8 Difficulties Facing Spanish Learners

By OptiLingo

What Challenges Do Native English Speakers Face When Learning Spanish?

Spanish is a widespread language that’s growing in popularity every day. Mexico holds the most speakers followed in second place by the United States. It’s a cool, colorful, and eloquent Romance language that has a rich history from its creations as a result of the spread of Latin throughout Europe. Because of its 450 million speakers, learning Spanish can give you an advantage in the world, but there are several difficulties facing native English speakers.

No language is truly easy to learn. There are some that are, on the surface at least, easier to learn than others. This has to deal more with how closely that language is to the native language of the person trying to learn it. To remove any difficulty, you’ll want to make sure you pick the best language learning program before you start reading your Spanish language book,  This will save you some time by avoiding some of the typical difficulties beginning learners have with they try to become fluent in Spanish.

Rolling the “R” (Alveolar Trill)

Learning how to roll the “r” has created a mound of problems for many Spanish learners. It is possibly one of the most complained about aspects of the language. English pronounces “r” without any tongue rolling. However, in Spanish, you will have to learn to roll your R’s to communicate properly.

One very important point to note is that there is no scientific evidence that proves some people can and some people can’t roll their R’s. It’s a skill that requires practice. And if helps, there are plenty of native Spanish speakers who can’t pronounce their R’s, so give it a try.

You should also be aware that there are two different ways to pronounce the R. If a word has two Rs, you would roll your tongue longer than a word with only one R. Failing to do this, could alter the meaning of the word.

Pronouncing Spanish Words

Spanish pronunciation can trip up language learners because the sounds are different than what they’re used to in English. However, one great thing about Spanish is that while there are specific rules for punctuation, they’re very strict. Once you learn them, they stay the same. For example, you will always pronounce vowels the same way. This lack of exceptions makes it much easier to learn how to pronounce. Still, there are a few tricky ones:

  • B/V: Despite being different, nearly in all instances you’ll pronounce these letters the same, usually the “b” sound
  • H: Think of “hola.” The “h”Is always silent. If it’s a loanword then it’s pronounced. It can also be pronounced if used with “ch”
  • J: more of an exhale than an actual consonant, it’s like saying the “haaa” of “hot
  • LL: Sounds like the English “y” as opposed to an ‘l’ sound

Practice will play a huge role in remembering these sounds and mastering them. Spanish pronunciation tends to follow stricter rules than in English, however. This means that there’s less of a chance that you’ll make mistakes after you learn the rules.

Different Spanish Dialects

Spanish is the official language of over 20 different countries. And in terms of native speakers, it’s the second most spoken language on the planet as a result of early colonialism and exploration. This can also make it difficult when speaking a version of Spanish in a different part of the world.

There is a bit of bias on which version of Spanish is the best, depending on who you ask. The truth is that there is a great deal of variation in the language, depending on the location. Chilean Spanish is much different in pronunciation compared to Mexican Spanish or even the Castilian Spanish spoken in Spain. If you’re trying to learn Spanish and you focus on the Castilian dialect, then you will have to learn more vocabulary when you travel to other regions of the world.

“Estar” vs. “Ser”

The “to be” verb in Spanish has two versions. “Estar” points to passing experiences, what’s happening in the moment, being hungry for instance. “Ser,” however, refers to permanent concepts, like being tall or a specific skin color. Mixing these up can create humorous and embarrassing moments, so be careful.

Grammatical Gender of Nouns

English lacks gendered nouns; however, Spanish, along with many other languages has gendered nouns. This means that each noun is either feminine or masculine. What can make it more complicated is that adjectives have to be modified to fit the gender of the noun they describe. A simple strategy to give you an advantage would be to make sure you memorize the article and an adjective with the noun.

Speed of Native Speakers

If you’ve ever listened to a native speaker of a language you’re trying to learn, it can seem like the words are whizzing by you. You may stumble and stammer your way to comprehension. And if you’re listening to Spanish, you may even think that you’re struggling with one of the easiest languages to learn as an English speaker. However, that’s not the case. Spanish is the second fastest language spoken. Natives speak fast. And you’ll have to practice your listening comprehension to keep up with what they’re saying.

The Subjunctive Tense

Mood affects words in Spanish. This is known as the Subjective mood. It’s a tricky part of Spanish grammar. In English, we’re familiar with using tense to indicate when an action happened, but with subjunctive tense, you also communicate the mood behind the action happening. It may seem like a lot to take in at first, but after some exposure, it makes a lot more sense.

“False Friends” or False Cognates

Cognates are great because they build up your vocabulary fast without much effort. However, false cognates create problems as they give you a false sense of comfort in the language only to create embarrassing moments. Take “embarazada” for example. On the surface, it would appear to mean embarrassed, but it actually means “pregnant.” You’ll want to take the time to learn some of the more embarrassing ones to help you be careful and avoid real embarrassment.

Becoming Fluent in Spanish Helps You

Learning Spanish means opening you up to another 400 million people you can speak with around the world and several more countries where you can easily visit and communicate with the locals. However, as with learning any language, there are obstacles and challenges to overcome. Knowing what those are and having strategies ready to help you succeed is one way to make sure you achieve fluency fast.