Is Spanish Hard to Learn?
I work at an international school where students choose the additional language they want to learn and Spanish is one of the options. Since they know that I speak it, students often ask me: “is Spanish hard to learn?”
Learning Spanish in the 21st century has become popular, so I guess you want to know the answer yourself.
Keep reading to find out if learning Spanish as a second language is difficult. I’ll tell you how hard it is to learn Spanish or how hard it may be in your case and why.
Is Spanish Easy to Learn?
Yes and no. It depends.
It depends on their mother tongue and the languages you already know. It’s easier to learn a language that is similar to the one(s) you already speak. You encounter similar vocabulary, word order, sounds, and alphabet.
Let’s get into the most interesting findings and explore how hard Spanish is for English speakers, for Filipinos, and for speakers of Hindi and Arabic.
Is Spanish Hard to Learn for English Speakers?
Spanish is actually one of the easiest languages to learn for an English speaker. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you’ll learn it effortlessly. You still need to find your motivation, but the odds are on your side. Why?
First of all, both languages use the same Latin alphabet. (Try learning Russian and you’ll know what I mean.) Spanish pronunciation is straightforward.
Second, English and Spanish have common roots. They both come from the Proto-Indo-European family, although they went different ways.
English joined the Germanic family and Spanish is a Romance language, but they still share lots of common history. For this reason, you’ll encounter many cognates—words that are spelled in a similar or identical way and have the same meaning.
How do you say “actor” in Spanish? Actor. You’ll learn 1,000 Most Common Spanish Words for Beginners quickly.
Third, Spanish follows the same order of words in a sentence: Subject-Verb-Object.
Juan come manzanas.
Juan eats apples.
That’s why Spanish grammar for beginners is easier than you think.
Last but not least, many Spanish resources for English learners exist, so you can find beginner Spanish books and Spanish classes in your area or online.
- 10 Spanish Audio Lessons for Beginners
- Example Spanish Conversations for Beginners
- Ultimate Study Guide for Beginners
Is Spanish Hard for Filipino Speakers?
Filipino speakers pick up Spanish quickly. When I lived and worked in Spain I had a friend from the Philippines who had never studied Spanish before moving to Madrid. We had no problems with understanding each other and communicating.
How is it possible if these languages are not related? Spanish has Proto-Indo-European roots and Filipino (a standardised variety of Tagalog) belongs to the Austronesian group. Still Spanish and Tagalog are similar because of their long common history.
Spanish became the official language of the Philippines at the end of the 16th century and remained as one until 1973, along with English. After that date, it was recognized as an optional and voluntary language.
There are about 4,000 Spanish loanwords in Tagalog (around 33%). Filipino speakers say time in a similar way, days of the week, colors, numbers, and other words.
Spanish and Filipino Cognates
Spanish orthography influenced the Filipino spelling system. The Filipino alphabet “abakada” adapted the Latin alphabet to the Tagalog language. It misses some letters hence the difference in spelling. These are the letters you’ll find in the “abakada”:
a, b, k, d, e, g, h, i, l, m, n, ng, o, p, r, s, t, u, w, y
Grammar has more differences. For example, Filipino has different word order in a sentence—verb-subject-object instead of SVO, and conjugation gives you information about the tense but not the grammatical subject.
Understanding, listening to, writing, and reading Spanish will be easy for a Filipino speaker. All they need to do is to widen their vocabulary and focus on grammar.
Is Spanish Hard for Hindi Speakers?
Yes and no. Some obvious differences may make you think that these two languages have nothing in common. Like the alphabet, for example. My handwriting is not neat, so if I have students from India in my class, I need to make an effort to make my letters clear, as they’re not familiar with them.
However, both languages come from the Proto-Indo-European family, so there are similarities that make Spanish not so hard for Hindi speakers.
The gender concept in Spanish will be understandable as Hindi also has masculine and feminine nouns and adjectives.
In Spanish, you can omit the grammatical person because it’s clear from the verb conjugation who performs the action, and a similar thing happens in Hindi.
Verbs conjugate both in Spanish and Hindi as in other Indo-European languages. There’s also some common vocabulary usually because of the influence of Arabic on both languages.
Spanish and Hindi Cognates
However, I think that’s it for similarities. The word order is different in Hindi as it follows the SOV pattern, instead of the Spanish SVO.
So, is Spanish hard to learn for a Hindi speaker? It’s not impossible, but it presents some challenges—the alphabet being the biggest one.
Is Spanish Hard for Arabic Speakers?
No. As Arabic is generally considered one of the most complex languages, Spanish is a piece of cake for Arabic speakers. I guess you’ll never hear them asking, “Why is Spanish so hard?”
Why? Once again, the answer lies in history.
The Muslims ruled in the Iberian Peninsula for eight centuries, just enough to influence not only the architecture, culture, and cuisine, but also the language.
The Arabic influence on Spanish was mainly lexical and Arabic speakers will find that 8% of Spanish words derived from their language.
The great majority are nouns, but they can also find verbs and adjectives, usually derived from these nouns. The famous ojalá that triggers the subjunctive mood in Spanish also comes from Arabic and means “God willing.”
Arabic and Spanish Cognates
|alberca (swimming pool)||al-birka|
|alcalde (mayor)||al qadi|
Regarding word order, remember that in Spanish it’s SVO as in other Romance languages. However, of the Romance family, the Spanish word order is the least restrictive. You can move the words around and still be understood and considered correct. Linguists say that this is because of the influence of the Arabic word order, VSO.
Spanish pronunciation is easy for Arabic speakers whose sound system is more complex. All the Spanish sounds except the /p/ sound exist in Arabic, even the challenging pronunciation of the letter j between the vowels.
Some similarities between Spanish and Arabic make Spanish easier to learn than, for example, French for Arabic speakers. Pronunciation and vocabulary in some areas will be easier to learn but that’s it for the shortcuts.
Start Learning Spanish Now
So, is Spanish hard to learn? No matter what your mother tongue is, Spanish is generally one of the easiest languages to learn, as it shares some unexpected similarities with many languages. Of course, Spanish still has challenges that may be different for speakers of different languages. Nevertheless, learning Spanish is worth the effort!
Demand for bilingual workers more than doubled in 5 years, which means knowing Spanish can give you an advantage quickly. You’ll be bilingual faster than if you decide to study Chinese. There are many other reasons why it’s important to pick up Spanish even if you didn’t study it in high school. There are more than 400 million Spanish speakers in the world and 33 million of them live in the US.
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