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.

uno

The Spanish language has a gender system – nouns (and the adjectives and articles that refer to them) are either masculine or feminine. So (in my examples, words in Spanish are bold; words in English are bold italic):

un = a (masculine)
una = a (feminine)

un libro = a book
una casa = a house

There are lots of rules and lots of exceptions about which nouns are masculine and which are feminine, but a basic start is that nouns ending in -o tend to be masculine, and nouns ending in -a tend to be feminine. The contrast is obvious in, for example:

un gato = a (male) cat
una gata = a (female) cat

un hermano = a brother
una hermana = a sister

So what’s ‘uno’? Unfortunately, ‘uno’ is not the masculine equivalent of ‘una’, but is simply the number ‘one’, used without an attached noun:

¿Cuántas hermanas tienes? = How many sisters do you have?

Tengo una hermana = I have one sister
Tengo uno = I have one

 


 

Spanish is a Romance language, that is, a language derived from “Vulgar Latin”, the Latin spoken by ordinary people in the Roman Empire. Spanish is the most widely-spoken of the Romance languages; other well-known Romance languages (over a million speakers) are Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, Galician (spoken in the north-west of Spain), and Catalan (spoken in the east of Spain, and the official language of Andorra). There are many less widely-spoken Romance languages, including some spoken in Spain, such as Asturian, Leonese, and Aragonese. Spanish is also called Castilian / castellano, sometimes to distinguish it from other languages spoken in Spain.

¡Hola!

Welcome to ‘Love in Spanish’. Thank you to those who followed my previous blog, words from sweden (if you didn’t, you should go and have a look, it’s not bad). But I’ve moved on – literally – I left Sweden in 2011 and am back in Australia. I love languages, and I would love to be able to speak more of them. I thought about learning Russian, I started learning Japanese, but I finally settled on Spanish.

Why Spanish?
¿Why the upside-down punctuation?
Is Spanish an easy language to learn?
Can I help you to learn Spanish?

I will answer these questions – and many more – in weeks to come. I like grammar (and syntax! and morphology!!), so expect to find a lot of that in here, but I’m also interested in the history, culture, food, and politics of Spain as well as its language.

Please go ahead and enter your email address in the sidebar to subscribe to this blog. Also, I welcome comments, whether corrections, suggestions, or congratulations.