10 Things You Should Know Before You Start Learning Spanish

What should you expect once you start learning Spanish?

 

Spanish is a way of life.

Some Spanish words do not exist in other languages and they express our lifestyle. So by learning these concepts, you will effectively change your way of living. Tapear is to have some tapas; sobremesa refers to the conversation that ensues after having a meal. We even have two expressions for saying “I love you” (Te quiero and te amo)!

 

Spanish has gendered nouns.

Unlike English, Spanish nouns always have a gender. For example: la palabra (the word) is feminine and el diccionario (the dictionary) is masculine. A tree (un árbol) is masculine but a flower (una flor) or a plant (una planta) are feminine. Even your notebook and pen (cuaderno y bolígrafo) have a gender!

 

Spanish has very few phonemes.

A phoneme is a unit of sound. For example, the words kiss and kill differ from it each other by using the phonemes /s/ and /l/, respectively. Of course a certain phoneme can be read in more ways than one (allophone) - e.g., /k/  in skill is pronounced in a different way from kiss and kill. English has 44 phonemes in total. But Spanish only has 24. So if you manage these 24 phonemes, you’re already on the verge of mastering Spanish phonology.

 

Prepare to roll your Rs.

Spanish may only have 24 phonemes and most of them will be easy to pronounce, but the rolled R is a tough one for most learners. Although it is almost nonexistent in other languages, it is heavily featured in Spanish - e.g, rico, carro, ferrocarril, Rafael, rincón, rutina, rojo. We have already shared a few tricks that will help you master the (in)famous rolled R.

cultural guide to chile valparaiso

 

You will always hear Spanish around when you travel.

Spanish has almost 600 million speakers in the entire world! So it doesn’t matter where you’re travelling to, you will find someone speaking Spanish. Right after I landed in Brussels, the first thing I heard was a group of Ecuadorians - not French or Dutch, but Ecuadorian Spanish. I found ‘Galletas de Desayuno’ in a little mini market in Hungary! Get used to it: once you learn Spanish, there’s always a conversation you can pick up on.

 

Say hello to really cool accent marks.

English has no accent marks - isn’t it boring? Romance Languages feature accent marks prominently; it’s part of their charm. But don’t worry! There are some pretty easy to follow rules so that you can learn when to use them. Of course Spanish has some peculiar details of its own - like using an accent only when the pronoun is used to make a question (e.g.: ¿Cuándo?) - but who can resist the ñ?

 

You’ll speak Castilian.

You might not know it yet - but when you learn Spanish, you’ll speak Castilian too. Confused? Castilian comes from Castellano, which is the name Spanish-speaking people give to Spanish in much of Latin America and in certain parts of Spain. The origin of the name comes from Castile, which is the part of Spain where modern Spanish originated. Learn more about the differences between Castilian and Spanish.

 

Spanish has four translations for “you”.

In Spanish, “you” can be or usted (in the singular form) and vosotros or ustedes (in the plural form). Non-native speakers, especially those whose languages don’t differentiate between a formal and an informal you, might take some time to get used to this. If that is your case, check out our article about When to Use Tú or Usted.

 

People will think you speak Portuguese.

“You speak Spanish, you must understand Portuguese as well.” Romance languages are very much alike, and Spanish and Portuguese are like brothers born 20 years apart. They’re close relatives, but they don’t really hang out much with each other. So, of course, if you learn Spanish, you’ll most likely be able to grasp some Portuguese and some Italian as well, but not nearly enough to have a conversation.

maiz cotufa

Corn-to-fry.

Finally: Spanish steals English words… from time to time.

Forwardear, spamear are the Spanish words for - you guessed it! - forwarding and spamming. Sometimes we adopt the name of certain brands to name some products, like chiclet for gum and jeep for suv. And in Latin America you’ll find conflei (cornflakes) and maíz cotufa (cotufa - corn to fry).

 

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