1) The pace of Spanish is much fasterThis is somewhat obvious, but is worth noting. Spanish can convey more ideas using less speech and shorter words. In addition, because of the development of Spanish with vowels at the end, it is much more likely that vowels will get smooshed into each other, and in many cases, they can make it unclear what is really being said. For example, because of the silent H sound, you can have words like "se ha" (has), that can be indistinguishable from "sea" (is). Words like "echo" (throw) can sound like "hecho" (made). In addition, when vowels are next to each other, they can sometimes be left out, like in "No sea ansioso" (Don't be nervous), which can come out like "No seansioso", which won't make sense unless you have the experience of being able to distinguish where one word ends and the next begins.
2) Many short words pack a serious punch in meaningIt also seems to be the case that in Spanish, the more important a word is, the shorter it is. Adding in the above problem, if you don't know about these powerful words, which can be one syllable and easily missed, you can miss very important parts of the sentence. Making it even worse is the fact that Spanish will often "stack" or "arrange" these words in different patterns in sentences. Since we have a unique tendency to try to translate things word-for-word, you can come out with very weird sentences. So, as you go about studying, make sure to devote an early chunk of your studies to these so-called "power hitters". These include:
- Se - This little word in Spanish deserves its own page. He is a pronoun "you", "to him" and an impersonal thing kind of meaning "is" rolled up into one. This one will get its own lesson when the time comes. But, you can at least think of it like "he" or "to him" to start.
- Le, La, and Lo - It's weird to take what is normally an article (a) and also thinking of it as a super-pronoun as well, but le, la, and lo, are also important pronouns.
- Ha, Has, and Han - ha can be especially hard to discern from "a", which can also have many uses in Spanish. You have to be able to know a lot to distinguish when and how this one means "has"
- A - It can mean "to", it can mean "at", and in front of words like "que" it can mean different things as well. And again, that it can sound close to "has" if not omitted outright can make communication challenging.
3) In Spanish, less is more with verbs in particularIt goes without saying that verbs are some of the most difficult things to work with in Spanish: they have complicated conjugations, multiple meanings, and weird sentence order. There is one consolation to you. In Spanish, you can truly do less with more with verbs. That is to say, while you do have to learn a lot of them, you can express more meanings with fewer verbs. It isn't uncommon for one Spanish verb to have at least half a dozen corresponding words in English. Therefore, while there are less “verbs” to know overall, it is more important that you understand not just a verb, but its many meanings as well frequently seen “buddy words” that help form expressions. Spanish is ripe with these kinds of idioms and slang, and knowing them is just as important as knowing the verbs. So, it actually works out better for you to know 10 verbs really well (its meanings and frequently seen partner words) than it does for you to only know 50 of them superficially. With Spanish verbs, true mastery of them is much more about quality than quantity, unlike in English.
4)Articles are a real issue you have to masterSince English doesn't have as many articles or worry about matching gender, this can often be a challenging aspect of Spanish. While people will get what you mean, using articles incorrectly will quickly render you not that great, and can cause some hilarious double meanings. How so? El papa is "the Pope" while la papa is "the potato". Other times, a vowel ending can mean something different. "El cuento" is "the story" while "La cuenta" is "the bill". "La caza" can mean "hunting" while "la casa" can mean "the house". There are many of these close differences in Spanish, which are worth noting in the process of becoming a great speaker. And of course, there is the added challenge of making sure you know each gender, so that when you need to use the right adjective with them, you can use the right form!
5) There are some loan words, but there are plenty of false friends too.For people who have to take a foreign language at some point, Spanish at a school level seems like an easy enough language to pick up. It's not hard to write and still maintains many common word roots and pronunciations with English. However, if you want to dig deeper than passing a class, and truly understand the language on a day-to-day basis, you have to take some of that witha grain of salt. While you can easily read Spanish with enough knowledge, applying it in speech is often more challenging. Many words are pronounced differently, and while there are many common vocabulary words, there are just as many "false friends" which must make for some interesting conversations. For example, the verb "registrar" can often mean something like "to search", and trying to call a guy "baldio" for "bald" won't work, as "baldio" means "vain" or "uncultivated", and let's hope you remember that "the form" is "el formulario" and not "la forma".
We hope this article has shed some light on some issues in learning Spanish, and you can keep these in mind as you study. As you study along wiith us, our material will take these ideas into consideration.
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