Learning a new skill is always challenging and time-consuming, and even more so if you wish to acquire a language such as Spanish. But we can assure you that learning Spanish is completely worth your time and effort! By becoming fluent in Spanish, you’ll be able to communicate with over 650 million people around the world and access new professional opportunities.
Are you planning to move to Spain or Latin America for work? Are you interested in connecting with the Hispanic culture on a whole new level? Do you have Spanish-speaking friends or family and want to impress them with your language abilities? If this sounds like you, then signing up for Spanish lessons is a great idea! Meanwhile, have a look at the guide below and to learn more about the Spanish language and what resources to use to study from home.
Are Spanish & English Related?
Yes, surprisingly they are! And their relationship started a long time ago, back in the 16th century, when Spanish conquistadores arrived in America and made present-day Florida part of the Spanish Empire. Since then, many words like mosquito or siesta entered the English language and are still used today. Similarly, Spanish has adopted many English terms, like gol (from goal) or cóctel (from cocktail). Learn more about the influence of English in Latin American Spanish with our article!
A Short Guide to the Spanish Pronunciation System
Luckily, something about the Spanish language is not that difficult to learn: its pronunciation system. Different from English, Spanish is a phonetic language, which means that a letter has just one pronunciation. Here’s an example:
In English, the letter “I” has two different pronunciations:
- The “I” in “mind” is pronounced /ai/.
- The “I” in “click” is pronounced /I/.
This doesn’t happen in Spanish. The letter “I” as in tía is always pronounced the same way, regardless of the context (and the same happens with all the rest of the letters). Watch our video and learn more about Spanish pronunciation!
How to Pronounce Spanish Consonants
Spanish has some unique consonant sounds that can be hard to pronounce for beginners. But with a little training, you’ll soon master both vowels and consonants!
- The letter eñe <ñ>, as in niña is pronounced very similarly to an “n” plus “I”: /ninia/.
- The sound /v/ as in “very” doesn’t exist. Instead, you should pronounce words like “vaca” with a /b/.
- The sound /z/, as in “please”, doesn’t exist either. Words with <z> like “zapato” should be pronounced with <s> as in sister.
- The R is one of the most complicated sounds to acquire. You’ll need to tap your tongue very fast to roll it, as in the words perro or rojo. Use this short video guide to practice your Rs with the help of your native tutor!
- Remember the letter <h> is always silent. For instance, words like huevo or hueso are pronounced /uebo/ and /ueso/.
- Don’t pronounce the <u> when it occurs between a <q> and another vowel. The word queso, for example, is /keso/ and not /kweso/.
Spanish Accent Marks
Spanish vowels typically take two accent marks: the tilde (ú) and the diaeresis (ü). In addition to showing you how to pronounce the word (as they signal stress), they can change the meaning of a term. Insulto, for example, is a noun (insult) while insultó is a verb (he insulted me) in the past tense.
Meanwhile, the diaeresis is an accent mark represented by two dots above the letter <u> when it occurs after a <g> that indicates you should pronounce the /u/ (the general rule states the <u> after a <g> is silent). Here are some examples:
How Stress Words in Spanish
The tilde can be hard to master at the beginning, especially because in English you don’t have a similar accent mark. However, with time you’ll learn to appreciate it and see how useful it is when learning pronunciation! Plus, there are many rules that will help you understand when and when not to use the tilde. Find them below:
1- Palabras Agudas
When words carry stress in the last syllable they are called palabras agudas. They take a tilde when the word ends in “n”, “s”, or vowel.
- Perdón → per - dón. It ends in “n” so it takes a tilde.
- Comer → com - er. Although it’s stressed in the last syllable, it ends in “r”, so it doesn’t take a tilde.
- Bebé → be - bé. It ends in a vowel so it takes a tilde.
2- Palabras Graves
In this case, palabras graves are the ones that take the stress in the second-to-last syllable. You should use a tilde only when they do not end in “n”, “s”, or vowel.
- Básquet → bás - quet. It takes an accent mark because it doesn’t end in “n”, “s”, or vowel.
- Tire → ti - re. It doesn’t take an accent mark because it ends in a vowel.
- Cadáver → ca - dá - ver. It takes an accent mark because it doesn’t end in “n”, “s”, or vowel.
3- Palabras Esdrújulas
Although they have a very complicated name, palabras esdrújulas are the easiest to learn. They take the stress in the third-to-last syllable and they always take the tilde, regardless of how they end.
- Acuático → a- cuá - ti - co
- Álvaro → ál - va - ro
- América → A - mé - ri - ca
And that’s it as regards Spanish accentuation rules! Put your skills to the test by practising with your tutor or access sites like Aprender Español or La Dislexia, where you’ll find dozens of exercises and explanations to keep on learning how to use tilde and diaeresis in Spanish!
Learn Spanish Idioms
Idiomatic expressions (also called idioms) are essential to learn when trying to become fluent in another language. As they do not have a literal meaning (like “a piece of cake”, which doesn’t literally refer to the food), they can be complicated to understand if you have never heard them before. To make it a little more difficult, these phrases are many times related to geography. Colombians won’t use the same phrases as Chileans, for example. Here we present you with some general idioms every speaker of Spanish will understand!
|Cuesta un ojo de la cara.||It's too expensive.||Este bolso es muy caro, cuesta un ojo de la cara.|
|Dar en el blanco.||To do things right.||A Juan lo ascendieron, dio en el blanco.|
|Ver las cosas de color rosa.||To be (too) optimistic.||Ella es demasiado optimista, ve las cosas de color rosa.|
|Buscar un príncipe azul.||To look for the perfect man.||Nunca se va a casar si sigue buscando un príncipe azul.|
|Ser la oveja negra.||To be good for nothing (especially when compared with other family members or friends).||Él es la oveja negra de la familia, no se parece en nada a sus hermanas.|
|Estar como una cabra.||To be crazy.||No le prestes atención, está como una cabra.|
|Es pan comido.||It's extremely easy.||Hacer este trabajo es pan comido.|
|No pegar un ojo.||Not being able to sleep at all.||Ayer había mucho ruido, no pude pegar un ojo.|
Are you ready to start expanding your global family while learning a useful skill for business and travel? Take the leap and start learning Spanish with us at Listen & Learn! Reach out to us and we will start preparing a completely personalised programme for you to learn the Spanish you truly need. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram!