Many schools around the United States are encouraging their students to learn a second language. In a report released by Harvard in 2008, approximately 91% of high schools require their students to learn a foreign language – with the vast majority of high students (93%) are learning Spanish. That begs the question, “is Spanish easy to learn?”
Today, we are going to explore the difference between these two languages and why Spanish may be the easier language to learn.
If you were to go on to Quora or Reddit to ask people which language is harder to learn, English vs Spanish, the majority of people will say English is significantly harder. But why? Let’s take a look:
Have you ever wondered how many words are in the English dictionary? According to the Oxford Dictionary, it’s impossible to answer the question because it’s “hard to decide what actually counts as a word.”
In the second edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, there are definitions for 171,476 words currently used. There are also 47,156 definitions for obsolete words. On top of all of that, there are about 9,500 derivative words that are included as subentries.
In Spanish, however, the current editions of the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (the Royal Spanish Academy dictionary), there are about 88,000 words. There are also about 70,000 americanismos words that are used in one (or more) Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America.
While the English language has roughly 180,000 words and Spanish has about 150,000 words, you will use more words to complete a thought in Spanish than you would in English.
Typically Spanish will take words from another language and apply their rules to the word. English, on the other hand, is a combination of Anglo-French and Germanic influence and there has certainly been many influences that have helped the evolution of Old English to the English we speak today.
When it comes to the question, “Is English or Spanish harder to learn,” think of it this way: the Spanish language only has 25 phonemes (speech sounds), whereas English has 44. So while English speakers may struggle trying to roll their “rr”, Spanish speakers will have a harder time learning English because they have new sounds to learn.
What’s more, Spanish speakers have a harder time learning how to write and read English because one sound can be represented a variety of ways. For example, the “SH” sound can be made with the following letter combinations: sh, ch, s, ci, ce, si, sci, and ti. Confusing right?
Rules for English grammar are hard for a native Spanish speaker to make sense of because the rules for Spanish grammar follows a certain formula. One of the hardest things for English speakers to learn are gendered (masculine vs feminine) nouns in Spanish. What this means is that every noun has two genders and you have to apply this to practically every sentence.
Spanish speakers, on the other hand often struggle with is the order of adjectives and negation. In Spanish, when you’re negating a word, you can choose between the prefixes: dis-, in-, non-, and un. In Spanish, all you have to do is put “no” in front of the word.
One part of speech that makes Spanish harder than English are the verb forms. Spanish has 14 types of verbs – seven simple tenses and seven compound tenses. English only has four regular verb forms whereas Spanish has more than 50!
Another thing that English speakers don’t have to worry about are subjunctive moods. In English, one would say, “I hope you get well soon,” or “I hoped you would get well soon.” In Spanish, however, you have different subjunctive endings to denote past, present, and future. For example, a Spanish speaker may say “Espero que te mejores pronto,” or “Esperaba que te mejoraras.”
Then we also have the imperative. In Spanish, you’ll have a different verb endings, one is a positive command and the other is a negative command. In English, the positive command will be the same as the indicative, and it will become a negative by putting the word, “don’t” before it.
For some, learning a new language can be very difficult, but there are other people who can pick it up quickly and speak it almost like a native. Those people could still have trouble forming completely thoughts and complex ideas even after studying and practicing. Even with Spanish’s intricate verb forms, a person can pick up on the root word and figure out what is being said.
English, on the other hand, is all over the place. The grammar rules can be confusing and the phonetics can make you scratch your head, but unlike Spanish, English doesn’t have gendered nouns or numerous verb endings. Sure, writing and speaking English may be a little harder, but it isn’t so difficult to share and understand ideas.
So what’s the answer: Is English or Spanish harder to learn? Well, it’s impossible to say for certain which is harder because people pick up things differently. Yes, it’ll be difficult in the beginning regardless of what language you’re trying to learn. Yet through practice and studying, you’ll find that you’ll pick up on the rules for either language.How would you answer the question, “Is English or Spanish harder to learn?” Or maybe you are learning a different language all together and that’s harder. Leave us a comment below and tell us your thoughts!