4 Mar
2016

Say What?! Spanish Language Differences that Make You Look Twice!

grammarWhen we send Spanish Schoolhouse newsletters, emails, and other communication to parents, we love to include Spanish captions and phrases.  Perhaps you’ve noticed some unusual styles and wondered if our proofreader had taken the day off!  This article will shine a little light on some interesting differences.

 ¿Sabías que?  Did you know?

Spanish uses the entire English alphabet, but includes a 27th letter – “ñ.” This appears after “n” in the alphabet, so words that contain it follow those with “n” in the dictionary.

 There used to be 29 letters!! Until recently, the Spanish alphabet included two additional letters, “ch” and “ll”, but these are no longer recognized as individual letters. 

 Lonely letters: It’s interesting to note that even though “k” and “w” are in the Spanish alphabet, they only appear in words that have been borrowed from other languages, such as “karate,” “kilo,” “whiskey,” and “water polo.”

Spanish has some unique punctuation marks. The upside down question mark and exclamation point are probably among the first things to catch the English eye. In Spanish, these marks are used at both the beginning and end of a sentence.  If a sentence contains more than a question, the question marks frame the question only:

                 ¿Cómo estás?  How are you?

                 Si tienes hambre ¿por qué no comes?  If you’re hungry, why don’t you eat?

                 ¡Qué divertido!  How fun!

 

In Spanish, it’s common to see a double negative. Since two negative words in English imply a positive meaning (“I don’t do nothing” means “I do something”) this can be confusing!  However, in Spanish, it’s perfectly correct sentence structure to use multiple negative words as they emphasize the meaning, rather than contradict it. “Yo no hago nada” translates literally as “I don’t do nothing” but actually means “I don’t do anything”. 

 In Spanish, as in other romance languages, adjectives tend to follow the nouns they modify. There are some exceptions, but this is the most common format:  Tengo un perro grande.  I have a big dog. 

 For written numerals, in many Spanish countries a period is used instead of a comma to separate the thousands, and a comma to separate cents.  El precio de los materiales es de $ 1.050,99. The price of the materials is $1,050.99. 

Capitalization in Spanish is sparse compared to English! Country names are capitalized, but the names of nationalities and languages are not.  The names of months and days are lower case.  Titles of songs, movies, and books generally only have their first letter of the title capitalized.  Some abbreviations are capitalized but the full word is not, for example, “Sr. Rodriguez” but not “señor Rodriguez.”

 Now when you see us using the styles above, you’ll recognize them as intentional!  They’re just some of the many things that make learning a language challenging, interesting, and fun.  What grammar questions do you have?  Ask in the comments section below and we’ll follow up in a future post!

2 Comments

  • Thanks for posting this! I was wondering why my daughter didn’t sing the “ch”, “ll”, and “rr”, in the alphabet, like I had learned it many years ago, and now I know!

    • Glad to clear that one up for you!

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