Learning Spanish spelling and grammar

Getting used to the orthographic rules in any language can always be a little tricky and may take some time. However, it is crucial for accurate communication and can be especially important for formal settings, such as in business contexts. The good news is that in Spanish spelling is not as intricate as many other languages and it can usually be mastered with a few simple pointers.

Phonetics

Remember that Spanish is a phonetic language, which means that if you memorise the sound of each of the Spanish letters, it is just a matter of listening to a word and placing together the letters that create each of these sounds. English is not like this and for this reason many people who learn English as a second language have a lot of trouble with spelling. There are a few Spanish letters that you should look out, such as, “J”, which is pronounced as an English “H”, as well as the Spanish “H”, which is not pronounce at all.

Few repeated letters

Spanish has very few repeated letters, unlike English. “R” is one of the only repeated letters and it is easy to tell by pronouncing the word, whether it should be spelt with one “r” or two. This is because when there are two, the sound produced always requires rolling your tongue. Likewise, the letter “L” has a very specific pronunciation when in its double form, “ll”, which is the same sound as the letter “y”, and a single “l” has the same sound as the “l” in English. “C” is also sometimes doubled, but only when the two letters have different sounds, such as “conducción”, where the first “c” is hard, and the second is pronounced either as “th” in Spain, or “s” in Latin America.

Verbs in the preterite

Some verbs in the preterite tense change there spelling and therefore appear as irregular conjugations, simply for pronunciation reasons, for example, “comunicar”. If you were to add its regular past tense ending in the first person singular, it would say “yo comunicé”. However, this would have unnatural pronunciation and would no longer sound like the original verb, “comunicar”. Therefore, it is necessary to change the spelling of the first person singular to “comunique”, as the “que” ending gives it the hard “k” sound that it needs in order to continue sounding like the original verb, “comunicar”. This type of spelling change occurs with a number of Spanish verbs and in these cases it is necessary to put pronunciation first – if you can think of how the verb should be pronounced, and consider the Spanish letters necessary to create that sound, you will be able to spell the word correctly.

Reading

There are some differences that are a little harder to master, such as the when to use “y” and “ll” or when to use “z” or “c”. Likewise, knowing when to write and not to write an “h”, as the pronunciation is the same with or without it can be at times a little taxing. The best way to develop your spelling skills is by reading, as this increases your vocabulary and also helps you to visualise the correct spelling.

So – start reading in Spanish and learning and practicing the spelling rules and before you know it, writing in Spanish will become second nature!

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