Spanish and English – the same difference?


As a finale to our Spanish language month, I thought I’d provide you with some interesting insights on the language itself. As you may have noticed from this month’s Spanish-related blog posts, History of the Spanish Language and Spanish Translation Across the Globe, there are several aspects of the language that can be confusing but overall it is thought to be one of the easiest languages for English speaking people to learn. But bear in mind, from a linguistic point of view, the language has some very interesting features that set it aside from English.

Understanding Spanish is about identifying the differences.

The early Latin origins of both English and Spanish mean that the two languages share a variety of common words. In most cases these shared words have linguistic similarities and are extremely close if not practically identical. Spanish words that end in –ción have a lot of cross over with English words ending in –tion. In many cases, changing the ending over means you’ll have the same word in the other language. For example, the term ‘publicación’ in Spanish means the same as ‘publication’ in English – printed material offered for sale or distribution. But don’t be fooled – this isn’t always the case.

The crossover of words isn’t just from their joint Latin past; English uses a number of Spanish words known as ‘loan words’. As the name suggests these are words borrowed from Spanish and used in English. You can find quite a number of these including terms such as ‘alligator’ and ‘flotilla’. The former of these actually means ‘the lizard’ in Spanish.

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On the other hand, you can get tricked by the similarities as there are some key Spanish false cognates, or false friends, which can cause confusion. A false friend is a word written the same or similarly in two languages but with different meanings. ‘Bizarre’ for example, comes from the Spanish word ‘bizarro’ but in Spanish it means ‘brave’ or ‘noble’. They use ‘extraño’ when we say ‘bizarre’.

One of the biggest differences between English and Spanish is the grammatical use of gender when describing something. In Spanish all nouns having a grammatical gender; the use of ‘la’ and ‘el’ for feminine and masculine forms respectively is similar to the use of ‘the’ in English. The trick here is to learn which gender is appropriate for each Spanish word while the English equivalent is used across the board.

What is the final outcome?

If this is all a bit confusing for you, the best way to understand Spanish is to immerse yourself in it. This will help you appreciate the use of gender, false friends and loan words. The extent to which Spanish is spoken around the world means understanding it holds a lot of value.

As I’ve mentioned, there are many similarities between English and Spanish and their shared history is a major factor in this. These linguistic quirks as it would seem from an English speaking point of view are what shape the Spanish language and give it character. Spanish culture has a lot of history with the language making up a big part of it. For an English speaker, the similarities between English and Spanish really make it an interesting language. Please feel free to share your comments on your experience with the Spanish language.