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The Great History of the Language of Cervantes!

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Spanish > An Introduction to the Spanish Language

Everyone has some idea of the history of the Spanish language. Even without taking any Spanish lessons, we are all capable of babbling a few words or phrases.

But do we really know the history? The Spanish language saw many twists and turns before achieving the linguistic domination that it enjoys today…

So much so that it possesses numerous accents and similarities with other languages: French, Portuguese, or Catalan for example.

Discover, step by step, the great history of the Spanish language

The Great History of Castile and the Spanish language

In the 21st century, the Spanish language is one of the most widespread languages in the world. It’s among the top 5 spoken languages! It is studied in the four corners of the globe by countless students: vocabulary (words, lexicon, expressions, phrases…), oral expression or oral communication, conjugation, pronunciation (accent, consonant, tone accent, Spanish alphabet), phonetics, conversation, grammar…

Learning Spanish is offered everywhere, as an official language (or mother tongue) or a foreign language. As well as the history of the Spanish language.

But before that, it took many twists and turns to bring about the birth of this language. Between the 3rd and 1st century BC, the Romans conquered the Iberian Peninsula, allowing only the Basque language to remain. For the rest, only one language was spoken: Latin (written Latin and vernacular Latin).

In the 5th century, the invasion of the Visigoths then brought a few Germanic touches to the Latin vernacular. Once again: 3 centuries later the Moors imposed some changes influenced by the Arabic language. Starting in 800, Castilian Spanish makes its appearance following several territorial victories by the Basques especially. The following centuries allow for the Spanish monarchy to form and thus for Castilian Spanish to spread even further. But it’s during the Reconquista (the Christian reconquest of the lands of the south of Spain over the Muslim populations), then of the omnipotence of the Kingdom of Castile, that the Spanish language as we know it today spreads throughout the territory.

Spanish throughout history Gérard Depardieu as Christopher Columbus, or the staging of a key period in the evolution of the Spanish language.

The “golden age” and the conquests of the New World then allowed Spanish to spread gradually throughout the world: in America (Central or South) and to the Philippines.

Despite the different wars for independence of the Spanish colonies throughout the world, the loss of territories, the end of the Spanish empire in the 19th century, and the autonomist movements that reinforced other languages (Catalan and Galician especially), Castilian Spanish maintains all its power. And all the more so, alas, during the reign of the dictator Franco, who, through linguistic repression, imposes Castilian Spanish on all the territories.

Catalan and the Spanish language: What are the Differences?

The Spanish language as we know it today is known as Castilian Spanish. A language that we can learn in school, on the Internet, in lessons at a language school, at university, or on a language-immersion trip.

It is in fact possible to learn Spanish in Spain (Spanish lessons in Barcelona, Madrid, or elsewhere), in Latin America, or in Central America! A total immersion to acquire the linguistic knowledge necessary to be bilingual in Spanish!

But just as we decide to learn Spanish, learn French, learn English, or learn German, what about Catalan?

spanish around the world The love for the Catalan language is very strong in Catalonia. But bilingualism still remains the norm!

Catalan has the same grammar, vocabulary, territory (Catalonia), pronunciation, phonetics, and alphabet… and it’s the most-spoken language of a nation with no state!

There are some real differences between Catalan and Castilian Spanish. But what about the similarities between Catalan and Castilian Spanish? There are a lot of those too, most notably a common origin, derived from Gallo-Romance Latin. Two Latin languages thus possessing a strong tone accent and a few pronunciation similarities (the letter “v” for example). Catalonia now has 2 official languages and most people are bilingual.

Spanish Accents

As part of its colonial politics enforced in the 15th and 16th centuries, Spain conquered numerous territories in Latin America (Argentina, Colombia, Peru…), Central America (Costa Rica, Mexico…), in the Caribbean (Cuba), in Asia (the Philippines), as well as in Africa (Equatorial Guinea).

Which explains the importance today of the Spanish-speaking and Hispanic population in the world, from the European Union to the southern tip of Latin America. Spanish is today the official language of 20 countries throughout the world and thus encompasses nearly as many different accents!

Learning the Spanish language also means learning the accents in Spain. Such as Andalusian, which is enunciated very little. It is thus rather common not to understand Andalusian when you’re first starting out. The syllables are a bit mumbled, like certain letters at the ends of words (the “s” and the “d” especially). “Ll” is pronounced as “y,” the “c” and the “s” are pronounced as “th”… It’s a little complicated!

Catalan pronounces “l” in the same way as English, and Galician is sung as much as it is spoken.

Castilian Spanish is a romance language, and its accent is very widespread in Spain.

What about South America? It is often said that the Andalusian accent has spread through Latin America. Nevertheless, the “c” and the “s” and the “z” are pronounced like “s.” The “s” at the end of a word is also less emphasized. Another similarity with Andalusian, the “ll” is pronounced as “y.”

Learning Spanish thus also entails studying Spanish accents. It is possible to do that in a language-immersion trip, with a phonetic alphabet, a Spanish-English dictionary or a private tutor!

Should you learn Spanish or Portuguese?

Spanish and Portuguese have a number of common characteristics. The two are accessible and possible to learn in the United States. In night classes, university studies, summer courses, or private lessons with a native speaker.

There are also ways to use the Internet to find free Spanish lessons, learn the history of Spain and the place of Spain in the world. The same goes for Portuguese!

The Spanish grammar is similar to that of Portuguese. Some Spanish words find a troubling consonance in the language of Cristiano Ronaldo.

The reasons to study Spanish rather than Portuguese are numerous. For example, the hundreds of millions of Spanish speakers throughout the world. Geographic, demographic, historic, and economic relations between the United States and Spain and between the United States and Latin America as well. It’s undeniable that Spain and South America remain popular tourist destinations for Americans.

It’s also worth noting that nearly 5000 businesses are set up in Spain. And don’t forget that knowing the language of Cervantes can also open up more job opportunities for you within the United States, which has a large population of Spanish speakers.

But why choose Portuguese? To communicate with the Portuguese communities in the United States, but also in order to go and live in Portugal or Brazil (nearly 30,000 Americans immigrate to Brazil every year on average). 260 million people speak Portuguese throughout the world (in 10 countries), and it’s beloved for its singsong quality.

Useful Spanish Phrases

The Spanish vocabulary, its comprehension, knowing how to speak, how to progress rapidly: all that can be done in a Spanish language course, an intensive internship, or even a Spanish class in Spain or South America!

Each Spanish word is a small victory that will allow you to survive in a 100% Spanish-speaking linguistic milieu.

spanish lessons Knowing how to introduce yourself in Spanish is indispensable!

But what are the useful Spanish words and phrases?

Everything involved in greeting someone, first and foremost: “Buenos dias,” “Buenas noches,” “Hola,” “Adios,” “Hasta luego,” “Hasta mañana”…

The essential words: “si,” “gracias,” “por favor,” “de nada,” “perdon”…

To introduce yourself: “Me llamo,” “Soy americano/a,” “Tengo 21 anos”…

How can you hold a conversation without knowing how to ask questions? How to show your agreement or disagreement? Express how you’re feeling? Congratulating? Being sorry? Asking for directions? Asking for what you need at a hotel or restaurant?

Top Spanish Quotations

Now that you have a strong background on the beautiful languages of Cervantes, Superprof suggests that you round off all of this wonderful knowledge with a few Spanish quotations.

The kind of sentences that will allow you to pass for a civilized member of society!

Or else, and here we are mainly addressing students who would like to learn as much as possible about the Spanish language, you can utilize well-known quotations during your exams.

Enough with the suspense, here are a few of these Spanish quotations you can use:

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” — Picasso

“Learning to doubt is learning to think.” — Octavio Paz

“Let’s be realistic, let’s do the impossible.” — Che Guevara


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