By Lucía Rodríguez
What are the most difficult things to learn about Spanish? It is a regular question from our students. Spanish is a rich
and complex language so; it is common for foreigners who want to learn it to face some specific difficulties.
First things first, learning a language, whatever language you mean, always implies effort and commitment. Some languages are more difficult than others depending on several factors. What is true is you will need to learn new vocabulary, new sounds, new intonation, new grammar, and you need to use it and practice it.
Let’s try to determine what is the hardest part of studying Spanish to offer tips and hints to make it easier to. At www.spanisherfecto we always strive to offer enjoyable and useful classes in which students learn while having fun.
1-Ser and Estar
In English, there is only one verb for “TO BE” and that’s where the complications of SER and ESTAR come in. It’s natural at the beginning when speaking to express yourself however you can. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but to native speakers, the misuse of SER and ESTAR sounds really strange.
2-Gender and Number in Words
Gender and number, it is something very easy to explain, very easy to understand and difficult to apply. Why? Because you do not have this grammar structure in English. Yes, you have bonito y bonita, depending on the gender or bonito/ bonitos depending on the number. On top of that, every single word in the sentences has to match the name. It means, if the name is feminine, the adjectives and determinants are feminine too. Same with the number. And yes, you have to use the correct conjugation.
Also, there are the rules and exceptions! All feminine words end with “a“, right? Wrong! To get familiar with the basics exceptions you can check out our blog post and go over how to decipher this mystery.
3-All the Spanish Verbs
Learning a verb in Spanish entails much more just a single word. Verbs in Spanish are conjugated by person and number, meaning that you’ll have to memorize five (or six, if you’re speaking the Castilian variety) different endings for each verb that you learn as per subject pronoun. If that’s not enough, the conjugations can be different depending on whether the verb ends in -ar, -er, or -ir. And even further, verb tenses (e.g., past, present, future) are all conjugated differently. It’s no wonder that memorizing conjugations is one of the greatest stumbling blocks for Spanish language learners.
Sometimes it feels like so many tenses can make you tense! Trying to remember the correct vocabulary, making sure all your adjectives match with your nouns and on top of all that, choosing between pretérito indefinido and imperfecto is enough to drive you crazy. It is one of the hardest things to get used to. If you want to sound fluent and more like a native, the use of different tenses and conjugation is something you have to learn. How to achieve this? At the beginning you have to memorize everyone and then it slowly becomes automatic. Again, practice makes the master.
A pronoun stands in for a noun and allows speakers to avoid repeating full nouns or names over and over again once the topic has been established. There are many types of pronouns in Spanish which help distinguish how the original person, place, or thing is involved with the event described in the sentence. You will use a pronoun depending on the function. For that, you need to learn the pronouns, the uses and the functions in the sentence. Using pronouns requires study, it is hard grammar. They become natural with the use and practice.
Some students usually try to avoid use pronouns which is a natural reaction. However, in a natural and fluent conversation it is mandatory to use them.
5-Keeping up with native speakers
Learning the grammatical rules of Spanish is one thing; actually, talking to native speakers is another. If you feel like Spanish speakers talk really fast, you’re right. Several studies found that Spanish is spoken at a rapid-fire 7.82 syllables per second — making Spanish speakers quite hard to keep up with! In comparison, English is spoken at just 6.19 syllables per second.
This problem could get worst depending on the country or regions. Definitely you will find particularisms in each country, and one of them is how fast the Spanish is spoken.
Your ability to understand spoken Spanish only comes with continued exposure to native speakers. So, keep watching those Spanish series and movies, keep placing yourself in other environments where the language is spoken naturally. And if you are in the company of native speakers, join in the conversation and work on your own speed of speaking and listening. Immersion is the clue.
6-Knowing where to place the accent
Unlike English, whose syllable stress falls mostly arbitrarily, Spanish has intricate rules that govern syllable stress. In special circumstances, words require an accent to be placed over the stressed syllable. However, even to native Spanish speakers, it’s not always immediately obvious when an accent is necessary: it depends on which letter the word ends in, as well as whether or not there is another word spelled identically in the language, in addition to other factors.
This is, for sure, one of the hardest things to get. You will learn subjunctive in level B. It means after knowing all tenses of the indicative mood. Now, you will learn there is a whole other dimension of tenses called the subjuntivo. It feels like you have to start from the beginning again. New rules, uses and functions, like when you want to express a desire or a doubt, when one action depends on another, or following some fixed expressions with “que“. The uses are many and understanding them is really hard.
No matter how much you dislike this new mood, you have to learn it. Being able to speak naturally using the subjunctive takes time and once you realize you’re doing it, it feels amazing!
8-The R and J and G Sounds
For English speakers, the Spanish r and rr are not always easy to pronounce. However, it is more a myth than a true. It depends on each one’s phonetical skill. It’s a sound that native speakers have been perfecting all their lives and it’s the reason it sounds so effortless for them. Being practical, how many times do you need to pronounce rr? Not too much, really.
For people who do not have the natural skill to pronounce the roll r, the recommendation is practice. Recording your pronunciation and listen to, find words in your language that have similar sound. Remember practice makes perfect.
Learning a language is a process, and not a straight one. It is going to be a ups-and-downs road. But what is true, you are in the road to be bilingual, no matter the small difference between Spanish and your mother tongue.
As a final thought, we can say that mastering a language is a matter of time and attitude. It is a matter of commitment and engagement. It is on you, and Spanish Perfecto is here to make your process easy.
Our recommendation: practice what you learn whenever you can. Yes, you can try asking for tacos in that littles restaurant. You need to uses the language to keep it alive in your mind and in your heart, to improve your learning and continuing your progress.