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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!

Categories
Spanish as a language

10 Latin and Spanish Writers to Improve Your Style

Looking for Spanish writers to help improve your writing style?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Discover 10 of the best Latin and Spanish writers working today and get to know some of their best works to moonlight your way towards writing better Spanish and discover different writing styles.

1. Julia Álvarez

Many of Álvarez’s works, as a poet and writer, tackle the complexities of living as both a Dominican and an American. In the Time of Butterflies, one of her most famous works was made into a film starring Salma Hayek and Marc Anthony.

She received the National Medal of Arts in 2013 and the Pura Belpré Award for Writing.

2. Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende, a dominating voice in the magical realism genre, utilises her best-selling novels to establish herself as a notable feminist voice in Hispanic literature.

She is the recipient of the National Prize in Literature and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, both of which were bestowed to her by President Barack Obama.

3. Mario Vargas Llosa

The Nobel Prize laureate in Literature is noted for his ability to masterfully span genres with his work, having written prolific literary criticism, murder mysteries, historical novels, and political thrillers.

His tales are largely inspired by his Peruvian ancestry and political activity.

4. Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez, a Colombian novelist, journalist, and short-story writer was renowned as the perfecter of magical realism, a form of literature that incorporates elements of fantasy into actual circumstances.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 for his most famous work, the epic One Hundred Years of Solitude.

5. Laura Esquivel

Like Water for Chocolate, Esquivel’s globally best-selling magical realism romance book was made into a highly praised foreign language film.

She’s also authored short tales, films, and children’s plays, often including themes of magic.

6. Rosa Montero

Rosa Montero, a writer and a journalist, has created wonderful novels while simultaneously conducting intriguing interviews. Her book The Delta Function, 1981 is recognised as a key work of modern feminist theory, exploring the dualities of female existence.

Her work The Lunatic of the House, 2003 received both the Qué Leer Prize for the best book published in Spain and the Grinzane Cavour Prize for best foreign book in Italy.

Montero is presently a columnist for El País and has received the National Journalism Prize many times.

7. Enrique Vila-Matas

Enrique Vila-Matas was born in Barcelona and completed his military duty in Melilla when he penned his first book, Woman in the Mirror Contemplating the Landscape. He has worked in a variety of formats throughout his career, from cinema criticism and novels to essays and film screenplays.

His finest work is known for its sardonic and fragmentary style, which breaks down the line between fiction and reality.

Vila-Matas has received worldwide acclaim for his works and creative contributions, including the Italian Bottari Lattes Grinzane Prize, the French Prix Jean Carriere, and the Spanish Leteo Award, all for his novel Dublinesque (2010).

Vila-Matas’ writings have been translated into numerous languages and he is widely regarded as one of the most celebrated Spanish writers by both national and international reviewers.

8. Elvira Navarro

Navarro was featured in Granta’s Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists anthology issue in 2010. She released The Happy City in 2009, a book about an immigrant Chinese worker and a homeless Spanish guy.

The Happy City went on to win Spain’s Jaén Prize for best book and the Tormenta Prize for the best new author before being translated into English in 2013.

9. Sonia Hernández

Sonia Hernández, another entrant into Granta’s Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists, is a literary poet.

Hernández is also the editor-in-chief of the literary study journal Quaderns de Vallençana, which is devoted to the humanist Juan Ramón Masoliver.

10. Félix J. Palma

Felix J Palma is well-known in Spain for his magical realism works, and he is well-liked by both reviewers and the general people.

Palma, a master storyteller, has had several anthologies and short tales published, as well as a lot of literary honors.

His speculative fiction Map trilogy, which combines magical realism and history, has captivated readers all over the world.

Read with no borders

These are the top 10 best Latin and Spanish writers and their notable work reading which will improve your Spanish writing style.

As will iScribo, this AI-powered tool will take your Spanish writing skill to the next level.

What are you waiting for? Check the different writing styles on iScribo today, read these Spanish writers’ works, and improve your writing skills in no time to create good Spanish sentences.

Categories
Spanish as a language

Why It’s Easy for Ukrainians to Learn Spanish

The international political landscape has put Ukraine in the eye of the storm. We see in the news interviews with Ukrainian people who speak as if they were Spanish natives. At iScribo we want to contribute in some way to pay tribute to these people, and that is why today we are going to talk to you about the Ukrainian language and why the inhabitants of Ukraine decide to learn Spanish as a foreign language.

At iScribo we defend the power of communication as a tool to avoid conflicts. Languages are a fundamental part of communication and understanding. Also, in today’s post, you can find out a little more about Slavic languages.

Ukranian language

First of all, let’s talk a bit about Ukrainian. It belongs to the East Slavic languages family and is the only official language of the country. It is spoken by two-thirds of the population, although it should be noted that a large proportion of Ukrainians speak Russian, especially in the eastern part of the country, sometimes as the only language or bilingually alongside Ukrainian.

After the Soviet era, the Ukrainian government began a Ukrainianisation campaign to encourage the use of the language as it had been losing speakers for some time. This campaign required the use of Ukrainian dubbing or subtitles for all foreign broadcasts.

Meet the Slavic languages

Slavic languages belong to the Indo-European linguistic family and use the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets for writing. What diversity!

They are spoken in Central Europe, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and Northern Asia. In addition, as if they didn’t already sound like extraordinary languages, there are several ways to classify Slavic languages, in this case, let’s mention them by their geographical classification:

– East Slavic – Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian.

– West Slavic – Polish, Slovak, Czech, Moravian, Sorbian, Kashubian, and Silesian languages; there are also two languages that have disappeared – Polabian and Slovincian.

– South Slavic – Slovene, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, Macedonian, and Bulgarian, as well as Old Slavic, now extinct.

Let’s compare

More and more countries understand the importance of languages, which is why they include the learning of a second or third foreign language in their educational curricula and political programs.

In Ukraine, the most studied foreign languages are Russian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, and Arabic.

Slavic languages are more complex grammatically

We are always told that Slavic languages are very difficult to learn. The truth is that nouns are inflected and change form in terms of gender (not only masculine and feminine but also in the neuter gender) and number (in addition to singular and plural there is also dual).

Too much information? Well, that’s not all – the verb marks person, number, aspect, tense, mood, and sometimes gender. As if that weren’t enough, declension is applied in up to seven cases to nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and sometimes numerals.

Oh, dear! Looking at it this way, it should not seem strange that a Spanish speaker has more difficulty learning Ukrainian than the other way around.

Ukrainian is somewhat more complex

Spanish is a Romance language that also descends from the Indo-European languages, but in this case from spoken Latin.

Moreover, as we have already seen on other occasions, Spanish is heavily influenced by Arabic for historical reasons, for example, the words ojalá (hopefully), alacena (cupboard), or alfombra (carpet). The Spanish language has had little contact with the Slavic languages throughout its history, so there is little influence between the two, for example, the word zar (czar) comes from Russian, but we do not have as many as we have with Greek, English or French.

For a person who speaks Ukrainian, learning Spanish is not a big challenge. The Spanish grammar is much less complicated, and the phonemes are simpler. We could test whether for a Slavic speaker, understanding Cuban Spanish is a challenge or not in terms of lexical diversity and intonation when speaking, it would be fun, wouldn’t it?

As you can see, all languages have a degree of difficulty when they are not your mother tongue, but if we stop to analyse the history and linguistics of each of them, we will realise that the difficulties we face when learning our own language help us and facilitate the path to learning a new one. At iScribo we love languages, this same passion leads us to invite you to improve and learn Spanish without complications. Visit us and discover how our tool works.

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Spanish as a language

Spain vs Latin America: How one language can change so much

Thought Spanish was just one language? The world’s second most widely spoken language actually has so many differences around the world. Let’s take a look.

¿De dónde sos?

¿Dónde estás?

¿Vosotros vais a la fiesta?

¿Yendo a la fiesta?

¡Qué chulo!

¡Qué padre!

¡Qué chévere!

¡Che boludo!

¡Órale, Güey!

The above are just a few examples of the different types of Spanish idioms and sayings you’ll encounter in various countries throughout the world.

Many times these differences can be subtle and will generally mean the same thing from one nation to another. Other times the differences are unique to that specific culture. Often, depending on your native language, the direct translations are downright comical.

Perhaps somebody doesn’t know a ‘potato’ about anything, or they’re happy as a worm. And if someone is straight-talking, then in Spanish they don’t have hair on their tongue.

Funny phrases aside, most of the differences you’ll find between the Spanish spoken in Spain and that of Latin America are structural in nature, with a few key differences in vocabulary. And of course, Latin America is a large place, so there are other differences from country to country.

Different cultures, one language

The answer to the question, “How many dialects of Spanish are there?” is easy: there are quite a few.

Many of the different types of Spanish involve vocabulary. There are simply different Spanish words in different countries. Take Mexico, for example. One reason you’ll encounter such a wide gulf in vocabulary has to do with that nation’s indigenous heritage.

This is particularly clear in the southern Mexican states, where the names of many places – Oaxaca, Tuxtla, Cancún, Tapachula, etc. – are based in part or entirely on native vocabulary. The state of Oaxaca is a perfect example. Its name comes from huāxyacac, a word in the Uto-Aztecan language of Nahuatl that refers to a tree common in the area.

Then there’s the Colombian capital of Bogotá. Far from being authentically Spanish in origin, the name originally derives from Bacatá. This is an indigenous word belonging to the Muisca people, who existed in the area long before the Spaniards arrived.

Travel elsewhere in South America and the indigenous influence is equally strong, if not more so. There’s Cochabamba in Bolivia, Iquique in Chile, and of course Machu Picchu in Peru.

This all contrasts sharply with Spain, where the Spanish language is actually heavily influenced by Arabic from the hundreds of years of Moorish presence on the Iberian Peninsula. Many place names have Arabic heritage, such as Andalusia, from the Moorish name for the country Al-Andalus, or even the Guadalquivir River in Seville. Other Spanish words also have Arabic roots, even words such as aceite, meaning oil, and ojalá, which means I hope and has a distinct similarity on the Arabic inshallah, meaning if Allah wills it.

Other language differences between Spain and Latin America involve different words that refer to the same object. Likewise, different verbs can refer to the same action. While you can conducir un coche (drive a car) in Spain, in Mexico you would manejar a carro. And while you might be typing away on un ordenador in Spain, in Mexico you’d be using una computadora.

It’s all about the accent

A big hurdle for many people learning a new language is pronunciation. The challenge of rebooting your brain and learning new letter combinations and how they form sounds you aren’t accustomed to is a tall order. This is particularly true with Spanish.

Each country that speaks the language pronounces it in different ways. Some of these accent differences are small while others are more distinct. Spain certainly qualifies as being distinct. Even if you’ve yet to visit this country, you might be aware of their unique accent.

The most famous example of the Spanish accent is the lisp. It’s true that in Spain people often use the “th” sound, for example, the pronunciation in words with a c followed by an i or e. In this example, the word Barcelona sounds like Bar-th-elona.

However, not all differences in Spanish pronunciation involve letter combinations. This is a country with a centuries-long history of Arabic influences, particularly in the south, which manifests itself in the way people speak. Travel to the southern region of Andalusia, say, and you’re likely to hear locals speak in more guttural tones. They also tend to drop the s and d in many words. For example they typically say “gracia” instead of “gracias” and “ciudá” instead of “ciudad” (city), with the accent on the a.

This is different from almost every country in Latin America. Be it Mexico, Peru, Venezuela or Chile, they typically speak a softer form of Spanish.

The trick to wrapping your mind around proper pronunciation in Spain is to settle in one region and immerse yourself in the language. Eventually, your ear will pick up the distinction and your mouth will do the rest.

Which Spanish is right for me?

The region where you’re based (or will be based) should be the key factor in determining which type of Spanish to learn. If you’re going to spend most of your time in the Americas, then learning the Spanish that is spoken in Venezuela and Colombia is often slower and clearly enunciated, making it great for beginners.

When travelling to other parts of Latin America you will encounter other dialects. The Argentines speak their castellano with an Italian lilt; ditto their “little brothers” in Uruguay. Chileans speak in rapid-fire bursts and pepper their sentences with so much slang it can be hard to keep up.

Back in Spain, the accent can feel more closed and they certainly speak much faster than in, say, Mexico. But once you understand it you can travel everywhere and follow the Spanish. After all, it is the root of the language.

Having said that, you’ll run into varied colloquialisms, slang, and cultural idioms in every Spanish-speaking country you visit. Therefore it’s always best to master the fundamentals of the language first, as these basics will serve you well no matter where you end up.

Because remember, in Latin America you might walk a few cuadras (blocks) to the restaurant, but in Spain that same distance is measured in manzanas (apples). Such is the topsy-turvy life of the Spanish-speaking world. It doesn’t matter the type of Spanish you speak, iScribo is here to meet your needs.

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