The Beth and Jim Conversations 11

[Jim] ¡Hola Beth!

This week I’d like to get your take on Spanish as a language to learn – as opposed to other languages. I mean, how do you rate its level of difficulty? 

As a sometime teacher of English as a Foreign Language to Spaniards I hear my students say either 1) Spanish is easier to learn than English or 2) the other way around! So which is it?!

My personal experience of learning Spanish says that for me, a native English speaker, picking up Spanish is not especially difficult. It happens that I can roll my Rs, though not quite in the way the Spanish do, and the rest of the pronunciation is not really tricky for a mouth which has developed with English for so many years (of course, we know that children are sponges and they learn to speak like natives; it’s different for us adults!).

Where I found Spanish very difficult indeed was when I came across the subjunctive for the first time. Why? The answer is simple: there is no subjunctive ‘mood’ in English, so if converting a Spanish verb into its subjunctive form didn’t tax me enough, knowing when to use that form sure did!

Now using the subjunctive in Spanish is quite natural, but it has taken many years of listening and speaking practice to get me to this stage.

As to the level of difficulty when it comes to elarning english, I think it is the phrasal verbs, such as look in; look up; look up to; look out; look out for; wise up; play down etc that give learners of our language the biggest headache. Not only are they hard to memorise, many of them have more than one meaning!

What has been your Spanish learning experience, Beth? 

[Beth] Learning Spanish ROCKS in the ease department!

Every time you see an ‘a’ it ALWAYS sounds the same in the Spanish language.  The same is true in the Spanish language for the ‘e’ and the ‘I’ and the ‘o’ and the ‘u’ while in English there are so many nuances and quirks and weird ways the vowels sound not to mention different consonant blends sounding different in various words in the English language.

It’s so true what you say Jim about the native or near-native accent a young child can develop when learning a second language in the very early years of life.  Most experts agree that birth – age five is the prime ‘window of opportunity’ for a child to acquire a second, third and fourth language.  Yet, it’s still quite easy for children to learn a new language all the way through about age 10-12 simply based on the way in which the brain segments language learning.

So there you have it my friend / amigo mío … learning Spanish is much easier than learning English in my eyes, particularly when a person begins before the age of ten!

Happy Educating! ¡Sea feliz educando!

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