Spanish Learners of English
In this blog post, we will look at major differences between English and Spanish languages. We will also look at some common errors by Spanish learners of English. In other words, problems faced by native Spanish speakers, who are trying to learn English as their Second Language.
Spanish and English
Before getting into structural details, let us understand the equation between Spanish and English. Both English and Spanish languages belong to the Indo-European Language Family. However English is a Germanic language while Spanish is a Romance language. This predictably makes them quite different in a lot of aspects.
According to Language Hierarchy given byDe Swan, English is a Hyper-Central language. This means almost people in all parts of the world speak some English at least. Spanish, on the other hand, lies just next to it in the hierarchy as a Super-central language. Super-central language has functions across many parts of the world.
Note that De Swan also describes four kinds of second language learners, which are classified on the basis of their purpose, goals and motivation behind learning another language. For instance, according to this classification, a Spanish speaker who wishes to learn English for getting higher education in an English speaking University would fall under the group of Classroom L2 Learners.
Pronunciation Problems for Spanish Learners of English
To know about the pronunciation problems for Spanish students of English, one can look at the differences between the Phonology of English and Spanish. This is because vast majority of research in Second Language Acquisition says that L 1 (or First Language) has an impact on L2 (Second Language) learning. To understand this point better, you can refer to this complete post on Factors Affecting Second Language Learning and Development.
Differences between English and Spanish languages
Starting with Segmental Phonology, there are quite a lot of similarities in the consonant system of the two languages. However, these languages have remarkably different.vowel, stress and intonation patterns. Spanish, for instance, does not make length distinction in vowels, unlike English. This is why Spanish learners typically find English vowels difficult to recognize and learn.
English and Spanish also differ in terms of the intonation patterns. And this is the reason why Spanish learners of English face problems with getting the sentence rhythm right. This is so remarkable that sometimes it makes them incomprehensible to native English speakers.
Another challenging area is ‘consonant clusters’, which are common in English, but not so much in Spanish. English allows a lot of consonant clustering at the initial, medial and final position of the words. However, consonant clusters are pretty rare in Spanish. Hence, Spanish speakers, learning English as a second language have a tendency to skip or drop consonants in such clusters.
Lastly, coming to supra-segmental features, Spanish is a syllable-timed language, unlike English, where stressed syllables are accompanied by a change in pitch. Also, the unstressed syllables are somewhat reduced. Spanish speakers, while speaking English, use a narrower pitch, which can make them sound bored to English speakers.
English vs Spanish Spelling
As we know, the spellings of words in the English language do not always correspond to how they are pronounced. However, unlike English, the sound and spelling match is quite high in Spanish. For this reason, English orthography becomes especially confusing to the Spanish speakers writing in English.
However, the punctuation part is similar in both the languages, and so there are fewer problems encountered by the Spanish learners of English in this area. There is problem picking up capitalization, however, as it is absent in Spanish. Spanish speakers find it difficult to get English verb contractions, as verbs do not get contracted in Spanish.
Spanish Learning of English Syntax
After comparing english and spanish patterns in phonology and orthography, we will now look at the structural differences in the two languages. There are quite a lot of grammatical similarities between English and Spanish. For instance, plurality of nouns, definiteness in articles, regular and irregular verb forms, occurrence of tense morphology, presence of number feature and grammatical gender, etc. However, Spanish has a much freer word order and is morphologically richer as compared to English.
Besides this, Spanish lacks question words and modal auxiliaries, which are present in English. Negation is also marked differently in Spanish. Lastly, a lot of Latin vocabulary is shared, however, that often makes Spanish learners speak a formal variety of English.
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