Thursday, November 22, 2007

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Why learn Spanish?

Why choose Spanish as your new foreign Language? why is it important to learn Spanish?

In the United States, whose residents traditionally haven't been eager to learn any language aside from English, more and more native English speakers are making the move to learn another language because of globalization and the increasing importance of being able to communicate with those from other countries. More often than not, the second language they are choosing to learn is Spanish. This is the reason that people who were born and grew up in the U.S. are now studying Spanish in record numbers.

There are many reasons they are choosing Spanish as opposed to another foreign language. Why is it important to learn Spanish?. Spanish is spoken by almost 400 million people worldwide, which is reason enough to learn the language. But it's even more compelling when you realize that about half of the population in the Western Hemisphere speaks Spanish, making it the primary language for as many people as English in this region of the world. The entire continent of South America speaks primarily Spanish (aside from Brazil), as does just about all of Central America, Mexico and Latin America – over 15 countries in total. In addition, within the United States, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language after English – by a very wide margin. In the U.S., more and more, opportunities are increasing for those who are fluent in both Spanish and English due to the explosion in the Spanish-speaking population. This means that the ability to speak both Spanish and English will continue to become more and more valuable to people who live in the U.S. with each passing year.

In addition to in the U.S., Spanish is also gaining importance in Europe, where it is quickly becoming the foreign language of choice after English. It's fairly obvious to see why. First, by learning Spanish fluently you can often understand enough Italian and French to get by in communicating with people who speak those languages. Secondly, overall, Spanish is the fourth most commonly spoken language in the world. Aside from English, the other 2 languages ahead of it are generally not widely spoken in either Europe or the Western Hemisphere – they are Chinese and Hindustani which are limited mainly to China and India respectively. So the numbers make learning Spanish a good choice, as well as the fact that as a romance language, Spanish can open the door to many millions of other people who speak one of the other Romance languages. It can enable you to become fluent in those languages in much less time than it would take somebody who is learning their first Romance language, because of the similarities in grammar and vocabulary.

Why it is important to learn Spanish and the facts support choosing Spanish.

Most people who choose to learn Spanish do so because of its popularity, especially in the Western Hemisphere and in Europe. They figure that they are learning a language that will give them practical use – both in their daily lives and in their jobs/professional lives. The facts not only support these feelings, they show by what a wide margin Spanish leads other foreign languages in usage within the Western World. They also show that the gap is widening. The populations are growing in many Spanish-speaking nations around the world, and the Spanish-speaking population within the U.S. is growing as a percentage of the total U.S. population every year. Following are some facts that show just how widespread the Spanish language is in the world, and how projections have it continuing to grow in the near future and beyond.

The World Speaking Spanish

  • As of 1999, Spanish had approximately the same number of native speakers as English (leading English slightly 332 million people to 322 million people). With population growth projections taken into effect, the lead for native speakers of Spanish is even more today, and the lead is only expected to increase further in the coming years. If you include the number of people who are fluent in Spanish as a second language, the total number of Spanish speakers in the world is well over 400 million people. The list of countries where Spanish is either the primary language or the largest secondary language covers 28 different places – Andorra, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gibraltar, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela.
  • Although most of the countries outside of Spain that speak Spanish are located in the Western Hemisphere, there are some notable exceptions. Spanish and French share the role as the official language of Equatorial Guinea (República de Guinea Ecuatoria), making it the only country on the continent of Africa with Spanish as a primary language. However, Morocco and Gibraltar also have many Spanish speakers. In Asia, the Phillipines are the lone representative as far as Spanish-speaking nations. In all, Spanish is the primary language in countries across four different continents.
The U.S. Population Speaking Spanish
  • According to the U.S. Census, the number of Hispanics in the U.S. grew by 57.9% between 1990 and 2000 – from a total of 22.4 million people to a total of 35.3 million people. This figure means the United States has the fifth largest hispanic population worldwide (trailing Mexico, Colombia, Spain and Argentina – just barely behind Spain itself and Argentina). Of this group of over 35 million people, well over 3 out of 4 say that Spanish is their primary language. Within the United States, a total of over 28 million people speak Spanish at some degree of fluency. A few states have a large percentage of these Spanish speakers – California has 5.5 million, Texas has 3.4 million, New York has 1.8 million, and Florida has 1.5 million. In the U.S., the 28 million people who speak Spanish at home is well over half of the approximately 47 million people who speak a language other than English at home, meaning Spanish is spoken by more people than all other languages combined within the U.S.
  • The 35 million hispanics in the U.S. as of 2000 as of 2003 was projected to be close to 40 million people. Moreover, by 2050, the number of hispanics in the U.S is projected to grow exponentially to over 100 million people, which at that point will be about one quarter of the total U.S. population. That’s over triple the 2000 figure in a 50-year span.
Spanish in the Media
  • In the New York City area, the newscast on the Spanish-language Noticias 41 and Noticiero Univision, often have higher ratings than ‘the big three’ network news shows on CBS, NBC and ABC. Approximately 5.8 percent of Internet users speak Spanish, making it the 4th most common language among the Internet community, trailing only English (about 50%), Japanese (about 8%), and German (about 6%). A recent study of 25 metro markets in the U.S. found that Spanish-language programming was the sixth most popular format.
  • It's increasingly difficult to ignore the spread of Spanish in the United States. Bank ATMs offer instructions in Spanish. The Yellow Pages in many cities adds a Spanish-language insert. And Spanish is working its way into everyday use. Is there an American left who can't order fajitas with spicy jalapeños using the proper Spanish-accented flair? (Say the J like an H: fah-hee-tas, ...)
Spanish Education / Economic Facts
  • Over the past decade, the demand for Spanish Language courses worldwide has just about doubled. In both the United States and Canada, Spanish is the most popular foreign language to learn. In the U.S. it is the most popular by a very wide margin.
  • As countries in Latin America are strengthening and expanding their economies, they are becoming more important as trading partners. Many countries in Latin America have signed or are on the verge of signing on to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which was originally set up by the United States, Canada and Mexico. This should act to further strengthen trade and business ties between these countries and the U.S. – making the Spanish language an even more important asset for Americans in the business world.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ever Wonder What Spanish Is?


Spanish or Castilian (castellano) is a Romance language originally from the northern area of Spain. It is the official language of Spain, most Latin American countries, and the official language of Equatorial Guinea, in Africa. In total, twenty-five nations and territories use Spanish as their primary language. It is one of six official languages of the United Nations.

Spanish originated as a dialect of Latin along the remote cross road strips among the Cantabria, Burgos, Soria and La Rioja provinces of Northern Spain. From there, its use gradually spread inside the Kingdom of Castile, where it evolved and eventually became the principal language of the government and trade. It was later taken to the Americas and other parts of the world in the last five centuries by Spanish explorers and colonists. The language is spoken by between 322 and 400 million people natively, making Spanish the most spoken Romance language and possibly the second most spoken language by number of native speakers. It is estimated that the combined total of native and non-native Spanish speakers is approximately 500 million, likely making it the fourth most spoken language by total number of speakers. Spanish is also considered to be among the fastest growing languages in the globe at the native level, largely due to higher than average birth rates in much of Latin America.

The language is spoken most extensively in the Americas, Spain and in Africa and Asia Pacific. It is also the second most widely spoken language in the United States] and by far the most popular studied foreign language in U.S. schools and Universities. Due to many linguistic similarities and close territorial ties, Spanish is also a very popular second langauge in Brazil, Portugal, Italy, and France where these countries together form a considerable proportion of the langauges non-native or secondary speakers.

Naming and origin

Spaniards tend to call this language español (Spanish) when contrasting it with languages of foreign states, such as French and English, but call it castellano (Castilian), that is, the language of the Castile region, when contrasting it with other languages spoken in Spain such as Galician, Basque, and Catalan. This reasoning also holds true for the language's preferred name in some Hispanic American countries. In this manner, the Spanish Constitution of 1978 uses the term castellano to define the official language of the whole Spanish State, as opposed to las demás lenguas españolas (lit. the other Spanish languages). Article III reads as follows:

El castellano es la lengua española oficial del Estado. (…) Las demás lenguas españolas serán también oficiales en las respectivas Comunidades Autónomas…

Castilian is the official Spanish language of the State. (…) The other Spanish languages shall also be official in their respective Autonomous Communities…

The name castellano is however widely used for the language as a whole in Latin America. Some Spanish speakers consider castellano a generic term with no political or ideological links, much as "Spanish" is in English. Often Latin Americans use it to differentiate their own variety of Spanish as opposed to the variety of Spanish spoken in Spain, or vice-versa, to refer to that variety of Spanish which is considered as standard in this one.

Classification and related languages

Castilian Spanish has closest affinity to the other West Iberian Romance languages: Asturian (asturianu), Galician (galego), Ladino (dzhudezmo/spanyol/kasteyano), and Portuguese (português), as well as, in some ways, to Aragonese (aragonés) and Catalan (català).

Catalan, an East Iberian language which exhibits many Gallo-Romance traits, is more similar to the neighbouring Occitan language (occitan) than Spanish and Portuguese are to each other. In fact, it wasn't until the earliest years of the 20th century that Catalan was considered a variant of the Occitan language. Spanish and Portuguese share similar grammars and a majority of vocabulary as well as a common history of Arabic influence while a great part of the peninsula was under Islamic rule (both languages expanded over Islamic territories). Their lexical similarity has been estimated as 89%.[19] See Differences between Spanish and Portuguese, for further information.


Ladino, which is essentially medieval Castilian and closer to modern Spanish than any other language, is spoken by many descendants of the Spanish Jews who were expelled from Spain in the 15th century. In many ways it is not a separate language but a parallel dialect of Castilian. Ladino lacks Native American vocabulary which was influential during the Spanish colonial period, and it retains many archaic features which have since been lost in standard Castilian. It does, however, contain other vocabulary which is not found in standard Castilian, including vocabulary from Hebrew as well as Turkish and other languages spoken wherever the Sephardim settled.

Vocabulary comparison

Spanish and Italian share a very similar phonological system and do not differ very much in grammar. At present, the lexical similarity with Italian is estimated at 82%. As a result, Spanish and Italian are mutually intelligible to various degrees. Mutual intelligibility with French and Romanian is lower (lexical similarity is respectively 75% and 71%) and for French "understanding" of Spanish from French speakers (with no knowledge of the language) falls at an estimated 45% - as much as English. The common features of the writing systems of the Romance languages allow for a greater amount of interlingual reading comprehension than oral communication would.


One defining characteristic of Spanish was the diphthongization of the Latin short vowels e and o into ie and ue, respectively, when they were stressed. Similar sound changes can be found in other Romance languages, but in Spanish they were particularly significant. Some examples:

  • Lat. petra > Sp. piedra, It. pietra, Fr. pierre, Port./Gal. pedra "stone".
  • Lat. moritur > Sp. muere, It. muore, Fr. meurt / muert, Rom. moare, Port./Gal. morre "he dies".

More peculiar to early Spanish (as in the Gascon dialect of Occitan, and possibly due to a Basque substratum) was the mutation of Latin initial f- into h- whenever it was followed by a vowel which did not diphthongate. Compare for instance:

  • Lat. filium > It. figlio, Port. filho, Fr. fils, Occitan filh (but Gascon hilh) Sp. hijo (but Ladino fijo);
  • late Lat. *fabulare > Lad. favlar, Port. falar, Sp. hablar;
  • but Lat. focum > It. fuoco, Port. fogo, Sp./Lad. fuego.

Some consonant clusters of Latin also produced characteristically different results in these languages, for example:

  • Lat. clamare, acc. flammam, plenum > Lad. lyamar, flama, pleno; Sp. llamar, llama, lleno. However, in Spanish there are also the forms clamar, flama, pleno; Port. chamar, chama, cheio.
  • Lat. acc. octo, noctem, multum > Lad. ocho, noche, muncho; Sp. ocho, noche, mucho; Port. oito, noite, muito.


The Spanish language developed from Vulgar Latin, with influences from Basque, and to some minor extent Celtiberian and Arabic, in the north of the Iberian Peninsula, between Biscay and current Cantabria's corners, partly as strongly innovative and differing variant from its nearest cousin, Leonese speech, with a higher degree of Basque influence (see Iberian Romance languages). Typical features of Spanish diachronical phonology include lenition (Latin vita, Spanish vida), palatalization (Latin annum, Spanish año, and Latin anellum, Spanish anillo) and diphthongation (stem-changing) of short e and o from Vulgar Latin (Latin terra, Spanish tierra; Latin novus, Spanish nuevo). Similar phenomena can be found in other Romance languages as well.

During the Reconquista, this northern dialect from Cantabria was carried south, and indeed is still a minority language in the northern coastal regions of Morocco.

The first Latin to Spanish grammar (Gramática de la Lengua Castellana) was written in Salamanca, Spain, in 1492 by Elio Antonio de Nebrija. When Isabel de Castilla was presented with the book, she asked, "What do I want a work like this for, if I already know the language?," to which he replied, "Your highness, the language is the instrument of the Empire." [citation needed]

From the 16th century onwards, the language was brought to the Americas and Spanish East Indies by Spanish colonization. Also in this epoch, Spanish became the main language of Politics and Art across the major part of Europe. In the 18th century, French took its place.

In the 20th century, Spanish was introduced in Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara and parts of the United States, such as Spanish Harlem in New York City, that had not been part of the Spanish Empire.

Geographic distribution

Spanish is one of the official languages of the Organization of American States, the United Nations, the Union of South American Nations, and the European Union.

The Americas

The vast majority of the world's Spanish speakers are located in the Americas. Of those countries with the largest numbers of Spanish speakers, only Spain is situated outside of the Americas. Mexico boasts the world's largest number of native speakers. At the national level, Spanish is the official language of Argentina, Bolivia (co-official Quechua and Aymara), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama , Paraguay (co-official Guaraní), Peru (co-official Quechua and, in some regions, Aymara), Uruguay, and Venezuela. Spanish is also the official language (co-official language English) in the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

The non-Spanish speaking Americas

Spanish holds no official recognition in the former British colony of Belize. However, according to the 2000 census, 52.1% of the population speaks the language "very well."[20] [21] It is mainly spoken by Hispanic descendants who have remained in the region since the 17th century. However, English remains the sole official language.[22]

Spanish has become increasingly important in Brazil due to proximity and increased trade with its Spanish-speaking neighbours, for example, as a member of the Mercosur trading bloc.[23] In 2005, the National Congress of Brazil approved a bill, signed into law by the President, that makes Spanish available as a foreign language in the country's secondary schools.[24] In many border towns and villages (especially along the Uruguayan-Brazilian border) a mixed language commonly known as Portuñol is also spoken.[25]

In the United States, 42.7 million people were of Hispanic heritage according to the 2005 census. Some 32 million people, or 12% of the whole population aged 5 years or older speak Spanish at home.[26] The Spanish language has a long history in the United States (many states from the south used to be part of Mexico) and has recently been revitalised by heavy immigration from Spanish-speaking Latin America. Spanish, moreover, is also the most widely taught foreign language in the United States.[27] Though the United States has no formally designated "official languages," Spanish is formally recognized at the state level, alongside English, in the U.S. state of New Mexico, where it is spoken by almost 30% of the population. In total, the U.S. contains the world's fifth-largest Spanish speaking population.[28]


Spanish is official in Spain, the country for which it is named and from which it originated. It is also spoken widely in Gibraltar, although English is used for official purposes.[29] Likewise, it is spoken in Andorra though Catalan is the official language.[30][31] It is also spoken by small communities in other European countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.[32] Spanish is an official language of the European Union. In Switzerland, Spanish is the mother tongue of 1.7% of the population, representing the first minority after the 4 official languages of the country [33]


Although Spanish was an official language in the Philippines, it was never spoken by a majority of the population. Its importance fell in the first half of the 20th century following the US occupation and administration of the islands. The introduction of the English language in the Filipino government system put an end to use of Spanish as the official language. The language lost its status in 1987, during the Corazon Aquino administration. According to the 1990 census, there were 2,658 native speakers of Spanish.[34] The number of Spanish speakers, however, are not available in the ensuing 1995 and 2000 censuses. Additionally, according to the 2000 census, there are over 600,000 native speakers of Chavacano, a Spanish based creole spoken in Cavite and Zamboanga. Many Philippine languages have numerous Spanish loanwords. See also: Spanish language in the Philippines


In Africa, Spanish is official in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon (only Cocobeach). It is also spoken in the territories of Peñón de Alhucemas, Ceuta, the Chafarinas Islands, Melilla, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, and in the autonomous community of Canary Islands. In Morocco, a former Franco-Spanish protectorate that is also geographically close to Spain, approximately 20,000 people speak Spanish.[35]


Among the countries and territories in Oceania, Spanish is also spoken in Easter Island, a territorial possession of Chile. According to the 2001 census, there are approximately 95,000 speakers of Spanish in Australia, 44,000 of which live in Greater Sydney.

The island nations of Guam, Palau, Northern Marianas, Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia all once had Spanish speakers, since Marianas and Caroline Islands were Spanish colonial possessions until late 19th century (see Spanish-American War), but Spanish has since been forgotten. It now only exists as an influence on the local native languages.


There are important variations among the regions of Spain and throughout Spanish-speaking America. In Spain the Castilian dialect pronunciation is commonly regarded as the national standard, although a use of slightly different pronouns called laísmo of this dialect is deprecated. More accurately, for nearly everyone in Spain, "standard Spanish" means "pronouncing everything exactly as it is written",[citation needed] an ideal which does not correspond to any real dialect, though the northern dialects get the closest to it. In practice, the standard way of speaking Spanish in the media is "written Spanish" for formal speech, "Madrid dialect" (one of the transitional variants between Castilian and Andalusian) for informal speech.[citation needed]

Spanish has three second-person singular pronouns: , usted, and in some parts of Latin America, vos (the use of this form is called voseo). Generally speaking, and vos are informal and used with friends (though in Spain vos is considered an archaic form for address of exalted personages, its use now mainly confined to the liturgy). Usted is universally regarded as the formal address (derived from vuestra merced, "your grace"), and is used as a mark of respect, as when addressing one's elders or strangers.

Vos is used extensively as the primary spoken form of the second-person singular pronoun in many countries of Latin America, including Argentina, Costa Rica, the central mountain region of Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, the Antioquia and Valle del Cauca states of Colombia and the State of Zulia in Venezuela. In Argentina, Uruguay, and increasingly in Paraguay, it is also the standard form used in the media, but the media in other countries with voseo generally continue to use usted or except in advertisements, for instance. Vos may also be used regionally in other countries. Depending on country or region, usage may be considered standard or (by better educated speakers) to be unrefined. Interpersonal situations in which the use of vos is acceptable may also differ considerably between regions.

Spanish forms also differ regarding second-person plural pronouns. The Spanish dialects of Latin America have only one form of the second-person plural for daily use, ustedes (formal or familiar, as the case may be, though vosotros non-formal usage can sometimes appear in poetry and rhetorical or literary style). In Spain there are two forms — ustedes (formal) and vosotros (familiar). The pronoun vosotros is the plural form of in most of Spain, but in the Americas (and certain southern Spanish cities such as Cádiz or Seville, and in the Canary Islands) it is replaced with ustedes. It is remarkable that the use of ustedes for the informal plural "you" in southern Spain does not follow the usual rule for pronoun-verb agreement; e.g., while the formal form for "you go", ustedes van, uses the third-person plural form of the verb, in Cádiz or Seville the informal form is constructed as ustedes vais, using the second-person plural of the verb. In the Canary Islands, though, the usual pronoun-verb agreement is preserved in most cases.

Some words can be different, even embarrassingly so, in different Hispanophone countries. Most Spanish speakers can recognize other Spanish forms, even in places where they are not commonly used, but Spaniards generally do not recognise specifically American usages. For example, Spanish mantequilla, aguacate and albaricoque (respectively, "butter", "avocado", "apricot") correspond to manteca, palta, and damasco, respectively, in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. The everyday Spanish words coger (to catch, get, or pick up), pisar (to step on) and concha (seashell) are considered extremely rude in parts of Latin America, where the meaning of coger and pisar is also "to have sex" and concha means "vulva". The Puerto Rican word for "bobby pin" (pinche) is an obscenity in Mexico, and in Nicaragua simply means stingy. Other examples include taco, which means "swearword" in Spain but is known to the rest of the world as the Mexican foodstuff. Pija in many countries of Latin America is an obscene slang word for penis, while in Spain the word signifies "posh girl" or "snobby". Coche, which means car in Spain, means pig in Guatemala[citation needed] while carro means "car" in some Latin American countries and "cart" in others as well as in Spain.

The Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy), together with the 21 other national ones (see Association of Spanish Language Academies), exercises a standardizing influence through its publication of dictionaries and widely respected grammar and style guides. Due to this influence and for other sociohistorical reasons, a standardized form of the language (Standard Spanish) is widely acknowledged for use in literature, academic contexts and the media.

Writing system

Spanish is written using the Latin alphabet, with the addition of the character ñ (eñe), which represents the phoneme /ɲ/ and is regarded as a letter of its own distinct from n, despite being typographically an n with a tilde. The digraphs ch (che) and ll (elle) are considered single letters, with their own names and places in the alphabet, because each represents a single phoneme (/tʃ/ and /ʎ/, respectively). However, the digraph rr (erre doble, "double r", or simply erre as opposed to ere), which also represents a single phoneme /r/, was not similarly regarded as a single letter. Thus, the traditional Spanish alphabet had 28 letters (29 if one counted w, which is only used in foreign names and loanwords):

a, b, c, ch, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, ll, m, n, ñ, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.

Since 1994, the two digraphs are to be treated as letter pairs for collation purposes. Words with ch are now alphabetically sorted between those with ce and ci, instead of following cz as they used to, and similarly for ll. Nevertheless, the names che and elle are still used colloquially.

With the exclusion of a very small number of regional terms such as México (see Mexico: Toponymy), pronunciation can be entirely determined from spelling. A typical Spanish word is stressed on the syllable before the last if it ends with a vowel (not including y) or with a vowel followed by n or s; it is stressed on the last syllable otherwise. Exceptions to this rule are indicated by placing an acute accent on the stressed vowel.

The acute accent is used, in addition, to distinguish between certain homophones, especially when one of them is a stressed word and the other one is a clitic: compare el ("the", masculine singular definite article) with él ("he" or "it"), or te ("you", object pronoun), de (preposition "of" or "from"), and se (reflexive pronoun) with ("tea"), ("give") and ("I know", or imperative "be").

The interrogative pronouns (qué, cuál, dónde, quién, etc.) also receive accents in direct or indirect questions, and some demonstratives (ése, éste, aquél, etc.) can be accented when used as pronouns. The conjunction o ("or") is written with an accent between numerals so as not to be confused with a zero: e.g., 10 ó 20 should be read as diez o veinte rather than diez mil veinte ("10,020"). Accent marks are frequently omitted in capital letters (a widespread practice in the early days of computers where only lowercase vowels were available with accents), although the RAE advises against this.

In rare cases, u is written with a diaeresis (ü) when it comes between g and a front vowel (e or i), to indicate that it should be pronounced, rather than silent as usual (e.g., cigüeña, "stork", is pronounced /θ̟ɰweɲa/, /s̟ɰweɲa/; if it were written cigueña, it would be pronounced /θ̟ɰeɲa/, /s̟ɰeɲa/).

Interrogative and exclamatory clauses are introduced with inverted question ( ¿ ) and exclamation marks ( ¡ ).


By the 16th century, the consonant system of Spanish underwent the following important changes that differentiated it from neighboring Romance languages such as Portuguese and Catalan:

  • Initial /f/, when it had evolved into a vacillating /h/, was lost in most words (although this etymological h- is preserved in spelling and in some Andalusian dialects is still aspirated).
  • The bilabial approximant /β̞/ (which was written u or v) merged with the bilabial oclusive /b/ (written b). There is no difference between the pronunciation of orthographic b and v in contemporary Spanish, excepting specific areas in Spain (particularly the ones influenced by Catalan) and Latin America.
  • The voiced alveolar fricative /z/ which existed as a separate phoneme in medieval Spanish merged with its voiceless counterpart /s/. The phoneme which resulted from this merger is currently spelled s.
  • The voiced postalveolar fricative /ʒ/ merged with its voiceless counterpart /ʃ/, which evolved into the modern velar sound /x/ by the 17th century, now written with j, or g before e, i. Nevertheless, in most parts of Argentina and in Uruguay, y and ll have both evolved to /ʒ/ or /ʃ/.
  • The voiced alveolar affricate /dz/ merged with its voiceless counterpart /ts/, which then developed into the interdental /θ/, now written z, or c before e, i. But in Andalusia, the Canary Islands and the Americas this sound merged with /s/ as well. See Ceceo, for further information.

The consonant system of Medieval Spanish has been better preserved in Ladino and in Portuguese, neither of which underwent these shifts.

Lexical stress

Spanish has a phonemic stress system — stress is fixed, and different stress patterns of the same word can result in separate meanings for one and the same word. Spanish makes abundant use of this feature, especially in distinguishing verb conjugation forms. For example, the word camino (with penultimate stress) means "road" or "I walk" whereas caminó (with final stress) means "you (formal)/he/she/it walked". Another example is the word práctico (first-syllable stress) "practical", which is different from practico (second-syllable stress) "I practice," and practicó (last-syllable stress) "you (formal)/he/she/it practiced." Also, since Spanish syllables are all pronounced at a more or less constant tempo, the language is said to be syllable-timed.

As mentioned above, stress can always be predicted from the written form of a word. An amusing example of the significance of stress and intonation in Spanish is the riddle como como como como como como, to be punctuated and accented so that it makes sense. The answer is ¿Cómo "cómo como"? ¡Como como como! ("What do you mean / 'how / do I eat'? / I eat / the way / I eat!").


Spanish is a relatively inflected language, with a two-gender system and about fifty conjugated forms per verb, but limited inflection of nouns, adjectives, and determiners. (For a detailed overview of verbs, see Spanish verbs and Spanish irregular verbs.)

It is right-branching, uses prepositions, and usually (though not always) places adjectives after nouns. Its syntax is generally Subject Verb Object, though variations are common. It is a pro-drop language (allows the deletion of pronouns when pragmatically unnecessary) and verb-framed.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Do you need more reasons to come study Spanish in Costa Rica at INTENSA Spanish language schools?

Top Ten List
Reasons to learn Spanish.

10. Learning Spanish is necessary to keep pace with popular culture.

Learning Spanish will enable you to keep pace with Hispanic influence on culture which is strong and getting stronger. For example, do you remember that Taco Bell commercial with the little dog? Did you know that his motto, "Yo quiero Taco Bell" is actually a play on words? In Spanish, "yo quiero" means both "I want" and "I love." So, that cute little dog was actually pulling your leg as he said both: "I want Taco Bell" and "I love Taco Bell."

9. Learning Spanish is actually a medical device!

Research indicates that knowing and using two languages reduces your chances of developing dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease. The scientists who studied this were motivated by earlier studies which showed that bilingualism enhances mental abilities in both children and older adults. Other studies show that studying languages can improve your memory and slow age-related decline in mental acuity. And studying another language makes you smarter! Your critical thinking skills will be improved as you learn to view things through a different lens. Learning a second language stimulates creativity!

8. For many, learning Spanish is rapidly becoming a business necessity.

Spanish is becoming more and more important with regards to business. Learning Spanish will enable you to better communicate with Spanish speaking employees or co-workers. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to offer your product or service to the 350 million people whose mother tongue is Spanish? In North America, Hispanic consumers are the fastest-growing market segment. As for job opportunities, it certainly wouldn't hurt to have Spanish on your résumé. In the United States, knowing Spanish can be particularly helpful if you work in healthcare or education. Increasingly, the building trades are employing more and more Spanish speaking workers. One thing is certain. If you are bilingual, you will be more marketable and have more career choices than your monolingual counterpart. Globalization, with it's accompanying free trade agreements is shrinking the business world, and those who know more than one language will definitely have the edge.

7. Spanish, Spanish everywhere.

With well over 35 million Spanish speakers in the United States, and with over 40% of the population growth being among the Hispanic people, the stage is set for an enormous increase in Spanish usage in the United States. This has sparked a lot of interest among US citizens, a group not particularly known for their multilingualism. This interest will only increase as the Hispanic population of the US approaches 50 million by the year 2015. But it's not only in the US where Spanish is popular. In Europe, Spanish is the second most popular second language, after English. With some 400 million speakers, Spanish is the fourth most commonly spoken language in the world. Only Mandarin, English and Hindi have more speakers. If you count only native speakers, Spanish outranks English. Spanish is an official language on four continents and is the mother tongue in 21 countries. The sheer number of Spanish speakers and their rate of growth makes learning Spanish a smart choice.

6. Learning Spanish will (truly) expand your universe.

According to Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, "the limits of my language are the limits of my universe." There is no doubt that learning Spanish will expand your own personal universe. As the Hispanic population continues to grow at a disproportionate rate, it becomes more and more likely that you might marry into a Spanish speaking family, have Spanish speaking neighbors or encounter Spanish speaking people in your daily rounds. No longer are the Spanish speakers in the US confined to the border states and big cities. Today, nearly all areas have some sort of Hispanic population. Wouldn't it be nice to say hello and chat with your fellow paisanos (countrymen)?

5. Knowing Spanish will completely transform your travel experience.

While it is certainly possible to travel to a Spanish speaking country without knowing any Spanish, your trip will in no way compare with the incredible adventure that awaits the traveler who speaks Spanish. If you only speak English, you will be forced to confine yourself to popular tourist resorts where nearly everyone speaks some English. But if you want to explore the area and get to know the local people, you need to know Spanish. Even simple things, such as reading signs and menus, asking directions or telling a cab driver where you want to go requires some knowledge of the language. Hispanic people are amazingly generous, and if you speak Spanish you will find yourself being welcomed in a way that would never happen if you spoke only English. Simply put, when you travel to a Spanish speaking country, knowing the language will allow you to move from the role of observer to that of an active participant.

4. Knowing how to speak Spanish will enable you to help others.

If you are the type of person who likes to help others, learning to speak Spanish will put you in a postion where you can help both Spanish speakers who don't speak English and English speakers who don't speak Spanish. Now that's what we like to call a "win-win" situation. Unfortunately, the standard of living in many Spanish speaking countries is rather low by normal Western standards. Sometimes, it is appalingly low. Without stereotyping Latin America as a poverty stricken region (in many cases that simply is not true) there are nonetheless a lot of people in serious need. Learning Spanish will prepare you for taking the next step, --- actually going there and making a difference!

3. There are reasons to learn language for language's sake.

While Johann Wolfgang von Goethe may have been exaggerating when he said, "he who knows no foreign language, knows nothing of his own," it cannot be denied that by studying Spanish you will without doubt gain a better understanding of English. Spanish is what we call a "Romance" language, meaning that it is based on Latin, the language of the ancient Roman Empire. Many English words are also of Latin origin, and so when you learn vocabulary in Spanish you will simultaneously be expanding your English vocabulary. You will also find that your understanding of the deep meaning of these Latin based English words is greatly enhanced. Also, as you study the grammar of Spanish, you will notice how it is similar to English, as well as how it is different. This will raise your awareness of the grammar of your native language. Because Spanish is very nearly phonetically perfect, you can look at almost any word and immediately know exactly how to pronounce it. This characteristic makes Spanish one of the easiest languages to learn. And, when it comes to learning a third language, such as French or Italian, already knowing Spanish will be a huge advantage because these languages, too, are Romance Languages.

2. Learning Spanish will allow you to better appreciate Hispanic cultural contributions.

For many people, developing a deeper understanding of Hispanic culture is becoming more and more important. There is no more certain way to gain this insight than to learn to speak Spanish. Reading Latin American or Spanish newspapers and magazines will open a window into the Hispanic mind. Knowing the language will prepare you to better appreciate some of the great Hispanic modern and classic cultural contributions. From Miguel Cervantes to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Hispanic literary contributions are monumental. From the royal portraits of Goya to the surreal depictions of Picasso, Spanish influence on the fine arts has been substantial. And let's not ignore gastronomy! Learning Spanish can be the perfect excuse for enjoying the cuisine of Spanish speaking peoples. Burritos, tamales, paella, papusas, arroz con frijoles, ceviche, --- the list goes on and on, and is a delicious indicator of the vast diversity of Hispanic culture. Is it any wonder then that more and more people want to partake of these cultural delights?

1. Learning Spanish is fun!

Learning Spanish opens up lots of opportunities to have more fun. Who doesn't enjoy reading a good book or watching a good movie? Music? You bet! Food? The best! The satisfaction of accomplishment? It's there waiting for you to grab it! For all of the reasons mentioned above, and a whole lot that haven't been mentioned, learning Spanish can be one of the most enjoyable things you will ever do. Whether your motivations are practical, intellectual or sentimental, learning Spanish is something that will benefit you for the rest of your life!

So visit INTENSA Spanish language schools and let the fun begin!