Spanish and English have many linguistic similarities but they also have their fair share of differences, which is what makes learning Spanish challenging at times. There are three differences which are frequently forgotten and their importance is often not emphasised at schools and language centres. In this blog I will emphasise these differences and explain why it is important to remember them when you are learning Spanish.
1.) Phonetic and non-phonetic pronunciation
Spanish is a phonetic language – by this I mean that you should read the letters exactly as they sound. Thus, if you learn the sound of each Spanish vowel and consonant, and the rules of a few rare exceptions, there is no reason why you won’t be able to correctly read Spanish and make yourself understood. English, on the other hand, is rarely phonetic, such that the sounds of the letters change drastically depending on the word and often for no clear reason. English native speakers are lucky that they don’t have to learn these rules (or lack thereof) as a second language. Thus, if you are struggling with your Spanish accent, don’t be afraid to go back to the basics and re-learn the sounds of the alphabet. Then apply it to your reading and you’ll soon notice a difference.
Spanish punctuation is not often a topic that is widely studied at school, but it is extremely useful, especially when applying for jobs or when using your Spanish language skills in other formal contexts. In Spanish, sentences tend to be much longer, with several commas. On the other hand, in English, we enjoy writing short and concise sentences. Furthermore, in formal settings, remembering the reverse question marks and exclamation marks is a must and remembering that they are put where the actual question starts, and not at the beginning of the sentence, is crucial for clear and accurate communication. For example, it would be correct to say, “Yo no estoy llorando, ¿tú estás llorando?” rather than placing the reverse question mark at before “yo”.
Lastly, accents are essential in Spanish for getting across the correct message. Whether speaking or writing, if you don’t pay attention to the accents your message can be very skewed! For example, “camino a la tienda” means, “I walk to the shop”, whereas, “caminó a la tienda” means, “he/she/it walked to the shop”. In English, we don’t have the same linguistic issue as we don’t have accents, but often this point it not emphasised enough in schools and confusions can arise through a simple accent error. It may not seen like the be all or end all but if you need to make yourself understood, it is important to practice and know where to put the stress.
So bear in mind these simple but often overlooked differences between Spanish and English and you may find your Spanish improving much faster than expected!