Also known as Castilian, due to its origins in the Castile region of Spain, Spanish is the official language of Spain. It's also spoken across Central and South American countries which were former Spanish colonies, and more recently in the USA due to migration from its southern neighbours. In Africa, Spanish is spoken in Equatorial Guinea and the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
The Spanish alphabet is called el abecedario, from the name of the first four letters, a b c d. Between 1803 and 2010 it used to have 29 letters, including ch, ñ and LL, which were considered letters of the alphabet in their own right. However, in 2010, the Academy of the Spanish Language agreed that ch and LL would no longer be considered separate letters, bringing the Spanish alphabet more in line with the universal Latin alphabet. As their status as letters is still engrained in general usage after more than two hundred years, they’re included below. You may well have to spell out your name and perhaps your address in Spanish. Here is the alphabet and how to pronounce ita, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.
Ñ is a letter in its own right, separate from n and sounds like the ‘ni’ in the English ‘onion’. It started life when medieval scribes wrote a small n above a bigger one, reflecting the original Latin spelling of a word, e.g. ‘annum’, year, which in Spanish became año. Nowadays, the letter even has its own separate key on Spanish keyboards. Ñ has become a significant symbol as it appears in the name of the language itself, español Consonants As a phonetic language, you read it as it’s written. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? However, a few consonants could prove a bit of a challenge at first There are two r sounds. When the letter sits between vowels in a word, it’s pronounced in a single roll of the tongue. In all other instances, or when it’s a double ‘r’ between vowels, it’s a multiple trill. You can hear both in the words carrera, race or career, and carretera, road You may be familiar with the famous ‘th’ sound of a word like cerveza, beer. However, in parts of Southern Spain, the Canary Islands and in Latin America, that sound doesn’t exist and the letters are pronounced the same as the English ‘s’ B and v are pronounced the same. So, mixing the two letters up is one of the first spelling mistakes Spanish children have to overcome at school: Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Ibiza
There are also a few accents to get your head around: á, é, í, ó, ú, ü The acute accent is used on vowels to indicate the stressed syllable of a word. If there’s no accent on the final letter of a word ending in a vowel, ‘n’ or ‘s’, the penultimate syllable is stressed: carne, meat. But if there is an accent, you stress the final syllable: carné, ID card The language features opening question and exclamation marks, which are upside-down and compulsory: ¿Qué tal? - How are you? ¡Gracias! - Thank you!
When giving an email or website address the conventions are: @ arroba . punto, dot / barra, forward slash - guión, hyphen
Learning Spanish opens up lots of opportunities to have more fun. Who doesn't enjoy reading a good book or watching a good movie? Music? You bet! Food? The best! The satisfaction of accomplishment? It's there waiting for you to grab it! For all of the reasons mentioned above, and a whole lot that haven't been mentioned, learning Spanish can be one of the most enjoyable things you will ever do. Whether your motivations are practical, intellectual or sentimental, learning Spanish is something that will benefit you for the rest of your life!
Because English and Spanish share many words of Latin origin, you will already be able to recognise more than 3,000 Spanish words! For example, most English words ending in -tion end in -ción, e.g. atención, publicación, liberación There are also loan words in English of Spanish origin, including tornado, bonanza or patio. In addition, you’ll find many familiar American place names, dating back to the times of the Conquistadors: Los Ángeles, city of angels, Las Vegas, the dales, Nevada, snowy land, Florida, flowery and, yes, Amarillo, the Spanish for yellow
While Johann Wolfgang von Goethe may have been exaggerating when he said, "he who knows no foreign language, knows nothing of his own," it cannot be denied that by studying Spanish you will without doubt gain a better understanding of English. Spanish is what we call a "Romance" language, meaning that it is based on Latin, the language of the ancient Roman Empire. Many English words are also of Latin origin, and so when you learn vocabulary in Spanish you will simultaneously be expanding your English vocabulary. You will also find that your understanding of the deep meaning of these Latin based English words is greatly enhanced. Also, as you study the grammar of Spanish, you will notice how it is similar to English, as well as how it is different. This will raise your awareness of the grammar of your native language. Because Spanish is very nearly phonetically perfect, you can look at almost any word and immediately know exactly how to pronounce it. This characteristic makes Spanish one of the easiest languages to learn. And, when it comes to learning a third language, such as French or Italian, already knowing Spanish will be a huge advantage because these languages, too, are Romance Languages.
It’s probably the rolled r sound such as in ferrocarril, railway, carretera, road or dr as in cocodrilo, crocodile that make the language seem tricky at first, but it can be great fun trying to pronounce them! A word which contains all the five Spanish vowels is murciélago, meaning bat (the one that flies, not of the ball-hitting variety!) Try these two tongue twisters: Como poco coco como, poco coco compro. Since I don't eat much coconut, I don't buy many coconuts El perro de San Roque no tiene rabo, porque Ramón Ramírez se lo ha robado Saint Roch's dog has no tail, because Ramón Ramírez has stolen it
There are plenty of jokes or chistes in Spanish covering politics, doctors, the police forces, the military or other nationalities. And when telling jokes, political correctness is generally less observed than in English. So here are two ‘safe’ examples: - Doctor, doctor, no puedo recordar nada - Vaya, y desde cuándo tiene usted este problema? - ¿Qué problema? - Doctor, doctor, I can't remember anything - Oh well, and how long have you had this problem? - What problem? - Doctor, ¿usted cree que podré vivir 40 años más? - Depende. ¿Usted parrandea con sus amigos? - No, doctor - ¿Bebe? - No, doctor - ¿Fuma? - No, doctor - ¿Tiene pareja? - No, doctor - ¿Y para qué diablos quiere usted vivir 40 años más? - Doctor, do you think I could live 40 years longer? - Depends. Do you party hard with your friends? - No, doctor - Do you drink? - No, doctor - Do you smoke? - No, doctor - Do you have a partner? - No, doctor - So why on earth do you want to live 40 years longer?
According to Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, "the limits of my language are the limits of my universe." There is no doubt that learning Spanish will expand your own personal universe. As the Hispanic population continues to grow at a disproportionate rate, it becomes more and more likely that you might marry into a Spanish speaking family, have Spanish speaking neighbors or encounter Spanish speaking people in your daily rounds. No longer are the Spanish speakers in the US confined to the border states and big cities. Today, nearly all areas have some sort of Hispanic population. Wouldn't it be nice to say hello and chat with your fellow paisanos (countrymen)?
False friends, falsos amigos, are words which look or sound similar in two different languages but actually mean something else For example, if you’re embarrassed, you may feel tempted to say estoy embarazado (for a man) or embarazada (for a woman). That actually means I’m pregnant, which in the case of a man especially would make you an instant scientific wonder! The right phrase to say is me da vergüenza
La diligencia es madre de la buenaventura Diligence is the mother of good fortune Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) Cervantes is world renowned as the writer of Don Quijote (1605), often considered the first modern novel and a Western literature classic
Research indicates that knowing and using two languages reduces your chances of developing dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease. The scientists who studied this were motivated by earlier studies which showed that bilingualism enhances mental abilities in both children and older adults. Other studies show that studying languages can improve your memory and slow age-related decline in mental acuity. And studying another language makes you smarter! Your critical thinking skills will be improved as you learn to view things through a different lens. Learning a second language stimulates creativity!
Like other Romance languages, there are different ways of saying ‘you’: tú, for people you can be on first-name terms with, and usted, in other cases. The plural is, respectively, vosotros and ustedes When greeting, men usually shake hands. In informal situations, women meeting men or other women will give a kiss on each cheek Some English subtleties are not as widely used in Spanish and may make the language sound brash at first. For example, in a bar you might be asked:¿Qué quiere? Although it literally means What do you want? it lacks the brashness of its direct English translation and to Spanish ears it sounds as polite as What would you like? You may also notice that por favor isn’t as widely used as please in English. Again, it’s down to subtlety and an economy of words. For example, instead of adding extra words, you can just turn a request into a question and ask nicely: ¿Abres la ventana? (Can) you (please) open the window? ¿Abro la ventana? (Would you like me to) open the window?