Advantages of Being a Native English Speaker When Learning Spanish – Spanish Hackers
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Advantages of Being a Native English Speaker When Learning Spanish

By Nate Alger / September 17, 2018

Summer is over and we’re all back to school and work and most of us have probably set some goals we would like to achieve for the remaining part of year. For some of us, it includes improving or learning a new language.

I’m a native speaker of English who started learning Spanish last year and I must say it’s been a good ride simply because I have an amazing private tutor plus I made conscious efforts to start speaking after I learned the sounds.

A brief history of the Spanish language

Before I discuss the advantages a native English speaker has when learning Spanish, let's delve into some history.

The Spanish language began with the linguistic evolution of spoken (vulgar) Latin and originated from the southwest region of Europe known as the Iberian Peninsula.

It is the official language of 21 countries and the second most taught language in the United states of America. It is spoken by approximately 437 million people worldwide and it’s predicted that by the year 2050, 10% of the world’s population will speak Spanish.

Few languages are easy to learn for native English speakers and according to a study of language difficulty conducted by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), Spanish was ranked in the first category.

Languages in this category are the easiest learn for a native English speaker and 23 – 30 weeks or 575 – 600 classroom hours are required to gain proficiency. 

Linguistic cousins

So, what makes Spanish easier to learn than other languages? The answer can be traced to the fact that both Spanish and English share similarities in their alphabets, vocabulary, spelling and grammar structure.

English and Spanish are considered cousins of the same forefather because they belong to the Indo-European family of languages – family of various languages and dialects spoken in most parts of Europe, areas of European settlement, South and Southwest Asia.

Similar alphabets

Both languages use the Latin alphabet and a native English speaker when learning Spanish only has to learn one more letter than is seen in the English alphabet. The letter is (ň (eňe)” and also fits in chronological order into the English alphabet.

The sounds of the letters and capitalization the alphabets are similar in both languages.

Cognates

Furthermore, in terms of appearance, sound and meaning about 30-40% of English words have a word that it is analogous to in Spanish. 

These words which are referred to as English-Spanish cognates help English speakers improve their vocabulary by linking words in their indigenous language.

Word Endings (Suffixes)

An English speaker learning Spanish will notice the following similar patterns:

  • English words ending with “al”, “ar”, “ble” are often identical to their Spanish equivalents. Examples include digital, cultural, vital, essential, solar, popular, angular, incredible, lamentable etc
  • Addition of the letter “e” to the end of English words that end with “ant”. Examples are elegant – elegante”, abundant – abundante, vacant – vacante etc.
  • Replacing the “ate” endings with “ar” for the Spanish version of English words. For example, abbreviate is “abbreviar”, eliminate – eliminar, operate – operar etc.
  • Replacing the “ary” endings with “ario” for the Spanish version of English words. For example, diary – diario, canary – canario, hereditary – hereditario etc.
  • Addition of the letter “o” to the end of English words that end with “ct”. Examples are exact – exacto, pact –pacto, direct – directo etc.
  • The “ify” endings of Infinitives are replaced with “ificar” to derive the Spanish version. Examples are notify – notificar, unify –unificar, rectify – rectificar etc.
  • Words ending with “ence” are replaced with “encia” to derive its Spanish version. Examples are interference – interferencia, audience – audiencia etc.

Word Beginnings (Prefixes)

The prefixes of most English words connote their meanings and nearly all prefixes in both languages are the same. Below are some examples:

  • Inter means between or among: international – internacional, interaction – Interacción
  • Ben means good: benefit – beneficiar
  • Homo means same: homogenize – homogenizer
  • lightbulb-o
    Para means together, with, for: parastatal – paraestatal, paramedic – paramédico
  • lightbulb-o
    Pre means before: premature – premature, prehistoric – prehistórico

Based on the above examples, I hope you’ll see that learning Spanish won’t be a hard task for native English speakers.

If you want to learn the language but do not know where to start,  you may want to consider finding an online Spanish tutor through a tutoring site like Preply.

Face-to face individual lessons with an online tutor will prepare you to speak confidently in a shorter time simple because the schedule is flexible, you don’t have to commute to take lessons, you’ll be comfortable and not shy of making mistakes.

I also recommend reading articles and journals written in Spanish plus writing down new words in a vocabulary book.

 Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or get too worried about figuring out Spanish grammar rules because once you grasp the accent and pronunciation, remembering most words won’t be difficult.

So why learn Spanish you may ask?

Well, proficiency in the language will boost your career and business prospects, help you become a self-reliant traveler, train your brain (according to research, people who speak more than one language have better cognitive function as they grow older) and many more.

Learning Spanish will not only blow your mind but it is an amazing way to have fun plus Spanish people are warm and feel complimented when you try to speak their language.

About the author

Nate Alger

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