Which is more difficult – English or Spanish?

Which is more difficult – English or Spanish?

Here at The Language Corner, particularly in our basic level groups, students often ask during their English classes which is more difficult: English or Spanish? Obviously, the answer to this question depends greatly on the person – if your native language is Italian, you will probably find it easier to learn Spanish than to learn English, and if your native language is German, you will probably find it easier to learn English than to learn Spanish. While opinions vary on this topic, there are some points which can be considered and compared:

VOCABULARY

English words, especially at the more basic levels, do in general tend to be shorter and often only contain one syllable, which can arguably make them easier to memorise, for example:

book –   libro

hot –   caliente

pen –   bolígrafo

chair –   silla

PRONUNCIATION

As English has a lot more sounds than Spanish does, especially vowel sounds and combinations of vowel sounds, pronunciation in English does seem to be significantly more difficult than in Spanish, or at least there are more new sounds to learn. There are also many sounds in English, such as θ and ð which have very subtle differences and to the unaccustomed ear can sound identical, but for native speakers, the difference in these two sounds can change the meaning of the word itself.

In addition to this, the pronunciation of words in English can vary greatly between regions and countries. A simple word like ‘bus’ in most regions is pronounced /bʌs/, but in the North of England and in the Midlands, it tends to be pronounced roughly as /bʊs/.

Though in Spanish this also happens to some extent.

GRAMMAR

Yo hablo, tu hablas, ella habla… In English, we rarely conjugate. In fact, most verbs will only have a maximum of 5 variations (e.g. speak, spoke, spoken, speaks, speaking). We also use auxiliaries to indicate tense (have spoken, will speak) and to indicate negativity (don’t speak, didn’t speak). Because of this use of auxiliaries, there is more simplicity in English grammar and much less to memorise. We do, however, have to use the personal pronouns (I, you, we, they, etc), which are often omitted in Spanish as the conjugation already indicates the subject of the sentence.

We also have no grammatical gender of nouns in English, with a few exceptions for job titles. To Spanish speakers, grammatical genders may not present much difficulty at all, but for an English-speaker, having to modify articles and adjectives based on grammatical gender can be quite a challenge at first.

READING AND WRITING

English is by no means written phonetically. In this sense, writing in Spanish is far easier than writing in English, and because of this if you know the rules on spelling and pronunciation you can look at any new word as it is written in Spanish and know exactly how it is pronounced, and vice-versa. In English, however, this is not the case; words such as rough, through, though and Slough highlight this point perfectly. Even as a native speaker of English myself, I will still occasionally come across a new word and not know how it is pronounced.

In conclusion, there are some points which are more difficult in English, and some which are more difficult in Spanish, There are also some points which are easier to learn in English, and others which are easier to learn in Spanish, and much of this also depends on the individual who is learning, and learning a new language is rarely ‘easy’ for anyone!

If you would like more information or help with learning English in Madrid, feel free to visit one of our academies in La Elipa and La Almudena, near Ventas, Madrid, where you can speak with our native English teachers, who are always happy to help.

We hope to see you soon!

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