April 6, 2009

Do you need to speak Spanish in Honduras?

Bathroom sign, La Ceiba, HondurasBathroom sign

Do you need to speak Spanish to live in Honduras? I'm sure that to Hondurans, that question sounds a little ridiculous. It's a Spanish-speaking country, dummy! But you might be surprised at how often the question comes up.

road sign, HondurasCan you come here on vacation without knowing Spanish? Sure. No problem. Most hotels and tour groups have people who speak English. They can hook you up with an English speaking taxi driver. A lot of restaurants have someone who sorta speaks English, but a lot don't. You can always hire someone to be your guide.

Living here is a different story. If you are going to go shopping, go to the bank, take a taxi, ride a bus, talk to your neighbors, read a newspaper, take a job, open a business, get a driver's license, buy or build a house, need a plumber, answer your door, get sick, hire someone to cut your lawn or clean your house, or ever run into any kind of problem (like that never happens in Honduras), then you'll probably need to know some Spanish.

restaurant sign, Tela, HondurasIt's fine to learn "Dónde está el baño?" but what do you do when the answer is "idru &^$# ()gjeor% ufe#rgt wo*&#*cwst, señor!"? Sure, sometimes you luck out and someone will be around who speaks English. It may be fine to rely on that person to tell you what is going on with the bathroom, but do you really want to rely on someone else's translation when you invest in a house?

road sign, HondurasThose of us with Honduran spouses have it a little easier, but do you want to be dependent on your Honduran husband or wife or friend or neighbor for even the simplest things? Will they always be around when you need a translation? Will they even be able to accurately convey what it is that you are trying to convey?

Adjusting to a new culture is difficult enough. If you don't have a clue as to what is going on around you, you'll really be lost.

sign, La Ceiba, HondurasI just think that anyone who moves to Honduras without knowing at least a little Spanish is putting himself up for a very frustrating time. I know people do it, but I have to think that they must feel a little like an outsider looking in at the rest of the world around them.

restaurant sign, La Ceiba, HondurasI regret that I didn't learn more Spanish before I came here. The first few years could have been much easier − for me and for El Jefe, too. Even now, though my Spanish reading ability is very good, my speaking ability leaves much to be desired, which still can cause frustration and misunderstanding. I want to have intelligent discussions about things that are beyond my Spanish vocabulary! Even with simple subjects that I know very well, like cooking or gardening, I find myself completely stuck trying to find the right word.

Some people can pick a language by hearing it, others need 'book learning.' So, my advice − if you want it − is to use whatever time you have before you move to another country to learn the language.

So, the simple answer to the question is: Yes. I think you'll be much happier. Just my opinion.

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