Is it considered courteous (or pointless?) to try speaking Spanish in the touristy areas of Mexico?

Indeed. This is an island that hosts thousands of non-Spanish speaking tourists a day… and that’s just from one ship. I took two day trips there last year and can’t recall anyone that didn’t have converstional-level English or better.

Off topic but to OP, do you plan to go to Playa del Carmen while you’re in the area? I really recommend it, cool town, great food. As I recall, the ferry is about $18 round trip and takes about a half hour. English there in town was pretty good but not universal.

There’s no reason not to use some social phrases in Spanish, even if your order is in English. Hello, please, thank you, delicious.

This is true. I’ve dealt with a lot of mean Parisians concerning my pronunciation of French words. One man even said to me, “Stupid American girl thinks she’s a Frenchwoman.”

“I was actually born in Germany,” I replied.

“OH! The little Nazi girl whose ancestors ruined our country decades ago!” he said in replym

I honestly felt like slapping him, but I just walked out of that cafe.

In the countryside, people are so much nicer. They always smile, especially when they know you’re an American trying to speak French.

In Cozumel, everyone will speak better English than you do. I guess you can stumble through phrasebook Spanish, but they are largely humoring you if they aren’t speaking English. I would say that their attitude is largely, “this comes with the territory.” As others said, on any given day Cozumel has thousands of tourists who only speak English or speak English as their lingua franca and I would say there are very few variations of Spanish greetings and stumbled pronunciations that they haven’t heard. The farther you get from Cancun and Riviera Maya, the more appreciated speaking in Spanish becomes, but it’s pretty rare on most of the Yucatan to not be able to find a bilingual person within close proximity who can help you out. If you just stay on the island, it doesn’t really matter what you do since the majority of people living there and certainly of those who work in customer service will know both languages and be used to people butchering Spanish. So, the bottom line is that if speaking in pigin Spanish makes you feel better, go for it, but you’re probably doing it for your sake and not theirs. You’ll also find that Cozumel follows the vague general rule that seems to apply to tropical cultures in that everyone is going to be friendly to strangers regardless of what you do.

Should have told him you were thinking about beating him up, so would he mind just losing consciousness now, please.

In Playa de Carmen, even the garbage collectors speak good English.

I have been to France many times and I don’t even pretend to speak French even though I grew up in Louisiana. They can shit talk me all they want but they will soon realize that they aren’t going to get anywhere with me so so they switch over to English. It has never been a problem even in Paris.

Everyone in Costa Rica that works in the tourism industry speaks fluent English because the whole country is based on that model and the touristy parts of Mexico are the same way. I used to be conversant in Spanish and can read things like pamphlets and signs in Spanish but I don’t even bother to try to speak it while I am there. It is a vacation and they are used to dealing with Americans. The vast majority can speak English perfectly fine.

There’s another thread on here that discusses the difference between Quebec French and ‘native’ French - as a non-French speaker, it was interesting to read the differences, but one of the points they made is ‘native’ French speakers seem to hold Quebec French speakers in contempt…I’ve traveled to France multiple times for business (and two vacations) and it’s the only place I didn’t dare attempt even a ‘bonjour’ as my first attempt was ridiculed…Montreal is very different, people seem much nicer, very different feel, more ‘laid back’ and gracious…

I think it’s important to remember that our encounters with particular people when we are overseas doesn’t mean that every single person in the country is the same. When I was in Paris, I was never ridiculed for giving french a go (or I didn’t understand the abuse :D). I didn’t have any choice, the majority of the people where I was “hanging out” did not speak english (there were 3 who did, one was the brother of the bar owner, who’d spent some time in england, another was a (former) yugoslavian guy and the third was an actor who had spent time in england working in movies with the likes of Dirk Bogarde and Diane Cilento). Nobody else spoke a word-if I was going to communicate at all, I had to resurrect my schoolgirl french). They don’t learn it as a matter of course (the way they did in germany at that time). They weren’t being rude when they shrugged and turned away from an english-speaking tourist speaking english to them. When neither party understood the other’s language, there wasn’t much point in continuing. I might have found english-speakers in the “tourist strips” but I would also have found prices 4 times what I was paying at my “local”. Maybe in the touristy places they feel superior and judgmental? I don’t know.

I didn’t speak to any garbage collectors but we did find people who didn’t speak English. The two ladies at the counter at a farmacia. Colectivo staff had almost none. Once, we sat down at a taqueria and our first waiter was struggling and sent over another guy to take our order. The elderly woman I bought mango from on the beach didn’t even try. The sole employee at the cochinita pibil stand only knew a couple words.

Playa del Carmen is just down the road from me.

We, kiddingly, say “Even the garbage collectors in Playa speak English”. To exaggerate how much English is spoken there.

But, you are correct. Not everyone speaks English there.

On a trip to Germany, I discovered that I had failed to pack a suit coat so I went looking for one in a department store. I found that if I said a few words of my high school German, that they answered back in long streams which I couldn’t possibly understand. Saying “hello” quickly established that they needed to switch to English. Telling them “Auf Wiedersehen” went much better.

I can’t say about Mexico, but no matter where I go, I always make a point of learning a dozen basic expressions before I leave and rely on the locals to teach me a few more once I’m there. The first reason is because I enjoy comparing languages and analyzing how they work. The second is because I see it as basic courtesy. It is almost always appreciated from what I can tell, past the inital surprise.

As a matter of fact, I’ve just come back from Turkey and have added a few new words to my repertoire from previous visits. Dikkat kaygan zemin !