Why Spanish Is Easier to Learn Than You Think

Learning a new language is never a piece of cake. But some languages are undoubtedly harder than others: like Arabic, which barely shares any origins with the Latin languages (so good luck guessing at word meanings), and doesn’t have vowels in its written form (so good luck even reading any word you don’t already know); or Chinese, where you wish you had the luxury of worrying about vowels: there, you have to memorize thousands of characters, and changing the tone of a word can completely change its meaning. Believe it or not, even English is no walk in the park–our pronunciation has nothing to do with spelling, and we break our own grammar rules so often that the right ways to say things start to sound wrong. So, if these are the harder languages to learn, then which are the easier ones? Take heart, Bright Spanish readers. As it happens, Spanish is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. Let’s find out why.

1. Latin-based. Spanish and English are both Latin-based languages. This means that a lot of Spanish words look very similar to their English counterparts, and you can often wager a good guess at the meanings of words even if you’ve never seen them before. For example, can you guess what the following words mean? El restaurante (restaurant), la universidad (college), nervioso (nervous), terminar (to end).

2. Phonetic. Spanish is a very phonetic language. This means that its spelling and its pronunciation are very closely tied. In other words, once you learn the different sounds of the letters, then you can write a word just from hearing it, and you can say a word just from seeing it. Just to put this into perspective, let’s take a look at how English words can have different pronunciations depending on their meaning: They were too close to the door to close it. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. I did not object to the object. A Spanish word is always pronounced the same.

3. Phonetic. This deserves to be on here twice, because really, it just makes things so much easier. Not only are things that are spelled the same always pronounced the same, but the spelling of words is infinitely simpler. Consider some English words, and how we spell them versus how they are pronounced: mischievous, raspberry, judgment, yacht. What a mess of silent letters! Spanish, on the other hand, doesn’t have silent letters, except for three very clearly-defined and easy-to-remember rules. (In case you’re interested: “h” is always silent except for “ch”, and “u” is silent when it follows a “g” or a “q” (just like in English!).) Finally, one last time, just for emphasis: every letter you pronounce, you write, and every letter you write, you pronounce. Do Spanish-speaking people even have spelling bees? Their’s must be infinitely easier.

4. Pronunciation. Spanish pronunciation is relatively easy for native English speakers. It has none of the gutteral or throaty sounds of languages like French and German. Probably the hardest part of Spanish pronunciation to master is the rolling r, but that aside, it’s all smooth and familiar waters for English speakers.

5. Verb conjugation. Why is verb conjugation something that makes Spanish easy to learn? Well, it’s not, but I put it here because it intimidates a lot of people, and it’s really not so bad as you think. Yes, we’re not used to it. But there’s really a pretty solid set of rules to follow for conjugating verbs, and once you start to learn them, you begin to notice a lot of patterns between the conjugations for different verbs and tenses. For example, the verb endings for the conditional tense are the exact same ones that you use for the ER & IR verbs in the imperfect tense, except that you add them to the entire infinitive of a word instead of just its stem. And if all of this talk of stems and endings makes your head spin, then we should at least appreciate that there are such rules. Think about the connection, for example, between run and ran, or go and went, or buy and bought. I bet Spanish speakers learning English wish we had stems and endings!
Also, to put things further in perspective: at least Spanish isn’t like Russian. There, you don’t just conjugate verbs to the subject, you conjugate nouns in one of six cases depending on their use in a sentence: is it the subject? the direct object? the indirect object? are you talking about possessing something? Each use requires a different version of the noun. So, let’s be grateful we don’t have to deal with that.

Now that you know the core rules underlying Spanish are actually pretty straightforward and reliable, and it really isn’t all so bad as you might have feared, what are you waiting for? Let’s get to some learning–check out our class schedule!

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