Category Archives: Learn to Speak Spanish

Tips and tricks for studying Spanish. Learn some basic Spanish words, phrases and grammar that may help you in a Spanish conversation.

Proofread a Spanish text: written accents (II)

Time ago we talked about written accents in Spanish in order to proofread a Spanish text. Today we will look to written accents when two vowels go together.

In Spanish we have two kind of vowels:

  1. Strong vowels are “a”, “e” and “o”.
  2. Weak vowels are “i” and “u”.

When a strong vowel goes with a weak one, it usually is one single syllable. For example: cuerda.

When there are two weak vowels it also is one syllable such as: ruido.

But, when there are two strong vowels, they will be in different syllables, as for example: caer that is pronounced ca-er.

In general, you need to follow the rules stated in the previous post about written accents (you have the link in the first line of this post). So in the word “consideración” as the stressed syllable is the last one and it ends with an “n” it needs a written accent. If that is the case the accent will go in the strong vowel. Same happens with “después”. If the two vowels are weak the written accent goes in the second one. The same works for two strong vowels.

But, when these rules about the syllable don’t work, you need to mark the vowels with a written accent. You will understand with the following example.

In BIOLOGÍA, I is weak and A  is strong, so it should be one syllable, however in Spanish we say BIO-LO-GÍ-A. To separate the I and the A you need the written accent. In BIO as the weak and strong vowels are together you don’t need any accent. Also, there is not such word in Spain with more than one written accent.

 

Spanish around the globe

Are you thinking about to create a Spanish version of your website? here a post that will help you to do so. Spanish is one of the most important languages in the world and also one of the most spoken ones. It is one of the 6 official languages of the United Nations. Spanish is a language from the romance languages family, alongside French, Italian, Portuguese, Occitan, Catalan, Romanian and others. The root of all these languages is the Indo-European languages family, an even more primitive group that was formed thanks to the immigration of people from the Indian Peninsula to Europe, and viceversa, between an estimated time of 3000 years, from 4000 BC to 1000 BC. The origin of Spanish itself takes us back to the 13th century, where the first written standard of this language was first developed, in Toledo, Spain. After that, Spanish has been spreading all over the world and its inhabitants, specially with the military interventions and invasions that Spain conducted to America, Africa and Asia, from the 15th to the 18th centuries, and after that the massive immigration of people from Spanish-speaking countries to another, such as United States and Europe countries.

According to Ethnologue[1], Spanish is currently positioned 2° in the ranking of languages by total number of speakers, with around 470 million speakers worldwide. These speakers are distributed in Europe, South America and Central America specially, where Spanish is the official language for almost every country in this areas (Except Europe). The most populated countries who are examples of the regions mentioned above are Mexico (117 million speakers), United States (around 52 million speakers), Colombia (47 million speakers), Spain (46 million speakers), Argentina (42 million speakers), Venezuela (29 million speakers), and many others, like Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Guatemala, Portugal, Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Italy. Also, Spanish is spoken in other continents and regions, like Asia and Africa. For example, Equatorial Guinea (almost 1 million speakers), Morocco (3 million speakers), and Western Sahara (22,000 speakers) are cases in Africa. In Asia, Spanish is spoken in the Philippines (more than 3 million speakers), Israel (175,000 speakers) and Turkey (13,000 speakers). There are also 447,000 persons who speak Spanish in Australia, and 47,000 in New Zealand, both countries located in Oceania.

There are different dialects and forms to speak Spanish; the Latin American Spanish, Spain Spanish, Mexican Spanish, African Spanish and other examples, each one with different words and unique uses and phrase structure (in some cases).

[1] A web-based publication that contains statistics for 7,106 languages and dialects.

Proofread a Spanish text: written accents.

Proofread Spanish
Writing through the raincreative commons licensed ( BY-ND ) flickr photo shared by josemanuelerre

Proofreading a Spanish text is not just focusing the grammar and the spelling. There is another important factor that  you need to take into consideration, which are the written accents.

One of the basic rules to put written accents need you to classify the words into three categories.

Words called “agudas”

In these words the stressed syllable is the last one.

You need to put a written accent in these words when they finish in a vocal, or in “s” or “t”.

For instances: París, Colón, Jesús and Mamá.

Words called “llanas” or “graves”

In these words the stressed syllable is the second-to-last.

You need to put written accent in these words when they finish in a consonant different to “s” or “n”.

For example: Ángel, ábol or fácil.

Words called “esdrújulas” and “sobreesdrújulas”

In these words the stressed syllable is onte previous to the second-to-last.

These words always have written accent.

In the future we will talk about more rules for written accents in Spanish, but from now, try to don’t skip any of the ones commented above.

 

Articles in Spanish, el, la, los, las Vs un, una, unos, unas

When writing in Spanish one of the hardest things for foreign speakers is when to use definitie articles like el, la, los, las and when to use indefinite articles such as uno, una, unos, unas.

There are a lot theory about this, but today I will explain the most basic rule, which is the most generic and the one that you will need to use more likely.

You have to use indefinite articles: uno, una, unos, unas…

…when is the first time that you are talking about your subject.

For example: Este verano fui a una boda.

This is the first time that you are talking about the wedding, so you need to use indefinite article UNA.

You have to use definite articles: el, la, los las…

…when the people that you are talking to have heard about the subject before.

For example: La boda fue muy divertida.

Now you are talking about the wedding that you have mentioned before and your listener knows it.

So if you say: Este verano fui a la boda

If you have never mentioned the wedding before your listener will ask you about what wedding. Because using definite article la you are saying that the listener already knows what wedding, so if your listener doesn’t know, he will feel uncomfortable, as your message is saying he should know.

In the other hand if you say: Este verano fui a una boda

Your listener is aware that is the first time that you are speaking about the wedding, so he won’t feel bad about not knowing anything about it. If he is curious he could ask: whose wedding? (¿la boda de quién?) but he knows that it is the first time you are talking about the wedding so it is ok that he doesn’t know anything about it. In this case it would be normal that your listener don’t ask anything about the wedding since he is comfortable knowing nothing about it.

Are you looking for a Spanish copywriter, contact me please !

New words in Spanish

When writing your website content, have you ever been guessing if a word exists in Spanish? Here we talk about the RAE institution and the best place to check wheather a words exists or not in Spanish.

Spanish is a very fluid language; in fact, there are hundreds of new words each year, all of them approved and institutionalized by the Real Academia Española or RAE (Grand Spanish Academy, in English) in their official dictionary. Most of these new words are related to technology, industry, everyday life or similar topics. The usage of new words comes from the deformation of an original word in another language (for example, “cederrón” for CD-ROM) or when an important group of people from some region or culture starts to introduce a new term to refer to something that already exists (or not, in cases of new inventions, new places, new discoveries, etc.), and sometimes when an original word in Spanish is spelled or used incorrectly, but this mistaken word has such intense usage in some communities and populations that finally becomes officially approved. Also, in lesser amount, in some cases original words from other languages are added in the dictionary just like the way they are spelled in the original language (for example, “performance” from French), or translated terms when a new word is created in another language.

RAE institution has more than 300 years of existance (was founded in 1714 in Spain). It is located in Madrid, Spain, and it is famous in this country and in every other Spanish speaking place in the world, like South America and some places in Africa . There has been, so far, 23 editions of the official dictionary of the RAE. Also, the institution is dedicated to perform other kind of linguistic works, like the grammar manual. Even though the Real Academia Española is the most important Spanish linguistic organization, there are more institutions of this nature of target, like the Academia Colombiana de la Lengua, the Academia Ecuatoriana de la Lengua, the Academia Mexicana de la Lengua, and many others, specially in South America.

Despite of its renowned position and respectful reputation, the Real Academia Española has been critized over the years in some aspects of its performances in the Spanish language usage and understanding, with cases considered extreme, for example, when the RAE came up with the suggestion of translating the foreign last names into new words with Spanish fonetics and adding them to the dictionary.

Main Differences and Similarities Between Spanish and English

copywriter Spanish culture
Flamenco: Ilusiones; By Carmel Natan Sheli” creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Flavio~

As Spanish copywriter one of the things I offer to my clients is my knowledge of the Spanish culture. Today I will take a look to some differences between Spanish and English.

Spanish and English are similar languages in some aspects and have particular characteristics in common, while in other cases we can see notorious differences. One of this peculiar similarities is that both languages have thousands of words that are almost the same; they have just a few differences in writing and speaking between them (for example, “institución” and “institution”, “complejo” and “complex”, or “violeta” and “violet”). This was formerly caused by the Roman invasion in Great Britain centuries ago, when they mixed up the Latin with the native Celtic and Anglo-Saxon languages, and then continued over the years when in the Spanish speaking countries the new words in English were adapted and incorporated.

One important difference between Spanish and English is the adjectives and nouns position on the phrase structure. Also, while in English every name, place and special adjectives must start with capital letter, in the Spanish language this is not the same; only names and other few cases must have this condition, but location adjectives and even date names and similar ones don’t require this as an obligation.

Another determinating difference is that in Spanish the person usage can be easily noticed; there are specific words to define if the conversation (or text) is destined to a well known, relative person, or it is a serious conversation that needs formality with an unknown person. This can be seen in the “tú” (or “vos”) and the “usted” words. In English, this distinction is possible by using and remarking other kind of words, because it is always used the “you” word when must refer to another person; it is possible to use a wide range of formal and serious terms to make this possible, and changing the language depending on what person you wish to talk (or write) to.

Finally, English has a huge amount of dilaects and regional divisions, because it is spoken in several countries and places in the world, and this is influenced by the fact that English is also the international language at this time. But Spanish also have lot of regional differences but it seems easier to understand each other for Spanish speakers than the English ones.

Content webite in Spanish, Usted or Tu?

As a writer in Spanish, one of the most common doubts when writing for a website or blog is related to the question: Should I write “tu” or “usted”?

“Usted” is formal, but in Latin America it is used in informal speech too, whereas “tu” is informal and only used in Spain.

The easy way to solve the problem is to always use “usted”; however if you are writing for Spaniards, your website will not be as accurate as it should.

When to use USTED

In business letters and e mails.

In your website content texts, if you want them to sound more formal. Usually when your audience consists of other businesses rather than individuals.

In blogs only when you want to be very formal, as for example if you are a consultant’s or a doctor. However most of them are writing with TU and I think this will be the trend in the coming future.

In adverts only for some financial, health, etc. adverts. But I really don’t recommend it.

When to use TU

In your website content, only if your marketing strategy is a brand that is a friend of the audience. For example, if your target is young people.

In your blog posts.

In adverts.

Things to keep in mind as a Spanish redactor

USTED is boring and serious. You have to decide if you need to sell an engaging brand that is a customer’s friend or a very trustworthy brand.

TU is more engaging, and marketing usually needs to be fun. It is likely accurate for your blog.

TU creates a close relationship with clients.

Usted creates a professional ambience.

With time TU is being more and more accepted, even by elderly people.

Catch it!

creative commons licensed ( BY-ND ) flickr photo shared by (Mick Baker)rooster
creative commons licensed ( BY-ND ) flickr photo shared by (Mick Baker)rooster

When writing in a language that is spoken in several countries, clients usually ask for “neutral language”. A neutral language is a way to express things that sounds more or less natural for all native speakers regardless of where the native speaker was born.

Due to good luck in Spanish we have the Real Academia de la Lengua Española that helps everybody to know what is correct and what is not.

However, there are some expressions that, though are well explained in Real Academia Española’s books, it is hard to imagine how weird they could sound if you use them in them for the wrong audience.

One of these expressions is the word “coger” to catch, which in Spain we use all the time in an innocent way. The problem for Spanish content writers comes when a user from Latin America read it, because in the full continent “coger” is a vulgar way to say have sex.

So Spaniards say “Vamos a coger un taxi” (let’s take a taxi) whilst Latin Americans laugh hard about the idea.

Of course this is great and fun between friends, but when it comes to your website content, it is better if you are aware of it.

So, be careful with this verb if your readers will be out of Spain. As a tip, you can use “tomar” instead of it.

This is one of the reasons for choosing to hire a native speaker when looking for a copywriter in Spanish.