser travelled Caminos it is always nice to engage with the local community in Spanish. Otherwise you have days that you won't speak with anyone.
On the Frances you do not need to know any Spanish but I was happy to be able to get away from the Camino bubble sometime to talk with the locals about something else.
And in an international group I always seem to be the one translating or booking a bed for a pilgrim for the next night etc..
So yes : learning other languages does imho enhance the connection!
 
Last edited:

beiramar

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Caminho Português, Camino del Norte, Fisterra,
I felt that knowing several languages is of course a big advantage- I can communicate with most people.

The disadvantage: I usually have to talk for my travel partners and organize everything for them. From ordering food to eventual doctors visits.

It can be a bit tiring to have to translate all the time and also have the responsibility for giving correct translations, but I also really like it.

I speak Portuguese, German, English and Swedish fluently and a reasonable Spanish.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
I can't image there are any disavantages to speaking the local language, unles one is not happy to help those who don't. I find that being the one able to book beds for others allows me to interact more with them.

As for contact with locals, absolutely better: I stop and chat with those working their fields and learn about what they are growing, how they feed their pigs, etc, how they ended up living in this or that village.

Walked the Portuguese in a wave of Germans. I was miserable being the only non German speaker in albergues.
 
how to successfully prepare for your Camino
This book's focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared.
Original artwork based on your pilgrimage or other travel photos.

HedaP

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
I so wish I too was multilingual. Ashamed to say I am fluent only in English. As soon as I finished my first camino I started Spanish lessons. Have been doing them now for almost two years but am a slow learner. While nowhere near fluent, it made a huge difference to my second camino. I had sufficient of what I call pigeon Spanish to read signs, have simple conversations with fellow pilgrims, reserve beds, book transport, read menus, politely order food and get advice from pharmacists. Greatly enhanced my experience of the camino and helped me make connections with way more people. The secret is not caring about making mistakes though I still blush about telling one hospitalero that I was hot as in sexy instead hot as in the weather was warm.:oops::oops: :p:p
PS My Spanish also got me heaps more tapas the second camino. First camino it was rare to get tapas with a drink. Second time when I was ordering politely in Spanish I got given tapas all the time! ;);):D:D
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Ourense to Santiago (2019), CF: (2014, 2004, 2002, 2001). On to Fisterra, (2002, 4, 14).
My high school and college Spanish taken decades prior to walking came in handy. Actually, on next camino I will try and spruce up my Spanish. Not everyone speaks English, pilgrims and locals, so the more persons with whom you can speak the better your pilgrimage may be.
 

gregorygwilliams

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2015 late May to early June Ponferada to Santiago
2017 Apr 11 St. Jean to May 13 Santiago
How do you think your language abilities affect your Camino experience?

If you speak only English…

Has that hampered your ability to connect with other pilgrims?

Has that hampered your ability to connect with people along the way (bar tenders, servers, store owners, albergue/innkeepers, etc.)

Has that enhanced your ability to experience the “liminality” or otherness of the Camino?

Has that enhanced your experience in some other way?

If you speak some Spanish…

Has that enhanced your ability to connect with other pilgrims and/or other people along the way?

Has that hindered your experience in some way (you end up having to do all the logistics, you find yourself quickly out of your depth, you are misunderstood or you misunderstand, etc.)?

If you speak fluent Spanish…

How do you think your experience is different from a monolingual English speaker?

If you speak English and another language (not Spanish)…

What advantages or disadvantages have you noticed?

Please share stories with me! Did you try to learn Spanish before you did the Camino? How did that affect your experience?
Hola: I finished my second camino this spring. Like another peregrino said , after my first camino I decided to learn some Spanish. I am glad that I did. The experience is better with more understanding. I have a long way to go with learning Spanish but I am still learning more for my next camino, which I believe will come but I currently have no plans. On my second camino I was much more comfortable in restaurants. The variety of things that I actually orderd from a menu increased much with increased knowledge. I was glad to help others who needed help translating. I walked during holy week and spoke very elementary spanish but the many Spanish families on the camino at the time were most friendly and very patient with me. Italki.com was very helpful for me. I wish you the best of luck with spanish and a buen camino.
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Past OR future Camino
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-19
When I first started traveling in Germany, I would get the question out, and the answer would come in English. Nowadays, the answer comes in German (unfortunately!), and people are occasionally surprised to learn that I am an American. The German-speaking Swiss would rather speak English than French; the French-speaking Swiss would rather speak English than German. The French, bless them, are honored that I even try to communicate in French - and quickly shift the conversation over to English, having rapidly coming to the conclusion that their poor English was much better than my even worse French.

Part of what walking the pilgrim paths teaches me is humility, that I am not in control, and that I need the help of others. Trying to operate in the local language only accelerates those lessons.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
I find that speaking a bit of Spanish definitely improves the experience.
 
Peaceable Projects Inc.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.
Camino Socks
Browse the Camino Socks collection on the forum shop

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Past OR future Camino
2018
I speak Spanish and found that, being able to talk to locals gave me a lot of insight that I think many non-Spanish speaking pilgrims missed. Of course, I am also nosy, so I have a lot of questions about everything and go out looking for folks to interview.

Re. learning Spanish, I would recommend taking an "immersion" course - maybe in Spain - to improve your Spanish. It's a more natural way to learn. Classes haven't helped me much, trying to learn other languages.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
I speak Spanish well enough to understand Italian, so I'm answering for others: the Koreans. As hospitalero voluntario in Navarra, I noticed that about half the Koreans that came through could speak neither English nor Spanish. I applaud their bravery. My first visit to Estella, a group of four approached me with a single word: "Albergue?" I tried to help them, but probably did not succeed. I later looked at a map and realized they had left the “official” camino and gone down the city's main arterial. If they had stayed on the camino, they would have passed six albergues by the time they got to the west side where they met me.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
I was (intentionally) off the camino in Navarra. A fellow going the opposite direction said, with a hostile expression, “I’ve never seen you before! You’re not from around here!” (In Spanish, of course.) As soon as I replied in Spanish, the hostility vanished and we had a short pleasant conversation.
 

Lmsundaze

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
CF (2016), CP (2017)
I speak Spanish and found that, being able to talk to locals gave me a lot of insight that I think many non-Spanish speaking pilgrims missed. Of course, I am also nosy, so I have a lot of questions about everything and go out looking for folks to interview.

Re. learning Spanish, I would recommend taking an "immersion" course - maybe in Spain - to improve your Spanish. It's a more natural way to learn. Classes haven't helped me much, trying to learn other languages.
I also recommend an immersion course. For residents of the USA, studying in Mexico is much more economical than in Spain and there are some wonderful programs.
 

FLEUR

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2012 - 2016
Voie de Paris / Tours Aulnay to Saintes 2017
Camino del Baztan 2018
English and French are my languages plus a little German. Over the years my range of Spanish words has gone from 0 - 25! Amazingly I have somehow managed a couple of phone calls in Spanish to book beds.
I often found myself sitting at a meal with a French pilgrim at my side. They sometimes could only speak French and were so grateful to have a translator at their side and someone to talk to..
 
Original artwork based on your pilgrimage or other travel photos.
Camino Way Markers
Original Camino Way markers made in bronze. Two models, one from Castilla & Leon and the other from Galicia.

Antonius Vaessen

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2015-2016 VdlPlata - Sanabres
2016.Primitivo
2017 Salvador
2018 Norte (to Sobrado)
2019 Norte again
I speak some Spanish. In preparationwalks for the Camino I had a very nice course on my headphones: language transfer. It gave me more insight in the structure of the Spanish language: it gave me the best of three worlds: while fysically training I learned Spanish and at the same time I could catch up on my english ( i am dutch)
 

StepheninDC

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
June 2017
Well, I speak 7 languages, and even the Europeans were impressed. :) I walked with Italians, all of whom could get by in English and a little Spanish but I'm grateful that I'm fluent in Italian. On the CF I got the impression that many hospitaleros and restaurant/bar staff were somewhat conversant in English, some of them extremely good, but I always spoke only Spanish. And I did a fair amount of translating Spanish to Italian. I wish I knew more Dutch, because I met a lot of nice Dutch people on the Camino, esp in Roncesvalles at the albergue.
 

mylifeonvacation

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Inglés (from Ferrol June 2014)
Camino Portuguese (from Tui May 2015)
I speak Spanish relatively well, which certainly has allowed me to have a very rich experiences meeting and speaking with locals, some resulting in great friendships. However, I'm certainly not fluent. I make plenty of mistakes, lack lots of vocabulary, and sometimes just run out of energy for translating. When traveling with non-Spanish speakers, I always feel terrible whenever mis-communications occur (as they do).

One time I wasn't paying attention while my husband ordered breakfast and he ended up with a PICKLE OMELETTE! Yes, a 3 egg omelette studded with sliced little gherkins! I just wasn't listening when he ordered to even know what happened ... I was thinking about my own breakfast! I mean, it was hilarious and all, and it was corrected immediately after we brought it to the waitress' attention (once I stopped laughing). :p
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
I walked with Italians, all of whom could get by in English and a little Spanish but I'm grateful that I'm fluent in Italian.
When I was hospitalario, MANY of the Italians who stayed could not speak English and claimed to not understand Spanish. (Hard to believe, since my Spanish allowed me to pass an Italian A1 test without lessons.)
 

alhartman

2005-2017 Delightful 346 days in Spain and France.
Past OR future Camino
2017
Sadly, I speak Spanish only enough to get by--and often cannot comprehend the answer! That said, walking the Camino has taught me that those who are truly fluent in another language have another soul. Something about language/culture that changes us in our very core. Sad that USA is so big that we do not learn fluency in another language. But even our use of common courtesy words is appreciated by the locals--and we all can learn that much. But second language fluency would make the Camino experience even richer.
 
Create your own ad
€1,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Pilgrim Pouch carry bags with different designs
A lightweight carry bag handy for walking, biking, traveling, & Caminos

NicP

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Via de la Plata, Seville to Santiago 2016; Camino Frances May 2020 - postponed by COVID
I speak reasonable Spanish. I found that on the Via de la Plata, speaking Spanish made a big difference - it was a pretty quiet route with much less of the "tourist" type infrastructure which I found on the Camino Francaise once I got to Astorga. It would have been pretty lonely on the VDLP without the ability to speak to the locals in their language. Once I got to Astorga, the whole thing seemed change, and I thought that the Camino Francaise catered very well for people who don't speak much other than English. I have had no hesitation recommending to my mother (who has zero Spanish) that she consider walking that route. Having said that, my sense was that the locals appreciated the efforts of those trying to speak Spanish, and from what I observed, those who made the effort and had clearly put some time in learning the basics pre-camino appeared to be very warmly received - I think that's priceless.

I travel a bit, and I don't try and learn the language of every country I go to. However, for the camino (which might last weeks, and is not typical 'tourism' in my opinion) I think its worth the effort to learn Spanish, and highly recommend giving it a go!
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
I spent the first two weeks out of Sevilla speaking Polish and German, constantly translating so my kids wouldn't feel left out. And as the Polish lady was married to a non-anything-else-speaking Italian, she would translate for him at the same time I was for the kids and I picked up my first hundred Italian words (which proved useful when we fell in with a couple of Italians later - one fluent English speaker who had lived in NZ for a year and one non-English speaker......we still exchange postcards. I write an identical one to each of them in their respective villages and she translates and sends the translation to the guy via email!)
While it was a lot of fun, it was simultaneously frustrating as we had been working hard to learn Spanish, having walked our first camino starting out with precisely three Spanish words.
I love the range of languages and interactions on the camino, but I have at times been a little frustrated that so many people speak such good English and there are fewer opportunities to use Spanish than when I landed myself in Poland and had to learn to speak to survive. Perhaps one of my limitations too was having kids with me, and so often I'd be sitting in a playground or climbing the hill at the edge of town at the end of the day rather than a bar where I might have been able to talk more.
 

FLEUR

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2012 - 2016
Voie de Paris / Tours Aulnay to Saintes 2017
Camino del Baztan 2018
In a restaurant in SJPDP we overheard someone loudly boasting that she could speak 4 languages so would have no problem on the CF.
Next evening we found ourselves sharing the same dormitory with this lady at Orisson. We were 2 English, one French, one Italian and the " linguistic " pilgrim. She tried her Italian with the Italian pilgrim who understood not a word. In the end the linguist lady asked me to explain in French and surprisingly the Italian understood me!
 
Last edited:

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
... walking the Camino has taught me that those who are truly fluent in another language have another soul. Something about language/culture that changes us in our very core. ..
You don't have to be fluent for it to make your life richer. I've spoken Spanish to Brazilians and understood their Portuguese. I got four girls to laugh by speaking one greeting in Korean to a guy who had just told them (apparently lying) that he could speak fluent Korean. (I only know that and one other sentence in Korean.) Even though my Spanish is not great, it's good enough to understand a lot of Italian. Bonus: more than one research study has shown that people with a second language are less likely to get Alzheimer's.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
..., my sense was that the locals appreciated the efforts of those trying to speak Spanish, ...
In around five months as hospitalero voluntario on C. Frances, I was surprised at how few Spanish peregrinos came through. Perhaps they take other routes to avoid the crowds. But two of them complained bitterly in our guestbook about the volunteers staff "not speaking Spanish." Truth is, we always had at least one, usually two, fluent in Spanish. But most were Dutch, most had some Spanish, and all spoke two or more languages besides Dutch.
 
John Brierley 2022 Camino Guide
The most selling Camino Guide is shipping November 1st. Get your today and start planning.
Create your own ad
€1,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
Since you have other languages, pretend you don't speak English. I walk into a shop in Germany, and ask "Italiano? Español?" I only reveal I know English when all else fails.
My other languages are Polish (which no one speaks), German (which even today is not so popular), some Maori (which won't take me far in Europe!) and after two years of Swedish all I remember is "do you understand?" And "I watched tv" which I don't do!
Actually, shops were the main place I could try out the Spanish skillz but the kids understandably don't get excited waiting round too long while mum has a linguistic fix!
 

CS Peregrina

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances sections 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, volunteer 2017
When I was hospitalario, MANY of the Italians who stayed could not speak English and claimed to not understand Spanish. (Hard to believe, since my Spanish allowed me to pass an Italian A1 test without lessons.)

They say that Spanish-speakers can understand Italian because it is latinate. However, Italians can't understand Spanish as well because, besides the latin-based vocabulary, much of Spanish is related to Arabic or older Iberian languages.
 

CS Peregrina

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances sections 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, volunteer 2017
I so wish I too was multilingual. Ashamed to say I am fluent only in English. As soon as I finished my first camino I started Spanish lessons. Have been doing them now for almost two years but am a slow learner. While nowhere near fluent, it made a huge difference to my second camino. I had sufficient of what I call pigeon Spanish to read signs, have simple conversations with fellow pilgrims, reserve beds, book transport, read menus, politely order food and get advice from pharmacists. Greatly enhanced my experience of the camino and helped me make connections with way more people. The secret is not caring about making mistakes though I still blush about telling one hospitalero that I was hot as in sexy instead hot as in the weather was warm.:oops::oops: :p:p
PS My Spanish also got me heaps more tapas the second camino. First camino it was rare to get tapas with a drink. Second time when I was ordering politely in Spanish I got given tapas all the time! ;);):D:D

I love these stories!! I, too, find that bartenders, storekeepers, etc. are much more generous to me when I speak Spanish. Do you think this is because I'm a non-native Spanish speaker or are they also more generous to their fellow Spaniards?
 

CS Peregrina

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances sections 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, volunteer 2017
In a restaurant in SJPDP we overheard someone loudly boasting that she could speak 4 languages so would have no problem on the CF.
Next evening we found ourselves sharing the same dormitory with this lady at Orisson. We were 2 English, one French, one Italian and the " linguistic " pilgrim. She tried her Italian with the Italian pilgrim who understood not a word. In the end the linguist lady asked me to explain in French and surprisingly the Italian understood me!

Yes. "Speaking" another language is sometimes in the eye (ear?) of the beholder!
 
Create your own ad
€1,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
2022 Camino Guides
The 2022 Camino guides will be coming out little by little, most of them by the end of 2021. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.

CS Peregrina

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances sections 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, volunteer 2017
Well, I speak 7 languages, and even the Europeans were impressed. :) I walked with Italians, all of whom could get by in English and a little Spanish but I'm grateful that I'm fluent in Italian. On the CF I got the impression that many hospitaleros and restaurant/bar staff were somewhat conversant in English, some of them extremely good, but I always spoke only Spanish. And I did a fair amount of translating Spanish to Italian. I wish I knew more Dutch, because I met a lot of nice Dutch people on the Camino, esp in Roncesvalles at the albergue.
I understand Dutch (my parents were Dutch immigrants) but I've pretty much lost the speaking ability. I had a great conversation with a Dutchman though. He spoke to me in Dutch (I understood 80-90%) and I replied in a mixture of English / Spanish / Dutch. It was fun and challenging. Sometimes I think I'm more attentive/present to others when I have to work harder to understand. With conversations in my native language sometimes I can tune out or not be as fully present to my conversational partner.
 

stevov

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
walked the portuguese way (senda littoral). from porto, vila do conde via viana and redondela Jun 17
How do you think your language abilities affect your Camino experience?

If you speak only English…

Has that hampered your ability to connect with other pilgrims?

Has that hampered your ability to connect with people along the way (bar tenders, servers, store owners, albergue/innkeepers, etc.)

Has that enhanced your ability to experience the “liminality” or otherness of the Camino?

Has that enhanced your experience in some other way?

If you speak some Spanish…

Has that enhanced your ability to connect with other pilgrims and/or other people along the way?

Has that hindered your experience in some way (you end up having to do all the logistics, you find yourself quickly out of your depth, you are misunderstood or you misunderstand, etc.)?

If you speak fluent Spanish…

How do you think your experience is different from a monolingual English speaker?

If you speak English and another language (not Spanish)…

What advantages or disadvantages have you noticed?

Please share stories with me! Did you try to learn Spanish before you did the Camino? How did that affect your experience?
I would advise anyone to try and learn at least some of the language before you travel to a different country/region. Even if its only basic it shows appropriate respect for your hosts and thus in my experience is always well received no matter how limited your range is. It wil enhance your experience, help you understand what is going on or at least you will be less likely to flounder in most situations. If you don't make the effort, do not expect to be conversed with in your language, and don't be surprised or get upset if you get indifferent reactions.
 

Attachments

  • WP_20170616_001.jpg
    WP_20170616_001.jpg
    1.6 MB · Views: 21

KariC

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2016
I speak Spanish relatively well, which certainly has allowed me to have a very rich experiences meeting and speaking with locals, some resulting in great friendships. However, I'm certainly not fluent. I make plenty of mistakes, lack lots of vocabulary, and sometimes just run out of energy for translating. When traveling with non-Spanish speakers, I always feel terrible whenever mis-communications occur (as they do).

One time I wasn't paying attention while my husband ordered breakfast and he ended up with a PICKLE OMELETTE! Yes, a 3 egg omelette studded with sliced little gherkins! I just wasn't listening when he ordered to even know what happened ... I was thinking about my own breakfast! I mean, it was hilarious and all, and it was corrected immediately after we brought it to the waitress' attention (once I stopped laughing). :p
wonder if he asked for pepino when he meant pimienta . .
 

KariC

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2016
Speaking fluent Spanish and passable French and Portuguese immensely enhanced my Camino, allowing me to talk with almost anyone I met, and allowing me to be of service to others - tho the European Portuguese is WAY different from the Brazilian Portuguese I was taught - it was a wonderful, weightless feeling when we had just left Tui (first day in Spain) and a man stopped to tell us the Camino was mismarked at that point and was telling us where to go, and the communication was effortless!!
There was also a great relay translation in Faramello where a German lady who spoke no other languages needed backpack service, and another German interpreted her info to English for me, and I interpreted into Spanish to the backpack service - it was a great team effort!
 
John Brierley 2022 Camino Guide
The most selling Camino Guide is shipping November 1st. Get your today and start planning.
Camino Magnets
A collection of Camino Fridge Magnets

mylifeonvacation

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Inglés (from Ferrol June 2014)
Camino Portuguese (from Tui May 2015)
wonder if he asked for pepino when he meant pimienta

I think it was actually a miscommunication as he attempted to order bacon as "tocino" and ended up getting "pepino". It was hilarious because the chef himself brought out the plate, as if he wanted to get a good look at the person who ordered the pickle omelette! :p:eek::rolleyes:o_O

Like you, I also studied Brazilian Portuguese ... having both Spanish and Portuguese has really allowed me to understand the Galician language too.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
A "Tourigrino" trip once Covid has passed, so 2023
Sad that USA is so big that we do not learn fluency in another language.
Recent statistics indicate there are over 41 million native Spanish speakers and over 11 million billingual English/Spanish speakers in the USA. Total population of Spain 46 million. I think you underestimate your country's linguistic abilities!
 

Antonius Vaessen

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2015-2016 VdlPlata - Sanabres
2016.Primitivo
2017 Salvador
2018 Norte (to Sobrado)
2019 Norte again
When I think about the lack of bilinguality in the USA I always think back at the times I studied history. I used as a handbook (next to others) Palmer and Colton. What always amazed me that the list of "suggested literature" only mentioned books and articles that were written and translated in English. For us, dutch students,it was considered necessary that we could read works in english, german and preferably also french. (This situation does not apply only to the USA of course)
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2019
I am Galician. I am bilingual Galician/Spanish and fluent in English.
When I speak Spanish my accent is from Madrid (where I live).
Doing my Primitivo I was in albergue O Candido (San Román) talking to a group of young pilgrims from Madrid when a pilgrim from London came to ask the owner for dinner, then I translated his question to the owner in Galician (becuase I only had spoken with him in that language) in front the young pilgrims astonishment, because it is a very unusual situation An old man from Madrid (they thought:)) speaking Galician and good English.
 

CS Peregrina

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances sections 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, volunteer 2017
Speaking fluent Spanish and passable French and Portuguese immensely enhanced my Camino, allowing me to talk with almost anyone I met, and allowing me to be of service to others - tho the European Portuguese is WAY different from the Brazilian Portuguese I was taught - it was a wonderful, weightless feeling when we had just left Tui (first day in Spain) and a man stopped to tell us the Camino was mismarked at that point and was telling us where to go, and the communication was effortless!!
There was also a great relay translation in Faramello where a German lady who spoke no other languages needed backpack service, and another German interpreted her info to English for me, and I interpreted into Spanish to the backpack service - it was a great team effort!

I think some of my most memorable/fun moments were with this kind of triangulated conversation. The cooperation and humility it requires of everyone involved really seem to exemplify what I feel the Camino should be!
 
Camino Magnets
A collection of Camino Fridge Magnets
Learn how to Get "Camino Ready " 2nd Edition. In English, Spanish, German and Korean

CS Peregrina

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances sections 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, volunteer 2017
I am Galician. I am bilingual Galician/Spanish and fluent in English.
When I speak Spanish my accent is from Madrid (where I live).
Doing my Primitivo I was in albergue O Candido (San Román) talking to a group of young pilgrims from Madrid when a pilgrim from London came to ask the owner for dinner, then I translated his question to the owner in Galician (becuase I only had spoken with him in that language) in front the young pilgrims astonishment, because it is a very unusual situation An old man from Madrid (they thought:)) speaking Galician and good English.
I'm so glad that you were able to communicate well with all of these groups! You say you are "old." Do you think language abilities are getting better with the younger generations? Or do they just have low expectations of people that are older than they are?
 

CS Peregrina

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances sections 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, volunteer 2017
Recent statistics indicate there are over 41 million native Spanish speakers and over 11 million billingual English/Spanish speakers in the USA. Total population of Spain 46 million. I think you underestimate your country's linguistic abilities!

Although there are lots of Spanish speakers in the US, the census bureau also shows some less positive information (bold emphasis is mine):
"The U.S. Census Bureau reports that more than 60 million residents over the age of five years old, or about 20% of the U.S. population, speak a language other than English at home. However, research from outside the federal government suggests that only about half that number, or 10% of the U.S. population, speaks a language other than English proficiently. Most are heritage language speakers. Of those who speak a language other than English at home, 57% were foreign born and 43% were born in the United States. The latter are primarily U.S.-born children of immigrants."
This is from http://www.humanitiesindicators.org/binaries/pdf/State-of-Languages-in-US.pdf
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2019
I'm so glad that you were able to communicate well with all of these groups! You say you are "old." Do you think language abilities are getting better with the younger generations? Or do they just have low expectations of people that are older than they are?

Good questions. I think that the answer is yes in both.
That is referring to English language only .
In Spain we still have a problem with regional languages (Catalan, Basque and Galego) that people from other regions don´t know anything about these languages and don´t have any interest in them, so that the most unusual thing for them was that a person supposedly from Madrid could speak so good Galician.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
Recent statistics indicate there are over 41 million native Spanish speakers and over 11 million billingual English/Spanish speakers in the USA. Total population of Spain 46 million. I think you underestimate your country's linguistic abilities!
Guy working a crossword puzzle, thinking out loud, "Only speaks one language…" Wife says "monolingual" "No, only eight letters" "American!"
Seriously, there are over three hundred million of us, and it seems like the majority consider it treason to ever speak anything other than English. In my college economics class, in a paper I wrote, I remember commenting that (1982) Japan had about ten thousand businessmen in USA, most fluent in English, while we had less than a thousand (300, if memory serves) over there using interpreters. Pathetic.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
Of those who speak a language other than English at home, 57% were foreign born and 43% were born in the United States. The latter are primarily U.S.-born children of immigrants."
And because most of the schools that do teach other languages use such poor methods, extremely few of those students graduate with an ability to communicate.
 
Camino Way Markers
Original Camino Way markers made in bronze. Two models, one from Castilla & Leon and the other from Galicia.
Peaceable Projects Inc.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
Knowing a little Spanish (1 month in www.enforex.com school in Alicante + many Caminos) has helped me (& others on the Way) very much. It is a relief to be able to know and understand how to ask for directions & all, have a little conversation though limited, etc.
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Ourense to Santiago (2019), CF: (2014, 2004, 2002, 2001). On to Fisterra, (2002, 4, 14).
I hadn't walked the hallowed halls of Culver City Jr. High and High School in Culver City, California twenty-four years prior to my first camino. Those four years of Spanish 7-10th grades learned there come in handy quite well. Plus, I had added two more years in college, but even that was taken more than a dozen years prior to camino number one. I said all that to say: USA does a good job teaching foreign languages. The language well is full take a drink or better a long draught. Uh, the language not the beer. Well beer too if on camino especially.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
USA does a good job teaching foreign languages.
Some schools do. Many don't. I could not communicate after five years of getting all 'A' in Spanish. Later, after I had partially overcome this by real-world usage, I was put in a so-called "second-year intensive" course at University of Oregon. The only two people who had any ability at all in that class were me and a guy who had lived in Mexico. Some of our classmates did not even know the letter 'h' is silent. In a third-year literature class, maybe half the class literally would not speak Spanish and got irritated at me when I did. And that was a school that would not give you the degree unless you got intermediate in an Oral Proficiency Interview
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Ourense to Santiago (2019), CF: (2014, 2004, 2002, 2001). On to Fisterra, (2002, 4, 14).
Some schools do. Many don't. I could not communicate after five years...

Wow. Sorry to hear that. Over the years I have begun to appreciate Culver City Jr High and High schools. Those language classes were better taught than my college courses.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
Wow. Sorry to hear that. Over the years I have begun to appreciate Culver City Jr High and High schools. Those language classes were better taught than my college courses.
There are ways to teach that are very effective. But in my years working toward a degree in Spanish teaching, actually doing some, and voraciously studying methods, it was clear that the more effective methods were not only not widely used, but viewed with extreme hostility by many employed teachers. And in on-line discussion groups of working teachers, I was often amazed at the lack of understanding of basic Spanish revealed by some of the posted questions.

When I was just getting started, I said that my tested level of 2+ (at that time) on the ILR scale was in my opinion inadequate for a teacher. Someone teaching in Chicago responded that ILR 2+ was better than most American high school Spanish teachers!
 
Camino Magnets
A collection of Camino Fridge Magnets
Camino Socks
Browse the Camino Socks collection on the forum shop

BShea

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
(9/2013) Le Puy
(5/2015) CF
(5/2016) Le Puy
(5/2017) CF
(9/2017) Le Puy
(9/2019) RL Stevenson
I spent the first two weeks out of Sevilla speaking Polish and German, constantly translating so my kids wouldn't feel left out. And as the Polish lady was married to a non-anything-else-speaking Italian, she would translate for him at the same time I was for the kids and I picked up my first hundred Italian words (which proved useful when we fell in with a couple of Italians later - one fluent English speaker who had lived in NZ for a year and one non-English speaker......we still exchange postcards. I write an identical one to each of them in their respective villages and she translates and sends the translation to the guy via email!)
Was it anything like this?
 

Katie R

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Want to walk one of the caminos next summer
I’m a German teacher and really try to use new methods to teach. I am now trying to learn Spanish and want to walk the Camino to improve it. I’d like to walk the Camino porugeses because of its length but wonder if I could use S panish effectively along the way
 

stevov

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
walked the portuguese way (senda littoral). from porto, vila do conde via viana and redondela Jun 17
Ok this is tricky...the portuguese and spanish are friendly neighbours but that doesnt mean the portuguese like being seen as integral with spain. They are proud of their country, its soveriegnity and its language is totemic...Although there are some simililarities, portugese is in many ways very different to spanish... therefore dont expect too much if you try to converse in Spanish, and dont expect to understood or appreciated. So keep learning ur Spanish but Portuguese is also a lovely language to learn at the same time, and while im no way near fluent i learnt enough from scratch to get me from a to b, fill my belly and sort a bed. And if you make the effort the portuguese will love u for it.
 

KariC

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2016
If you start in Porto, half your trip will be through Spain!

As far as the Portuguese part of it, when I did the Camino in 2016, I hung out with a Spanish woman and a Portuguese couple - it was funny - she talked to them in Spanish and they spoke to her in Portuguese, and I tried my best to use whichever language was the native language of the person I was directing a comment or question to, without short circuiting my brain in the process. Everyone understood everyone fine. But it's really a matter of how concrete a thinker the listener is. Can s/he hear "revolución" and understand it as "revolução"? Sort of like the things you occasionally see on the internet substituting number3 for 1etter3 that they resemble to see if your brain can adapt.
Boa sorte, buena suerte, bom caminho, buen camino!
 

FLEUR

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2012 - 2016
Voie de Paris / Tours Aulnay to Saintes 2017
Camino del Baztan 2018
Currently walking on the Portuguese route and most pilgrims we have met are German.
 
Fine art photography from the Camino Ways.
Camino Way Markers
Original Camino Way markers made in bronze. Two models, one from Castilla & Leon and the other from Galicia.

Robo

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
Currently walking on the Portuguese route and most pilgrims we have met are German.

Gotta love the Germans! They know how to party........ ;)

I know this is an old thread, but I would support the view that languages are so important for a traveller. Sadly I have a great interest in languages but not much competence :oops: Very basic tourist Spanish (learnt after Camino #1) Slightly better Thai and French, though not much. Slightly better again German.

Even a little language knowledge can go a long way...... I used some very basic German and French with fellow Pilgrims on Camino. Not found any Thais yet though! Other than my Boss Pat......

Will be adding to my Spanish a bit before Camino #4 next year.

To the OPs question though. I'd say You can manage with English only. Phrase books, google translate etc.
It's just more fun, and more polite I think if you can master a few language basics around shopping, eating, accommodation, directions and the like.
 

JAMM

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Not enough
Languages are very useful but not essential. They make life easier and enable you to connect more easily with the local culture and fellow pilgrims, let alone understand signs that are often mistranslated. Having said that, I think it is possible to do a Camino in the peninsula without speaking Spanish or Portuguese (if you have an acommodating attitude) so do not be discouraged.

I speak Spanish and was able to have some great conversations with some of the older locals we encountered. Speaking the language was extremely useful in restaurants and sometimes in albergues: it made life easier and probably opened the door to options others did not have. Someone pointed out to me that I was treated better and this may have been partially true but I suspect it was simply because I was able to articulate questions and locals were able to offer things/volunteer information that they would not have known how to explain in other languages (rather than because they were 'anti-non-Spanish-speakers').

If you do not have the time to learn any Spanish or Portuguese, my suggestion would be to try and read as much as possible about the culture (from gastronomy to history). Speaking a language 'properly' requires cultural understanding. It is better, in my view, to speak with grammatical errors and/or survive with a translating tool but understand context, than deploy perfect grammar and literal vocabulary but have no cultural knowledge. A dinner on the Camino comes to mind: there were 12 of us and I was the only Spanish speaker. The owner of the restaurant offered 'sopa normal' and I translated 'normal soup': I knew what was meant in Galicia by 'normal soup' but everyone in the group, from six different nationalities, had a very different view of what this entailed. None of the interpretations fit what the Galician man was offering. Everyone understood 'normal' but of course normal means very different things and what is normal for one is truly 'abnormal' for others.

Languages are also useful when things get a little stressful. We encountered a small group of upset pilgrims with an even more upset shepherd (who only spoke in Galician with a very strong accent) outside Samos; they were unable to communicate with one another and voices were being raised. The issue involved some gates and some cattle and was more of a misunderstanding than anything else but being able to speak to the Galician shepherd -with my Portuguese- and the German pilgrims -in my dodgy German- and mediate between them sorted out the issue.

The above, I think, applies to all travels but I think some linguistic and cultural knowledge can enrich the camino experience. If you cannot manage any dose of the above, for whatever reason, just smile a lot, prepared to be surprised and be considerate.
 

davran

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2028
Hello all, I just joined the forum.
The Camino is one reason I started to learn Spanish; when I turned fifty-one, I decided I didn't want to die a monoglot.
After 2 3/4 years of self-study (Pimsleur, Duolingo, Mango languages, youtube, etc), I'm not near fluent, but I could get by -- I don't have anyone to speak Spanish with. By the time I can do a Camino, I hope to be near-fluent in Spanish.
Which route would need the most use of Spanish? When I go I want to immerse as much as possible.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
Hi, and welcome to the forum.

Just a few minutes ago, I wrote something about this on a thread about choosing your first camino. Have a look at that.

On the Camino Frances, you might actually be disappointed that you don't need to use your Spanish a lot. I think that almost any other route will put your hard-earned Spanish to work. Really the secret is to engage locals in conversation whenever you can, and to not get stuck in a bubble of other English-speaking pilgrims. You will often find it difficult to understand, but that is the way language learning goes! I haven't walked the Camino Madrid from Madrid to Sahagun, but people say that it is a very good route for interaction with people in towns, and it is possible that the Castilian accent will be easier than some regional accents.

I speak reasonable Spanish and it certainly enhances my Caminos.
 
2022 Camino Guides
The 2022 Camino guides will be coming out little by little, most of them by the end of 2021. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
Donation to the Forum
A donation to this forum helps it continue to exists and also removes all ads for you.

davran

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2028
Hi, and welcome to the forum.

Just a few minutes ago, I wrote something about this on a thread about choosing your first camino. Have a look at that.

On the Camino Frances, you might actually be disappointed that you don't need to use your Spanish a lot. I think that almost any other route will put your hard-earned Spanish to work. Really the secret is to engage locals in conversation whenever you can, and to not get stuck in a bubble of other English-speaking pilgrims. You will often find it difficult to understand, but that is the way language learning goes! I haven't walked the Camino Madrid from Madrid to Sahagun, but people say that it is a very good route for interaction with people in towns, and it is possible that the Castilian accent will be easier than some regional accents.

I speak reasonable Spanish and it certainly enhances my Caminos.
Gracias. Olajá que le vaya bien.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
I haven't walked the Camino Madrid from Madrid to Sahagun, but people say that it is a very good route for interaction with people in towns, and it is possible that the Castilian accent will be easier than some regional accents.
I can confirm that the Camino de Madrid is a good route for speaking Spanish. There are few pilgrims and no large towns outside of Segovia. As I have said several times in other threads, the spirit of the camino manifested itself in (Spanish) conversations with locals on this camino for me, as opposed to the pilgrim interaction on (say) the Francés.

It's not about Spanish specifically (rather Portuguese and Galego), but our latest podcast episode (1.6 Camino Languages) is about language on camino and may be of interest.
 

André Walker

Never losing my way: always standing on it
Past OR future Camino
2018
My native language is Dutch, but I can also get around speaking Englisch, German, French. I like communicating with people from different backgrounds, cultures, countries. And I like speaking languages.

When I walked my first Camino, I quickly picked up some basic Spanish as I went along. By paying attention to locals in restaurants and bars: what do I hear them ordering and what are they getting served. That way I quickly learned the most important Spanish words: the ones I might need as a pilgrim.

Back home I took a Spanish course in which I learned the basic grammar and more words. Which proved to be very helpful, because just relying on basic knowledge of a language might get you into a situation you might want to avoid.

Like something that happened to my wife and me on a summer walking trip in Romania. We booked a walking holiday with a local company. The trip took us through the Carpathian mountains. An area where they weren't used to foreign visitors. The only tourism consisted of skiing by Romanians themselves in wintertime.

Communicating with locals was a big problem: in the small towns they didn't speak any foreign language. Also because often the younger generation had moved away due to lack of opportunities. If lucky, we would come across someones son or daughter who might have learned a bit of French. Turned out that was THE foreign language to be studied by younger Romanians, because French, like Romanian, has it's roots in ancient Latin. When I learned that, I thought I might have a go at reading Romanian. Using what I know of the Latin language.

At one occasion we were walking up a mountain. Where the road ended and a path continued there was a big sign about it being a nature reserve that was installed for the protection of the poplulation of bears, with funding bij the EU (probably the reason for the sign to be in English as well). With the English translation and my knowledge of the Latin language I carefully studied what was written in Romanian. And I was becoming more and more confident of my abilities to understand Romanian.

Further up the mountain my wife and I discovered that the trail would go straight ahead for about 3 kilometers, a moderate climb. Then making a very sharp left turn and again climbing moderately for about 3 km. Because we would end up at pretty much the same point where we were at the moment (just further up the mountain), we decided to just take the path that -with a very steep climb- would most likely take us to the same point as the original route.

At the start of this path there was this wooden barrier with an old wooden sign attached to it. In Romanian. Relying on my self confidence, I started reading it and said to my wife: it's OK, it just says what we have read on the big sign: that this is a nature reserve. So we started to climb, noticing that this wasn't a much used path. A bit further my wife discovered a very clear (and apparantly fresh) footprint of a bear. We quickly took a picture of it and continued our way as quiet as possible, hoping to get to see one (preferably from a greater distance). When we reached the top of the climb we indeed ended up on the original route. There was a young Romanian man waiting for us: he had heard us climbing up the mountain. When he learned that we were foreigners he started speaking French. He explained that although the entire region is a nature reserve for the wildlife, the mountain slope we had climbed was reserved as a rest area for the bears. Forbidden for humans to enter. And he added that is isn't wise to enter those areas, because those are the areas bears will flee to when they encounter humans, so they might not be very friendly to humans walking about in heir safe spots.

After that we decided to just stick to the route and visit Dracula's castle, which -even after sunset- might be much safer than the area we had just walked through.
 

timr

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Several and counting...
Old threads which are revived often don't get much traction but it is an interesting subject.
And welcome @davran I hope your plans go well

Way back @SabineP in post number two on this thread said exactly what I think!

One of the saddest quotes I see [often] on this forum (sad for me. I am not arguing. I am not evangelising. I am not telling other people what to do!! :)) is: 'you don't need Spanish, you can always find someone who speaks English or use Google'. That is often true, but for me is not the point.

I enjoy learning languages though it is by no means my area of expertise. I had French from school and Italian from living in Rome many years ago. I have KiSwahili too (and a variety of ancient languages).

After my first Camino I decided to learn Spanish - as languages go it is not difficult. I took 10 evening classes (always helpful just to get the pronunciation). Do they REALLY say 'th' all the time? YES! 😯 Then I continued with youtube and podcasts. As ever - use discretion there are two or three really good ones and most of what you need is in the free versions.

I agree absolutely with @jungleboy Madrid route particularly good for using and continuing to learn Spanish. So was the Invierno and so was the Baztán. The clue is simply in the least-travelled routes. On each of those routes I met VERY few if any other pilgrims, so I spoke to local people. I generally walk alone.

I believe that is simple courtesy to learn the greetings of any country I am going to visit. (And I am not telling other people they MUST do it!) You can do it for virtually any country on the planet in a couple of hours on Youtube. You don't need to know any grammar, you are just being polite and want to appear friendly. And I forget it as quickly as I learn it afterwards, but for example I ran marathons in Budapest and Ljubljana and it was nice to say hello!

[If you are only interested in CF, just stop reading here.] More recently I have been walking from Canterbury to Jerusalem the first part of which is the Via Francigena. So far I have been in (England), France, Italy, Vatican City, Albania, North Macedonia and Greece. Turkey next.

So I revived old French before setting out and for the first 1000 km my total encounter with native English speakers was two New Zealanders one evening. And I spoke French all the time - if you are going to stay with a family I think it is one way of repaying their hospitality. And if you cannot speak you are quite cut off. You can learn as you go. By the time I got to the Aosta valley my French had become better than my Italian. I studied for four years through Italian, and I thought it was quite good (!) but I was in a bar in a village in Val d'Aosta in Italy (where they speak both Italian and French) and was chatting to the barista when an elderly local man came in and I started chatting to him and I heard the barista say to him in Italian - 'Speak to him in French - he doesn't really speak Italian!!'

You don't need to be good at it!

Along the VF you do need to FIND your accommodation each day. It is not leaping out at you like on the CF. Enough French or Italian to make a simple phone call will really help. You really HAVE TO be able to tell them you are coming. And yes, you could manage with booking.com a lot of the time but it is never more costly and nearly always cheaper to make direct contact. People are sympathetic and interested and kind. Booking.com is a website!!!

I learned greetings in Albanian and Macedonian which got me a long way. It is worth learning the Cyrillic alphabet for N Macedonia so at least you can read the road signs and the menu. A small anecdote:


I can read New Testament Greek, but again it would at least be worth learning the alphabet for Greek, I did some online lessons in modern greek and got enough to get by. I firmly believe that even a few words of greeting make a difference even if you are then going to change to English.

If and when the pandemic wanes I will continue on through Turkey. I will be there for 6 or eight weeks. I have spent part of the last strange year learning Turkish.

So @davran I encourage you very much. If you walk the CF and get in with English speakers - the vast majority - you will not get to use your Spanish. And I know that a lot of people enjoy that and I wish them well. But If you are willing to use your Spanish, the Madrid route has very very good infrastructure and is well signed and if you are happy to spend your time talking to Spaniards I would say go for it.

If you would not be comfortable walking much of the time by yourself, you would need to factor this into your consideration. A highlight of that route on day two or three would be to stay with @rayyrosa - One of my most enjoyable camino stays ever! https://www.rayyrosa.com/casa-de-acogida-la-encomienda-de-rayyrosa

You can read my account here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/a-short-walk-from-madrid.47865/

Once you get to Sahagun, you can continue to Leon and Santiago if you wish, and if your aim is to reach Santiago.

Buen camino.
 
Last edited:

timr

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Several and counting...
My native language is Dutch, but I can also get around speaking Englisch, German, French. I like communicating with people from different backgrounds, cultures, countries. And I like speaking languages.

When I walked my first Camino, I quickly picked up some basic Spanish as I went along. By paying attention to locals in restaurants and bars: what do I hear them ordering and what are they getting served. That way I quickly learned the most important Spanish words: the ones I might need as a pilgrim.

Back home I took a Spanish course in which I learned the basic grammar and more words. Which proved to be very helpful, because just relying on basic knowledge of a language might get you into a situation you might want to avoid.

Like something that happened to my wife and me on a summer walking trip in Romania. We booked a walking holiday with a local company. The trip took us through the Carpathian mountains. An area where they weren't used to foreign visitors. The only tourism consisted of skiing by Romanians themselves in wintertime.

Communicating with locals was a big problem: in the small towns they didn't speak any foreign language. Also because often the younger generation had moved away due to lack of opportunities. If lucky, we would come across someones son or daughter who might have learned a bit of French. Turned out that was THE foreign language to be studied by younger Romanians, because French, like Romanian, has it's roots in ancient Latin. When I learned that, I thought I might have a go at reading Romanian. Using what I know of the Latin language.

At one occasion we were walking up a mountain. Where the road ended and a path continued there was a big sign about it being a nature reserve that was installed for the protection of the poplulation of bears, with funding bij the EU (probably the reason for the sign to be in English as well). With the English translation and my knowledge of the Latin language I carefully studied what was written in Romanian. And I was becoming more and more confident of my abilities to understand Romanian.

Further up the mountain my wife and I discovered that the trail would go straight ahead for about 3 kilometers, a moderate climb. Then making a very sharp left turn and again climbing moderately for about 3 km. Because we would end up at pretty much the same point where we were at the moment (just further up the mountain), we decided to just take the path that -with a very steep climb- would most likely take us to the same point as the original route.

At the start of this path there was this wooden barrier with an old wooden sign attached to it. In Romanian. Relying on my self confidence, I started reading it and said to my wife: it's OK, it just says what we have read on the big sign: that this is a nature reserve. So we started to climb, noticing that this wasn't a much used path. A bit further my wife discovered a very clear (and apparantly fresh) footprint of a bear. We quickly took a picture of it and continued our way as quiet as possible, hoping to get to see one (preferably from a greater distance). When we reached the top of the climb we indeed ended up on the original route. There was a young Romanian man waiting for us: he had heard us climbing up the mountain. When he learned that we were foreigners he started speaking French. He explained that although the entire region is a nature reserve for the wildlife, the mountain slope we had climbed was reserved as a rest area for the bears. Forbidden for humans to enter. And he added that is isn't wise to enter those areas, because those are the areas bears will flee to when they encounter humans, so they might not be very friendly to humans walking about in heir safe spots.

After that we decided to just stick to the route and visit Dracula's castle, which -even after sunset- might be much safer than the area we had just walked through.
Thanks so much @André Walker - a fabulous story!! On the Road to Jerusalem the problem with dogs increases exponentially once you pass Rome. [And it is in fact undeniably true that an English lady was eaten by dogs in Turkey not very long ago, but that is a whole separate story....]

One Sunday morning in southern Italy I came to a point where the road was completely blocked by a large iron gate and fence and no real option of what to do. It was a large open area, many acres, with a clear path still along a railway,and it was some kind of Catholic church property (and I am a priest!) so I climbed over the gate [not easy] and continued on a couple of kilomtres.

At the far end on the gate out there was an enormous pictorial sign warning of 'cani feroci' which would have put me off if I had seen it at the other end! It is sometimes best not to know!
 
Pilgrim Pouch carry bags with different designs
A lightweight carry bag handy for walking, biking, traveling, & Caminos
Create your own ad
€1,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2019
Yes, the Camino de Madrid must be a good one to speak to locals. It is said that Valladolid province on this Camino has the best Castilian. Nevertheless, and as a curiousty they have "laismo" which is incorrect.They say: la gusta ( correct: le gusta). There is laismo in most Castilla y Leon ( who were the inventors).
 

timr

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Several and counting...
Yes, the Camino de Madrid must be a good one to speak to locals. It is said that Valladolid province on this Camino has the best Castilian. Nevertheless, and as a curiousty they have "laismo" which is incorrect.They say: la gusta ( correct le gusta). There is laismo in most Castilla y Leon ( who were the inventors).
Thanks @Pelegrin
I love little details like that.

Kiswahili in Tanzania is really the first language and is spoken very correctly are somewhat formally, And it is what textbooks teach you.

Kiswahili in Kenya is spoken by everyone with no great anxiety about "grammatical correctness" and with a lovely propensity to adopt and adapt words from other languages. So the "correct" word for television is runinga, but in Kenya they say televishenu and would look at you very strangely if you used runinga.

In formal Kiswahili there is one word for getting fat for animals and a different word for getting fat for human beings, and this is observed in Tanzania but causes amusement and consternation if applied in Kenya. I guess it makes you sound rather posh!!

So you learn it from the textbook and than have to unlearn it a bit!
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2019
Very interesting must be kiswahili ( that I think it has different origins).
No, I am not perfect speaking Spanish. I say empezao (empezado) pati ( para ti), etc, but. never "la gusta" instead of "le gusta"
 

KariC

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2016
Hello all, I just joined the forum.
The Camino is one reason I started to learn Spanish; when I turned fifty-one, I decided I didn't want to die a monoglot.
After 2 3/4 years of self-study (Pimsleur, Duolingo, Mango languages, youtube, etc), I'm not near fluent, but I could get by -- I don't have anyone to speak Spanish with. By the time I can do a Camino, I hope to be near-fluent in Spanish.
Which route would need the most use of Spanish? When I go I want to immerse as much as possible.
Agree that the Frances is the one to avoid if you want to avoid English. I tried to learn French before the Haute Route via Pimsleur, and while I think it is an excellent program, it did not prepare me for conversation. It wasn't til I started taking classes at L'Alliance Française and tutoring that that happened. If you google something like "language practice pals online" you'll find several sites that will match you with someone who speaks your target language, and who wants to learn yours, and you can have zoom conversations.
 

davran

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2028
Old threads which are revived often don't get much traction but it is an interesting subject.
And welcome @davran I hope your plans go well

Way back @SabineP in post number two on this thread said exactly what I think!

One of the saddest quotes I see [often] on this forum (sad for me. I am not arguing. I am not evangelising. I am not telling other people what to do!! :)) is: 'you don't need Spanish, you can always find someone who speaks English or use Google'. That is often true, but for me is not the point.

I enjoy learning languages though it is by no means my area of expertise. I had French from school and Italian from living in Rome many years ago. I have KiSwahili too (and a variety of ancient languages).

After my first Camino I decided to learn Spanish - as languages go it is not difficult. I took 10 evening classes (always helpful just to get the pronunciation). Do they REALLY say 'th' all the time? YES! 😯 Then I continued with youtube and podcasts. As ever - use discretion there are two or three really good ones and most of what you need is in the free versions.

I agree absolutely with @jungleboy Madrid route particularly good for using and continuing to learn Spanish. So was the Invierno and so was the Baztán. The clue is simply in the least-travelled routes. On each of those routes I met VERY few if any other pilgrims, so I spoke to local people. I generally walk alone.

I believe that is simple courtesy to learn the greetings of any country I am going to visit. (And I am not telling other people they MUST do it!) You can do it for virtually any country on the planet in a couple of hours on Youtube. You don't need to know any grammar, you are just being polite and want to appear friendly. And I forget it as quickly as I learn it afterwards, but for example I ran marathons in Budapest and Ljubljana and it was nice to say hello!

[If you are only interested in CF, just stop reading here.] More recently I have been walking from Canterbury to Jerusalem the first part of which is the Via Francigena. So far I have been in (England), France, Italy, Vatican City, Albania, North Macedonia and Greece. Turkey next.

So I revived old French before setting out and for the first 1000 km my total encounter with native English speakers was two New Zealanders one evening. And I spoke French all the time - if you are going to stay with a family I think it is one way of repaying their hospitality. And if you cannot speak you are quite cut off. You can learn as you go. By the time I got to the Aosta valley my French had become better than my Italian. I studied for four years through Italian, and I thought it was quite good (!) but I was in a bar in a village in Val d'Aosta in Italy (where they speak both Italian and French) and was chatting to the barista when an elderly local man came in and I started chatting to him and I heard the barista say to him in Italian - 'Speak to him in French - he doesn't really speak Italian!!'

You don't need to be good at it!

Along the VF you do need to FIND your accommodation each day. It is not leaping out at you like on the CF. Enough French or Italian to make a simple phone call will really help. You really HAVE TO be able to tell them you are coming. And yes, you could manage with booking.com a lot of the time but it is never more costly and nearly always cheaper to make direct contact. People are sympathetic and interested and kind. Booking.com is a website!!!

I learned greetings in Albanian and Macedonian which got me a long way. It is worth learning the Cyrillic alphabet for N Macedonia so at least you can read the road signs and the menu. A small anecdote:


I can read New Testament Greek, but again it would at least be worth learning the alphabet for Greek, I did some online lessons in modern greek and got enough to get by. I firmly believe that even a few words of greeting make a difference even if you are then going to change to English.

If and when the pandemic wanes I will continue on through Turkey. I will be there for 6 or eight weeks. I have spent part of the last strange year learning Turkish.

So @davran I encourage you very much. If you walk the CF and get in with English speakers - the vast majority - you will not get to use your Spanish. And I know that a lot of people enjoy that and I wish them well. But If you are willing to use your Spanish, the Madrid route has very very good infrastructure and is well signed and if you are happy to spend your time talking to Spaniards I would say go for it.

If you would not be comfortable walking much of the time by yourself, you would need to factor this into your consideration. A highlight of that route on day two or three would be to stay with @rayyrosa - One of my most enjoyable camino stays ever! https://www.rayyrosa.com/casa-de-acogida-la-encomienda-de-rayyrosa

You can read my account here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/a-short-walk-from-madrid.47865/

Once you get to Sahagun, you can continue to Leon and Santiago if you wish, and if your aim is to reach Santiago.

Buen camino.
Gracias por su respuesta timr.

I don't see being able to travel for about five years, which is why I started hammering on Spanish; I want to be able to immerse in the culture, which I think one can only do with the culture's language.
After two more years studying Spanish I'll probably go back to French, which I learned a bit of in school, but didn't care back then: funny how perspectives change.

At first I thought the Camino Invierno would be it, but I feel I'm steered towards the Madrid route, as it seems to offer more of what I personally want.

Saludos y olajá que le vaya bien, David.
 
Last edited:
John Brierley 2022 Camino Guide
The most selling Camino Guide is shipping November 1st. Get your today and start planning.
Camino Cups
Browse our selection of Camino Cups on the forum store

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
At first I thought the Camino Invierno would be it, but I feel I'm steered towards the Madrid route, as it seems to offer more of what I personally want.
Not to derail the thread, but if you have time, a good combination would be Madrid to Sahagún, Sahagún to Ponferrada (gives you some of the Camino Francés and some of the loveliest parts too), and Ponferrada to Santiago on the Invierno. The Invierno is absolutely a not to be missed camino and has all of those Madrid qualities (not too much pavement, either!).

But to get back to the original topic, it strikes me that this three year old thread has said it all. The only thing I would add comes from the other side of the equation — how exclusive those English language bubbles can be. I remember walking the Vdlp and spending the night at the albergue in Oliva de Plasencia. We were a group of 10 or 12 eating a communal dinner, all non-Spaniards except for 2. As is so frequently the case, English became the common language at the table, though not everyone was a native speaker. One of the Spaniards turned to the other and said — See, we don’t even have to leave Spain to go abroad. That was said in jest, I think, but it stung a bit. Spaniards in general speak much less English than the Portuguese, and especially when we’re in their country I think it’s a nice gesture for those who speak Spanish to include them in the conversation by being the translator.
 

SabineP

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
some and then more. see my signature.
Not to derail the thread, but if you have time, a good combination would be Madrid to Sahagún, Sahagún to Ponferrada (gives you some of the Camino Francés and some of the loveliest parts too), and Ponferrada to Santiago on the Invierno. The Invierno is absolutely a not to be missed camino and has all of those Madrid qualities (not too much pavement, either!).

But to get back to the original topic, it strikes me that this three year old thread has said it all. The only thing I would add comes from the other side of the equation — how exclusive those English language bubbles can be. I remember walking the Vdlp and spending the night at the albergue in Oliva de Plasencia. We were a group of 10 or 12 eating a communal dinner, all non-Spaniards except for 2. As is so frequently the case, English became the common language at the table, though not everyone was a native speaker. One of the Spaniards turned to the other and said — See, we don’t even have to leave Spain to go abroad. That was said in jest, I think, but it stung a bit. Spaniards in general speak much less English than the Portuguese, and especially when we’re in their country I think it’s a nice gesture for those who speak Spanish to include them in the conversation by being the translator.


Absolutely! I remember on my first Camino in El Burgo Ranero where I took a private room in a hostal. That day the lady of the hostal/ restaurant was on her own ( her daughter whom normally helped was away for the day ). It was pretty hectic but I finished for the day so I sat at the bar and drank something and waited till the owner had more time to attend me. Meanwhile I was translating for some other pilgrims who also wanted to stay for the night. One of them was so incredibly rude and wanted a room ASAP ( meanwhile grumbling in his own language about the lazy Spaniards !! ) The rudeness of this man was unbearable to watch. Result : I got a gorgeous room ( the family room ) with own bathroom whereas obnoxious pilgrim got a small room without any facilities. I paid 20 € and he paid 28 €.
Unfair of the owner? I don't believe so. We are a guest and should behave accordingly.
And yes I do believe my basic knowledge of Spanish helped.
 
Last edited:

timr

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Several and counting...
As is so frequently the case, English became the common language at the table, though not everyone was a native speaker. One of the Spaniards turned to the other and said — See, we don’t even have to leave Spain to go abroad. That was said in jest, I think, but it stung a bit. Spaniards in general speak much less English than the Portuguese, and especially when we’re in their country I think it’s a nice gesture for those who speak Spanish to include them in the conversation by being the translator.
Absolutely I agree!! And Happy New Year.
I stayed with a beautiful couple in France on the VF who offered unique hospitality in an otherwise pretty barren stretch. She had really good English through her job. And she asked at the table, where we had a wonderful family meal, if I would mind (trying) speaking French so that her husband would not be excluded. And it is encouraging. And they, like many others were willing to help me along in French and teach me a little bit. And in 45 continuous francophone days you can pick up quite a bit!

Timx
 
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2016; Mansill de las Mulas to Finisterre/Muxia 2017; Aragones 2018; Suso/Yuso, Meseta 2019
Some of the greatest kindnesses I have received and my most profound experiences while walking have been when I have used my at times mangled castellano to speak with "the locals", showing interest in them, admiring their villages, and marveling at their beautiful churches, architecture and the countryside. I would not have a Camino any other way!
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
they have "laismo" which is incorrect.They say: la gusta ( correct: le gusta). There is laismo in most Castilla y Leon ( who were the inventors).
I didn't know about this, but there is a good explanation here. It is rather nice to know that my mangling of those pronouns might be acceptable somewhere!
 
Learn how to Get "Camino Ready " 2nd Edition. In English, Spanish, German and Korean
Camino Way Markers
Original Camino Way markers made in bronze. Two models, one from Castilla & Leon and the other from Galicia.

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
As is so frequently the case, English became the common language at the table, though not everyone was a native speaker. One of the Spaniards turned to the other and said — See, we don’t even have to leave Spain to go abroad. That was said in jest, I think, but it stung a bit. Spaniards in general speak much less English than the Portuguese, and especially when we’re in their country I think it’s a nice gesture for those who speak Spanish to include them in the conversation by being the translator.
Even with my only one month of (intense) studying to A1 level in Spanish, I have been able to have many nice conversations with locals along the way, as well as Spanish pilgrims. And doing translation for pilgrims. What a difference it makes! And how warmly and friendly I have been treated by the Spanish,, just for speaking some of their language.
 

FRM

How do you walk the Camino? One step at a time.
Past OR future Camino
C.F. 2014, 2019, 2020, 2021
C.P. 2022
Like @SabineP , I have found that speaking my limited Spanish has resulted in many “niceties” by Spaniards. After a cold windy day heading to Burgos I stopped at a small, private alberque owned by a family. The owner, an man in his seventies, spoke with me as I checked in. I responded as best I could and we talked for about 20 minutes, using a combination of pantomime and Spanish. He had an employee bring me a beer and a large bowl of garlic soup (a soup not to be missed). None of the others who arrived while we were talking we’re offered anything. When I asked what I owed him before heading up to choose a bed, he told me we were friends and I owed nothing. Later that afternoon his wife came by and asked for my dirty clothes and washed them for me. I will never forget their hospitality.

frm
 
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
My French is fairly good (a few decades of working with francophones in the Canadian government helped), and the grammatical structure of French made Spanish more accessible to me. I have always had challenges in aural comprehension (even in English) and soon learned that while I could speak Spanish at a reasonable basic level, my good pronunciation misled people into thinking I was fluent. So I learned to express myself more slowly and with a John Wayne accent, which led innkeepers etc to be much more patient with me.

On the principle of the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind, I found that I ended up interpreting for unilingual (mainly English and Australian, more than US or Irish).

If I might generalize, I found that Spanish pilgrims were very receptive to my poor attempts, anthough I do not think I would necessarily want to repeat my walk from Estella for an hour with a hairdresser from Manresa trying to teach me the difference between ser and estar. As @alexwalker, @Sparrow in Texas and others have noted, the response to our honest efforts is almost always positive and warm. It's a great reward for when one really tries, although I regret the pain caused by my John Wayne pronunciation.

For me the most serious linguistic problem was the Norwegians, whose English is better than most native English-speakers. It was so embarrassing as they tried not to wince when I forgot to use the subjunctive.
 
Last edited:

Robo

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
I believe that is simple courtesy to learn the greetings of any country I am going to visit. (And I am not telling other people they MUST do it!) You can do it for virtually any country on the planet in a couple of hours on Youtube. You don't need to know any grammar, you are just being polite and want to appear friendly.

I would agree 100% re the courtesy bit.

About 20 years ago on my first business trip to Thailand, a colleague and I noticed in the inflight magazine, a small section on speaking Thai. It had about 10 words/phrases. Hello, please, bathroom, thank you, my name is etc.

We managed to master those prior to landing and even that tiny bit made a huge difference. It demonstrated we were at least making some effort. And it encouraged us to learn a few more words.

I now try to learn a similar set of a dozen or so essentials anywhere I go.

Contrast that with a colleague of mine, who has been commuting to Vietnam for about 10 years. Spends about 4 months a year there. He doesn't speak one word of Vietnamese. "oh I'm no good at languages he says"

How sad is that? :oops:
 
Last edited:

Lurch

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
looking at 2018-2019
Living and working in SoCal for many years, I learned Spanglish; combo of English, Mexican (non-Castilian) and Indio. Potential for a lot of mix-ups, mostly numerous. But I agree, the locals along the Frances appreciated it...
 
how to successfully prepare for your Camino
This book's focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared.
Donation to the Forum
A donation to this forum helps it continue to exists and also removes all ads for you.

davran

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2028
Not to derail the thread, but if you have time, a good combination would be Madrid to Sahagún, Sahagún to Ponferrada (gives you some of the Camino Francés and some of the loveliest parts too), and Ponferrada to Santiago on the Invierno. The Invierno is absolutely a not to be missed camino and has all of those Madrid qualities (not too much pavement, either!).

But to get back to the original topic, it strikes me that this three year old thread has said it all. The only thing I would add comes from the other side of the equation — how exclusive those English language bubbles can be. I remember walking the Vdlp and spending the night at the albergue in Oliva de Plasencia. We were a group of 10 or 12 eating a communal dinner, all non-Spaniards except for 2. As is so frequently the case, English became the common language at the table, though not everyone was a native speaker. One of the Spaniards turned to the other and said — See, we don’t even have to leave Spain to go abroad. That was said in jest, I think, but it stung a bit. Spaniards in general speak much less English than the Portuguese, and especially when we’re in their country I think it’s a nice gesture for those who speak Spanish to include them in the conversation by being the translator.

Gracias por esto peregrina; estudiaré la ruta que sigieres.
Vivo entre las montañas de la Isle de Vancouver, BC, Canadá.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
Absolutely I agree!! And Happy New Year.
I stayed with a beautiful couple in France on the VF who offered unique hospitality in an otherwise pretty barren stretch. She had really good English through her job. And she asked at the table, where we had a wonderful family meal, if I would mind (trying) speaking French so that her husband would not be excluded. And it is encouraging. And they, like many others were willing to help me along in French and teach me a little bit. And in 45 continuous francophone days you can pick up quite a bit!

Timx
Hi, @timr
I have enjoyed reading this thread and reflecting on the challenges which I have with communicating when on camino in Spain. My first difficulty arose when I was only a couple of days into Spain, between Roncesvalles and Pamplona on my first pilgrimage. I stopped for a beverage at a cafe and, finding no seat inside, asked a man whom I saw sitting alone at an outdoor table if I could join him. He consented and I soon realized that he spoke only French, so I switched into French. He was critical of my French, and rude about it. This was somewhat discouraging, as my French was, and is, much better than my Spanish. I totally lost all confidence in my ability to speak either language. You were much luckier, @timr in the encouragement which you received. The following year, I walked from Oloron Ste Marie and recovered a bit of my confidence in French during the several days climb up to Somport.
Your story of learning to speak Kiswahili reminds me of a story told me by my younger brother, who spent quite a few years teaching at Rift Valley Academy at Kijabe, and took formal lessons in Swahili, as it was known then to the missionaries. He was invited to preach at a local church and did his best to prepare a sermon in Swahili for the occasion. Afterwards, the minister invited the congregation to pray for his Swahili. He gave any future sermons in English, with a local Kikuyu translator.
I am once again working on my Spanish, doing a review which helps me to remember vocabulary and grammar, but does little for my confidence. However, I walked from Madrid to Santiago via the Madrid and the Invierno in 2019 and do not recall any problems with getting what I needed in Spanish. This I attribute entirely to the kindness and patience of the locals. I could count on this wherever I went.
 

Anamya

Keeping it simple
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2015)
Portugues (2017)
Lebaniego (2019)
I am a fluent speaker of Portuguese, Spanish and English. Being able to communicate with locals in detail makes wonders for my caminos. Not in the sense of getting the right food of finding the right places, but of actually being able to solve complicated situations (such as medical emergencies) or to sharing really emotional stories.

When we walked the Portuguese, in an uphill somewhere around Rubiães we passed by a shepperd looking after his sheep. I greeted him and said in Portuguese his sheep were beautiful and fluffy. He asked if I spoke Portuguese and was going to Santiago (the gear gives it away :) ). I replied yes to both.

"Oh, praise the lord. I need to make a prayer to Santiago, but my legs are not strong to go all the way there. I will have a surgery on my knees soon, and I'm terrified of it. I wanted to ask for Santiago's protection. Can you do that for me? Can you make a prayer in Santiago for me?"

I wrote down his name and promised I would. (Yes, I fulfilled the promise when I got to the cathedral). He was almost teary, and gave me 3 oranges from his garden.
Would I have had that interaction if I couldn´t speak his language? Probably not. I probably wouldn't even remember I saw a shepperd on that hill.

Contrast that with a colleague of mine, who has been commuting to Vietnam for about 10 years. Spends about 4 months a year there. He doesn't speak one word of Vietnamese. "oh I'm no good at languages he says"

How sad is that?
Gosh, "sad" is to put it lightly. As you say, no one needs to be fluent - but it's a matter of courtesy to at least try.

Once in Madrid I was waiting to enter the Convent of the Barefoot Sisters and a group walked out, angry and telling the people on the line it was a rip off. "They charge you 5 euros and no one can speak English in there! It's all in Spanish"
Well, it's a convent created by the Spanish kings, in the midle of Madrid... not sure what they expected.

For those wanting to learn a bit but without resources to pay for classes, Duolingo can be downloaded for free and has easy, basic lesson on your phone. Add on top some youtube videos and some reading and it can provide a great start :) Most Brierly guides also have a list of basic phrases at the start.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
I am a fluent speaker of Portuguese, Spanish and English. Being able to communicate with locals in detail makes wonders for my caminos. Not in the sense of getting the right food of finding the right places, but of actually being able to solve complicated situations (such as medical emergencies) or to sharing really emotional stories.

When we walked the Portuguese, in an uphill somewhere around Rubiães we passed by a shepperd looking after his sheep. I greeted him and said in Portuguese his sheep were beautiful and fluffy. He asked if I spoke Portuguese and was going to Santiago (the gear gives it away :) ). I replied yes to both.

"Oh, praise the lord. I need to make a prayer to Santiago, but my legs are not strong to go all the way there. I will have a surgery on my knees soon, and I'm terrified of it. I wanted to ask for Santiago's protection. Can you do that for me? Can you make a prayer in Santiago for me?"

I wrote down his name and promised I would. (Yes, I fulfilled the promise when I got to the cathedral). He was almost teary, and gave me 3 oranges from his garden.
Would I have had that interaction if I couldn´t speak his language? Probably not. I probably wouldn't even remember I saw a shepperd on that hill.


Gosh, "sad" is to put it lightly. As you say, no one needs to be fluent - but it's a matter of courtesy to at least try.

Once in Madrid I was waiting to enter the Convent of the Barefoot Sisters and a group walked out, angry and telling the people on the line it was a rip off. "They charge you 5 euros and no one can speak English in there! It's all in Spanish"
Well, it's a convent created by the Spanish kings, in the midle of Madrid... not sure what they expected.

For those wanting to learn a bit but without resources to pay for classes, Duolingo can be downloaded for free and has easy, basic lesson on your phone. Add on top some youtube videos and some reading and it can provide a great start :) Most Brierly guides also have a list of basic phrases at the start.
When I arrived in Santiago in November of 2019, I carried the prayers and intentions of several Spanish women, who saw me as a pilgrim and asked me to carry their prayers to Santiago. Which I did.
 
Create your own ad
€1,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Peaceable Projects Inc.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.

davran

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2028
Hi, @timr
I have enjoyed reading this thread and reflecting on the challenges which I have with communicating when on camino in Spain. My first difficulty arose when I was only a couple of days into Spain, between Roncesvalles and Pamplona on my first pilgrimage. I stopped for a beverage at a cafe and, finding no seat inside, asked a man whom I saw sitting alone at an outdoor table if I could join him. He consented and I soon realized that he spoke only French, so I switched into French. He was critical of my French, and rude about it. This was somewhat discouraging, as my French was, and is, much better than my Spanish. I totally lost all confidence in my ability to speak either language. You were much luckier, @timr in the encouragement which you received. The following year, I walked from Oloron Ste Marie and recovered a bit of my confidence in French during the several days climb up to Somport.
Your story of learning to speak Kiswahili reminds me of a story told me by my younger brother, who spent quite a few years teaching at Rift Valley Academy at Kijabe, and took formal lessons in Swahili, as it was known then to the missionaries. He was invited to preach at a local church and did his best to prepare a sermon in Swahili for the occasion. Afterwards, the minister invited the congregation to pray for his Swahili. He gave any future sermons in English, with a local Kikuyu translator.
I am once again working on my Spanish, doing a review which helps me to remember vocabulary and grammar, but does little for my confidence. However, I walked from Madrid to Santiago via the Madrid and the Invierno in 2019 and do not recall any problems with getting what I needed in Spanish. This I attribute entirely to the kindness and patience of the locals. I could count on this wherever I went.

Albertagirl, I've been told by people who travel much more than I that the Spanish-speaking countries are as tolerant of people trying to speak their language as the French aren't.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
Albertagirl, I've been told by people who travel much more than I that the Spanish-speaking countries are as tolerant of people trying to speak their language as the French aren't.
I am inclined to think that I was just unlucky in the man that I chose to sit with that day. My French was good enough to get me an honours degree in French (many years before) and to make me comfortable to live ten years in Montreal much closer to my first camino. I met no one with that degree of arrogance and rudeness during my time walking in France on my second camino. Unfortunately, as a Canadian speaking French had been a priority for me since childhood and I was vulnerable to his rudeness. In his post above,, @timr points out that his experience of speaking French when invited to do so by a native French speaker was much different, and he was able to go on to improve his French during an extended camino in France.
 

timr

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Several and counting...
Albertagirl, I've been told by people who travel much more than I that the Spanish-speaking countries are as tolerant of people trying to speak their language as the French aren't.
I have heard that statement about French people and my feeling, after six weeks walking in France speaking French all the time, is that if you don't make a strong strong effort with the accent they really and truly cannot make head or tail of what you are saying!! I am hoping I don't sound too stereotyping there. 😁 If you persevere and write it down if necessary, the penny will eventually drop! eg "Un oeuf, vs deux oeufs" for one of a thousand examples. French is as unpredictable in pronunciation as English. While Spanish and Italian (and kiSwahili for that matter) are absolutely straightforward.
There was a lady in a bar one day offering me saumon (salmon) one day and we were "good friends" but it took about 10 attempts to connect.
 
Last edited:

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
I have heard that statement about French people and my feeling, after six weeks walking in France speaking French all the time, is that if you don't make a strong strong effort with the accent they really and truly cannot make head or tail of what you are saying!! I am hoping I don't sound too stereotyping there. 😁 If you persevere and write it down if necessary, the penny will eventually drop! eg "Un oeuf, vs deux oeufs" for one of a thousand examples. French is as unpredictable in pronunciation as English. While Spanish and Italian (and kiSwahili for that matter) are absolutely straightforward.
There was a lady in a bar one day offering me saumon (salmon) one day and we were "good friend" but it took about 10 attempts to connect.
I recall a friend who was travelling in France without a word of French telling me how he had managed to purchase eggs in a small store by doing a detailed performance of a hen laying an egg for the shopkeeper. who then pulled out a basket of eggs from under the counter. The shopkeeper was so entertained by this performance that, when a local man came in while my friend was still in the store, the shopkeeper managed to request that he repeat the performance for the entertainment of the local man.
 

SabineP

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
some and then more. see my signature.
I have heard that statement about French people and my feeling, after six weeks walking in France speaking French all the time, is that if you don't make a strong strong effort with the accent they really and truly cannot make head or tail of what you are saying!! I am hoping I don't sound too stereotyping there. 😁 If you persevere and write it down if necessary, the penny will eventually drop! eg "Un oeuf, vs deux oeufs" for one of a thousand examples. French is as unpredictable in pronunciation as English. While Spanish and Italian (and kiSwahili for that matter) are absolutely straightforward.
There was a lady in a bar one day offering me saumon (salmon) one day and we were "good friend" but it took about 10 attempts to connect.


Neither do I want to stereotype but there is a big difference in which French region you are. Area around Paris/ Centre/ Loire people can be rather snobbish about their language. And if they hear I'm from Belgium they think you are an illiterate...
I can still remember an incident ten years ago when an Australian friend and I visited a cheeseshop just outside Paris where my friend was in the process of buying cheese for an amount of more than thirty €. She spoke with an accent but all in all was perfectly understandable. The shopassistant just laughed in her face and asked me what my friend was talking about.
I told my friend to leave the cheeses on the counter and bye bye we said.

Now the more you go to the south, like Montpeliier, Toulouse or Perpignan the friendlier people are, but then you can actually smell Spain.

And oh yes, Bretagne is wonderful too, but then they are Celts!
 
Last edited:
Pilgrim Pouch carry bags with different designs
A lightweight carry bag handy for walking, biking, traveling, & Caminos
Peaceable Projects Inc.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.

Turga

Camino tortuga
Past OR future Camino
CF (Aug/Sep 2017)
CF (Aug/Sep 2018)
Neither do I want to stereotype but there is a big difference in which French region you are. Area around Paris/ Centre/ Loire n people can be rather snobbish about their language. And if they hear I'm from Belgium they think you are an illiterate...
I can still remember an incident ten years ago when an Australian friend and I visited a cheeseshop just outside Paris where my friend was in the process of buying cheese for an amount of more than thirty €. She spoke with an accent but all in all was perfectly understandable. The shopassistant just laughed in her face and asked me what my friend was talking about.
I told my friend to leave the cheeses on the counter and bye bye we said.

Now the more you go to the south, like Montpeliier, Toulouse or Perpignan the friendlier people are, but then you can actually smell Spain.

And oh yes, Bretagne is wonderful too, but then they are Celts!

A couple of years ago in a brasserie in Limoges I was ordering coffee, tea, sodas and different cakes and sandwiches in ‘perfect’ French for our family group . The waiter listened carefully and then repeated the whole order in English. I may be too sensitive, but it seemed to me that his whole posture as well as his voice indicated: “Ok, let me tell you what I think you just said” – but he got everything right :)
 

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 am bilingual...not in Spanish, however. But in any country I visit, I try to, at least learn survival phases. How to order a meal, ask for the toilette, book a room, ask where-a street, hotel, supermarket is in their mother tongue. My general experience at a shared pilgrim meals, is that there was often someone, who could translate to a second or third language...and that brought a richness to the table as well.
 
Past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
Only slightly on topic. A former boss of mine told me a story. He was sent to Germany in the 60s by the US Army and learned German there. He and his wife lived above a shop and sometimes tended it when the owner needed to be away for awhile. One day, after tending to a couple, when they left my boss heard the man say to his wife in English "You know, those were the only Germans I've been able to understand."
 
Last edited:

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2019
This a question for those fluent in Spanish.
When you are on the Camino:

- Do you always use "Tu" ?
- Do you always use "Usted"?
- Do you change depending on the person? With which criteria?

I am just curious.
 
how to successfully prepare for your Camino
This book's focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared.
Camino Maps
A collection of Camino Maps from the Camino Forum Store

Ivan_Prada

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés-(septiembre 2018)
Portugués-(en planes 2021)??
This a question for those fluent in Spanish.
When you are on the Camino:

- Do you always use "Tu" ?
- Do you always use "Usted"?
- Do you change depending on the person? With which criteria?

I am just curious.

Hi Pelegrin:

It all depends on the person and circumstances. If is a person older than me, I address that person as “Usted” to indicate respect to the age. Also applicable If meeting a person of authority (supervisor, security agent, customs officer, doctor, etc.). The “Tu”, would be used with people more in your inner circle (family members, friends, closed coworkers). This last express a more relaxed situation.
The above is the way I was educated by my parents.
 
Past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
This a question for those fluent in Spanish.
When you are on the Camino:

- Do you always use "Tu" ?
- Do you always use "Usted"?
- Do you change depending on the person? With which criteria?

I am just curious.
I am definitely not fluent but here goes anyway. I had Spanish in high school and learned Latin American Spanish. I've read that in Spain things are more informal and the informal you more often so, being agéd enough to fall into the usted category I intended to use tu. Being used to the plural ustedes form though I likely used Usted more often than intended. On the other hand, I can't remember with what form was used for me. I was concentrating too much on getting the meaning of what was being said I guess. I wouldn't have cared either way. We pretty much got rid of the formal and informal second person long ago. Thou hast heard, correct?
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
The above is the way I was educated by my parents.
My parents addressed even their new neighbours of the same age as Mr and Mrs, until they had agreed to use first names. Times have changed!

- Do you always use "Tu" ?
- Do you always use "Usted"?
- Do you change depending on the person? With which criteria?
I learned Spanish in Latin America in my 20s, reasonably fluently at the time. I never ever used or heard vosotros, and always addressed strangers as Usted. My experience in Spain as a woman in her 60s and now 70s, is that almost everyone of any age or position uses "tu/vosotros" when addressing me - even though I am a stranger, older than them, etc. Occasionally someone will address me with Usted, but it is rare enough that I really notice when it happens.

I still feel awkward using the familiar in many situations, and often stick with Usted because it is easy. It is simple enough to understand the vosotros, but I don't feel the need to use it back. I know that they know that my formality is a regional thing, completely understandable, and it feels better to err on the side of the formal, than the reverse.
 
Learn how to Get "Camino Ready " 2nd Edition. In English, Spanish, German and Korean
Camino Way Markers
Original Camino Way markers made in bronze. Two models, one from Castilla & Leon and the other from Galicia.

Did not find what you were looking for? Search here

Popular Resources

“All” Albergues on the Camino Frances in one pdf ivar
  • Featured
“All” Albergues on the Camino Frances in one pdf
4.95 star(s) 101 ratings
Downloads
15,265
Updated
A selection of favorite albergues on the Camino Francés Ton van Tilburg
Favorite Albergues along the Camino Frances
4.83 star(s) 35 ratings
Downloads
7,930
Updated
Profile maps of all 34 stages of the Camino Frances ivar
Profile maps of all 34 stages of the Camino Frances
4.88 star(s) 24 ratings
Downloads
7,728
Updated

Similar threads

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Camino Updates on YouTube

Camino Conversations

Most downloaded Resources

Top