Should an Expat Learn Spanish in Nicaragua?

When talking with people who are joining one of our tours in Nicaragua, they are usually planning on moving to Nicaragua.  Many people have asked me whether they should learn to speak Spanish if they move here. The simple answer is yes. I also say that enough people speak English in Nicaragua that you’ll be able to live there and survive.  That is, if you plan to retire in Granada or San Juan del Sur where there is a large English-speaking community of ex-pats. In these two locations in Nicaragua, you could speak English every day and never learn a word of Spanish. But the problem with this is, you will always remain outside of the society where you have chosen to live. You will never find Nicaraguan friends, never be able to able to communicate in the language of your chosen country and therefore never truly experience this country and its culture. Think of it, you might want to take a drive outside of Granada or San Juan del Sur one day.

We probably all learned Spanish in high school but that was years ago. The only words we understand today would be “gracias” and “buenos dias” and the words that always come in handy for expats and tourists alike, – “una cerveza por favor.”  Is that enough to live in Nicaragua? Well, it is for some, but in all truth, it’s not enough. Ordering a meal, shopping for bargains, house repairs, car repairs, finding an internet service provider – everything is going to be a struggle for you if you don’t speak Spanish. Even a trip to the doctor or dentist might be difficult if the doctor or dentist doesn’t happen to speak English. You’ll always have to take a native Spanish speaker who also happens to speak English along with you wherever you go. You lose your independence.

If you already live as an expat in Nicaragua, you have many opportunities to learn Spanish – probably for a lot less money than you would pay in North America. You can hire someone to teach you Spanish on a one-to-one basis and get some personal language lessons. You can sign up for lessons at any number of the Spanish schools located all over the country. Perhaps, you’d like to teach yourself and then go out into the community  and practice your Spanish speaking skills in the streets with the people. Another option is to buy a couple of learn to speak Spanish books with CDs, get yourself a notebook to write down your lessons and the new words you learn. Amazon offers a wide selection of Spanish teach yourself books and Kindle products. You can shop online and get your purchase shipped to your address in Nicaragua or your mailbox in Managua. Delivery is quick and convenient. It’s a great way to learn Spanish.  Check out the available “teach yourself Spanish” books at Amazon by clicking here.

Learning a language is not only about learning the words, the verbs, the present and past tense, but it is learning to communicate with others in that language.  The end result is  adding to the quality of life in the country you have chosen as your new home. Perhaps you might remember people back home who came to live in the US or Canada as immigrants and never learned to speak English. Without a doubt, except for communicating with their relatives, they lived an excluded sort of life, shut out from the world they had chosen to live in. Every task such as shopping, car repairs, doctor or dentist visits would have been  difficult for them.  All in all, they always remained shut out of their new homeland.  Kind of sad, isn’t it?

Should an expat learn Spanish if they’ve chosen Nicaragua as their new home?  It depends on whether you want to feel like you really “belong” to this new culture.  It also depends on whether you mind being “excluded” from this new place you call home.  If you want to be a part of the Nicaraguan life and culture that surrounds your daily life: pick up a book, sign up for a class or engage your Nicaraguan friends to help you learn Spanish. You won’t regret it.

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