Living in a Spanish Speaking Country to Learn Spanish: 5 Cultural Insights

Do you really have to move to a Spanish-speaking country to learn Spanish? Or is it possible to learn Spanish desde la comodidad de tu casa (from the comfort of your home), maybe even without leaving the house? 

So the question is: do you have to be living in a Spanish speaking country to learn Spanish? Juan answers all of your questions:

Do you have to live in a Spanish-speaking country to get fluent in Spanish?

1. A dream scenario for living in a Spanish-speaking country

Here’s the dream scenario when you’re abroad learning and living in a Spanish speaking country:

ACTOR 1
Hey! You’re the new guy, right? Nice to meet you.

ACTOR 2
¡Mucho gusto también! No tienes que hablarme en inglés, puedo hablar español.
(Nice to meet you, too! You don’t have to talk to me in English, I can speak Spanish)

ACTOR 1
Ah, genial. Oye, ¡pronuncias muy bien! ¿Te gustaría venir a comer algo conmigo y mis amigos?
(Oh, cool. Hey, your pronunciation is really good! Would you like to come grab something to eat with me and my friends?)

ACTOR 1
Sí, ¡me encantaría!
(Yes, I’d love to!)

But unfortunately, here’s what usually happens when you’re in a Spanish-speaking country:

WAITER
Sí señor, ¿qué le gustaría comer hoy?
(Yes Sir, what would you like to eat today?)

ACTOR 1
Hola yo quier eh… I’d like to order a salad

WAITER
Ah, you’re from the United States! I speak English señor, what would you like your salad with?

STUDENT 1
Yo quiero salir en… a… wait, how was it again?

STUDENT 2
I think it’s Yo quiero salir a comer. O era comir? Man, Spanish is so difficult!

STUDENT 1
Yeah, tell me about it. Let’s just speak in English.

If your experience looks more like the second one, then living in a Spanish speaking country won’t help you at all.

2. Tips for learning Spanish while living in a Spanish speaking country

So here’s the deal: if you want to learn Spanish, you have to listen to Spanish a LOT

And just hearing the cashier asking “señor, quiere una bolsa?” (sir, do you want a bag) and the neighbors greeting you in Spanish is nearly not enough to learn anything.

You need to listen to hours and hours of dialogue, every week.

Si haces eso, vas a aprender cómo entender español y eventualmente hablarlo. (If you do that, you will learn how to understand Spanish and eventually speak it.) 

The advantage is that with the internet, you can do that from the comfort of your home… without having to go to a Spanish-speaking country!

A man with a beard and mustache is sitting in front of a computer screen, surrounded by five smaller images of different people. The main background image shows him looking directly at the camera with a serious expression. The smaller images around him show various expressions and activities: one person holding a package of candy with a subtitle in Spanish and English, another person holding a plate of food with subtitles, and a man in a red beanie making animated gestures with the word

You can get lessons online on YouTube or as online courses – Helloooo we have those at Spring Spanish YouTube Channel! And listen to them. We have fully Spanish videos and we have lots of Spanish roleplays and sections in our beginner videos.

We have videos with role plays about many different topics: sports, politics, chunks to say goodbye, to say thank you, to talk about work or music.

For extra exposure, you can find many other Spanish resources on the internet such as Spanish podcasts, Spanish radio and TV. Netflix, Amazon Prime and all the other streaming services out there actually make really good Spanish language shows and movies that you can use to practice with Spanish or English subtitles.

You can find people to chat with online.

Either Spanish speakers that want to learn your native language so you can have a language tandem with them or with Spanish tutors like us and the ones we have in our Spring Spanish Inner Circle. You can join one of our speaking rooms there.

3. Learn the basics in Spanish

Seems incredible that you could learn Spanish without needing to travel, right?

So yeah, you might not need to actually go abroad to get all that exposure to Spanish, you can get it on the internet as well. Gotta love it.

TIP: Primero aprende lo básico y llega hasta un nivel intermedio antes de considerar ir al extranjero (First learn the basics and get to an intermediate level before considering going abroad) because by then you will be able to strike up some conversations and actually start improving.

It won’t be overwhelming so you won’t be searching for an escape with other non-Spanish speaking people. Once you are in that bubble of non-Spanish speakers it is hard to get out of there again.

You can start with our Spanish lessons for beginners! You’ll find a playlist on our channel page, and we’ll give you a glimpse right here:

Greetings in Spanish: 5 Must-Know Ways to Greet People in Spanish! 👋🏽 [SPANISH LESSON 1]

So do you need to go abroad to learn Spanish

Spoiler alert: No necesitas hacerlo realmente. (You don’t need to, actually).

But we still encourage you to go if you can because you will be more motivated to learn and it’s also just nice to be in the country and hear Spanish all around you.

Also, if you live close to a Spanish-speaking community you are actually already basically there!

And to get you started, we’ll share the most important and most common Spanish phrases and chunks to get you started:

SpanishEnglish
HolaHello
Buenos díasGood morning
Buenas tardesGood afternoon
Buenas nochesGood night
¿Cómo estás?How are you?
Estoy bien, graciasI am fine, thank you
¿Y tú?And you?
¿Qué tal?How’s it going?
Por favorPlease
GraciasThank you
De nadaYou’re welcome
Lo sientoI’m sorry
DisculpeExcuse me
¿Dónde está el baño?Where is the bathroom?
¿Cuánto cuesta?How much does it cost?
No entiendoI don’t understand
Hablo un poco de españolI speak a little Spanish
¿Puedes ayudarme?Can you help me?
Me llamo [Name]My name is [Name]
Mucho gustoNice to meet you
¿Qué hora es?What time is it?
¿De dónde eres?Where are you from?
Soy de [Country/City]I am from [Country/City]
¿Qué haces?What do you do?
Estoy aprendiendo españolI am learning Spanish
Tengo hambreI am hungry
Tengo sedI am thirsty
Estoy cansado/aI am tired
¿Qué pasa?What’s happening?
Hasta luegoSee you later
AdiósGoodbye

4. 5 cultural insights for living in a Spanish speaking country

When you’re living in a Spanish speaking country, you’ll quickly notice some things that Spanish native speakers and locals do and like.

The importance of family

Family and other social gatherings or events are probably more important in Spanish-speaking countries than in other countries around the world.

Some basic vocabulary you have to know about family in Spanish:

SpanishEnglish
La familiaThe family
El padreThe father
La madreThe mother
El hermanoThe brother
La hermanaThe sister

Vibrant street culture…

You’ll also experience the vibrant street culture, with local markets and street vendors offering fresh produce and traditional snacks

Language immersion will make your Spanish skills better rapidly, as you’ll be surrounded by native speakers and real-life conversations.

Learn about these local markets with these Spanish chunks:

SpanishEnglish
El mercadoThe market
El vendedor ambulanteThe street vendor
La comida callejeraThe street food
La plaza centralThe central square
El espectáculo callejeroThe street performance

Slower pace of life

You can also expect a slower pace of life, with long lunches and afternoon siestas reflecting a more relaxed approach to time. It’s what the locals do… and according to some scientific research, it’s a pretty healthy approach to life.

SpanishEnglish
La siestaThe nap
El almuerzo largoThe long lunch
La pausa de la tardeThe afternoon break
Disfrutar el momentoEnjoying the moment
El ambiente relajadoThe relaxed atmosphere

Regional diversity

You’ll gain an appreciation for regional diversity, as each area boasts unique traditions, dialects, and culinary delights.

SpanishEnglish
Las tradiciones localesThe local traditions
El dialecto regionalThe regional dialect
La gastronomía típicaThe typical cuisine
Las fiestas regionalesThe regional festivals
La artesanía localThe local crafts

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