How To Speak Spanish Like A Native Speaker
By Ivy do Carmo
If you are reading this article, this means that either you have set the goal of learning Spanish or you have already began to do so. If that is your case, I must say you have made two excellent choices!
Why do I say two?
Because the first choice you made was pushing past your comfort zone and putting an effort to learn a second language. Many English speakers do not even think about learning another language because “after all, everybody speaks English!” This is simply an inaccurate statement.
Take China, for example. Around 10 million people there speak English. Only 10 million people in a population of 1.3 billion! You may be surprised to know that, besides China, there are at least other 12 countries in which less than 10% of the population speaks English. On a second thought, this should not surprise us at all if we consider that 22% of the US citizens do not speak English at home!
Gladly, you do not take part on this wrong assumption and you understand that there are many people in this world who simply do not speak English. You know that if you want to communicate with them, make new friends and bond with interesting new people, you have to learn their language. Ultimately, that is the goal of the Mimic method – connecting with other human beings. This is why I said you have made two excellent choices – because besides wanting to learn a new language, you have chosen the second most spoken language in the world: Spanish.
Why Should You Learn to Speak Spanish?
The estimation is that almost 500 million people around the world speak Spanish as their mother tongue or as their second language. While Spanish comes in second place worldwide, after Mandarin, it is the most popular language of study in North America – over 60 million people here speak Spanish as their second language. All these statistics show that you have chosen wisely in choosing to learn how to speak Spanish.
Besides being a scientific fact that learning a new language provides several mental benefits, such as improving your memory and the functionality of your brain, becoming a more perceptive and skilled person and preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, speaking Spanish will help you improve your career prospects and make your life easier when you travel to one of the many existing Spanish-speaking countries.
How to Speak Spanish Fluently?
The internet is filled with a lot of courses, books, guides and tips, and they all say that they have the magic key to make you learn Spanish overnight. Unfortunately, there is no such magic way to do something that in fact requires serious effort, persistence and lots and lots of time. However, if your goal is especially improve your communication skills in Spanish, there are some things about this language you should now.
First, a little Spanish Language History 101. During the Roman empire, latin speakers lived together with indigenous groups and the result was new Latin dialects. Over time, these dialects became distinct languages. There are five main Romance languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and Romanian, with Spanish being by far the most widely spoken today – 20 countries in 4 continents.
English speakers face some challenges in learning Spanish but also have some advantages. How so? Well, you probably already know that English is a Germanic language, but did you know that more than half of the English words comes from Latin and French? English may be Germanic because of its roots, but it is also definitely a good pal of the Romance languages.
This fact makes a lot easier for an English speaker to learn Spanish, because many words are similar in those two languages. For example, here are some perfect cognates (words spelt exactly the same) in English and Spanish:
Normal, idea, actor, simple, agenda, hospital, animal, bar, capital, chocolate, cultural, director, enigma, natural, error, radio, exterior, familiar, final, gas, probable, grave, hotel, vital, usual, visible, universal, total, taxi, inferior, superior, social, revision, regular, popular, piano, plural, original, perfume, motor, material, invisible, mental, miserable, local, manual, irregular, informative, ideal, and so on.
The examples above are just a few of the existing perfect cognates between English and Spanish. Did you know that there were so many identical words between these two languages? With them, your only job is learning their pronunciation.
Besides these perfect cognates, there are some correspondent suffixes between English and Spanish. If you do not remember what a suffix is, I will help you: a suffix is a few letters added at the end of a word to form another word, ok? For example, a lot of English nouns that end with ‘ary’ correspond to the Spanish nouns that end with ‘ario’:
Anniversary – Aniversario
Contrary – Dontrario
Vocabulary – Vocabulario
Secretary – Secretario
Diary – Diario
Following the same way of thinking, English adjectives that end with ‘ic’ correspond to the Spanish adjectives that end with ‘ico’:
Basic – Básico
Classic – Clássico
Economic – Económico
Fantastic – Fantástico
Romantic – Romántico
English adjectives with the suffix ‘ous’ correlate to the Spanish adjectives ending with ‘oso’:
Delicious – Delicioso
Curious – Curioso
Precious – Precioso
Mysterious – Misterioso
Religious – Religioso
At last, English nouns ending with ‘ct’ reciprocate to the Spanish nouns ending with ‘cto’:
Act – Acto
Perfect – Perfecto
Product – Producto
Conflict – Conflicto
Exact – Exacto
It is plain to see that, even though English and Spanish may at first seem to be two very different languages, once you come to know the basic structure of the Spanish language, you see that they are not that different after all. Of course, the words listed above may be written the same way or in a similar way, but their pronunciation in Spanish is sometimes very different from English.
If you are wondering how to speak Spanish like a native speaker, I have a good and easy tip for you: watch movies, TV series, listen to podcasts and music to become more and more familiar with the sounds of Spanish, especially the sounds that do not exist in English. Over time, you will realize that how do you talk in Spanish or any other language is determined by how much of the language you get exposed to every single day.
It is also important to understand some differences in the structure of the Spanish language in order to optimize your learning. Let’s go over three basic points.
Noun First, Adjective After
English speakers are very used to putting the adjectives first. You do it without even realizing in words such as hot dog, sunny day, pretty woman and great movie. It goes the other way around in Spanish – the noun comes first and the adjective comes after. See some examples:
Un sombrero amarillo.
A yellow hat.
Un niño feliz.
A happy boy.
Una falda rosa.
A pink skirt.
Un hombre simple.
A simple man.
Una mujer grande.
A big woman.
Conjugate The Verbs
This is a little scary for English speakers, since English does not exactly conjugate verbs. Well, at least not like the Roman languages do. It may surprise you that conjugating verbs is sometimes a challenge even for the natives. It’s not uncommon to see a Spanish speaker suddenly stop and think for a second before ending a sentence because they were struggling to conjugate the verb in their mind.
Therefore, do not feel intimidated by the conjugation of the verbs, it is just a matter of practice. There are some tricky aspects, such as the difference between the preterite and the imperfect tenses, but once you get used to them you will see that it’s not rocket science.
Let’s be honest: it is weird for English speakers to see an object as something rather than neutral. For example, when you look at a table, you don’t see it as feminine, do you? Or when you look at the Sun, you don’t think of it as masculine, right? Well, I am sorry to say that Romance languages speakers do.
As a matter of fact, Spanish does not have a neutral pronoun like ‘it’, so every inanimate object is either masculine or feminine in a grammatical sense. I know that this does not make any sense to you, but here are some basic tips for you to better understand this gender conundrum. First, remember that there is a masculine article (el) and a feminine one (la). Let’s now consider four tips about this subject, but remember! These are basic and generic rules and for every rule, there is several exceptions. However, they will help you a lot at first.
Masculine nouns end with O and feminine nouns end with A:
el gato / la gata
the male cat / the female cat
el perro / la perra
the male dog / the female dog
el chico / la chica
the boy / the girl
el abuelo / la abuela
the grandfather / the grandmother
Masculine nouns end with –ma and feminine nouns end with –ión:
If a masculine noun ends with a consonant, add the letter A for the feminine:
el señor / la señora
the sir (Mr.) / the lady (Mrs.)
el profesor / la profesora
the male teacher / the female teacher
el doctor / la doctora
the male doctor / the female doctor
If there is a group of masculine and feminine nouns together, always refer to them all in the masculine:
1 niño + 4 niñas = 5 niños
1 boy + 4 girls = 5 boys
3 perros + 2 perras = 5 perros
3 male dogs + 2 female dogs = 5 male dogs
10 senõres + 20 señoras = 30 senõres
10 sirs + 20 ladies = 30 sirs
These are just a few tips to boost your learning and your communication skills in Spanish. Just remember: the more exposed to the language you get, the faster you will learn it!
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