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Starting in Southern France.

I've a feeling that a pilgrim could walk the entire Camino Frances across Spain without having a single word of Spanish. It's well sign-posted, the refuges are easy to find, and if in doubt you could follow other pilgrims.
For someone starting in Southern France, where there are said to be less pilgrims, and so less support infrastructure, would it be necessary to speak some French?
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Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Pamplona-Santiago, Le Puy- Santiago, Prague- LePuy, Menton- Toulouse, Menton- Rome, Canterbury- Lausanne, Chemin Stevenson, Voie de Vezelay
It is never necessary mto know the language. We traveled from Prague without knowing any Czech. For that matter, you don't even need to read---I've done just fine in places like Viet Nam, Japan, Thailand where they don't use our alphabet.

That said, it sure helps. I would say one would find French very useful in the more remote areas, but even there, the availability of English speaking people is far greater than it was 20 years ago. Every decent sized town has a tourist office where they speak English. The need for Spanish on the Camino and French in France is roughly equal. Don't learn it out of need, but to enrich your experience.
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
I walked from Toulouse to the Somport pass in 2005 along with a monolingual Ozite (hi! Janet!)—she found the French hospitable and happy to jump hoops to somehow assist us- - they seemed to find it a source of delight to help out an Australian (and a Canadian!). Even so, my ability to chat away merrily in French was very helpful in matters of detail and just to socialize with people. Local people are very sociable and friendly, and treat cycling and hiking pilgrims with respect and hospitality—the greater your ability to connect with them, the more you will enjoy yourself.

Every tourisme office in each town or village had English-speaking staff, who were cheerfully helping out with information, reservations at inns etc. I keep hearing horror stories of Parisians furious at anyone trying out their basic French but I did not see this at all on the Camino from Toulouse to Spain. While I would urge prospective pilgrims to have enough French to find a place to stay, follow basic directions, and get some food, and carry on a basic conversation, it can be managed without. Remember to smile, be grateful for assistance, and enjoy the walk.


New Member
Hi folks,

I've walked the route many times and never had any problems the first few years. I didn't know any Spanish or French then but have picked up a little since.

As has been said already, the people will go to great lengths to help you out so never worry.

There's a great little free Spanish phrase ebook here if you are interested, may help.

Buen Camino!

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