Is it hard to learn Spanish? Why or why not? Is Spanish easy to learn?
Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula of Europe and today, it is a global language with nearly 500 million native speakers, mainly in Spain and the Americas! It is the world’s second-most spoken native language after Mandarin Chinese, the most taught language after English and French, and the world’s fourth-most spoken language overall after English, Mandarin Chinese, and Hindi. It is a phonetic language. This means that there is a direct connection between spelling and sound. Spanish pronunciation is quite easy for an American or German (except for the letter R) and once that letter is mastered, everything becomes easier.
There are a number of personal factors that will affect the ease at which you will absorb the language.
If you are an English speaker or have mastered any of the Romance languages such as Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, or Swedish you can master Spanish despite all difficulties in 23-24 weeks (575-600 hours) – FSI report. That’s because a large part of the construction and many of the words are similar in this group of languages.
Another factor that will help you learn faster is, if you learnt any bit of Spanish in school, you are already aware of basic Spanish or let’s say you have a bit of foundation to build on.
Also, each subsequent language learnt makes you a pro to know the method of learning on its own. You are able to identify your trademark style of learning! Hence, knowing a second language makes learning a third (and fourth and fifth…) language much easier.
You may also have an easier time learning Spanish if you have access to a community of Spanish speaking people. Practising with others in person is an important part of the learning process, and having Spanish speakers near you gives you more opportunities to actually use your Spanish skills.
Learning Spanish is also easier if started at a young age. Kids find it easier to learn new languages because while doing so, they are, picking up information and internalizing it just like their native language. Moreover, the fear or apprehension of speaking a new language is virtually absent in most of them as they learn it playfully, distorting the words but repeating them while playing games and keeping engaged with each other.
Spanish learning also depends largely on the reason one wishes to learn the language or the fluency level one is looking for. For those who wish to master spoken or business Spanish or learn only the basics, the road is much easier.
Should You Try to Learn Spanish Anyway?
Of course! Were you expecting a different answer?
Learning a new language is always an enthralling experience, even more so if you have the odds stacked against you. I have personally known people who never pick easy to do tasks! It’s their thing! They do not feel accomplished and get bored doing it! So if you are one of them, this is all for you!
And mind you if people were to get deterred seeing the complexity and complications of learning new things, we would never have had great brains like Newton, Einstein! Never would have progressed ever in the field of Medicine, Science, Sports!
One important piece of advise – unless you approach learning any new thing with complete heart and soul, efforts, dedicated time, motivation, excitement, chalked-out schedule and commitment you will never make any progress. The same goes for learning a language or learning Spanish. You need to have an intent and need to learn else you will not get any far. Use that as a source of strength when you are disheartened over something. Stop yourself! Collect yourself all over again and restart as fresh with a positive mind. Talk to yourself and believe you do not have am option to fail. YOU HAVE TO DO IT!
If you are not sure how to study the integral aspects of the language, start by learning the rules.
English and Spanish share many many words that look similar and have the same definitions, like adoptar (to adopt) and participar (to participate). These are called English-Spanish cognates, and they make Spanish easier to learn. Since you can tell what a cognate means just by looking at it, you will be starting the learning process with a stack of vocabulary already under your belt.
So many cognates really make life easier for you with the exception to few false cognates such as, embarazada, which actually means pregnant (not embarrassed). Therefore it’s very important to study vocabulary very well and identify false cognates!
A lot of English vocabulary is from Latin and it’s actually very easy to guess what a lot of Spanish words mean. Filosofía, reciente, televisión, astronauta, fruta – it´s not hard to guess is it? Of course, the most common English words are Anglo-Saxon so there are fewer points of contact, but the sheer number of cognates makes Spanish vocabulary easy to understand and remember because even when a word is a bit different e.g. “cobarde” and “coward”, it’s close enough to be memorable. With a wide vocabulary with multiple fixed expressions, technical vocabulary, synonyms that exist at different registers, Spanish still has words that vary between different countries and so on. It’s going to take a LOT of exposure to written and spoken Spanish in multiple contexts to really master it.
Barring an exception of rules fir adjectives, Spanish follows a similar sentence structure to English, which is half the battle won – “Subject, Verb, Object” (SVO) sentence structure. Better than languages that use completely different word orders, so the similarities here mean one less thing to learn!
Conjugating a verb
There are plenty of patterns and rules to know and the more of them you know, the more of the language you will master. For example, conjugating a verb or building a sentence are both fairly uniform throughout the language, requiring you to just learn the rules (we will discuss exceptions to this in a bit).
Patterns are everywhere. Find them. Recognise them.
You will notice quickly, for example, that nouns ending in -o are often masculine while nouns that end in -a are often feminine. Even the exceptions to this have patterns: nouns that end with -ema are nearly always masculine, like el poema (the poem) and el tema (the theme).
Genders follow rules too
Genders can be frustrating at first, but if you study new nouns with their gender attached, you will have an easier time remembering them in conjunction later on. And although they often seem random, there are some rules surrounding genders, too. As you learn, you will start to get a sense of why things are certain genders throughout the language.
For example, a group of mixed gender people will always be referred to in a masculine way, while many animal nouns can be either male or female, depending on the animal’s actual gender.
Spanish is a phonetic language, which means conversion from sound to written is straightforward in Spanish (but still possible, unlike in English!) and each word pronunciation is entirely predictable from its spelling. At the same time pronunciation of Spanish words can be difficult to master since Spanish pronunciation differs significantly from English, even if the letters in Spanish are identical to those of the English alphabet. One must be especially careful with vowels, which use different pronunciations from their English equivalents with the exception of the h that you don’t pronounce, for example as in: Hablo español, the g sound which is more guttural or sounds that are distinctly different eg the ñ sound which is fairly easy to learn,. In a way, vowels in Spanish are easier to learn: Unlike English vowels, which have a number of different pronunciations, Spanish vowels are usually pronounced the same manner no matter what. For example, the letter e is pronounced with an “eh” sound, like in “met.”Nailing those sounds other than the jota, ge and phonemes r’s, can be challenging for non-native speakers, but with some practice, it can eventually be beaten! Sure, you will sound slightly “off” and have an accent, but they are close enough for you to be understood, albeit with an accent. It’s much easier to be understood in Spanish to English speakers.
Plurals are formed in the same way, for the most part, conditional sentences aren´t dissimilar etc Making plurals in Spanish is as straightforward as adding an “-s” if the word ends in a vowel or “-es” if it ends in a consonant.
English speakers I know who´ve learned the Spanish verb system don’t actually find the verb endings difficult, contrary to what you might expect.
While Spanish is technically more complex than with the use of more tenses, it’s actually easier in practice because it is arguably more consistent and logical! There are certain underlying concepts in grammar that are quite similar e.g. the present perfect is used differently but formed in a similar way and has a broadly similar meaning (although in English it´s a present tense that looks back and in Spanish, it’s a past tense looking forward to the present which creates subtle differences). Spanish has a subjunctive, and it has an imperfect past tense. These are concepts that can take a while to get your head around as they are, unlike English where the subjunctive exists only in fossilised contexts.
In my opinion, I will wind up saying
It’s easier to make initial progress in Spanish compared to most other languages, particularly French with its pronunciation difficulties and languages such as German or Russian with their complex grammars. However, to get past a basic level and progress to an intermediate or advanced level is going to take a LOT of work, same as any other language. So while I’d say Spanish is probably slightly easier to learn because there are fewer rules to learn and it’s easier to match spoken sounds to written letters, please bear in mind that “easier to learn” is not necessarily the same as “easier to speak” or “easier to master”.