For many years I have met many friends from different countries who have been interested in studying Spanish as a foreign language, both in their cities of origin and also in Spain and Latin America. As a fluent speaker of Spanish, and a student of other languages, I always like to help them. With several friends we arranged a “tandem”, that is, an exchange between their languages and mine.
It is undeniable that Spanish is one of the most important languages in the world, with an extremely rich and specific vocabulary, and with colorful expressions for every occasion. But learning it as a foreign language is difficult, very difficult. Why? Well, these are the testimonies of four of my friends explaining what things were the most difficult for them to learn and understand:
I always wanted to learn Spanish in order to travel throughout Latin America and be able to make myself understood, but at the beginning what was harder for me was to understand the difference between the verbs “ser” and “estar”, which in my language are the same verb, “sein”. And people laugh when they say things like “soy muy cansado” or “estoy el mayor de mi familia”.
In Spanish, “ser” refers to a general state or indefinitely as in “soy feliz”, “soy doctor”, “somos europeos”; whereas “estar” is more like a current state or location like “estoy cansado”, “ella está estudiando”, “el perro está en casa”.
I studied Spanish in Spain for three years and then traveled to Costa Rica and then lived for a few years in Argentina. Neither in one country nor in the other did he understand anything at first, the accents and the local slang of each country were surprisingly different. I thought it would be much easier. When I returned to Spain my friends made fun of my new Argentine accent. But beyond the vocabulary of each place, what brought me the most difficulties were the verbal tenses, all the forms of the preterite and their variations. I do not know another language with so many verb tenses.
That is how it is, the Spanish verb tenses and all their conjugations are a challenge to learn and remember in which case each one is used. Patience!
Angie (United States)
At school I was taught Spanish, and there are many Spanish speakers in my city, but I started to really learn when I finished college and took private lessons. What is the most complicated for me? The subjunctive! I still do not know what it’s for. But I do not understand why you say “espero que vayas a la fiesta” instead of “espero que vas a la fiesta”. This is not so common in English.
The subjunctive is a verbal mode that refers to a process or an action as a future possibility or a desire, for example, “no creo que tengamos problemas” or “ojalá llueva pronto,” etc.
I love speaking Spanish! But at the beginning I did not like it, the verbal conjugations were too much for me, and also the fact of having to know by heart the gender of all the words, feminine or masculine. And then they contradict themselves! For example, the singular is “el águila,” but in the plural “las águilas.” Those things kill me. After several years I got used to it and now I have more confidence in myself. I also like that the words are pronounced as they are written, that’s a relief. Although the accents in the words continue to complicate me sometimes.
In Spanish we try to avoid two equal consequent vowels, and one way to achieve this is by changing the grammatical gender of a word. For example, “agua” should be feminine, but to avoid saying “la agua,” the gender is changed and it is “el agua,” but its plural form recovers its female gender, “las aguas,”” since the es prevents the two a’s from appearing together.
Each language has its advantages and challenges. Spanish is a language that requires a lot of learning and practice, but it’s really worth it. But if you need a translation or a professional interpretation before you master the language you can always count on the Trusted Translations to solve all your linguistic needs, in Spanish and in any another language.