7 Benefits of Learning Spanish For Travelers
I dragged my feet learning Spanish for years. I was traveling around and having the time of my life, but I couldn’t speak Spanish. It was fun for awhile due to the new experiences and rushing endorphins.
After a bit, it got tiresome. I was frustrated not being able to express myself fully due to my lack of Spanish ability. Finally, I decided enough was enough.
See, I had met this girl in Colombia. Physically, she was damn near perfect. However, when we were on a date, it was almost impossible to communicate. She spoke zero English and my Spanish was subpar.
She wanted to tell me stories and connect on a deeper level, but I just couldn’t understand. What could have been an amazing romantic experience turned into a bummer. All because I couldn’t speak much Spanish.
It was at that point I decided to learn some Spanish. I signed up for BaseLang, moved to Colombia for an extended period, and kept a journal detailing what I was learning. I was serious about it.
That’s when my Spanish speaking ability skyrocketed. I was taking notes, speaking Spanish every day, and studying with a tutor 4-5 hours each week.
In two months, I went from sounding like a complete and utter moron in Spanish to getting compliments. I’d talk to girls in the club and they’d immediately comment:
“Wow, Gringo! Hablas muy bien el Español!”
Of course, it didn’t help that my face isn’t ugly and my accent quite thick. But still, a compliment is a compliment! And I was taking it. Hell, I was proud that I’d learned a little of the language.
7 Benefits of Learning Spanish For Travelers
Once my Spanish improved, I continued to travel. The depth of my experiences increased and I began enjoying life on the road, again.
I found there were vast benefits of learning Spanish for travelers. In fact, I’d recommend any gringo looking to visit Latin America learn a little Spanish before they go. Here’s why:
~ Access to 21 Countries
If you can speak a little Spanish, you’ll have access to 21 countries and the ability to communicate with nearly 437 million people (Source).
Spanish is one of the most used languages around the world. Once you understand Spanish, you’ll be able to travel and explore far off lands with ease.
Make no mistake about it – if you speak Spanish, you’ll have a much better experience living and traveling throughout South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and more. The language truly opens up the region and gives you the chance to experience things in a different manner.
~ The Ability to Connect
Like my story above, you’ll eventually get to the point where you won’t be able to connect with people unless you can speak their language at a certain level. Not everyone knows English, especially when you’re on the road.
So it’s up to you to adapt and learn their language. Sure, you can get by with English if you’re in a city for a week or two getting drunk and swiping Tinder.
If you want to have real experiences and develop relationships and friendships with locals, you’ll need to connect in their mother tongue – Spanish.
~ Safety Concerns
Latin America is one of the most dangerous regions in the world. Places like Venezuela are off-limits right now. You’d be an idiot to spend much time in Honduras or El Salvador, too.
Hell, even countries like Mexico and Colombia have their dangerous areas. However, you mitigate a lot of this risk once you know how to speak Spanish.
Being able to understand what’s being said around you is vital when in sticky situations. You’ll have better awareness of what’s going on around you and the ability to adapt and make choices.
If you don’t speak Spanish, you might do exactly what you shouldn’t be doing at the wrong time. This can cost you dearly in a sketchy situation.
By learning Spanish, you’ll also be able to remain calm in sketchy situations because you understand what’s being said and know how to stay out of trouble.
Learn more about safety in Latin America:
- Is Colombia Dangerous? – 2017/18 Edition
- Is Peru Dangerous? – 2018/19 Edition
- Is the Dominican Republic Safe? – 2017/18 Edition
~ Deeper Cultural Understanding
Latin cultures are unique and exciting. In fact, it can be downright fascinating to learn about Colombian culture before heading off to Peru. You can compare and contrast customs, while seeing how people interact on a day-to-day basis.
Or maybe you’re listening to some reggaeton music and you want to understand what they’re saying.
Hell, your new girlfriend might want to take you to her parent’s house for dinner one night, but she’s certainly not going to do that if you can’t speak a lick of Spanish.
Whatever it is, you’ll gain a deeper cultural understanding by learning Spanish before you travel to Latin America. Without the ability to speak the language, your trip becomes packaged tours and gringo hunters.
With Spanish speaking ability, you’re sure to set off on an adventure. You can’t go where no gringo has gone before without learning Spanish, fellas!
~ Local Respect
Have you ever tried to order dinner only to have the waitress roll her eyes at you because you should like a complete and utter moron? I have, and it’s not fun. The worst part? It was only because my Spanish was so shit.
See, Latin America isn’t known for their service industries. If you can’t even order your food properly in Spanish, don’t expect your food to come out exactly how you want it.
To be honest, many locals will look at you funny if you visit their country and don’t speak Spanish. In the tourist areas, it won’t be an issue. In other spots, you won’t get any respect from locals unless you can talk a bit in Spanish.
There have been dozens of times where speaking a little Spanish has made it easy for me to meet locals and make friends in social situations. It’s a respect thing. If someone puts in an effort to learn the language, people respect that.
~ Job Opportunities
I’m definitely an advocate of working online. Making your money from a computer while traveling the world is an opportunity of a lifetime.
However, there’s also great job opportunities in Latin countries once you speak Spanish. The obvious ones, like teaching English, are always available – but there are other opportunities, too.
For example, my buddy is fluent in Spanish. He made friends with a film director in Bogota when he went out for a big night of rumba. They needed a gringo to speak Spanish in a movie the next week.
The Colombian offered my buddy the part. My boy took it. He played the part and did great. Two days on set and 18 hours later, he got paid $400 USD.
Not a bad gig for memorizing five lines and chilling with actors and actresses for a few days.
Another buddy had a full-time income online, but he wanted to make some local friends. Since he was fluent in English and could speak Spanish pretty well, he got a gig as a bartender at an international bar in Panama City, Panama.
The pay isn’t great, but the connections he’s made have paid off tenfold. All because he could speak a little Spanish.
~ It’s Good Fun!
Being able to laugh, joke, and talk a little shit in another language is just good fun. I was surprised how much I enjoyed speaking Spanish once I picked things up a bit.
I’m nowhere near fluent, but being able to have full conversations and understand people just makes traveling in Latin America more fun. Trust me!
Benefits of Learning Spanish For Travelers
Overall, I couldn’t recommend learning a little Spanish enough. If you plan to travel to Latin America and spend more than a week, the investment will pay off. You’ll have a better trip, make lasting connections, and simply enjoy yourself.
If you prefer to learn alone, I recommend Rocket Spanish. The course is comprehensive and will take you from zero to hero – or conversational in 3-4 months.
Personally, I learn better with a teacher. So I prefer BaseLang. BaseLang offers private Spanish lessons online. For a low monthly fee, you can take as many lessons as your heart desires. Talk about a good deal!