If you’re wondering exactly how much Spanish you’ll need for moving to Mexico, you’re not alone.
The truth is, you can get by without speaking Spanish at all in some parts of Mexico.
But learning at least some of the language will make your life much easier and more fulfilling – both during your move and after you’ve settled in.
Why You Should Learn Basic Spanish Before Moving
Yes, you can “get by” without any Spanish — but who wants to just get by?
If you’re living here, Spanish will be part of your life whether you want it to or not. Better to embrace it and thrive, rather than let it be a handicap you tolerate. If you’re on the fence, here’s why I’d encourage you to get serious about learning Spanish:
- You’ll have a richer experience
- Being a tourist is okay, but when you’re living there, do you really want to feel like a tourist all the time?
- By speaking at least some Spanish, you’ll uncover opportunities you didn’t even know existed.
- Your potential friendships won’t be limited to English speakers. You’ll begin to understand Mexican culture, politics, and humor on a different level. And, maybe most importantly, you’ll feel like an insider who has a home here! Not an outsider who’s just visiting.
- You’ll be independent. Do you want to have to call a bilingual friend every time you have to deal with something important?
When you’re living in Mexico you’ll still need to call the electrician, visit the mechanic, and see the doctor. You’ll need to make reservations for dinner, buy furniture, and open a bank account.
If you build a foundation in Spanish now, over time you will be able to do those things without having to enlist the help of a Spanish speaker.
You Won’t Get Gringo Priced
Ever heard of the ‘gringo price’? It’s the price that tourists pay because vendors or service people assume you have more money. It’s like a tax for only speaking English!
But beyond that, what makes a real difference in your cost of living is where you live and spend time. If you live in an expat community or an English-speaking bubble, you’ll probably pay a higher rent. If you avoid places where people don’t speak English, you’ll likely pay more for food, clothes, and services in those areas.
Mexico has a lower cost of living than the U.S. or Canada, so you should be able to save money living here. But if you only frequent English-speaking areas, that cost of living could go way up.
Do you need to be fluent in Spanish to live in Mexico?
You don’t need flawless Spanish to live in Mexico. But generally speaking, the more Spanish you know, the easier your move and life in Mexico will be.
Yes, you can get 80% of the benefits from 20% of the work (and time) by getting a few things right, especially at the beginning.
How to Learn Some Basic Spanish Before Arriving
If I’ve convinced you to learn some Spanish, here’s what I would recommend doing before moving to Mexico:
Find your motivation
Getting to a comfortable level (“functioning adult”) in Spanish takes time.
It’s not that the people who’ve reached a good level are so smart. It’s more likely that they had a good reason to learn and stuck with it for long enough to see results. If you’re moving to Mexico, you already have a great reason for learning. But it’s important to make it personal. Why do you want to learn? What will it mean to you to speak Spanish? Can you envision yourself speaking Spanish in a specific scenario?
Write this vision down somewhere obvious, where you’ll see it every day. Learning Spanish requires consistency over time. And sometimes, to stay consistent, we just need to be reminded of our own motivation.
Practice pronunciation now (don’t wait until later)
If you’re starting out, now is the time to build the foundation for good pronunciation. Pronunciation is like muscle memory. If you played sports growing up, you’ll remember your coach putting you through endless technique drills.
That’s because good technique makes the rest of the game more efficient and easier. The right motions become habitual.
It’s the same with Spanish. With enough practice, the new movements become habitual, and you don’t have to think about pronunciation. It just flows naturally. On the other hand, if you ignore pronunciation at the start, you can develop habits that make it hard for Spanish speakers to understand you.
Find one main resource and stick with it
When you’re brand new to a language, there’s so much you don’t know.
Don’t concern yourself with all the available options, or all the things you wish you already knew. Instead, focus on putting one foot in front of the other, every single day. What you use is less important than how you use it and how consistently you use it. So just pick something to get started – whatever looks interesting. Then stick with it for at least a month.
As you go, you’ll have a better sense of the kinds of Spanish resources best suited to you.
That way, your time will be spent learning rather than researching endlessly for the perfect solution.
What to Focus on After Arriving
So you’re living in Mexico, and you have a decent foundation in Spanish. What now?
Now, your focus should be on using the language as much as possible.
This means 2 main things:
- Listen to as much Spanish as you can everyday. Podcasts while you’re cleaning the house, radio while you’re driving to the store, audiobooks while going for a walk. And don’t forget to listen actively. It’s easy to tune out a foreign language, because it takes real brainpower to understand.
- Ease into speaking in your everyday life. Order food in Spanish, start short conversations with cashiers, and go to events geared towards locals (not expats) where you’re likely to be forced to use your Spanish.
If you make a daily habit of listening to Spanish language content that’s near your level and write down useful phrases you want to remember, you will make progress. And if you combine that with immersing yourself in Mexican culture and making Mexican friends, you’ll make even more progress.
Be Patient with Yourself
Learning Spanish to a comfortable level takes time, and often it feels like you’re plateauing.
Know that if you do something with Spanish every single day, the language is slowly but surely making its way into your brain. And one day soon, a perfect Spanish sentence will come out automatically and you’ll surprise even yourself!
Guest writer: Connor Kane BreakThroughSpanish.com
Connor Kane runs breakthroughspanish.com– A proven Spanish method that will prepare you to be conversational. If you’re serious about finally learning Spanish, apply for the Breakthrough Spanish Challenge, a 6-week program to help you save time, feel focused, and speak confidently faster. Learn more here