Within the European Union, Spain is one of the more delayed markets when it comes to English speaking. According to the Education First English Proficiency Index (EPI), an international English language skills ranking released annually, Spain ranked 25th of the 33 European countries surveyed in 2019. And according to the latest polling by CIS, a Spanish public research institute, 60% of adults say they speak no English at all.
This lack of english proficiency in Spain is a consequence of several contributing factors: historically, while the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco was in power until 1975, English was not typically taught in schools. Even after Spain became a democratic country, it took time to properly begin incorporating English language into the curriculum. Consequently, the older Spaniards are, the less English they speak. Moreover, even today English teachers in Spain are usually Spaniards, and English is taught more as a subject than as a language. As a result, many Spaniards are able to write English much better than they can speak the language.
Another factor contributing to the lack of English speaking is that English is almost always translated into Spanish within the country. (I experienced this first hand when I attempted to find a movie theater that showed movies in English. It was near impossible, as most foreign movies and TV shows are dubbed. This means less exposure to colloquial English.)
The lack of English speaking among Spaniards impacts the case for Spanish startup growth in a couple of ways. The first is a lack of comfort with spoken English among Spanish entrepreneurs and startup employees. Yes–recently there has been an infusion of foreign talent that has led to more English being spoken around Spain, but Spanish workers still shy away from speaking the language. This makes it harder for startup teams to have constructive conversations with foreign investors and VC firms. Moreover, Spanish businesses and products are tailored to native Spanish-speaking markets, and require significant translation and localization efforts should the companies hope to expand to non-Spanish speaking markets.
Another consequence for the Spanish startup village is the inability of the government to consistently educate itself about new technology trends, as much of this information is in English. This leads to a slowdown in updating existing government policies and implementing new policies in response to these trends.
The final consequence is a lack of international media coverage of Spanish companies. Foreign media outlets are not always able to communicate with Spanish teams which creates a challenge even for conventionally successful Spanish startups, and Spanish teams are not able to source and interact with foreign members of the media to build awareness for their companies through press articles or global startup database platforms like Crunchbase.