¿Habla usted inglés? Poquito. Now what?

It has come to my attention that many people avoid coming to Loja since they have been told they MUST speak Spanish because no one here knows English. Let me address this misconception.

First, it is true that everyone who grew up in my city speaks Spanish. However, many schools today are teaching English as a second language to our children. Also, many people in Loja have attended university, or worked abroad, and learned English.

If you ask a Lojano "Do you speak English?" they might say "No" or "Poquito" ("a little"). Lojanos can be shy about their abilities and "undersell" how well they understand an English speaking person, or be reluctant to reply in English for fear of being inaccurate. But if you try to meet them half way and attempt some Spanish then, together, communication be had.

Some tricks that can be useful are to try and anticipate a conversation and create a script in Spanish ahead of time, and visual aids can help, too. For example, if you are looking to buy a particular item, find a picture of the same thing in Google images and print off a copy or save onto your phone so you can show it to the store clerk. Pictures really can be worth a lot of words!

These days, of course, cell phones are ubiquitous and it is possible to download apps that help with on-the-fly translation, or apps where you type in a message and get the same message in the other person's language. There are also on-line and downloadable dictionaries to help suss out particular words. These electronic methods can be helpful, for sure, but I still want to emphasize that one garners more respect by trying to speak without these aides.

This, then, is the general situation - you will probably be pleasantly surprised that it is possible to make basic needs known using a combination of English and a small vocabulary of Spanish words. That said, you will absolutely find life easier with a larger vocabulary and some grammar rules.

How many words do you need to get by? For Spanish, 250 words form the essential core - the ones without which you cannot construct any sentence. About 750 words are used almost every single day by every person who speaks the language. 2500 words should be enough for you to express everything you might possibly want to say, although with some awkward circumlocutions.

If you come to Loja and want to learn Spanish, or increase your vocabulary, or just practice and improve on what you've already learned then there are private teachers/tutors available. There are also structured opportunities to chat with locals, such as the intercambio (exchange) that meets very Thursday evening.

Should your needs be more complex than daily typical conversations, like opening a bank account, doing legal work, understanding a rental lease, communicating with a doctor, dentist, or other healthcare worker then you may need a good, bilingual interpreter. This is a service we offer. We know how important accuracy must be in these situations. Message Life in Loja for more information.

So don't let language be a barrier to you're enjoyment of Loja. We have too much to offer to pass us by. Take a chance and try us, we'll welcome you and help make your stay a great one.


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