If you want to travel, learning Spanish opens up a world of possibilities. As an English speaker, you already have the advantage of knowing hundreds of similar words in Spanish, and achieving fluency will change your life for the better. Here are seven reasons why every traveler should learn Spanish.
1. Communicate with the world
Spanish is spoken by over 400 million native speakers on four different continents. It’s the de facto language over 21 countries worldwide, and also widely spoken in other exotic locations such as Andorra, Belize, and Gibraltar. Imagine all of the different places you can comfortably travel to just by learning one new language. Make it Spanish.
2. Earn respect from the locals
Have you ever heard someone in the US say “This is America, so they should speak English.” or something similar? I know I have. While I usually hear this sort of thing from someone who only speaks one language, they have a point.
While in a foreign country, you shouldn’t expect others to know English. Speaking the language of the locals will help you earn their respect, because it immediately shows that you took the time to learn something that is deeply rooted in their culture. Even if you aren’t fluent yet, being able to say hello (hola), please (por favor), and thank you (gracias) will go a long way in earning the respect of the locals.
3. Break the stereotype of gringos who only speak one language
Americans are notorious for only speaking one language. The first time I went to Playa del Carmen, Mexico in 2011 I was shocked by how many waiters handed me a menu in English before I even opened my mouth. But it’s not just Americans who have earned this reputation. Most native English speakers don’t feel the need to learn another language, and the rest of the world has caught on. Show the world you’re not like everyone else.
4. Spanish is easy to learn after English
You already know a ton of Spanish. English has thousands of words that are similar to Spanish. Many words are exactly the same in both languages, such as taxi, internet, wi-fi, hostal, hotel... These English cognates give you a boost when you’re just starting.
A study done by the U.S. Foreign Service Institute shows that it only takes an English speaker an average of 23 and 30 weeks (575-750 classroom hours) to become proficient in Spanish. And if you travel abroad and immerse yourself in the language like we do, you’ll need even less time to become fluent, and you’ll have the time of your life doing it!
5. Become a more independent traveler
Learning Spanish gives you freedom and independence while traveling. With Spanish, you can barter, ask for directions, order food, understand what it is that you’re ordering exactly, and rent a car. You can also learn from the locals about places that are less traveled, as well as what areas to avoid.
Ever wonder why Cancun and Playa del Carmen are such popular destinations for American and European tourists? Aside from being two cities that are right next to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, a big reason they continue to attract tourists is the number of English speakers there, which makes it more accessible to monolingual gringos. But there’s so much more to discover in every country than just the most popular attractions, and learning Spanish opens up those possibilities to you.
6. Work abroad
Once you’re comfortable with the language, the ability to speak Spanish fluently will give you the upper-hand in the job market, and makes collaborating with an even wider audience than just English speakers possible. Whether you want to teach yoga in a foreign country, try working at a hostel abroad, or want to become a digital nomad, learning Spanish will make your life abroad easier and more rewarding.
7. Make new friends
Developing friendships with people from different cultural backgrounds is one of the most rewarding experiences in life, and being able to communicate with people in their language helps create bonds that otherwise would be impossible. It helps us grow our empathy for one another by showing us that our way of living is not the only way, and perhaps not even the best way. These new relationships will help you grow as a person, and always give you one more reason to book a trip to visit your international friends.
So what are you waiting for? Start learning Spanish today! Check out our post on how to become fluent as quickly as possible.