While I am currently studying Spanish at college, I do not know enough for communication purposes. Will this be a huge problem when I visit Monterrey next week? Normally, my friend goes with me and translates, but this time, he is not available.
Yes and No.
How are you getting there? By car? Bus? etc...
Many people from Monterrey speak english or at least pick some words. Many people would be interested in practicing their english and other will just stare at you, don't really worry. Usually people at the hotels must speak english, well, depending the hotel.
The most spanish you probably need will be to ride a taxi, find a restroom or eat.
A good advice is not exactly about the language, is more about money, pay attention how the peso work, the equal from 1 usd to Mexican pesos for the exchange rate of the day and when you buy stuff at any store do it in mexican currency, make sure they give you the right change.
Maybe the cashier at walmart or heb or soriana wont speak english but he/she will know if you look upset because they didn't give you the right change.
My mother in law doesn't speak spanish and the only major problem she had into interacting in mexico was the cashiers very rarely gave her the right amount of change when buying stuff, sometimes 10 pesos sometimes 80! She only waited, showed them the bill or the receipt and moving her hands or with a very explicit frown got the rest of the money back. Probably if they just ask for a donation to help for something she would just go ahead and do it and give it away, but when it's because they just wanted to try if she falls, that is another thing.
Carry a pocket book with phrases in spanish and that will probably help you enough.
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