Taxi Drivers: No English Spoken Here

No Kidding! They’re Spanish, afterall!

This morning on TeleMadrid there was a report about Madrid’s taxi drivers and their ability (or lack of ability) to speak English with their riders. My first thought was, “Of course they can’t speak English! They’re Spanish!” But then I imagined the difficulty, for example, my parents would have when they come visit me and take a taxi from the airport. The last time I went to Barajas to get them and we returned to the city in a taxi.

The report said the city/Community of Madrid was starting a program for persons in the service industry, offering a 2-month course on basic English. What a great idea!

Some of the taxi drivers TeleMadrid interviewed said they often get directions from passengers when they write down the address. Others said they spoke only a few words of English. Most, however, said they spoke nary a word of English. I can’t say I’m surprised with this as the taxi drivers in Spain are often mature and driving taxis for years and years, rarely needing to learn English or any other language. But I’d imagine those whom line-up at Barajas Airport would/should have more knowledge of foreign languages.

I guess, as a last option, English-speaking passengers can simply tell the driver, “Plaza Mayor” or “Puerta del Sol” and then walk the rest of the way if their hotels are nearby. That is, IF the passengers KNOW their hotels are nearby these well-known areas. But imagine being dropped off in the middle of Bangkok, for example, and trying to find your hotel on foot while carrying your luggage and not speaking a word of the local language. That’s why I always tell travelers to have the address of their hotel written down so they can SHOW the driver that address. But if that hotel’s on a pedestrian street and the driver tries to tell you that – IN SPANISH – the passenger obviously won’t understand. Frustrating for everyone.

Should basic English be a requirement for taxi drivers?

Saludos, MadridMan

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