Is Spanish Hard to Learn?
It’s time to choose your classes for next semester! You’ve got all your core subjects out of the way, and there’s one spot left for a foreign language. How do you choose? Both high schools and colleges usually offer a variety of foreign language options, but most have one language in common: Spanish. It is an extremely common language to study because of the United States’ close proximity to Latin America. But is it only popular because of geography, or is it also fairly easy to learn? To help you decide whether Spanish is your best foreign language option, let’s see if Spanish is hard to learn!
Deciding if Spanish is Hard to Learn or Not
Deciding a language’s difficulty is quite subjective because each person has strengths in different areas. However, professional linguists have established which languages are harder than others—in comparison to English—by analyzing similarities and differences in syntax, grammar, and vocabulary.
The Foreign Service Institute ranked the 60 most spoken languages in the world from easiest to hardest to learn for native English speakers and separated them into five categories. Category 1 denotes the easiest and category 5, the hardest. Spanish ranks in category 1 as one of the easiest languages to learn! On average, it takes only 575-600 hours to reach proficiency in Spanish.
While this good news should definitely keep you motivated, remember that there are difficult aspects of any language. To make sure you are fully aware of what to expect when learning Spanish, here’s our list of the easiest and hardest components of the language.
Reasons Why Spanish Is Not Hard to Learn
More Cognates Means Faster Comprehension
English shares linguistic roots with Spanish and these similarities manifest as cognates, or words that look or sound similar.
Want to see the power of cognates? Check out this sentence:
El doctor usa el teléfono público en el parque.
Every word in this sentence (apart from the article el) is a cognate! Did you figure out what it means?
The doctor uses the public phone in the park.
Cognates enable you to achieve a high level of comprehension in Spanish very quickly. They help immensely with listening and reading in Spanish, while speaking and writing require a bit more practice. You can’t always just add an -o!
For even more details, read our accompanying blog post on false cognates, where tricky words look similar in Spanish and English, but mean completely different ideas.
Similar Alphabet Means Easier Reading & Writing Skills
Both English and Spanish use the Latin alphabet, which means you don’t have to learn a new alphabet or characters like in other languages. The only difference between the Spanish and English alphabet is the addition of the ñ. Learning one new letter is much easier than dozens!
It may take a few hours to memorize the new letter names, but even without them, you can start reading and writing in Spanish almost immediately.
Pronunciation Is Uncomplicated and Easy to Articulate
Sharing an alphabet also makes the pronunciation much easier to learn. Almost half the letters in the Spanish alphabet are pronounced the same as in English. Unlike English, whose pronunciation rules are seemingly random, Spanish pronunciation doesn’t change (except for some combinations in diphthongs or vowels). Once you master pronunciation, try reading Spanish excerpts out loud and enjoy how awesome you sound!
Reasons Why Spanish Is Hard to Learn
Of course, not everything about Spanish is so straightforward and comparable to English. A couple of things continue to confuse Spanish learners around the world.
Words Are Gendered and Yes, You Have to Memorize Them
During your first couple of Spanish classes, you realize that every noun is either masculine or feminine. Nouns that end in -o are masculine, and nouns that end in -a are feminine–most of the time! Watch out for the exceptions to the rule, and keep in mind that all adjectives also have to agree with the noun they describe.
Grammar Is Complex
English speakers have it easy. Almost every verb in English has only two forms in the simple present tense and one form in the simple past. While in Spanish, almost every verb has a different conjugation in multiple tenses and moods. Additionally, there is a variety of personal pronouns in Spanish that we don’t use in English—5 to be exact! Depending on which form of “you” is used in a sentence, you can communicate respect (usted), closeness (vos), and friendliness (tú) as well as address a group with formality (ustedes) or familiarity (vosotros)
Luckily, rules and patterns exist that make the learning process much easier. You also don’t learn everything all at once, nor do you need to know every single verb tense to talk fluidly and converse with native speakers.
Spanish Is Fluid
Think of Spanish sentences like playdough that you can bend, mold, and squish. Unlike English, there is more than one way to set up a Spanish sentence. The subject can come at the beginning, middle, or end of the sentence, or it can be omitted altogether! For example:
Yo creo que eso es una mentira.
Creo yo que eso es una mentira.
Creo que eso es una mentira.
Eso es una mentira, creo yo.
English: I believe that is a lie. / That is a lie, I believe.
As long as the subject of the sentence is understood (either by the context or the corresponding verb conjugation) the subject pronoun or noun is not needed. It’s actually more common to exclude the subject in conversational Spanish: instead of saying “It is very difficult,” you say Es muy difícil.
Speak for Yourself!
Now you’ve seen why Spanish is both easy and difficult, so it’s time for you to try speaking it yourself. Even the complicated things, like verb conjugations and sentence fluidity, are what makes Spanish a beautiful, expressive language. Start learning Spanish today with one of our skilled Spanish teachers! They’ll help you make sense of noun gender and verb tenses, and you’ll be speaking Spanish in no time! ¡Habla español!