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learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain
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Author:  robertscott [ Sat Sep 08, 2012 12:10 pm ]
Post subject:  learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

My girlfriend and I have been talking about the future (scary, I know) and we have decided to first elope to Thailand (we'll pretend we're just going on holiday then get married while we're there) and then move to Spain to live for the foreseeable future.

The number one piece of advice we keep hearing about moving to Spain (as non-retirees) is to learn Spanish. Although you can get away with just speaking English in most of mainland Europe, apparently the Spanish find it downright insulting to be expected to speak English. Quite rightly I suppose, as it is after all part of their cultural heritage. Also, while I'm sure you can muddle through with English for a two week holiday, to actually live and work in Spain for what could be the rest of our lives makes it very necessary to learn the language. Very necessary indeed.

So I'm appealing to all you exrx.netters. Has anyone used any online resources, books, courses etc to learn another language (not necessarily Spanish) that they can recommend? Any advice about the move in general?

(and yes, I realise that unemployment is at an all time high...)

Author:  stuward [ Sat Sep 08, 2012 3:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

I can't help you with Spanish but I have a brother in law in Bangkok if you need an English speaking person to talk to when you get there.

Author:  Jungledoc [ Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

Wow! What an exciting adventure you've laid out for yourselves!

I can't help you with getting married in Thailand, but I knew a bit about adapting to a new location, new culture and new language.

The biggest thing I'd tell you is that the biggest challenge will be culture. Until you've done it, you can't imagine how big an issue this will be for you. You are not usually conscious of why you see the world the way you do, you just do. Spaniards will see the world in a very different way, and until you understand how they see it, it will just seem like they are being strange. That will be a source of stress, and unless you understand the phenomenon, you will not know why you are feeling stressed. It can be hard on your relationship with your girlfriend/wife, and with others. I'd say read all you can about Spain, about the particular area where you will live (there's a lot of diversity within Spain, as I understand), about cross-cultural communication and about culture shock.

I've lived in PNG for almost 10 years, and I'm not over culture shock. I realize now that I never really will be. Hopefully, the move from one European culture to another will not be as extreme as from the North American culture to the Melanesian, but it will not be easy.

My advice about language is to really jump in. My personal temptation is to not use the new language until I can meet some standard. I had 5 years of school Spanish, and I lived in a community where 40% of the population spoke Spanish, yet I never really managed to become fluent because I was always too shy to speak Spanish. My father spoke Spanish and was the pastor of a bilingual church, and still I held back. Foolish!

When we first came to PNG, our leadership had the good sense to insist on immediate language immersion, and sent us to a village to stay for 2 weeks. We'd had the chance to practice Melanesian Pidgin (the day-to-day language of PNG), so we weren't helpless, but immediately we had to start using it. Unfortunately for the intentions of orientation, there were a lot of English speakers in the village that they sent us to, and many of them were eager to use English, so we "cheated" quite a bit. If you can put yourself in a situation where you are forced to use Spanish, even if you can't use it very well yet, you will learn a lot faster than if you just learn from books. Also, make it clear to your friends that you want help and correction. Some people will, out of politeness, never correct your errors and mispronunciations. But if they understand that you want to do well with their language, they will help you, and also accept you more readily.

What about work? I know that you have said what sort of work you do, but I have forgotten. What sort of work does your girlfriend do?

By the way, having watched a few couples get married outside their own countries, it's not always straight-forward for a marriage (especially a new one) in one country to be recognized in another. Be sure you get good documentation in Thailand, or else plan just to be married again when you get home.

Author:  robertscott [ Sun Sep 09, 2012 10:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

stuward wrote:
I can't help you with Spanish but I have a brother in law in Bangkok if you need an English speaking person to talk to when you get there.


thanks mate, it's looking now like we'll just go a registry office here in Scotland then have a little ceremony when we get to Thailand. Doing the actual registration in Thailand was sounding like it could potentially cause problems and we don't really want to risk going there, something going wrong and then coming back without marrying.

We figure if we go to the registry office within a few days of leaving for Thailand then it'll still feel sufficiently like we've eloped...

Author:  Jungledoc [ Sun Sep 09, 2012 9:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

I keep thinking of more questions.

Why Spain?

Have you ever been there?

Author:  robertscott [ Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

sorry Andy, didn't have time to respond to you yesterday...

Apparently the main difference in culture is apparently how long it takes to get anything done. The attitude in Spain is, apparently, very much just to chill out and take your time. This suits me fine and I doubt it'll cause me any problems. There is quite a dramatic change in climate, which I suppose will take some getting used to but frankly the hot weather is the main reason we would be moving there anyway.

I totally agree with you about just jumping in with the language, can't really think of any other way to learn it.

As for work, well that is the biggest concern. Unemployment is very high in Spain, but when we get there we will have enough in savings to keep us going for a while, and will not be fussy in the least about what type of work we do, at least in the beginning. I will happily take a rubbish job to tide me over until I get something good. Again, being able to speak Spanish is really going to help with this one.

As for the why, well because we are EU citizens we can live and work in any other country in the EU without too much red-tape. That makes moving to Spain much easier in terms of paperwork than countries outside the EU. Of all the countries in Europe, Spain is the one we like the look of best. My parents also have a home there in the province we have been looking at moving to, so we would be able to use that as a base of operations while we look for something of our own.

We will, of course, go out and spend a little time there before we move just to make sure we like the place, but I have a feeling we will.

Author:  robertscott [ Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

oh and another reason why we are choosing the specific part of Spain we are going to is that the city of Alicante is the fastest growing city in Spain (jobs!) and the costs of living there are way lower than Madrid and Barcelona. Also, people there actually speak Spanish so there'd be no need to learn Catalan as well.

There's a massive British expat community on the coast in Alicante but we are hoping to avoid that...

Author:  Virgil Starkwell [ Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

As an American who moved to Israel 7 years ago, I have to agree with everything Jungledoc has said. There's also a tendency to view the local culture as inferior to your own. Watch out for that because objectively speaking, you may actually be correct (e.g. public nose-picking) but it's better to be happy than right.

Author:  Nevage [ Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

My mate decided to live in Spain for a couple of years without being able to speak one word of Spanish. He enrolled in a Spanish course there (Sevillle) which included reading, writing, speaking etc and was quite intense, but as he lived there he had to talk it. 6 months down the line he was managing a bar and a nice little place on the coast. Now his Spanish is fluent, he went to work in Argentina for a year after that as well.

Came back and did Spanish at Uni and rinsed it up.

Author:  robertscott [ Wed Sep 12, 2012 4:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

Virgil Starkwell wrote:
As an American who moved to Israel 7 years ago, I have to agree with everything Jungledoc has said. There's also a tendency to view the local culture as inferior to your own. Watch out for that because objectively speaking, you may actually be correct (e.g. public nose-picking) but it's better to be happy than right.


haha, well if I saw someone publicly picking their nose I wouldn't say anything...

Author:  robertscott [ Wed Sep 12, 2012 4:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

Nevage wrote:
My mate decided to live in Spain for a couple of years without being able to speak one word of Spanish. He enrolled in a Spanish course there (Sevillle) which included reading, writing, speaking etc and was quite intense, but as he lived there he had to talk it. 6 months down the line he was managing a bar and a nice little place on the coast. Now his Spanish is fluent, he went to work in Argentina for a year after that as well.

Came back and did Spanish at Uni and rinsed it up.


that's cool. I fully expect that I'll learn more Spanish in the first couple of months of living there then I will from any amount of time doing courses. I like to think that I'm the sort of person that can learn languages quickly, although that may just be the good ole Dunning-Kruger effect.

If any of you need somewhere to stay in Spain you are all welcome to come visit.

Author:  Nevage [ Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

I might take you up on that offer one day! :wink: Had my Spanish fix for this year in Fuengirola. Actually, going to Mexico in 2 weeks so more Spanish!

Author:  JasonJones [ Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

My better half didn't immigrate to Canada until she was six, and when she did she took French immersion, so she's spoken at one time or another five different languages. She says it's really hard to maintain even one other fluency if you're not immersed in it often enough, even if it is your mother tongue! The things that she finds helpful when she has to deal with French clients are to watch familiar television shows in French, and to try and speak exclusively in French any chance she gets. From that I'd say to try and start talking to your girlfriend in Spanish and using Spanish at home exclusively so that you're used to using it on a conversational level. Another great tool is the TV show Friends; a lot of the dialogue is conversational, the characters are easy to follow, and it's been translated (well) into many languages, including Spanish.

Author:  Ironman [ Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

Hablo Espanol un poco, pero mi voabulario as muy pochito. I took Spanish in high school for a couple years. I've learned a little more here and there since then. I got Rosetta Stone off the pirate bay a couple years ago, but I haven't messed with it yet. That would be a good start. However immersion is the best way. Just go there, muddle through for a while, watch some Spanish TV. You'll pick it up eventually. Most bilingual people I know learned a second language like that.

Author:  robertscott [ Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: learning Spanish and starting a new life in Spain

I love the idea of watching Friends in Spanish!

The immersion will definitely teach me Spanish, but ideally I would be more or less fluent by the time I got there as I'd be looking for jobs straight away. This ain't no holiday! I've been looking into night classes ran at universities. I figure if I have an actual qualification in Spanish I can list on my CV, then that'll be better than just telling employers I can speak it.

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