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What do you need to know before learning Spanish in Latin America?

You probably have many doubts about your next language trip, you have been thinking for quite some time until you finally made the decision to travel and to adventure on this trip. Now there are many things you need to know before you get on that plane and start having fun.

1. IS IT NECESSARY TO KNOW SPANISH BEFORE ARRIVING?

Spanish is your entrance door to learning about Latin American culture

Depends where you are going, but mostly yes. Even though here English is compulsory in schools, many people do not feel really comfortable speaking English and only a small number of Latin Americans speak English without any problem. Most of us feel much more comfortable speaking Spanish and when foreigners come here we are very grateful whenever they manage to communicate in our language and especially when they try to use our expressions. With this, you get some extra points. 

2. WHAT LEVEL OF SPANISH DO I NEED TO BE ABLE TO TRAVEL TO LATIN AMERICA?

If you know a bit, you’ll make new friends. For sure.

Before arriving it is necessary that you know a little more of: where is the bathroom, or the bill, please. It is totally true that many people, especially in the tourism and hotel business, restaurants, bars and so on, will talk to you in English and will try to understand you, but if you want to make friends and really get to know the culture you will need to arrive with a basic level of understanding, at least to be able to introduce yourself to others and tell them your tastes and preferences.

The better part of this is it’s not really necessary to be perfect in the language, you can perfectly improve your Spanish while you’re traveling and with the help of a Spanish tutor who can guide you. 

3. HOW DIFFERENT ARE THE TYPES OF SPANISH IN LATIN AMERICA?

Spanish is the official language of 21 countries

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world and is official in 21 countries around the world, so it is quite clear that it is a language that has many differences in accents and words. Although the amazing thing about this is that despite our different accents and expressions, we can understand each other and above all, learn from each other and this is what makes Spanish so unique and special in its category.

When you learn Spanish you can travel to more than 20 countries in the world and understand what they say, have friends and live incredible experiences and by only knowing Spanish!

4. IS SPANISH IN LATIN AMERICA DIFFERENT FROM SPANISH IN EUROPE?

The fundamentals of grammar are the same in the 21 countries

The fundamentals of grammar are the same and learning Spanish in, for example, Chile will allow you to speak with and understand someone from Madrid. There are however some key differences to note.

The distinctive “ceceo” on certain consonants which Spanish from Europe is not at all present from Latin America. Certain words and phrases which mean one thing in Latin America may also have an entirely different meaning in Spain – with sometimes very embarrassing results. For example, to ‘take the bus’ in Spain one would usually say ‘voy a coger el bus‘. However, in Latin America, the use of ‘coger’ in that phrase means that you are going to have sexual relations with the bus. 

In the same way, you can find some words that mean different things in different countries as for example the word car, which means «coche» in Spain but in Chile «coche» is the carriage of the baby. 

As a language teacher, however, you really don’t have to worry too much about these differences in the early stages because the fundamentals of the language remain the same whether you learn Spanish in Europe or Latin America. 

5. WHAT ARE THE FIRST THINGS TO LEARN?

5. The first words that you should learn in any language are Hello/hola, Thank You/Gracias, Please/por favor, and I’m Sorry/perdón.

If you only have a short time before your trip backpacking around South America, then the 5 most important issues of every traveler should be accommodation, food, cab, greetings, and prices to this you could even add an additional one in case of emergencies, such as hospital or health, but generally, with these five topics, you can move around a country without too many problems.

So my recommendation as a Spanish teacher is for you to learn the basic lines to communicate in each of these situations and practice them before you travel, in order to not have any big problems when you be in a real situation. 

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think? WHICH OF THESE RECOMMENDATIONS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST AND WHICH OF THESE DID YOU EXPECT?

I will love to read your comments!

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Abrazos y hasta pronto

Giane

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