One of the main concerns of traveling to another country is when you need to learn the area’s local language. For instance, while Cancun sounds like an excellent place for a vacation, you may be holding back because the city is in Mexico, and you need to speak Spanish.
As a tourist destination, Cancun’s people speak and understand English. As such, you don’t have to worry about not knowing Spanish since you can communicate with locals in English. Even if you don’t speak a single Spanish word, you’ll get along and enjoy a vacation in the city without any problem.
Whether you’re already planning a Cancun vacation or still deciding, this article is for you. Here, we will cover any concerns regarding Cancun’s language and your Spanish knowledge when visiting this Mexican city.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
Is English Spoken in Cancun?
Although the official language in Cancun is Spanish, most locals here speak and understand English, at least to some extent.
Another thing worth noting is that Cancun is a tourist destination, and most of its tourists are from the US.
As such, you can rest assured knowing that most of the people you’ll encounter during your stay in Cancun will understand you if you try to communicate in English.
Moreover, some will even understand other languages, such as French, Italian, and German.
However, most people will understand English, so if you speak such, then you don’t have to worry about it.
What Percentage of Cancun Speaks English?
Almost 99 percent of people in Cancun speak English or at least understand it to some extent. This one applies especially to the Cancun Hotel Zone, as most locals, and even tourists, speak English.
Typical Languages Used in Cancun
Most people in Cancun are bilingual, meaning they speak two languages. Still, depending on the area, you’ll find three specific languages in the city. These three are Spanish, English, and Mayan.
When you visit Cancun, you’ll see most of the signage is written in Spanish. As such, it’s best to know some basic signs to familiarize yourself.
However, since the letters are mostly the same, you can read each without problems. Also, the signages are pretty obvious, so you’ll know what each means.
Locals in Cancun will welcome you as soon as you get off the plane and before you even leave the airport, and all of them speak English. This one will immediately alleviate your mind if you’re concerned that you aren’t familiar with Spanish or your knowledge about it isn’t much.
Understanding English is a good approach for them to interact with visitors as it is a potential income for many Cancun residents. Items are marked in both Spanish and English in touristy places.
Nevertheless, some of Cancun’s most well-known chain establishments and eateries are so well-known that they don’t require bilingual signage.
Every once in a while, you’ll hear some native speakers of the extinct Mayan language conversing among themselves. It’s astounding to consider that it is preserved and is still in use today.
People who still communicate in Mayan are symbols of Mexico’s rich cultural heritage, particularly on the Yucatan, where Cancun is situated.
What Level of Spanish do You Need in Cancún?
A visit to Cancun doesn’t require excellent knowledge about speaking Spanish. You can get by without knowing a single Spanish word.
If there’s one thing to note, the symbols and signages around Cancun are in Spanish, but they are pretty obvious that you’ll know what they mean from a single glance.
Of course, speaking the local language in the city is always polite, but if you can’t, it’s not a problem. However, you can always learn a thing or two, such as saying thanks or greeting someone in Spanish.
Essential Spanish Words to Help You Around Cancun
You can spend hours learning some Spanish if you plan to visit Cancun. However, as I mentioned, it’s optional to know how to speak Spanish.
However, these essential words and greetings might help you, especially when you encounter someone with little knowledge of English.
Greeting someone with a simple word and a smile is a nice gesture. Moreover, it’s equally impolite to turn away from someone who initiates a discussion. Remembering a few easy pleasantries will help you communicate appropriately:
- Hello – Hola
- Goodbye – Adios
- Good morning – Buenos Dias
- Good afternoon – Buenas tardes
- Good evening – Buenas noches
It’s always best to communicate with politeness. Even if you speak English the entire time, adding some courtesy words when speaking will always receive appreciation.
- Por favor – Please
- Gracias – Thank you
Most of the people in Cancun would know the basic numbers in English. However, some instances will happen when they would speak numbers in Spanish, and it’s ideal for you to at least have an idea about what they will say.
Knowledge about basic numbers is essential, especially since it’s related to expenses, distance, and other things.
- One – uno
- Two – dos
- Three – tres
- Four – cuatro
- Five – quince
- Six – seis
- Seven – siete
- Eight – ocho
- Nine – nueve
- Ten – dies
- Twenty – veinte
- Thirty – treinta
- Forty – cuarenta
- Fifty – cincuenta
Areas Where Basic Spanish Will Help
Though we’ve already established how speaking Spanish in Cancun isn’t required, there may be occasions when you wish you knew a bit more words than the fundamentals. Besides general kindness and politeness, speaking Spanish in these areas will help.
While Cancun is a tourist destination, you may find some day trips to nearby areas interesting. When visiting these suburban areas, you will need to speak for transit and, more than likely, for dining. Therefore, understanding a few essential words can only enhance your trip if you plan on traveling to one of these locations.
Throughout Cancun, you’ll find several local markets and shops. Most people you’ll find in these areas know a little English. However, because some folks are not from Cancun, they only get to speak English sometimes.
There is a lot of bargaining in marketplaces, and products are sometimes labeled with something other than pricing. As such, you can discuss this in Spanish. By doing so, you can make your transactions go more smoothly.
As a tourist destination, Cancun strives to be a place where all kinds of tourists will enjoy and relax, and the last thing they will want is for tourists to hold back from visiting since they can’t speak Spanish.
Of course, a little bit of Spanish will help you blend and interact with locals better. However, it’s not something you need to worry about too much. Whether or not you speak Spanish, rest assured that you will enjoy your stay in Cancun.
Now, if you’ve already decided to visit Cancun, you may wonder what you can do while on vacation. To know more, read our article What To Do In Cancun?