English has taken over on the Coast

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  • #55844
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    Sent to me by email

    By Jose Antonio Sierra, published in the Xornal de Galicia | Sábado, 28 Agosto, 2010 – 07:42

    English has taken over on the Coast.
    Many businesspeople do not speak Spanish, and in some Communities of Property Owners, Spanish residents have to pay for document translations into English.

    Strangers in their own land

    UNA CAÑA, por favor. Una …what…? comes the reply. The waiter has no idea what his client has asked for, even if this is Spain and the client is speaking Spanish. In fact, the client is Spanish, but he might as well be in some foreign country, trying to make himself understood by sign language. He points to a barrel of beer, and the waiter, saying something in English that the client does not understand, pours him a glass. Welcome to the Costa del Sol, where, in many areas, the language of the locals is English. There is no reason, as far as the waiter is concerned, why he should make the effort to learn Spanish. He now knows that his client does not speak his language, and indicates the price of the beer by pointing to coins in his hand. The money changes hands and the client leaves. The scene is repeated over and over on the Costa del Sol, and other costas of Spain these days.

    The bar could just as well be in Manchester, London, Belfast or Dublin, but it is in Torrox Costa, Málaga, Spain. The owner is, of course English, and he moved to Spain to open his bar with neither the desire nor need to learn Spanish. None of his signs are in Spanish, and the menu is not given in Spanish, not even as a matter of courtesy to the host country. The owner wants it known that this is an English bar, and that anybody coming in without a knowledge of the language will have communications problems.

    Out on the esplanade, only the blue skies and warm sunshine tell us we are in Spain. And if we walk down the street, we can turn into a huge residential estate where just about everybody speaks German. It used to be called the Bauhoffman, but now has been renamed the Centro Internacional, and the difference between it and the surrounding streets is that almost everyone here speaks Spanish to some extent. There are 3,000 housing units in the complex, which was built in the 1970s as a little Germany, complete with German bread shops, German supermarkets, German clothes shops and all the advertising signs in German. To judge by the forest of satellite television dishes on the rooftops, everybody here watches German television as well.

    Now, according to the mayor of the town, Francisco Muñoz, the backlash is coming from the foreigners themselves. They now want to escape from the type of stereotyped neighbourhood, choosing to live instead in isolated areas far from the big towns and cities. But this is causing other problems, the mayor tells us, because in most of these isolated areas, the building of any house is forbidden. The lucky ones are those that have bought property on the high part of Torrox, built before the planning laws were tightened up, and most of the owners of these properties are foreign.

    And if it is easy for a Spaniard to feel a foreigner on the eastern Costa del Sol, he will feel very much out of place in some areas on the western coastline. English would appear to be the unofficial official language in places like Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Fuengirola, Mijas and Marbella. This is especially true with regard to businesses. Here one is offered the traditional English breakfast in the traditional English language, and even the furniture stores advertise their ‘special offers’ for ‘only one week more’. In many of these shops and businesses, to ask for something in Spanish is to be met by a blank stare and a shake of the head. This is Little England, and the language of business is, of course, English.

    WHAT THEY SAY

    José Antonio Sierra
    Former Spanish Teacher “In some residential estates, the Spaniards have to pay for translations of essential documents to be made into English”

    Luis Moreno
    Marbella resident “I have lived abroad myself, but I worry about being forced to learn English to keep living here”

    Rafael Fuentes
    SOPDE Manager “We have a social structure and our own identity. Foreigners are welcome, but they should integrate.”

    John Step
    Travel Agent “The best way to attract tourism is to maintain our own identity. Tourists want something different”

    Francisco Muñoz
    Mayor of Torrox “The problem now is that foreigners look for isolated places to live, but very often it can be illegal to build in these areas.”

  • #100559
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    Anonymous
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    We had an English sales guy who lived in a small town in inland Alicante. He still lives there after 8 years and I recently met up with him. The guy is in his mid 40s and his best Spanish does not go beyond…”si creo…yeah, umm I think sí…”
    At the same office we later installed a Dutch guy and his wife, he was a little older, it took him about 6 months to be practically fluid in the tongue of Cervantes. Now I’ve met loads of different nationalities and many Brits that speak great Spanish but on the whole, it really is the Brits that have the toughest time picking up Spanish (closely followed by the Germans).

  • #100560
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    Anonymous
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    marjal
    i had a sililar experience when living in ibiza some time ago.
    i was in my bank when a guy asked if i could speak to the manager about something. this i did, and after when speaking to this guy he had told me he spoke no spanish, and that he had lived in ibiza for over 20 years.
    the point here is it was difficult to learn off the locals because most of them wanted to learn english at that time. as the island was just being invented for us tourists.

  • #100564
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    It may sound like an excuse, but it’s partly to do with the limited spectrum of sound wavelengths that English occupies. Dutch, for example, covers almost the whole spectrum, making it easy for the Dutch to pick up other languages (they are already used to hearing and pronouncing all the sounds in their mother tongue).

    That and the fact that you can often get by just with English in this world (which enrages the French, so must be a good thing)

  • #100566
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    Anonymous
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    Well, the village this guy lived in has just under 1500 inhabitants and believe me, Valencian is spoken more than Spanish so you can forget about getting by on just English. The town is not “tourist” orientated at all and the brit community is so tight knit that I was not surprised that the guy doesn’t speak much Spanish. The surprise was with the Dutch guy, that the community of Dutch there was small but they do get together and tried to speak the local language, the guy even knew a bit of Valenciano and understood most of it!

  • #100572
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    katy
    Spectator

    @mark wrote:

    Sent to me by email

    By Jose Antonio Sierra, published in the Xornal de Galicia | Sábado, 28 Agosto, 2010 – 07:42

    English has taken over on the Coast.
    Many businesspeople do not speak Spanish, and in some Communities of Property Owners, Spanish residents have to pay for document translations into English.

    Not only spanish residents have to pay, the fees come out of the community budget. The majority of these communities are 90+% british owned anyway. A survey two years ago showed that the spanish are less likely to pay their community fees than the foreigners.

    According to the andalucian tourist board the coast is lamenting the large downturn of British tourists and hoping to win them back. The number of spanish tourists has exceeded foreign tourists this year. I think this guy who wrote this article is suffering from a case of xenophobia.

    Whilst I wouldn’t like to live in a country where I could not speak the language, people pay their money and take their choice. Foreigners moving to Spain aren’t going to be a burden and get benefits. They pay their taxes and contribute to the economy.

    If the spanish are going to work in tourist areas then they have to accept they need language skills, just the same as a chef needs a cooking qualification. It was the spanish who have sold the coast as a tourist area, they destroyed it all by themselves.

  • #100576
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    @alanrthornton wrote:

    the point here is it was difficult to learn off the locals because most of them wanted to learn english

    When living abroad, I’ve heard this lame excuse time and time again from Brit. expats. The fact is most are just too lazy to learn which I find very sad when you’ve made that country your home. You miss out on so much.

    One of my first jobs abroad was as a teenager in Germany and I sometimes had the situation of me speaking in German and being answered in English. When I asked why they did that I would get the reply “Oh, I just love to speak and practice my English”. I politely advised them that they could do what I had done and take the trouble to move abroad in order to practice the language. They soon got the point, respected what I was doing by moving there, and never did it again.

    I don’t know how it is in Spain re. English-speaking films on tv (are they dubbed or Spanish subtitles)? In Greece the nightly English/American films are always subtitled in Greek, so with a little effort and concentration it can be a great way to learn.

    In our case here though you have to learn the Greek alphabet first. 🙁 You lot in Spain have it so easy!

  • #100585
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    katy
    Spectator

    I once did a short (12 weeks) course in Greek. I was just managing to write the symbols decently, and understand them when it finished 😆

  • #101277
    Profile photo of Fuengi (Andrew)
    Fuengi (Andrew)
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    @mark wrote:

    It may sound like an excuse, but it’s partly to do with the limited spectrum of sound wavelengths that English occupies.

    that is a valid point. But most british people are introduced to french/spanish/german from an early age via schooling.

    I really do think it is down to educational laziness.

  • #101788
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    Anonymous
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    Interesting topic!

    I personally would avoid any establishment (or area for that matter) that sought to make any group of people feel unwelcome. This applies to English, Irish, Italian, German… and can even apply to the Spanish themselves!

    I can’t think of anything worse than being in a part of Spain where the first language is English. Obviously, everyone does not share my opinion which is great as there’s something different for everybody.

    I am not one for hanging out with ex-pats just because we share the same birth Country.

    Just to make clear, i can not speak Spanish but make every opportunity to do so and little by little i’m improving. Its not easy at first but the rewards are massive.

    Ironically, I find that some of the Spanish / Catalns can be quite off-putting. Rather than speak to you in Spanish they prefer to speak in English. Whilst I understand that this is wholly political I think that people should recognise when someone is making an effort and help them and put their political beliefs to one side.

    It happens quite often in Barcelona and so as a retort I speak in Irish to those Catalns that try and speak English to me.

    Funny old world.

  • #102177
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    I find it almost embarassing that wherever I go in the world, the locals will speak perfect English, but I (and others around me) can barely utter a few sentences in French, German and Spanish. I blame the government and the inward thinking mentality that Britannia still rules the waves!

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