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Spanish as a language

Spanish in Spain: 7 Things you Need to Know

At first glance, it is not a large country, however, history has favoured different languages in Spain that have enriched the common language: Spanish.

Here you will learn a little bit about the origin of Spanish and a few other curiosities about Iberian Spanish.

At iScribo, we celebrate diversity, which is why today we bring you this interesting article so that you can learn a little more about the roots of Spanish.

1. Official languages in Spain

The Spanish Constitution states that Spanish is the official language of the country. Spain is divided into seventeen autonomous communities, in some of which Spanish coexists with other official languages:

  • Basque: spoken in the Basque Country and Navarre.
  • Catalan: spoken in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.
  • Aran: also spoken in Catalonia.
  • Galician: spoken in Galicia.
  • Valencian: spoken in the Valencian Community.

2. Speeches in Spain

Many people mistakenly call the different speeches of Spain “dialects”. A dialect is a variety of a language that does not attain the social status of a language.

So that we understand each other, the speeches can be considered as the accents that exist in Spain. Here are some examples:

  • Andalusian: it is spoken in Andalusia and in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla. In Gibraltar, you could say that it is also spoken, but we will tell you about that another day. A characteristic of Andalusian is that the final S is not pronounced, therefore, mis amigos would be /mih amigo/.
  • Canary: it is spoken in the Canary Islands and can have many similarities with the Latin American accent. Not only the accent but also the vocabulary is different: guagua instead of autobús.
  • Madrilian: spoken in and around the Madrid region. One aspect to note is that the final D is pronounced like Z: /madriz/.

3. Where does the Spanish name come from?

We have already mentioned that many cultures have lived in Spain until we got to where we are today. As for its etymology, the Spanish RAE says that Spanish comes from the Provençal espaignol, and in turn, this term comes from the Medieval Latin Hispaniolus meaning Hispania, which was what the Romans called Spain.

4. What amount of names the country has had!

Depending on the period we were in, Spain was called by one name or another.

  • In Greek times it was known as the Ophioússa Peninsula, which meant “land of snakes” because of the number of reptiles there. It was also called Iberia.
  • Hispania, as we have already seen, was the term of the Romans and was due to the number of metals in the country and the gold mines. The Visigoths kept the name when they arrived.
  • When the Muslims arrived in the Middle Ages, they called the Iberian Peninsula Al-Andalus. What it means is still unclear today, as there are several hypotheses.

5. Arabic influence on Iberian Spanish

Since we have started with the Muslim legacy, it would be impossible to talk about Spanish and Spaniards without taking into account their heritage and legacy, not only in language but also in architecture, customs, and the very physique of the people.

There are many Arabisms in today’s Spanish, for example, words with the prefix AL- and many that begin with A-: aceite (oil), albahaca (basil), Almería (Almeria) or azafrán (saffron).

6. Latin and Spanish in Spain

Latin influenced Spanish and evidently, it could not be otherwise. Spanish descends from the so-called Vulgar Latin, a dialect of Classical Latin. Moreover, as we already know, the Romans spent a long period of time in Spain. Sixty percent of Spanish vocabulary comes from Latin, and even today we still have quite a few expressions that prove it: in extremis, curriculum vitae, memorándum, honoris causa, etc.

7. Other influences

Spanish has encountered many cultures throughout history, and this has enriched the language. Greek has also left its mark, as in the word antígeno (antigen), which is very fashionable these days. Quechua also brought us richness when the Spanish returned from Latin America, as with the word carpa (tent).

English, French, and Italian are other languages that have made Spanish in Spain a diverse language.

Spanish in the world

Yes, Spanish was born in Spain, but more and more people in the world speak it, not only because of its origin but also because of the number of countries where the language is spoken. And as you have learned today, there are more languages in Spain.

We cannot leave without pointing out that Spain is not the country where most Spanish is spoken, the honour goes to Mexico, besides. Besides, there are so many accents and each one is more beautiful, which one do you like?

If you are learning Spanish and need to practice, remember that iScribo corrects your texts as you write. Visit us today and try our grammar corrector.

Categories
Writing in Spanish

5 Tips To Use Gender-Inclusive Language In Spanish

Spanish is a sexist language. Just like that. English is fortunate to be a language in which gender is not an issue.

It is not our fault that society evolved in that direction. We have been speaking Spanish for centuries and the formation of the language took place in masculine spheres and gender-neutral language was never used before.

While it is true that the RAE is very conservative when it comes to the evolution of Spanish, there are things we could do to adapt the language to the present and make it inclusive so that it represents the whole of society.

iScribo tells you how you can contribute to adapting the language by using gender-inclusive language without making mistakes.

1. Avoid made-up words

Almost everyone wants to use inclusive language, but this does not mean that we have to disrespect the Spanish language.

Todes (everyone), the use of @ or X is not an option, we have other alternatives.

The example is ‘We are all going to the party’:

Nos vamos a presentar todes en la fiesta.

Nos vamos a presentar tod@s en la fiesta.

Nos vamos a presentar todxs en la fiesta.

Instead, we can say:

Nos vamos a presentar en la fiesta al completo.

Nos vamos a presentar en la fiesta en conjunto.

2. Avoid gendered words

It is not the same to say los vecinos (the neighbours, masculine word in Spanish) as el vecindario (the neighbourhood, neutral word). We must use neutral words, even if we have to use other resources:

Let’s be creative in using inclusive language:

Seamos creativos para usar el lenguaje inclusivo.

 ✓ Recurramos a la creatividad para usar el lenguaje inclusivo.

We are very tired after the race:

Estamos muy cansados tras la carrera.

  ✓ El cansancio nos puede tras la carrera.

Sometimes it is enough to change an adjective or an adverb into a noun.

3. Try to lighten the discourse

In order not to use sexist language, many people resort to the heavy language of naming nouns, adjectives, and adverbs in both masculine and feminine, when in fact it would be enough to use a word that designates the collective:

            The students went out to the playground:

Los alumnos y las alumnas salieron al patio.

  ✓ El alumnado salió al patio.

4. Break down stereotypes

There are words that have become sexist throughout history, especially for professions such as a nurse, cleaner, and so on. Spanish nursing unions claim that the word nurse defines both the masculine and the feminine, but we can always use other resources:

Profesionales de enfermería (nursing professionals).

Colectivo de limpieza (cleaning collective).

5. Avoid using masculine pronouns

This is usually the case with masculine demonstrative pronouns: aquel, estos, etcetera. We can use quien or quienes instead:

Those who want to come, let them come:

Aquellos que quieran venir, que vengan.

  ✓ Quienes quieran venir, que vengan.

Miembras (members) and generalas (generals)

Sometimes, especially in politics, we tend to use inclusive language incorrectly. It happened to a Spanish minister back in 2008 in a notorious case: in the middle of Congress she said miembros y miembras (miembras doesn’t exist).

In the army, too, there are those who have said la generala (it doesn’t exist either) instead of la general. Let’s not forget that there are common nouns in terms of gender!

It may sound forced, but by using inclusive language, we will normalise it and it will become natural in our lives.

We also recommend that you read style guides from official or linguistic bodies. You are sure to learn a lot, as well as with our grammar checker, which helps you to use inclusive language correctly.

Categories
Improving language

Spanish Grammar for Beginners – 5 Must-Know Rules

As you realise when you learn Spanish, grammar is an essential component of every language, and Spanish is no different. Numerous parallels exist between Spanish grammar and those of other Romance languages, including many characteristics that are akin to English.

In this post, we’ll cover the best way to learn Spanish and the fundamentals of Spanish grammar. In addition, we’ll discuss some of the contrasts and parallels between Spanish and English grammatical rules.

1. General Guidelines

To begin, we’ll examine some of the parallels between Spanish and English.

a) Active verbs

Tenses and conjugations are used with Spanish verbs. While English has a few conjugations, Spanish, like any Romance language, has a plethora.

Having said that, the tenses are quite close to those in English. Nevertheless, there are tenses that exist in Spanish but are not stated in English.

In the next part, we’ll go over verbs in further detail.

b) Word sequence

Spanish follows the same fundamental word order paradigm as English: S + V + O (Subject + Verb + Object). There are some changes in adverb and adjective placement, but to construct a basic phrase, just follow the same sequence as in English.

Here’s an example of a short statement that is the word for word translated:

Example: Mi padre canta una canción.

Translation: “My father sings a song.”

Isn’t it simple?

c) Words and phrases

While vocabulary isn’t a grammatical component, we thought we’d cover it briefly since it has many parallels to English.

It’s fascinating to note that many words in both English and Spanish have the same origin. While English is not a Romance language, but rather a Germanic language, it has historically been heavily impacted by French and Latin.

Numerous terms appear similar in both English and Spanish, but we’ll just include a few:

Example: nación

Translation: “nation”

We picked this term because there are hundreds of Spanish nouns that finish in the suffix -ación, which is equal to “-ation” in English. We could go on and on about información (“information”) and decoloración (“discolouration”).

This suffix is derived from Latin, which is why it is used in Spanish, English, and other languages. That explains why they are all so identical.

Example: animal

Translation: “animal”

This second example has the same spelling as the first, but it’s pronounced differently. This is another example of a Latin term, which explains its resemblance to its Spanish version.

2. Verbs

As previously stated, Spanish verbs have many more conjugations than English verbs. While English verb conjugations can be counted on one hand, Spanish verbs have a separate conjugation for each person in the single and plural forms, in all tenses and moods. Every individual in all verb conjugations has the same stem but a distinct finish. Consider how the word comer (“to eat”) might be conjugated:

Yo como → “I eat”

Tú comes → “You eat”

Él/ella come → “He/she eats”

Nosotros/as comemos → “We eat”

Vosotros/as coméis → “You eat” (plural)

Ellos/as comen → “They (masculine / feminine) eat”

Spanish, like English, contains regular and irregular verbs. English verb irregularities, on the other hand, are most visible in the past and participle forms.

Because verbs must be conjugated for each person in Spanish, these inconsistencies become much more noticeable.

Speaking about irregular verbs, there are two in Spanish that we must not overlook: ser and estar. If you’re fluent in Spanish, you may understand what we’re saying. In case you don’t know, ser and estar both mean “to be,” and you must use the appropriate one depending on the situation.

Example: Soy español.

Translation: “I’m Spanish.”

Example: Estoy triste.

Translation: “I’m sad.”

In the first example (with ser), we establish a permanent reality, which is that I am Spanish. In the second case (with estar), we are referring to something transient. Usually, when we say we’re sad, like in the example, we imply that we’re unhappy at the moment or for a short period, but not forever.

3. Nouns

The fundamental distinction between Spanish nouns and English nouns is that Spanish nouns have grammatical gender, which is divided into masculine and feminine (we will dedicate another entry to the gender of nouns as there is a lot to say about this). We call this heteronimia.

We’ll give you an example of each gender’s noun:

el horno (“the oven”) is masculine

la nevera (“the fridge”) is feminine

You may be asking what distinguishes an oven from a refrigerator. Nothing. Everything is based on etymology and the development of the language.

Most words need you to remember their gender as well as their meaning. There are certain nouns, though, that have apparent genders. Una mujer (“a lady”), for example, is a feminine term, but un hombre (“a man”) is unmistakably masculine.

We do have a quick trick to assist you to decide whether a word is masculine or feminine: Masculine words nearly always finish in a -o, whereas feminine terms almost always end in a -a. This advice isn’t perfect, but it will assist you in the great majority of cases.

4. Adjectives

There are a few fundamental things you should know about adjectives in Spanish. To begin with, adjectives must always coincide in gender and number with the noun they follow. We’ll use the adjective negro (“black”) as an example:

Masculine Singular – Coche negro (“Black car”)

Masculine Plural – Coches negros (“Black cars”)

Feminine Singular – Casa negra (“Black house”)

Feminine PluralCasas negras (“Black houses”)

You may have noticed that the noun was put before the adjective in these cases. Most adjectives in Spanish are put after the noun in this manner, with a few exceptions.

5. Negation

Today, we’ll go over the basics of Spanish negation. What you need to know is that basic negative sentences in Spanish are formed by inserting the word no before the verb. Here are only a few examples:

Example: No tengo coche.

Translation: “I don’t have a car.”

Example: Hoy Martín no quiere ir al colegio.

Translation: “Martín doesn’t want to go to school today.”

While the adverb in the previous example was in a different position than in English, the negative word stayed in the same place in both versions: between the subject (unless removed in Spanish) and the verb.

So this is all about Spanish grammar for beginners. 

Tell us in the comments which component of the Spanish language is the most challenging for you. We look forward to hearing from you and will do all we can to assist you.

Meanwhile, you can practise your Spanish grammar on iScribo, the best way to learn Spanish.

Categories
Spanish as a language

Castilian vs Spanish: Are They The Same Language?

Despite the fact that we are in the 21st century and that Spanish has existed for centuries, even today there is still a debate that revolves around the naming of the language.

Is Castilian a language, are the terms Spanish and Castilian synonymous, do we say Castilian Spanish?

There are many doubts that come to our minds when it comes to labeling this language. Today, at iScribo, we tell you some curiosities about this debate and clarify your doubts.

Spanish in Spain and around the world

We have already talked on other occasions about the countries in which Spanish is spoken and the infinite varieties that exist not only between countries but also within regions. After all, more than 580 million people speak it even if it is not their mother tongue.

As for what to call the language, the Spanish RAE is clear — Spanish and Castilian are the same language, it depends on the speaker to designate the way they call it. Therefore, we can tell you that yes, Castilian is a language, but it is the same as Spanish.

Why such controversy?

The truth is that it is more of a political or simply geographical matter. The Spanish Constitution itself, quite old we must say, calls the language Castilian, something that the Nobel Prize winner himself, the writer Camilo José Cela, criticises every time he has the chance.

The RAE tells us that calling the language Spanish avoids ambiguity since Castilian was the term used in the Kingdom of Castile back in the Middle Ages. Today, it would be preferable to use Castilian to refer to the speech of the Spanish regions of Castile.

In Latin America, generally, they prefer to call what is spoken in the New Continent Spanish and what is spoken in the Old Continent Castilian. For example, in Argentina, the Argentine Academy of Letters recommends the use of Spanish as the name of the language, even though among the population it is often referred to as Castilian. Countries such as Paraguay, Bolivia, and Venezuela are in a very similar situation.

Other people in Spain will say that they prefer to designate the language as Castilian as the common language in territories where there is more than one official language, i.e., Galician, Basque, or Catalan.

I’ll tell you more. When I was a kid and I studied at school we talked about Lengua Castellana y Literatura (Castilian Language and Literature). What’s more, I don’t remember studying Latin American literary works until I was a teenager, when the subject was called Lengua Española (Spanish Language).

I also remember that it was very common to talk about Castilian Spanish what we talked in Spain. Fortunately, the RAE decided to put an end to this controversy.

Not all discussions are boring

We are used to this debate being boring in political or even intellectual circles, but the controversy has gone beyond that on some occasions.

Let’s not go too far, in 2021, at the Oscars gala, several artists performed the song Into the Unknown from the mythical children’s movie Frozen 2. The organisers had the brilliant idea of bringing together all the singers who had voiced Elsa in this song and had each of them sing a verse. What a surprise when they identified Carmen Sarahí, from Mexico, as a singer in Spanish and Gisela, from Spain, as a singer in Castilian! Most likely, the person who organised the performance did not speak Spanish, otherwise, they would have known that the two women were singing in the same language.

Anyway, why bother? Many other languages call it Spanish: spagnolo, spanjisht, hiszpański, spanska, and so on. The list is endless.

Either way, whether you use Spanish and Castilian or just one of the two terms, everyone is going to know, ­or should know, which language you are referring to. Spanish is very diverse, so we should take the opportunity to expand the frontiers of the language and get to know the more variants the better.

iScribo helps you clarify your doubts, take a look at our product and learn how to use the language, whether you call it Spanish or Castilian!

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Writing in Spanish

Hyphen vs Dash: The Use Of Punctuation In Spanish

At first glance they may look almost the same, but if you look a little closer, these two spelling marks are completely different, not only in terms of their appearance but also in terms of their use.

Which is used for dialogue, the hyphen symbol, or dash symbol? What is a long dash? Clear up your doubts about these punctuation marks with the help of your favourite grammar checker.

Dash or long dash? I’m always confused!

Don’t worry, the Spanish m dash symbol (—) is often called a long dash (but the Spanish RAE advises against it) and is just that, a horizontal dash longer than the traditional Spanish hyphen symbol (-). Do not confuse it with the minus sign (–), which has an intermediate length.

It is very common to type a hyphen instead of the dash, as this sign is not on the normal keyboard. To type the dash symbol, use the combination ALT 0151 on your numeric keypad or look for it in the symbols under the Insert tab of the Toolbar. If you’re using your laptop, I’m afraid only the latter option will work.

When do you use the dash symbol?

This spelling sign has several uses, here are the two most frequent ones on the Spanish grammar:

  • To make incises: in this case, the dash can be replaced by commas or parentheses. If there are already parentheses in the sentence, use the dash instead. Keep in mind that the dash is attached to the first and last character it encloses.

Me gusta aprender idiomas —incluso el chino— aunque me cueste trabajo (I like to learn languages, even Chinese, although if it’s hard work).

  • To introduce dialogue and dialogue breaks. As you will see in this example, the initial dash symbol needs a space with the word it introduces, but it is attached to the word of the clause:

— Hola, Pedro —dijo Sara. (‘Hello, Peter,’ said Sara).

Maybe what I need to use is a hyphen symbol…

The first thing you need to know is that in Spanish, the hyphen is called guion, a diphthong word, and the RAE recommends writing it without the accent (practise your Spanish and read this interesting article from Fundéu). Its main uses are:

  • To join words or other signs: tren Madrid-Granada (train Madrid-Granada), crítico-literario (literary critic).
  • To separate linguistic content:
  • Syllables: ca sa (hou-se)
  • To mark suffixes or prefixes (where appropriate): -ísimo, pre-OTAN (before NATO).

It doesn’t stop there

We could spend days discussing the use of the dash symbol and hyphen symbol, and how to combine them with other spelling marks, but if you know these basic rules of punctuation in Spanish, you will be able to start using them without mistakes, and then expand your knowledge little by little. Follow our blog closely and our social networks to stay up to date with the latest in the use of Spanish grammar. Don’t miss a single detail with iScribo!

Categories
Writing in Spanish

How to Learn Spanish on Your Own in 5 Easy Steps

When someone says, “Wow! Your Spanish is fantastic! “How did you find out?” “I taught myself,” I usually claim.

Sure, I made sure to chat to Spanish locals whenever possible, picking their brains on Spanish grammar, vocabulary, and local idioms, as well as a few other methods of language learning help.

But, for the most part, I studied Spanish on my own.

So, what were my ploys? How did I manage to achieve it?

There’s no denying that it took a long period and a lot of personal effort. Anyone who claims to be able to acquire a language in a few months is lying.

After a fast crash course in the classroom, you may be able to navigate a Spanish-speaking city while on vacation, but it won’t be enough to participate in a fluid conversation, go for a job interview, or even sing along to music without tripping over the words.

So, here are 5 simple steps to learn Spanish on your own that turn out to be the best way to learn Spanish:

1. Spend an hour each day working on Spanish grammar tasks

Hugo Spanish in 3 Months” is a great basic grammar book and CD for beginners I discovered. It’s jam-packed with brief explanations and activities. All the answers are at the back of the book, and it is a great resource for learning the fundamentals: past, present, and future tenses; prepositions; common phrasal structures; and explanations of plurals and gender.

Set aside an hour at the end of each day to do the exercises. Keep doing this until the grammar becomes second nature.

You can even practise your Spanish grammar online on a very powerful tool.

iScribo is one of the best Spanish grammar correctors online today.

2. Subtitled movies and web series

You can use two strategies for this.

  • The first option is for novices to view Spanish films with English subtitles.
  • The second option is for advanced speakers to view Spanish films with Spanish subtitles.

It may seem strange to watch and read in Spanish at the same time, but it works wonderfully. 

Reading abilities increase far quicker than listening abilities. You’ll be able to significantly enhance your pronunciation by reading and listening at the same time.

It will also help you speak like the locals.

3. Listen to Spanish-language radio

After around two years of becoming pretty competent, you’ll find it fun to listen to the radio in Spanish.

It will be difficult for you at first. It might be very difficult to understand what someone says in a foreign language when you can’t see their lips, but I suggest perseverance.

You can get in an hour or two of listening to the radio on your phone while driving to and from work.

You can also keep the radio on in the background while you’re at home. Make a note of words that sounds strange to you and check them up later.

The process of learning to use the radio never ends.

4. Make Spanish your thinking language

Unless you relocate to a Spanish-speaking nation, you will not always have many opportunities to converse in Spanish this is why you can (and should) talk to yourself in Spanish.

In any case, we all chat to ourselves from time to time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left my house wondering whether I’d unplugged my curling iron and locked the front door. If you’re anything like me, you may as well do it in Spanish.

I’m not suggesting you conduct lengthy discussions with yourself in public, that would be ridiculous. But the next time you need or want to express yourself, consider saying it in Spanish.

And if you come across any terms or translations, make a note of them and check them up later.

If it’s too sophisticated for you, you may chat to yourself in the mirror to increase your confidence for future discussions with native speakers.

5. Set your phone’s language to Spanish

Okay, I realise this one seems a bit intimidating, particularly if you’re new to it. But, if your objective is to include Spanish in your daily life, wouldn’t it make sense to make that adjustment on your phone?

After you’ve got used to the changeover, you’ll want to change the language settings on the rest of your devices.

This will undoubtedly be difficult if you are a beginner in Spanish. But if you already know where everything is on your phone, give it a chance.

If you find it too tough, you can simply change your settings back to English.

So there you have it, 5 easy steps to self-learning Spanish.

If you follow these instructions, you will one day be complimented on your Spanish and asked how you acquired the language so effectively. Then you may confidently say, “I taught myself!”

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