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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Subscribing to Spanish podcasts is a great way to learn the language. The following are a good start.
At GCGuru have many years experience teaching and learning foreign languages and these are our recommendations for learning Spanish in Gran Canaria.
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.
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