An American can get by just speaking English in San Miguel de Allende. However, it would be a shame not to try to learn Spanish because you would miss a great deal of the culture and life here without speaking Spanish.
Throughout the city of San Miguel de Allende, there are many people who have been here for 30 years and still speak very little Spanis
h. There is no really no place in San Miguel de Allende that you would go that you're not going to find people who speak English. When you have problems on the road, people who would stop would always do their very best to help you in their broken English and your broken Spanish.
Learning the English language is mandatory in the public school systems in San Miguel de Allende.
When my husband, Jim, and I moved to San Miguel de Allende, I spoke Spanish, but Jim did not. Things have been going very well for Jim and he's picked up Spanish quite easily. He's never really formally studied Spanish and has not taken classes for it, but his Spanish now is pretty fluent.
Most foreigners take Spanish classes. There are many different Spanish language schools in San Miguel de Allende.
One of the most popular Spanish language schools with the gringos is Warren Hardy. Warren Hardy is the name of an American who has retired in San Miguel de Allende. He established his own school to teach Spanish and he has his own system for teaching Spanish, which is quite good.
Instituto Allende has Spanish classes for foreigners. They ask you to take a test first to find out where your level of Spanish is.
The "biblioteca" (library) in San Miguel de Allende that's founded and run by gringos has the largest collection of English books in Mexico. They have formal Spanish classes. They also offer conversational Spanish practice sessions where the library staff set you up with someone of your age and similar interests, who later on becomes your friend. You meet once a week, have a cup of coffee, and talk for an hour. You help each other out by the other person talking in English and you talking in Spanish.
(Warren Hardy Spanish class, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, courtesy of Niamh Daily, pictured.)