If I don’t speak Spanish, how can I communicate in Tijuana?

An important part of Tijuana's identity is its border situation with the United States. The geographical proximity, has led us to adopt some customs such as the celebration of Halloween or even Thanksgiving Day, but we have also adopted English as our language. The influence of one culture on the other is undeniable and has its reason. Of 1 million 773 thousand 557 inhabitants in Tijuana, it is estimated that at least 10% is constantly moving between Mexico and the United States. Alongside this constant movement, the boundaries of language start to blur a lot. Whom in Tijuana doesn’t know Spanglish? That combination of English and Spanish that was previously attributed to Mexican Americans and is now part of the cross-border identity. In Tijuana, as well as in other northern cities of Mexico, anglicisms are common, words in English that are adapted to Spanish, for example, saying "parkear" instead of parking, or "pushar" instead of pushing. English in Baja California is practically a second language. In 2015, a study done by the IMERK house poll estimated that about 23% of the population was fluent in the English language. This figure doubles, and even quadruples, the level of English that is reported in other regions of Mexico. That is why Baja Californians occupy the 57th place worldwide in the domain of a foreign language, according to data from the National Chamber of Commerce (CANACO). So, regardless of whether you speak English, French, Mandarin or Italian, the language has never been an inconvenience to join this city that day by day, grows horizontally and vertically. 28 years old Vivien Hantosi, is an example. She is native Swedish and Hungarian by choice, but as today, she lives in Tijuana. She moved to Tijuana after falling in love with a Tijuana native she met in Europe. She speaks Spanish at a barely basic level, but she says she has never had problems communicating with someone. "Sometimes there are people who speak very fast, but I ask them to repeat it slowly and if they see that I am struggling, they speak to me in English," she says. 37 years old Derrick Chin, also agrees that the native language does not prevent successful communication. Chin is a journalist from Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers guided tours in English to tourists, mainly Americans. "In Tijuana many people speak English, then it becomes easier that a foreigner, an American speaks only in English with everyone because you don´t necessarily need to speak Spanish," he says. These characteristics have made more and more academics and businessmen to see Baja California and California as one only region, instead of two distinct entities that share a border. "We call it Calibaja", says Héctor Reyes Orrantia, President of Canadevi Zona Costa, about this area where, in addition of a cultural exchange, there is a "very dynamic" economy that interests the real estate sector. Currently, most of the real estate developments in Tijuana are built for the US and foreign market. And other businesses also focus to that market. In the downtown area of this city, there is a lot of businesses with signs in English, bilingual staff and menus with dollar prices. The same goes for most of the medical offices and businesses in Zona Rio, the financial heart of the city. But a recommendation from Derrick Chin, the American who adopted Tijuana as his home and who offers tours, is to learn the language. "There are many schools, many places to apply ... [You can] meet Mexican friends to speak, but all in Spanish. Read the newspaper, watch movies in Spanish, listen to music in Spanish ... basically expose as much as you can to the language" he recommended.


A free App that can be useful for more than one occasion, is the tooling of Google Translator, in which you can select a language and translate a message by voice command or writing. There is also the "ITranslate" payment application, which has the same functions as the Google Translator, but can be consulted offline and it also has translation through the use of a camera. For translation, both work perfectly and are able to get you out of trouble, however, it never hurts learning a new language. An easy and free solution can be found in the Duolingo App, where in addition to Spanish, you will find modules to learn French, German, Italian and Catalan, and forums to share experiences with other people who are also learning. Remember that in cases of emergency, consulates have the function of assisting their nationals. The language or your nationality should never be an excuse for you to receive bad treatment from local authorities, or in extreme cases, to violate your rights. These types of situations are not common, but it is always worth knowing the contact numbers that can be of great help when we are abroad. Therefore, another suggestion is to identify the consulate that represents you, according to your country of origin, although you do not need it at that time. Best of lucks and enjoy your stay in Tijuana!


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