When people think of Spain images of vibrant streets in Barcelona and Madrid, beautiful beaches on the coast and of course flamenco dancers and amazing tapas. But one question I often get asked by people planning a visit Spain is “Do they speak English in Spain?”

And the answer is complicated. While English has undoubtedly become a global language, it is a misconception that English is widely spoken in Spain. In fact what further complicates the extent to which English is spoken in Spain is that a variety of additional dialects and local languages are spoken throughout different regions of Spain in addition to Spanish. Therefore, understanding the linguistic landscape of Spain can help travelers navigate their experiences and interactions when traveling through Spain.

Statistics suggest that about 25% of the Spanish population can speak some English. But by no means does that mean they are fluent. The dialect spoken by most Spanish speakers is largely what is referred to as Castilian Spanish. However, Spain is a country composed of 17 autonomous regions that are distinct and unique. Many of these regions have their own traditional local language which include Basque, Galician, Catalan, Fala and Aragonese to name a few.

So in certain areas you may hear these languages being spoken as opposed to Spanish. However, chances are if you hear one of these other languages in a particular area the people speaking likely know Castilian Spanish as well. I absolutely love traveling throughout Spain and hearing the different dialects and seeing the different languages on the signs and in the community.

For instance, while living in Basque Country you can hear the amazing language that is Euskara being spoken or while traveling through the Balearic islands you will hear Catalan. Our children went to school in several regions throughout Spain and were required to have language classes in the local dialects in addition to Spanish. These languages have roots in the long and fascinating history that make up these distinct regions. When you take the time to understand these dialects and their roots an amazing picture comes into view of the remarkable culture and history that make up Spain.

As a general rule you will hear much more English spoken in the larger cities in Spain. The smaller, less touristed and populated areas you will hear much less if any and you might possilby not even hear much Spanish. So let’s get into the cities where you are likely to hear English spoken in Spain.

Check out the regular eating habits in Spain to increase your craving for the country’s cuisine.

Do They Speak English in Spain?

In Spain, most people speak Spanish, and a fraction of the population speaks English. The struggle is limited if you go to big cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, or Seville. People, especially young adults can speak English in these places. 

However, for the most part, many Spanish people don’t speak English well or at all. As English is not strictly practiced in schools in many regions, you shouldn’t expect all of them to speak in English.

According to ELPais, a Spanish News media, only 27% of Spanish can speak English. So, it’s a good idea to learn a bit of Spanish before you go to Spain. Knowing some basic phrases helps tourists get around and talk to people. It makes things easier.

The good thing is that learning Spanish isn’t very difficult. There are a lot of similarities with Italian and even English as well. If you plan to move to Spain, this should be the first thing you must consider. Jobs and daily life will be smoother when you speak the local language.

8 Places In Spain Where Most People Can Speak English

Even though most locals don’t speak English in Spain, there are some places here where you can find English-speaking people. If you are planning to visit Spain and don’t speak any Spanish, you may want to consider these places. Let’s check out these places:

PlaceDescription
BarcelonaA top international tourist destination with a significant number of English speakers, especially in tourism-related jobs. Areas like Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Gothic Quarter, and Eixample have many English-speaking locals and expatriates.
MalagaLocated on the Costa del Sol, Malaga is a popular tourist spot with an international airport and cruise port. English is common in tourist areas and cultural sites. However, local markets and neighborhoods might require some Spanish.
MadridAs Spain’s capital and largest city, Madrid has a cosmopolitan atmosphere with widespread English, especially in tourist areas and professional settings. The presence of expatriates and international students also boosts English usage.
SevilleSeville is more traditional, but many people, particularly in tourist-heavy areas, are fluent in English. The historic district of Santa Cruz and attractions like Plaza de España are good places to find English speakers.
GranadaKnown for the Alhambra Palace, Granada has English-speaking staff in hotels and tourist sites. The university area is a hotspot for English-speaking international students.
AlicanteIn Costa Blanca, Alicante is frequented by tourists and expatriates, with English-speaking staff common in areas like Explanada de España and Santa Barbara Castle. It’s also popular among international retirees and foreign workers.
ValenciaAttracts global tourists, with English-speaking locals common in places like the City of Arts and Sciences and the Old Town. Valencia’s international events and conferences also draw English speakers.
MarbellaLocated in Costa del Sol, Marbella is a luxury travel destination with a high prevalence of English speakers, especially in resort towns and areas like Puerto Banús.

1. Barcelona

Barcelona is the most popular international tourist destination in Spain and it is one of the places in Spain where people speak English well.

The tourism industry is prominent here, and locals work in related professions like hotel staff, tour guides, and restaurant employees. So, most of the time, they have a good command of English. 

Popular tourist areas in Barcelona like Sagrada Familia or Park Güell are full of English-speaking people. 

Some are well-occupied with expatriates and foreigners, such as the Gothic Quarter or Eixample. So, locals in this area are also good at the International language.

2. Malaga

Malaga is a place on the Costa del Sol and it is quite a popular tourist destination in Spain. This city has an international airport and cruise port. You will find plenty of foreigners here. 

So, you will find a lot of English speakers, especially in tourist areas like the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle.

Spain’s Malaga is a cultural hub, with museums like the Picasso Museum. These cultural creations always attract English-speaking tourists. That’s why English-speaking staff are available in hotels, restaurants, and other tourist services. 

However, don’t expect seamless communication in Malaga without knowing Spanish. You might require some Spanish communication skills to explore local markets and neighborhoods, 

3. Madrid

As the capital and largest city, Madrid is a cosmopolitan hub. English is relatively more common compared to other parts of the country. You’ll find English-speaking staff in tourist areas like Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and the Prado Museum.

Also, most hotels, restaurants, and attractions have English-speaking staff. As an international business and cultural center, Madrid has a lot of English-speaking locals, especially in professional settings. 

Expatriates and students from different countries often mostly choose Madrid because of the world-class universities and working opportunities. That’s another reason you’ll see foreigners so frequently in this city. Communication in English seems reasonable in the Capital of Spain.

Learn 15 reasons you should visit Madrid.

4. Seville

Even though Seville is a bit more traditional compared to other Spanish cities, many people here are fluent in English. Still, their English proficiency is not as prevalent as in Madrid or Barcelona. 

However, you’ll find more English speakers in tourist-heavy areas like the Alcazar and the Cathedral. English-speaking services are comparatively more available in the historic district of Santa Cruz or around popular attractions like Plaza de España.

Still, remember that most adults and older locals here are not fluent in English. Hire a tour guide or learn the basic Spanish phrases to communicate effortlessly.

5. Granada

Granada is also a suitable place for foreigners who don’t know Spanish. Granada is known for the iconic Alhambra Palace. Even though English proficiency is not quite widespread in the city, you will often find expats and foreigners.

Also, English-speaking staff are available in hotels and some tourist sites. You will find branded stores and international hotels in popular areas like the Albaicín Quarter and the Royal Chapel. 

However, communication with the locals will require common Spanish phrases. However, the university area in Granada is an excellent place to find English speakers as international students are widespread at these places. 

6. Alicante

Alicante is situated in Costa Blanca, where you can find English speakers so often. Especially in some areas of this region, tourists and expatriates are prevalent, so many staff need to know English. 

The coastal promenade, Explanada de España, and the historic Santa Barbara Castle are places where English-speaking services are more available. 

Besides, this city is quite popular with international retirees and foreign workers because of its enriched industrial section. That’s why you won’t find it challenging to communicate with the staff in restaurants, shops, and services.

7. Valencia

Valencia is another region that attracts tourists from around the world. In tourist-centric places like the City of Arts and Sciences or the historic Old Town, you’ll frequently find locals who can communicate in English. 

Besides, this region’s restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions generally have English-speaking staff. Valencia also hosts many international events and conferences where English speakers gather in professional settings. 

The overall English proficiency is less extensive than in some other European cities. However, you can expect to find English-speaking services in Valencia.

8. Marbella

Marbella is situated in Costa del Sol. This is a must-try location in Spain for the sun-seekers and luxury travelers. It’s also a popular choice for the expatriate community. In places like Puerto Banús, which attracts wealthy international visitors and residents, staff in shops, restaurants, and hotels are fluent in English.

6 Tips For Traveling Spain With Only English

Finally, I have some suggestions for people who need to learn Spanish but plan to visit this Country. Some hacks are helpful, especially for foreign tourists in Spain. 

 

Learn Basic Spanish Phrases

Learning some phrases can be enough for a short trip.

Simple greetings, common expressions,  polite phrases, and some questions are necessary to learn while visiting Spain. For example, you can learn the following words:

Spanish PhraseEnglish Translation
HolaHello
AdiósGoodbye
Lo sientoI’m sorry
ValeOK
Por favorPlease
GraciasThank you
De nadaYou’re welcome
Dónde está el baño?Where is the bathroom?
Cuánto cuesta?How much does it cost?
Puedes ayudarme, por favor?Can you help me, please?

1. Use Translation Apps

If you can’t manage to learn the phrase, it’s okay, you still have a convenient alternative. Simply download a translation app on your smartphone. Apps like Google Translate can help you translate written and spoken words. It will be easier to communicate with locals.

2. Choose Tourist-Friendly Hotels

Next, you should be careful while choosing your accommodation. You should look for hotels or accommodations that welcome international tourists. Staff in these hotels mostly speak English. They can provide valuable information and assistance if you need it.

3. Hire English-speaker Tour Guides 

Another great way to visit space comfortably is by getting the assistance of an English-speaking tour guide. The guide can help you communicate with anyone you want. 

Also, joining guided tours for popular attractions is helpful as well. They can help you with necessary insights into the history and culture of the places you visit.

4. Visit Information Centers When Needed

Luckily, tourist information centers are very typical in major cities in Spain. Staff at these centers usually speak English. They can also provide maps, brochures, and helpful tips for your travels. So, don’t feel timid to ask for help from them when you need it.

5. Use English Transportation Services

When arranging transportation, like taxis or ride-sharing services, choose those with English-speaking drivers. Follow the same tricks while choosing transportation apps and prioritize those that allow communication in English.

You should familiarize yourself with numbers and primary currency exchange to facilitate transactions. All these tricks will help you enjoy your trip to Spain more comfortably.

Are you ready to dive into a new linguistic adventure? Our exclusive guide, “4 Quick and Simple Ways to Learn Spanish,” is your ticket to mastering Spanish faster than you ever thought possible!

 

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