Is Spanish harder than English?
You might ask yourself, is Spanish harder than English? Some people say yes, while others say no. This is a debate in the world of people who study both languages, with the common ground seeming to be that Spanish is more difficult.
Of course, many people would love to believe that his or her own language is more difficult. However, I am a native English speaker and I challenge the belief that English is easier to learn than Spanish. I personally believe that English is the more difficult language of the two. Why?
Well, we have something called rules. Every language has them, but in English, the rules seem to be broken far more than any Latin language I have seen. Languages like Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and French have systematic verb changes that English does not see so frequently. However, even with irregular verbs, these verbs tend to follow a predictable pattern that simply cannot be broken.
In southern parts of the United States, and even here in the Northwest where I originate, English verbs are conjugated incorrectly all the time. This makes it more difficult for a native to pick up on what we are saying!
Also, in Spanish, to expres “I used to do something” you have one word “hacía” or “yo hacía” and that -ía is on the end of all verb forms, whereas in English you have this long drawn out “I used to do this” or “I didn’t used to do this.” Do you know that I have rarely heard a native Spanish speaker use this phrase in English? In my experience, native Spanish speakers who speak English tend to stay in present tense. This is because the more you navigate into weird tenses, the more convoluted English gets.
English is full of broken rules
From spelling rules to grammatical rules that are not followed, English is full of exceptions to the rule. On top of that, English speakers break the rules we even try to have in place. I have noticed that Spanish seems to follow the rules, even in slang. You cannot conjugate a Spanish verb incorrectly, even if you are swearing.
The infamous Spanish verbs follow a pattern
What throws most English speakers about Spanish is the verb conjugation. This verb conjugation pattern is actually not exclusive to Spanish. Italian and Portuguese at the very least are two other languages that require you to conjugate each verb differently depending on the person speaking or being spoken of.
The thing that people need to realize is this. Spanish verbs follow a pattern, no matter what, and the pattern becomes very predictable. In fact, because I studied Spanish verbs so well the first year that I studied Spanish, I automatically know how to conjugate any new verb I would ever hear, even if it’s irregular. Once you learn a number of verbs in a variety of tenses, you start to figure out a pattern and rhythm that Spanish follows.
Spanish irregular verbs simply change spelling a little, which will then change how you pronounce the word as well. For example, the irregular verb ‘poder’ means to be able to. To conjugate poder in present tense we simply say puedo, puedes, puede, podemos, pueden. What does this mean? You might ask. I have a complete explanation of what conjugation means in this article entitled What Do These Words Mean???
However, just to give you a little run down. ‘Poder’ means to be able to. So in essence, it’s like saying “can” as in “I can.”
Yo puedo is like saying I can, or I am able to
Tú puedes is like saying you can, or you are able to
Usted puede you (when speaking to someone unfamiliar) can, or you are able to
Él puede, he can, or he is able to
Ella puede, she can, or she is able to
Nosotros/nosotras podemos we can, or we are able to
Ustedes pueden You all can, you all are able to
Ellos/ellas pueden They can
As you go along in Spanish, you start to see patterns that are very predictable. The verbs will require initial memorization, but you will start to get the hang of things if you stick to it.
English is anything but predictable. Compare it to Spanish. Spanish words are pronounced exactly as they appear. English words can appear one way and be pronounced a bit differently. Once you have learned how the Spanish alphabet sounds, you can easily read Spanish phonetically, even if your pronunciation does not sound perfect. There was a time that I thought I would never be able to roll an r o pronounce a Spanish word even close to a native. Now I sound very much like a native speaking Spanish after years of conversing with natives.
So, is Spanish harder to learn than English? I hold to the belief that Spanish is the easier language. While it may be more rule bound, the rules are simply not broken nearly as much. In my lessons, I consistently recommend learning the Spanish verbs before focusing on much else, and this will go a long way toward bringing you to conversational Spanish faster.
Now, the common scenario that many Americans face is that they take years of Spanish and still can’t speak it. Well that’s what this amazing book is for, “Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish.” This book is not written out like a course book so you will have to be creative in how you ingest the information, but it’s definitely one of the best reads you will find, and you will definitely learn a lot from it.