As a Romance language, Spanish is one of the hardest languages to learn in Western Europe. This is particularly true for Germans because there are certain phonological differences in comparison with German. Are you familiar with the peculiarities of Spanish which make it an especially difficult language to learn for foreigners?
There are many obstacles to be hurdled during the learning process. After studying Spanish for many years, you’ll also notice many idiosyncrasies or—to put it another way—peculiarities with regard to grammar or vocabulary, for example.
First of all, it’s worth mentioning the speed with which the people communicate. When the Spanish start speaking, it’s often very difficult to follow the conversation. Nevertheless, they show consideration when chatting in Spanish with foreigners.
“C” and “Z” aspiration
Another characteristic that immediately grabs the attention when you hear someone speaking in Spanish is how the c’s and z’s are aspirated (in Castilian Spanish). It may sound unusual for Europeans learning Castilian Spanish because aspiration is not a common phenomenon among European languages (the “th” sound does exist in English, but it’s not as noticeable as the c’s and z’s in Castilian Spanish). However, all Western European languages pose their own difficulties, such as French, whose phonetics doesn’t often coincide with its morphology, or Italian, which is characterized by prosodic prominence. A Mexican once told me how amusing he found the accent of the Spanish from Spain.
Indeed, there are several features that foreigners find quite particular with regard to Spanish. One of these is definitely the use of verbal periphrases. Llegar a (get to), acabar por/de (finally/have just), tener que (have to)… by just adding one word to another, the meaning completely changes. And students of Spanish have to be aware of these nuances so as not to get confused. Naturally, this also poses certain dangers when translating Spanish texts into their native language. Translators have to pay close attention to whether it’s a single word or a verbal periphrasis in order to translate the meaning of the original text as accurately as possible.
Many people swear that knowing how to speak a Romance language makes it easier for them to learn another one. If you’re learning Spanish but you already know how to speak another Romance language, you’ll see how this can offer many advantages; nevertheless, the number of advantages would depend on which language you already speak. For example, in terms of vocabulary, if German is your native language, it takes longer to beef up your vocabulary or it’s more difficult to keep the Spanish words in mind. The reason is because there are many more similarities when comparing English with Spanish in terms of vocabulary than when comparing German with Spanish.