The Guru Guide To Learning Spanish In Gran Canaria

The guru guide to learning Spanish in Gran Canaria

While you can live in Gran Canaria for years and not speak a word of Spanish, we don’t recommend it; even a few words of the local lingo makes a massive difference to your quality of life and to how the locals treat you.

Learning Spanish in Gran Canaria is essential if you want to fit in with local life or work on the island.

If you don’t speak the language, Canarians will treat you like they treat all tourists; you’ll get superficial politeness but never be more than just another guiri amongst the herd.

The simple truth is that your Spanish develops to the level you need for everyday communication. If you work with foreigners, socialise with foreigners and watch television in English, you won’t pick up much of the local lingo. But if you do Spanish classes, spend time with Canarians, and hit the books every now and then, your Spanish will develop fast.

We know people who were fluent within six months of arriving on the island and others that have lived here for decades and haven’t got past “un Tropical por favor”.

Guess who gets extra mojo on their papas!

Three ways of learning Spanish in Gran Canaria (fast)

All the people we know that have picked up Spanish quickly have done one or all of these three things.

Go local

For the ultimate crash course in local Spanish, get a Canarian boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t speak English. That way you’ll have to learn the language quickly.

Or sign up for language exchanges. As well as being the easiest way to get a Canarian boyfriend or girlfriend, exchanges help you to meet people, both local and guiri, and to practise your Spanish.

Men will find it useful to hang around in a local bar. Pick a grotty one where men sit on bar stools all day long and shout at the television, and at each other. Don’t try and match them for drinks but do join in with the conversation. Your Spanish will come on in leaps and bounds. You may even become fluent just before you die of cirrhosis of the liver.

The bar route to fast Spanish is more complicated for women as local Canarian bars are almost always sausage parties. Organised language exchanges and ERASMUS events are better options.

Study smart

The next best way to learn Spanish is to enroll in an academy or the official language school and do a course, or at least regular Spanish classes. With lots of effort, there’s no reason why you won’t be fluent (más o menos) within a year.

Now, the main factor here is to find a way of studying Spanish that suits you. Intensive courses can be overwhelming for many people and occasional lessons don’t really give your Spanish that much of a boost.

The key is to sign up for regular Spanish classes and to pick an academy or school that has a good teacher: I can’t stress this enough; a good teacher is worth far more than any patented language learning method.

Practice makes perfecto

Obviously, not everyone can study full time so the third best way to learn Spanish in Gran Canaria is to take every opportunity to practise. Again, language exchanges and local activities are a great start. And tapes, online courses, and books are great reinforcement tools.

At the end of the day, effort and motivation are what counts.

Gran Canaria language schools

There are lots of language schools in Gran Canaria that offer Spanish courses to foreign residents. It’s worth asking around for recommendations because the quality of lessons varies.

A good Spanish teacher is worth more than any teaching system.

In Las Palmas, we recommend the World Language Centre right by Plaza Ferray in Guanarteme: It has an excellent Spanish teacher and is right opposite the cafes in the square for post-lesson practice.

The WLC offers regular classes and semi-intensive course and has small class sizes and a dynamic approach to teaching.

Learning Spanish in Gran Canaria as a beginner

If you’re really serious about learning Spanish in Gran Canaria (and have the mornings free), do a course at your local Escuela Oficial de Idiomas. These state-run centres are cheap but you need a Spanish-speaking friend to get you enrolled as the reception staff don’t speak English.

The Las Palmas official language school is on Fernando Guanarteme opposite the Plaza de Farray. There’s a second one in Siete Palmas. Here’s the full list of EOI centres around Gran Canaria (there’s one in most big towns and in Maspalomas). Note that they don’t all offer Spanish lessons as their main purpose is to teach foreign languages to the locals.

Escuelas Oficiales offer daily lessons and teaches Spanish in a classroom environment. It’s best to combine lessons with informal conversation classes or language exchanges. Class sizes are large and morning lessons are impossible if you work, but if you have the time the Escuela official is a good option.

Intensive Spanish courses in Gran Canaria

You’d be amazed how much Spanish you can pick up if you do an intensive course based on immersive learning.

The World Language Centre offers semi-intensive Spanish courses that stretch you but don’t overwhelm your brain.

The Inlingua Academy right by Triana Street in Las Palmas’ shopping district is a great place to do an intensive Spanish course. It’s one of the city’s oldest and most popular language academies and offers a range of courses to suit all requirements:

If you want an intensive Spanish course, Inlingua offers weekly courses for small groups and focuses on TEFL-style dynamic teaching. You learn the language by speaking the language.

If you can’t manage 20 hours per week, there’s also the option of a 4-hour per week course.

Inlingua also does individual classes and can arrange accommodation for you with a local host family.

There are plenty of other academies in Las Palmas and all over Gran Canaria that offer Spanish lessons and intensive courses. The key is to ask for recommendations and find a teacher that knows their stuff.

Private tuition
There are plenty of private Spanish teachers on the island and they charge between 15€ and 20€+. The quality varies so we’d recommend you ask for recommendations and try a couple until you find one you are happy with.

One excellent option for learning Spanish in Gran Canaria is La Casita de Laura. Here you get an immersive Spanish experience with accommodation,  outdoor lessons and lots of Spanish conversation.

Laura takes students to practice in real life situations (and even sends you to a restaurant for your homework). She also organises hiking tours and lots of free events so her students can get to know some locals and discover Gran Canaria. Laura even teaches you how to cook paella and traditional Canarian recipes in Spanish cooking workshops.

Language exchanges

Language exchanges are one of the best things all newbies can do to meet people and learn Spanish in Gran Canaria. The idea is that you meet a group of locals and spend half the time learning Spanish and the other half helping them with their English.

Start with the Language Exchange Gran Canaria (LEG). It organises exchanges all over the island and its website has a great resource section.

Follow the LEG on Facebook.

Online support

Using online resources is a great way of reinforcing what you learn. Here are a few decent sites to try out.
BBC
Notes in Spanish

On learnspanish.com they have a very useful audio guide to the top 100 Spanish phrases, it is well worth downloading and listening to as it will actually make you sound more Spanish and less foreign.

Podcasts
Subscribing to Spanish podcasts is a great way to learn the language. The following are a good start.

BBC Mundo

Notes in Spanish

Cadena Ser

Our recommendations

At GCGuru have many years experience teaching and learning foreign languages and these are our recommendations for learning Spanish in Gran Canaria.

First
1.    Get a private tutor or go to an academy:  This will improve your understanding of the language as well as your speaking and listening.
2.    Use listening resource in the car or on the phone. Something like the Michael Thomas iTunes downloads – these will boost confidence and give you a real kick start in the language. Although they will not give the grammatical base that you will later need, they will give you the confidence to go out there and try to use the language.
3.    Work your way through a textbook. Starting Spanish from scratch is a slow process if you only work with your tutor. If you work hard by yourself on vocabulary and grammar you will improve a lot quicker.

Second
1.    Read a Spanish book that you’ve already read in English– get a trashy novel and read it – don’t look up the vocabulary unless absolutely necessary and enjoy reading in Spanish. Choose your book wisely; something you’ve already read in English. The Harry Potter books, CS Lewis and Isabel Allende’s children’s books are a good start. Or browse the local papers over a coffee (but don’t try to understand the local politics; nobody does).
2.    Try to watch TV – choose an American programme dubbed into Spanish, they use less vocabulary and are easy to understand. To begin with use subtitles in Spanish too.
3.    Continue with your tutor or academy lessons.
4.    Listen to a couple of podcasts and try to learn some Spanish phrases. The real Spanish vocabulary guide is a very good start

Buena suerte!


The Guru Guide To Buying A Car In Gran Canaria

Buying a car in Gran Canaria means that you can do this

Buying a car in Gran Canaria means that you can do this

When you first arrive and you don’t speak a word of Spanish buying a car can be a pretty daunting task. Speaking Spanish or finding someone who will help you will make buying a car a lot easier but it is still possible without it.

Speaking Spanish or finding someone who will help you makes buying a car a lot easier but it is still possible without it.

Second-hand car prices are higher in Gran Canaria than in the UK and Europe but have dropped in recent years.

Also factor in 100-200€ in buying costs (traspaso) to pay all the fees and taxes.

Here are a few suggestions to make your purchase a bit easier.

Buying a car
1.    Beware of being ripped off – as in all countries second-hand car dealers can be a bit shady, however if you are careful you should be OK. Here are a few bits of advice to follow that will help you avoid buying a duff car.
a.    Don’t buy an ex-rental car. They are usually clocked and won’t last long, even if they have low mileage and look in good condition don’t go near them. Seat Ibizas, Renault Clios are the most common and are sold via garages.
b.    Be careful of ex-commercial vehicles – small vans and Renault Kangoo type vehicles. If they have been used commercially they will have a TARA number painted on the side. Usually they have been flogged to death, overloaded with cement and won’t last you a year.
c.    Beware of cars owned by surfers or windsurfers, check for rust, the sea air in Gran Canaria is pretty brutal

Places to buy a car
1.    The Internet –  segundamano.com and elbaul.es both have pretty good lists of cars and they are mostly private sellers and they can be cheaper. Shop around though, people put whatever price they want and you will often find second-hand cars more expensive than new ones. Also have a look at our second car section for English speakers.

2.    Garages – the biggest ones are in…
a.    El Carrizal (just south of the airport) and Vecindario. You can find pretty much anything here, except really cheap cars, and most come with a year’s guarantee. There are loads of garages here and all display their cars on the street.
b.    Tamaraceite (the other side of the road from Siete Palmas)

3.    The street
a.    Al Campo in Telde, there are often cars near McDonalds
b.    The roundabout at the top of Sonnenland – there are usually cars from English or German sellers.

4.    The paper
a.    El Baúl has the biggest selection but La Provincia, Canarias7 often have cars too.
b.    The Canary News – the free English newspaper in the South has a classified section, where all the sellers will be English speaking.

5.    Asking around – Every summer loads of teachers leave Gran Canaria and want to sell their cars, ask people in the British schools.

6. Small second-hand car dealers all over the island. Ask for local recommendations and double-check prices. They often do all the paperwork for you and also offer a guarantee (six months or a year).

Our recommendation is to have a good look at segundamano.com and see what you can get for your money, decide what car you want and then have a look at the cars in Segundamano and in the garages in El Carrizal and Vecindario. At the same time have a look in El Baul and ask around. Be patient though. There are deals to be had but they won’t be so easy to find. If you have any secret tips or find any other places that sell cars please leave a comment below, all future car buyers will be very grateful.


Shopping In Gran Canaria: The Expert Guide

El Muello shopping mall in Las Palmas

El Muelle shopping mall in Las Palmas

With one of Spain’s top outdoor shopping areas and several well-stocked malls, Gran Canaria (and especially Las Palmas), has become a great place to shop. 

Not bad for a place that only got its first shopping centre in the early 1990s; Gran Canaria now has a good selection of international and Spanish franchise stores, as well as some funky local boutiques and local fashion names.

Here’s our local expert’s guide on shopping in Gran Canaria…

Clothes shopping in Gran Canaria

For hassle-free ‘everything you need under one roof shopping’, Las Arenas shopping centre is the best shopping centre on the island. It has lots of fashion stores, a big MediaMarkt, toy shops, plenty of cafes, and a huge Carrefour.

The city’s other shopping centres, such as El Muelle and Siete Palmas, are ok but don’t have the range of shops. La Ballena is only for the brave.

For  those of you who prefer outdoor shopping,  Mesa y Lopez prides itself on being the main shopping street in Las Palmas, mainly because it boasts the largest El Corte Inglés department store in Spain.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try El Corte Inglés; It’s expensive but residents can get a credit card.

For enjoyable, alfresco shopping,  Triana is the place to go. Voted ‘best outdoor shopping area’ in Spain a few years back, it is still an excellent place to go. The big shops are on the main street, the smaller boutiques up the cobbled lanes.

The Atlantico shopping centre in Vecindario is more convenient than Las Palmas for resort and south-Gran Canaria residents and a has a decent selection of shops.

In the resorts, there are some clothes shops at Meloneras and the new El Tablero shopping centre has a few fashion stores.

Almost all these areas and centres have Zara and/or Mango for the ladies and Springfield and/or  Jack Jones for the gentlemen, along with a variety of other Spanish/Canarian favourites like Natura for ethnic clothes and jewellery, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius and Promod for urban chic, Bijou Brigitte for accessories and Carolina Boix for cheap shoes.

The latest addition to the Las Palmas shopping scene is Los Alisios; a vast, outdoor shopping mall in Tamaraceite just a few minutes drive from Las Palmas. It has over 100 stores and is all outdoors. It only opened in November 2017, but is impressive and will do well.

Local swimwear brand Lenita & XTG is great for skimpy beach wear for anyone who wants to go local on the beaches.

Shoe shopping

It is true.  The Spanish love their shoes.  It will come as no surprise then that there are zillions of shoe shops selling fashionable shoes at bargain prices.  It is not worth listing the possible shoe shops you could browse as you can’t turn a corner without finding yourself in one.  But be warned.  Most of the shoes are made of synthetic fabrics which is why they are cheap.

Leather shoes at affordable prices are harder to come by.  Yes, there are plenty of shops that sell leather shoes but the prices rocket skywards.  Corte Inglés stock quality leather shoes, as do Lopez (Mesa y Lopez and Calle Triana). The sales are your friend.

Sales and the best places to find a bargain

Christmas sales normally start around 7th January and summer sales around 8th July.  Reductions are between 20% and 70% so you can grab some real bargains.  The first day of the sales is normally hellish, but by day three you can browse what’s left on the rails at your own pace.

For year-round bargains try the outlet stores:  Benetton in Alcampo, and Springfield in La Ballena in Escaleritas.  El Corte Inglés has an outlet shop on the top floor of Las Arenas.

Or head to Las Terrazas shopping centre in Jinamar: It has some decent outlet stores and is particularly good for discount shoes. It’s also outdoors and offers free parking. The Mirador shopping centre just over the road has a wider selection of shops but fewer bargains.

You ma also pick up bargains at the Fisaldo shopping fair which takes place in Infecar in Escaleritas every May/June. Local shops empty the previous season’s clothes, furniture and nicknacks into this four-day bonanza.  Please bear in mind that generally there is an awful lot of rubbish to trawl through, but for the very shrewd and very patient you can find some real treats.  It’s a bit like TK Maxx on steroids.

Supermarkets in Gran Canaria

In Las Palmas, you can’t go very far without passing a Spar but for your bigger weekly shop head to one of the big supermarkets.

Carrefour, with a good choice of European wine and cheese, is in Las Arenas, Tres Palmas and the Atlantico shopping centre in Vecindario.

HiperCor in the Corte Inglés is great for treats but isn’t as cheap as other supermarkets. It does have a great wine selection.

HiperDino (a local brand) and Mercadona (Spanish) compete to be the cheapest place for your weekly shop and there isn’t much between them. Alcampo, at the La Estrella shopping park just off the GC1 in Telde, probably is the cheapest supermarket in Gran Canaria and has a huge selection of fresh meat.

You must have photo ID to pay with a card in Alcampo; It’s the only one that hasn’t accepted that chip and pin cards are perfectly secure.

The Mirador shopping centre in Jinamar has an Eroski supermarket but the rumour is that Carrefour will soon buy it out.

Within Las Palmas, most large supermarkets will deliver your shopping for free. In other areas, you need to ask and cross your fingers.

Markets in Gran Canaria

Local markets are the best places to buy quality fruit and veg in Gran Canaria. In Las Palmas, the main markets open every morning but in smaller towns they pop up at the weekends. The best weekend markets ones close to the capital are San Lorenzo (a genuine farmer’s market), Santa Brigida (a big gentrified these days) and San Mateo (huge but not the prettiest).

Furniture shopping in Gran Canaria

You will see a variety of shops selling furniture (muebles) throughout Gran Canaria though in truth most of them are full of shiny yellow-wooded chairs, tables and sideboards, and glass nd metal cabinets, loved by Spaniards the world over.  They aren’t as cheap as you’d think either.

Have no fear, Ikea is here.  We all know what we’re getting with Ikea furniture (apart from an apartment filled with the same furniture as every other apartment rented by someone British).  It’s cheap, cheerful and doesn’t cost that much to have delivered and made while you go to the beach.

Corte Inglés is also worth a visit (especially during the sales) for classic modern pieces.

For imported rustic furniture and imported, Indonesian and Indian furniture try El Rincon (just up the road from old Ikea, Perez Ortega (junction 7b off the GC1 opposite Alcampo) and Perojo (Calle Perojo in Triana).

DIY 

For all your DIY needs the easiest thing to do is to head to vast and cheap Leroy Merlin (La Estrella or Tamaraceite). It has some English speaking staff so if you’re stuck and monolingual you can get help.

However, for smaller items and local tips on why the toilet keeps making that noise, head to your local ferreteria. It will undoubtedly stock what you’re looking for but unless you know the word for ‘adjustable spanner’ in Spanish you’ll have trouble buying it.

Sportswear

Most shopping centres have at least one sporting goods shop, but for the best range of everything from kayaks to canyoning gear, head to Decathlon. It’s also a good place to buy hard-wearing trousers and gym kit.

Electronics

Start any search for electronics at one of the big shops like MediaMarkt but do be aware that they aren’t always as cheap as they say they are. Check alternatives, like Carrefour and even specialist shops (Visanta and Duke Fotografía for cameras), as they are often better value.


The Guru Guide To Finding An Apartment In Gran Canaria

How to find an apartment to rent in Gran Canaria

Canarians regard property as the best way to invest their money so there are lots of rental apartments available.

However, they are quite cautious about renting them out and most ask for a work contract or proof of income before they let you move in.

This is fine if you come to Gran Canaria with a job already arranged. It makes life harder if you don’t.

Where to look for a place to live in Gran Canaria

You used to buy the local papers on property supplement day, bunk off work and rush around visiting flats before they all went. Then someone invented the internet.

Most owners now advertise their rental property on Spanish websites or put it with an estate agency (who advertise it on the same websites).

The best websites are Vibbo (this was called Segundamano), Fotocasa, and Idealista

Some owners still put a sign in the window so it’s worth walking around areas you like to see what you can find.

Teachers: Ask in your school as they often know good landlords and empty flats.

How much does it cost to rent a flat in Gran Canaria?

Prices for a one-bed apartment start at about 350 euros per month. Prices are higher the closer to the sea you get.

You need the first month’s rent and a month’s rent as a deposit. If you get your apartment via an agency, you pay them a month’s commission too.

That’s three months of rent befoe you get the key. Oh, and you have to provide proof of income.

You can avoid the agency commission by looking for adverts that say ‘particular’. Or by spotting private rental signs in windows.

However, lots of the best flats are with agents as the owners like their strict contracts and credit checks.

What other rental costs are there?

The owner pays monthly Comunidad costs and there is no council tax in Spain. All you have to pay for are you water, electricity and internet costs.

Often you can just change the bank account number associated with the existing water and electricity contracts. It’s quicker and easier than starting a new one.

What rights do I have as a tenant?

The owner has to give 24 hours notice before entering the property. They can ask you to leave once your contract has finished but can’t hoof you out on a whim.

Owners have the right to ask a tenant to leave with three months notice if they need the property for family reasons such as divorce.

You gt your deposit back after you leave, minus any costs. The owner can’t withhold your deposit because of reasonable wear and tear.

Some people just don’t pay the last month’s rent. It’s effective but illegal and if you have damaged a property you can expect the owner to chase you (down the road if necessary).

Can I sublet?

Most Gran Canaria rental contracts don’t allow subletting.

Can I live in a resort area?

Uf, that’s a kettle of fish. The law is still being written.

If a resort complex is de-facto residential, you’ll be fine. If you’re the only long-term tenant on a complex full of tourists, have a Plan B.