I plan on travelling by foot on the Camino Francés alone.

I will have access to the internet/google translate via my smartphone. I am also a native french speaker (from Quebec).

How much Spanish do I need to know for travelling within Spain?

  • From one of my friend's experience when they went off the beaten track, they really couldn't find anybody speaking English so had a hard time communicating even with the police, to ask for help. French might be of more help, I should assume.
    – DumbCoder
    Jul 28, 2016 at 7:44
  • 2
    I'll tell you this - your Quebecois French won't help you very much.
    – CMaster
    Jul 28, 2016 at 9:15
  • @CMaster How do you figure? Almost all of the Spanish people I know speak at least some French (and some speak it very well), and all of the Quebecois I know are quite capable of conversing with those who've learned "continental" French as a second language.
    – phoog
    Jul 28, 2016 at 9:27
  • less people speak french than english here, atleast on conversational level. it was enforced only during dictatorship so anyone that finished his studies after the ~80's won't be able to speak with you, and english hasn't been seriously enforced until the late 2000's. so that gap between is itnernationally illiterate with some exceptions.
    – CptEric
    Jul 28, 2016 at 9:49
  • 1
    Generally Quebecers have less of a hard time understanding continental French than the reverse, I definitely think French will help you figuring out some Spanish
    – blackbird
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:01

1 Answer 1


It's hard to answer "how much" but I'll try to provide some guidelines and background information. I haven't walked the Camino, though, so maybe some first hand information would be better.

Along the path, you will go through a majority of small villages. In these villages, do not expect local people to know any other language than Spanish. Maybe people in charge of the Albergues may be able to speak some English or French.

That said, in Spain the second language (or third, depending on the zone) taught in schools is English, followed by French. So people in their 20's or 30's should be able to help you out. Older people might have been taught some French, just Spanish, or didn't go to school (post-war era was really rough in Spain).

Also, in bigger cities along the path (Pamplona/Iruña, Logroño, Burgos, León or Santiago) it should be easier to communicate in English.

I think it's a good idea to write a cheat sheet with basic things (yes/no, how much is it?, and so on) and carry it with you, just in case you run out of batteries.

  • 1
    Cheat sheet is a greet idea. If you'd like you can add a 'iconspeak.world' shirt or cheat sheet. It's a sheet with icons you can use to picture what you need, such as a toilet or food.
    – Summer
    Jul 28, 2016 at 8:33
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    @JaneDoe1337 I find it very difficult to believe that a native French speaker who also speaks English would find it very difficult to indicate to a Spaniard the need for a toilet or food.
    – phoog
    Jul 28, 2016 at 9:31
  • @phoog If you would have taken a look at the icons you would have seen it has a broad variety of icons. Dialects can also often cause problems. But hey, thanks for your great feedback man.
    – Summer
    Jul 28, 2016 at 10:03
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    @JaneDoe1337 I actually couldn't open the link. This one ought to work: iconspeak.world. My major point is that I've traveled all over Europe speaking English along with rudimentary French and German and I've never had any trouble making my needs known. I've never been in northwestern Spain, but i find it hard to believe it would be that much different from the rest of Europe. Sure, a cheat sheet might help, but it's hardly going to be necessary if my experience is any guide.
    – phoog
    Jul 28, 2016 at 12:12
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    @phoog I have been in such situations travelling into smaller villages, especially when communicating with older people. I speak Dutch, English and German but specifically France has turned out to be a problem. One person's experience is not another's.
    – Summer
    Jul 28, 2016 at 12:14

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