When you relocate to Gran Canaria, the most important thing to do is learn Spanish. Show respect and receive trust!
It all seemed so easy when you took your vacations here, right?
Waiters, receptionists and taxi drivers talked a bit in your own language.
No matter, if it´s English, German, French or whatever your native language is.
You didn´t have any problem to tell the service personal your wishes since they (mostly) speak English in the touristic zones.
They all understood where you want to go, what you want to drink before choosing a dinner plate and they even understood your complaints (let´s assume you had any).
You felt almost as you were still in your own country. Even the menu cards are provided in your language.
Only difference: You were surrounded by palm trees on a miniature continent somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, enjoying the world´s best climate.
Everything was so easy going.
That easy, that you thought you can just come over to Gran Canaria and live here without any difficulties. Without speaking the local language.
I made the same error.
To be honest, I felt like a conquerer, when I moved to this sunny island where it never rains. (Well, almost never…)
I didn´t speak a single word in Spanish. Oh well, I knew “Cerveza” and “Café con leche”. For some people, that might be enough to get their stomach filled.
Learning Spanish? For what should I do that? Everybody in the south of Gran Canaria is speaking English or German.
And they should speak English because English is the business language of our planet.
My thoughts were very arrogant. Which is not part of my natural character. But in this case, it was.
True, you can stay the rest of your life inside the touristic area from San Fernando to Meloneras, or even more in the south, in Arguineguin, Puerto Rico or Mogan.
But please be honest to yourself.
Do you love being enclosed just by people from your home country?
That was nothing desirable for myself and to get that, I could have stayed in my own country.
Very soon, life taught me some serious lessons and after my first four months in Gran Canaria, I started to learn Spanish.
3 Worst case scenarios that happen when you don´t speak Spanish in Gran Canaria
1. You don´t understand the doctor…
…who just checked your health conditions, after being carried with the ambulance to a hospital because you collapsed at the beach.
You´re smiling friendly, nodding your head, because you didn´t understand, that he told you, that you have a serious disease.
Ok, that´s really sarcastic. But when you are in a hospital or you have an appointment with your doctor in a “Centro de Salud”, you won´t understand a word. You would always need a second person who helps you with a translation.
2. You sign contracts you really shouldn´t sign
Let´s say you trust people too much and you signed a rental contract for your first home in Gran Canaria without knowing the exact terms.
Maybe you think “Hey, this is not Africa. Even we´re close to Africa, we still live under European law, so the contract should be fine.”
Imagine, that one day your water heater breaks and you call your landlord to fix it.
Like everybody else, of course you think that the landlord has to pay for repairs. It´s his house, not yours.
In general, it works like this. But sometimes it doesn´t.
You can see your landlord´s big smile right through the phone, when he tells you, that you´ve signed terms that you have to repair everything by yourself.
You even have to pay for a new water heater and the plumber.
You just lost more or less 500€ by not understanding Spanish. 100€ included from the plumber for not speaking his language. You´re just another “Guiri”.
3. You waste your time in local authority offices
Don´t try to be clever and make an appointment with local authorities (for example to get your N.I.E or “Residencia”), without speaking Spanish or without being accompanied by an approved translator.
If you don’t speak Spanish, nobody will attend you (Not even if they speak English).
You wasted a few hours waiting inside a sticky office, smelling the sweat of hundreds of other people until your number shows up in the display.
All that just for letting them tell you, that you have to come back another day with a translator. “Next one, please”.
Show respect and that you want to be a fully integrated member of the local community
Learning or better speaking Spanish makes your life much more comfortable in Gran Canaria.
Plus, the Canarios will be absolutely happy, when they see a Guiri like you, trying his best to speak in their language.
You don´t need to be shy.
They really enjoy helping you learning Spanish, even with hands and feet.
The fastest ways to learn Spanish in Gran Canaria
1. Use professional audio courses to learn Spanish
You have magnificent beaches right in front of your nose. Use them.
I recommend you to buy the Audio course “Assimil Language Courses: For English-Speaking People Who Want to Learn Spanish-Spanish With Ease”.
Buy it in a bookstore, with DVD´s included, or order it directly from Amazon. Transfer the Audiotracks to an MP3-Player (Do you still know, what that is?) or your mobile phone and go every day to the beach to learn spanish.
Go to the beach at 5PM or 6PM. That´s the time you will find empty beaches because the “All inclusive-Tourists” must leave to have dinner in their hotels.
You will be almost alone with your book, listening to the audio courses with a first class postcard panorama in front of you.
That´s exactly the way I started to learn Spanish in Gran Canaria.
Can you imagine a better place to study a language? I can´t.
2. Find a Tandem Language Learning Partner Online
Lot´s of Spanish people want to learn German or English. And they love to do tandem language learning. Which means they are searching for native speakers to exchange languages. It´s as easy as that.
However, if you don´t feel comfortable meeting people live in public, you can also find tandem partners, who only want to communicate via email.
Best places online to find language tandem partners:
This platform is very easy to handle. Choose the right category and read the classifieds or just post one and wait for requests to come in to your mailbox.
Hundreds of thousands of people from 163 countries are willing to learn other languages online. The service is totally free. Just get registered and find a tandem partner here.
Free language education for the world. Learning languages in Duolingo is completely free – now and forever – with no ads or hidden fees.
3. Learning in front of the television
The television is one of the quickest ways to learn the Spanish language.
Besides that, it´s totally free and you are guaranteed to hear people speaking naturally (and fast).
Don’t expect to understand everything, as this is difficult even for people with a good level of Spanish.
The more you listen and watch, the quicker you will find yourself picking up words and phrases.
You will be surprised how painless it can be to learn just in front of the TV.
4. Get a private teacher
If you prefer a language school and are willing to pay some more bucks, I can recommend “Inlingua Canarias” in Maspalomas.
“Inlingua” is a professional language school and they also offer individual classes, which cost 33€ per hour.
After learning Spanish for six month on the Maspalomas beach, I wanted to go a step further and searched for a private teacher.
Inlingua wasn´t an option for me. First, I don´t like to sit with a bulk of people inside a school class. Second, I wanted it way cheaper.
So I started to ask around for a private native Spanish speaker who teaches Spanish.
And because of how things work in Spain, when you know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, I found Emma, a Spanish teacher, who has brecome a close friend of mine since that time.
Her mother languages are both British English and Spanish and with her help I increased my language level very fast.
Give it a try and get in contact with Emma.
Just click here to drop me a message and I will forward your message to Emma. (For privacy reasons I will not publish her contact details online)
Note: Sorry, Emma is not able to give classes until the end of 2014.
5. Learn memory techniques
In addition to all of the language learning strategies above, you can work on improving your memory. A great way to do this is to learn how to create and use a Memory Palace.
Memory techniques are not a substitute for other language learning approaches. But they will boost your experience and you can get some worksheets and videos that will show you how to build a Memory Palace here.
All those 5 Tips above on “How to learn Spanish in Gran Canaria” are proven by me and helped me to learn this nice language.
Today, I almost speak fluently in Spanish – or better in “Canario” – and the locals are always happy and proud, when they recognize that this blonde Guiri does speak their language.
They treat me on an equal footing and respect me like they want to be respected.
It´s way easier than it seems and you will achieve a lot of positive advantages and experiences just by speaking Spanish.