You have made the reservations for the hotel and bought tickets for your flight. You are looking forward to enjoying some leisure time for walking along a beach, dining at an authentic Mexican restaurant, or just exploring the narrow streets of a small Mexican village. But if you have never traveled outside of the United States, you might wonder if you could get along in a country where very few speak English outside of the resort community. So, the question is, should you take the time and effort to learn Spanish?
Certainly you would be able to enjoy certain aspects of your vacation much better if you spoke the same language as the nation that you are visiting. Being able to read advertising and newspapers in the region would lend itself to a better appreciation of Mexico and its culture. Speaking Spanish to the locals would make life much easier as far as ordering food, negotiating a price for that souvenir you just can’t live without or even asking for simple directions. Being able to understand what is being spoken around you would let you immerse yourself in the culture even more.
However, it may not be necessary to become fluent in Spanish to enjoy yourself while vacationing in Mexico. Most service people, especially in resorts and restaurants, will have at least a rudimentary grasp of English. Many resorts will have signage and menus printed in English as well. And there have been many tourists that have experienced speaking to someone who doesn’t speak the same language by using a combination of sign language, body language, and inflection of common words like “no” and “auto”. Total comprehension may not be there, but the point usually comes across.
The most common approach people traveling to Mexico use are to have a pocket size Spanish to English dictionary and memorize basic words or phrases. Knowing how to ask where the rest room is or to ask the time can be handy. Having the ability to pronounce Spanish words is helpful and can be a lot of fun to practice. And even knowing a word to use in the right situation, such as “alto” for stop, can be very helpful.
Memorizing certain key words will be the easiest way to get your point across to a local and keep your brain from overloading learning Spanish. Knowing the “banyo” means bathroom is a big one and “policia” for police is good for the other type of emergency. Learning the cross streets or area where your resort is located will, properly pronounced, give a taxi driver or police officer enough information to help you get back to your base of operations.
Learning another language is a lot easier today because of the proliferation of technology. The best type is what is known as immersion learning. Results say it can be learned relatively quickly, but it doesn’t seem to be necessary for enjoying a vacation in Mexico. So instead of slapping on headphones and trying to learn Spanish in a week before you travel to Mexico, just learn a few key phrases or words, pack your Spanish to English dictionary, and just wing it while vacationing in Mexico.