español

Spanish (español) is said to be one of the top ten easiest languages for English speakers to learn. I’d also add that Spanish is one of the most useful second languages for English speakers to learn, given its prevalence, its use as an official language in many international organisations, and just the fact that it’s good to learn a language from a different language family (Romance vs. Germanic).

Why is Spanish easy for English speakers to learn? I’m going with two main themes:

  • simple grammar (although still has noun genders)
  • reasonably phonetic writing: words are spoken pretty much as they are written

The Spanish alphabet has 27 letters, the same 26 as in English (although k and w are only used in borrowed words), plus ñ. The letter ñ is pronounced like the -ny- sound in English onion or canyon. The name of the letter ñ is eñe, and it follows the letter n in the Spanish alphabet. The letter ñ officially became part of the Spanish alphabet only in the eighteenth century; other Romance languages use different letter combinations to represent this sound, as seen in the various names for the Spanish language:

French – espagnol
Italian – spagnolo

Portuguese – espanhol

Catalan – espanyol

 


 

Hispania, from where we have both Spain and España, was the name given to the area that is now Spain, in Roman times. Modern-day Spain came into existence in 1469 when Isabella I of Castile (roughly the western 2/3 of modern-day Spain) married Ferdinand II of Aragon (roughly the eastern 1/3), thereby uniting the two kingdoms. Their daughter Joanna, and her son Charles (the Holy Roman Emperor) were the first monarchs of the whole of modern Spain, ruling jointly from 1516.

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