Moving to Nicaragua? Do you Habla Español?


Becoming an expat often means learning a new language as there is every possibility that the country your moving to has a different language than that of your native tongue. While English is universal, the extent to which it is in use and understood in Nicaragua will vary tremendously and sometimes you will quickly find that language barriers are a big obstacle in your day-to-day life here.

The official language of Nicaragua is Spanish, and is spoken by the vast majority of Nicaraguans. Although native tribes on the eastern coast speak native languages, such as Miskito, Sumo, Rama, as well as English Creole. Most Creoles speak, an English-based creole closely related to other creoles spoken in the Caribbean, such as in Belize and Jamaica. Unless you plan a move to that part of the country, one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for a move here is to learn Spanish. If you are able to attempt conversations with the locals you will have a much better chance of integrating and feeling more at home.

Cultural specialists throughout the world agree that gaining an understanding of your host country’s language will also enable you to better understand the culture and customs of the people. Furthermore, learning a foreign language will give you more confidence and help you to feel more at home. Having some knowledge of the local language before you arrive can help you to find a place for yourself in Nicaragua..

A basic level of communication can help you to deal with problems better and will also improve your chances of finding resources you’ll need for everyday life more easily. If you do have a basic knowledge of Spanish, continuing lessons while living here can offer an important social opportunity for you to meet new people who are in a similar position to you and make the whole process much more fun. In many parts of Nicaragua with cities heavily populated by foreigners, expats survive extremely well without any knowledge of the local language. However, having at least a little knowledge of the language before you arrive will assure you get the most out of your Nicaraguan experience.

Mix in with the locals

As an expat living in a foreign country the tendency  will be to spend your time with fellow expats because it is easier and you  feel more comfortable around people who  speak your language with a similar background to your own. While this is normal it will do nothing to enhance your language skills and will take away from your local cultural experience. One of the biggest tips for learning a new language is to form friendships with your local neighbors. This will allow you to practice in a safe environment with someone you feel comfortable with.

Take classes from a local

Nicaragua has many language schools to choose from in just about every major city. These schools can offer an excellent opportunity to meet new people. You will quickly find out there are always large numbers of people who are looking to learn a new language. Many of the online expat forums contain details of language exchanges and you can often also find details of such groups in our expatriate city guides, or joining a social media group in FACEBOOK dedicated to expats.Learn-spanish-today-545x235

 Practice & Patience

The secret to learning Spanish is to practice speaking it. Although this may feel uncomfortable and you may make mistakes, and feel embarrassed at times be patient and keep trying. Nicaraguans are very friendly people and most of all understanding and will delight in the fact you are trying to communicate with them in their language. Nicaraguans also love to express themselves in an informal way. You may find it helpful to carry a notebook with you so that you can jot down any words or phrases that you hear that you are not already familiar with.

Nicaragüense – the language of Nicaragua

Learning a new language doesn’t necessarily mean learning a dictionary full of vocabulary.  However in Latin America, you will find that Spanish terms and phrases can vary from country to country. Affectionately, Nicaraguan Spanish is often called Nicañol  and is filled with slang, local expressions and other funny linguistic inventions, creating lots of possibilities to be completely misunderstood and  for you to understand nothing!  For example when passing someone on the street it is customary to say Adiós which means “goodbye” instead of saying hello.
Here is a great site to learn some Nicaraguan Spanish.

A combination of all the opportunities discussed above , and  practicing your Español  with locals as much as possible in your everyday life, will help you make great strides towards learning not only the language, but the culture of your new home when moving to Nicaragua.

Dale pues!



4 Comments Add yours

  1. Leah says:

    Could anyone help me who lives in Nicaragua please? I have quite a few questions that I would be very grateful to have answered please? I know this may sound absurd but does Nicaragua have an Ebay or similar? I’m from the UK so it’s even further away form me and I know no one who comes from there. I have never seen any big home improvement stores, furniture shops/markets, second hand or antique shops when looking into Nicaragua so do they exist? I assume people must buy their furniture from somewhere haha.

    I ask because I want to build a house. It would all have to be second hand or cheaply done so do charity shops etc exist?

    I have a lot of questions about poverty and other issues since the whole reason for me wanting to move there is to uild a life for myself helping the locals. I am especially interested in the area of Jinotega. It’s difficult to find documentaries in English and I am not learning Spanish until next year. If anyone would like to help me would they please reply? Many thanks.

    1. Caroline says:

      Hi Leah! Thanks for your comments. Nicaragua has a very vibrant building community and there are dozens of home improvement stores (Look up SINSA) all over the country. Every major city has a large market base where you can purchase inexpensive furniture If you are looking for more upscale then you might want to look in Managua the capital for those high end items.
      I am not sure what your budget is but manual labor is relatively cheap here so you should be able to build a modest home even on a small budget. I suggest you join some of the expat forums on Facebook. There is one for every major town you may consider living in. Let me know if I can answer any other questions.

      1. Leah says:

        Caroline thank you so much for your reply! I would imagine that the local furniture will do very nicely along with anything I can personally cobble together. My budget is minuscule but research tells me it can be done if i do the labour myself and build something around 400 square foot. Even this tiny budget is going to take me five to seven years to save up!

        So are there more market stalls than shops? I am thinking of Jinotega but I do need to visit first to decide. We have charity shops in the UK (thrift shops is U.S I believe), is there a second hand market (I mean need/requirement not literally a market although it may be in the market? Could this get anymore confusing haha?) in Nicaragua?

        I will definitely be looking into the forums thank you. I have so much to learn that the five or so years saving will be needed in order to educate myself.

      2. Caroline says:

        Hi Again Leah! Thrift stores are quite common and plentiful in Nicaragua. It would be tough to not find everything yo need here.

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