Do you need to speak Spanish to work in Spain?

The title question (“Do I need to speak Spanish to find work in Spain?“) is one of the ones I’m most commonly asked. Let’s look at the arguments.

Speaking Spanish and working in Spain

Barcelona, where I live is an international place with plenty of people from all nationalities. Lots of cities in Spain are like this. There are plenty of companies here which use English as their official company language. You can actually get by in lots of offices without needing to speak any Spanish.

However, you will also be more limited in your choices. In many jobs where you do need to speak some Spanish you’ll be at the back of the line. So think carefully about what it is you’d like to do here if you’re trying to decide if you need to speak Spanish to work in Spain.

Do you need to speak Spanish? I did…

Working freelance, I could not have researched this blog without speaking very good Spanish. There is very little English-language material out there for official bodies. Even if you speak relatively good Spanish, the tax system’s “legalese” is a language in its own right! That said, a lot of people – both English and Spanish-speaking – hire a gestor to get round this.

If I didn’t speak Spanish, I would also have struggled to create and build relationships with my (Spanish) clients. Depending on who your target market is, you will need to speak Spanish to work freelance in Spain – or you’ll need to hire a client manager.

Do you need to learn Spanish to achieve your goals?

I suppose the question about whether or not you “need” to speak Spanish to work in Spain is contingent on your goals. If you’re just looking to get by for a bit and will be working for others, it’s probably not necessary. The further in you go the more limited you will find yourself. This is especially true if you’re starting your own business in Spain.

I don’t believe in too many “shoulds” or “oughts”, but I’d like to add that, for me, learning another language (although it’s been a struggle at times) has been an enormously enriching experience, and great fun. Why would you want to live in another country and not make an effort to learn the local language?

Should you learn Spanish if you want to work in Spain? Tell us what you think!

Text and photos by Penelope

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