San Juan - Post Report Question and Answers

How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

More than I suspected when I moved here. Everybody has English in school but unless they attend an expensive private bilingual school the teaching is pretty poor. This is alleviated by the fact that many folks served in US military service and spruced up their spoken English. Also many went to college in USA. All lawyers and doctors are expected to be fluent. However, I would have tried to learn Spanish much better, in hindsight, before moving here. Up in the mountains, there are not Americans, and schoolyard English is lost by age 30 from underuse. Also outside San Juan many small town English teachers are only marginally competent speaking English. - May 2023

A lot. Puerto Ricans can be quite impatient when it comes to language and I was called "gringa" a lot by cashiers and others talking about me. I needed to be more proactive about learning Spanish but in the face of the difficult accent, I didn't work hard enough. I'm big on learning the local language and Puerto Rico still uses Spanish for daily life so don't expect otherwise. - Jan 2014

LOTS. It is absolutely essential and don't let anyone tell you it's not, because they obviously haven't lived here if they say that! While many Puerto Ricans do speak at least some English, it is not as common as you would think. Making appointments, dealing with service people, getting help all requires Spanish. You may be able to find plenty of doctors that speak English but if the receptionists don't then you have a big problem. That said, most Puerto Ricans have very little patience with anyone who doesn't speak 'Bourrican' (PR Spanish). Native Spanish speakers from Mexico and Guatemala have told me that the second a Puerto Rican hears them speaking Spanish they (the PRian) switches to English. Again, it is one of those weird things about Puerto Rico. In my experience there is a common disbelief that a person living here would not speak Spanish. I've had many people state to me that I really do understand more than I'm letting on, and their suspiciousness boarders on hostility. Kind of a 'yeah suuuuure you don't understand Spanish. Right. And you've been living her HOW long?' attitude. - Jun 2013

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