Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Historical Roots of the Spanish Language

The historical roots of the Spanish language

The Spanish language is one of the fastest growing languages on the planet. Currently there are almost 400 million Spanish speakers globally, and it is the official language in 21 countries. It is estimated that by the year 2050 there will be 900 million Spanish speakers globally- that’s 10% of the world’s population. Additionally, at this time it is estimated that the United States will be home to the largest population of these speakers. So, just how did the Spanish language come to be so popular and widespread?

In this blog, we will discuss the historical roots of the Spanish language, and trace the language through from its origins to the modern day by highlighting the following important points:

  • The Origins of The Spanish Language
  • The Spanish Language and the ‘New World’
  • Modern day Spanish Language

The Origins of the Spanish Language

The Spanish language is part of what we call today the ‘Romance Language’ family, with ‘Romance’ referring to its 5th Century Roman origins. As with most other Romance languages such as French, Portuguese and Italian, Spanish has its roots firmly planted in the Latin language, which was spoken by most of Europe at that time as well as parts of North Africa and even the Middle East, Turkey and parts of West Asia. The Spanish language in particular is said to have so many similarities to Latin that it is both the mother and the father of what we know today as the modern Spanish language. The emergence of Spanish form its Latin parents began after the fall of the Roman Empire, and slowly but surely became the dominant language of the Iberian Peninsula.

Beginning in the early 700’s CE, Arab armies began to head North with the express intent of conquering the Iberian Peninsula, and were largely successful. They stayed for over 600 years, and Arabic left a lasting impression on the Spanish Language. To this day, there are thousands of words in the Spanish language dictionary that are derived from Arabic. In fact, second to Latin, Arabic had more influence on the Spanish language than any other language. Most of these ‘borrowed’ words are in the industrial fields like agriculture, science and trade such as algoritmo (algorithm) and algebra. It’s often easy to spot many words with Arabic origin, as they tend to begin with the letter A, such as aceituna (olive), which is is zeitun in Arabic, Azúcar (sugar) from its Arabic counterpart sikkar and Aceite (oil) which is zeit.

The start of the standardization of the Spanish language can be traced as far back as the 13th century when King Alfonso X of Castile decreed that all of the official documents would now be written in Castilian, the formal dialect of the Spanish language. King Alfonso, also known as Alfonso the wise, supervised his scribes in the writings of astronomy, history, law and many other fields, firmly establishing consistency of the Spanish language.

The Spanish Language and the ‘New World’

It wasn’t until 1492 that Spanish armies were finally able to able to re-conquer the last remaining Arab stronghold in Granada, expelling them from the Iberian Peninsula for good. Now that Spain was not preoccupied with removing their invaders, they were free to start exploring the world. This is exactly what a man named Christopher Columbus did when he set off for the new world, bringing a brand new language with him. Despite being Italian himself, he was sent across the Atlantic under the orders of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. It was this voyage that began the Spanish colonization of the New World.

1492 was one of the most important years in the history of the planet, as this was the first time what we refer to as the ‘Old World’: Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, would be connected to the ‘New World’: the Americas. Initially, when Columbus arrived the Spanish language did not spread very quickly. The natives had their own deeply ingrained languages, cultures and traditions, and were reluctant to be assimilated into Spanish culture. The biggest advancements in spreading the Spanish language came when Catholicism was introduced to the ‘New World’, often forcefully. Jesuits and Franciscans used Spanish to teach the young children of Central and South America their religion, and tried to recruit as many of the indigenous populations as possible to Catholicism. Within a generation, Spanish became the de facto lingua franca of the Americas, bridging the gap between the hundreds of regional languages that existed before and facilitating trade in the region. As the populations of these regions grew and became established over time, their unique cultures shaped the original Spanish language into many regional varieties. While all forms of Spanish are generally mutually intelligible and still based on the original Castilian, they have their own unique accents, expressions, and slang. This makes Spanish a very unique and incredibly diverse language that continues to grow and evolve.

Modern day Spanish Language

Today, the Spanish language is one of the most popular languages in the world with over 560 million speakers, and has the largest number of native speakers second only to Mandarin. It is also the third most widely used language on the internet, behind only English and Mandarin. This means that it is important for businesses to translate their materials into Spanish, lest they miss out on such a large market share. Using a professional Spanish translation and copy editing service such as Spanish with Style gives businesses the tools to communicate with such a large group of people. The Spanish language is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations as well as an official language of the European Union, the Organization of American States and the Union of South American Nations among other organizations. These are very important organizations that also use professional Spanish language translation and copy editing services for their needs.

The Spanish language is natively spoken by 8% of the world with another 7% having it as their second language. In Europe, it is the official language of Spain but also counts many speakers in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. The Americas have the largest population of Spanish speakers, with most countries in the region counting Spanish as an official language: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela all officially use the Spanish language, albeit with regional differences. Even countries that don’t officially list Spanish as an official language are home to large populations of Spanish speakers such as Brazil with over one million native Spanish speakers in their very large, mostly Portuguese speaking country, as well as the United States. All these countries can have different accents, but more interestingly they often have very different vocabularies. Simple words for fruits and vegetables, for example, can vary widely between Spanish speaking communities. With different words for small things like fruits and vegetables, it is important to have a professional Spanish translation and copy editing experts like Spanish With Style tailor your documents to the specific group of speakers with whom you are trying to communicate, or at the very least into what some call ‘neutral’ Spanish.

With all the different dialects, accents and slang words around the world, Spanish With Style can guarantee your translations are professional, clear, concise and most importantly tailored for your specific audience. With the variances in the Spanish language being so different from each other, from Chile to Spain to Mexico, and even Texas and Cuba, the need for professional translation and copy editing services is more prevalent than ever.

Lost in Translation: Negatives, Gender and Word Order

Lost in translation

As we have previously discussed, Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages on the planet, both geographically speaking and in sheer number of speakers. The Spanish language is also one of the most studied languages worldwide, second only to the amount of people learning to speak English. One of the more difficult parts of learning Spanish, particularly as an English speaker, is figuring out the sometimes subtle grammatical differences between the two languages.

Over the next few weeks we will be going over some of the more common differences between Spanish and English grammatical structures resulting in some of the most common errors made in English to Spanish translation. Last week we outlined the differences between Spanish and English orthography, where we discussed the differences in capitalization rules, placement of commas and how to properly record numbers.

This week we will be going over a few more of the bigger differences between Spanish and English grammatical structures and what to look out for to avoid common errors in English to Spanish translation:

  • Spanish Language Word Order: Translating a sentence into Spanish word for word will not give you an accurate translation as Spanish language grammar employs a slightly different word order
  • Spanish Double Negatives: English and Spanish grammar have VERY different rules regarding negations
  • Gender in the Spanish Language: Every Spanish noun is assigned a gender and it can also change the way a sentence is constructed

Spanish Language Word Order

When we begin to learn another language, we often do so by learning as much vocabulary as possible. However, simply knowing how to translate the individual words doesn’t mean that the end translation is going to be correct. Knowing just a little bit of vocabulary can trick us into thinking we can translate a sentence word for word while still maintaining the meaning which is simply not true. This is another reason why it is important to use a professional Spanish language translation and copy editing service such as Spanish with Style for even basic translation needs.

The Difference:

The biggest difference, and the area where English speakers tend to make the most mistakes in Spanish, is the position of adjectives in relation to nouns. In Spanish, adjectives always come after nouns, while it is the opposite in English. In English, when describing something we begin with the descriptor followed by the object of our description. For example, if we are describing ‘the red house’, it would be la casa roja in Spanish, which literally translates to ‘the house red’.

Spanish Double Negatives

The English language constructs its negative sentences in a very particular way. English grammar rules are not set up to allow for double negatives and in the off chance that one is used, the phrase changes its meaning completely. For example, while not strictly speaking a grammatically correct sentence in English, it is possible for the phrase ‘I didn’t not take anything’ to be used casually. The double negative in this instance shifts the meaning of the phrase to imply the subject did in fact ‘take something’, by not ‘not’ taking ‘anything’.

The Difference:

Spanish not only embraces double negatives, but they are often grammatically required. The more negative markers one stuffs into a sentence, the more certain you can be of its negation. For example, if we were to translate the same example we gave above, ‘I didn’t not take anything’ directly into Spanish, we would get yo no tomo nada. In Spanish it is exceedingly clear that the subject of the phrase certainly did not take anything, which is not what it meant in English. This is another example of why using a professional Spanish language translation and copy editing service is extremely important, even for simple phrases such as this. Imagine if you had tried to use a software based translation service such as Google translate for this particular phrase, the meaning would have been quite literally, lost in translation.

Gender in the Spanish Language

The use of gender (masculine and feminine) in most Romance languages, Spanish in particular, can be very difficult for native English speakers to grasp. English does not make use of gender when sorting nouns and the prospect of learning not only an entirely new vocabulary but also remembering if they are classified as male or female can seem daunting. The only time English makes use of gender is if you are speaking about a specific person, in which case you would use ‘he’ or ‘she’. English doesn’t even actually require you to do this, and if you preferred, you could refer to people as ‘they’ and bypass gender classification in all cases. This is absolutely not the case in Spanish.

The Difference:

Spanish, as we discussed above, makes heavy use of gender classification and it is also grammatically very important. Not only is every single noun in the Spanish language attributed a gender, but the gender will affect the way the rest of the sentence is constructed. The most prominent example of this is in the use of adjectives. If you wish to describe something as being ‘old’, you must first determine the gender of the old thing in order to know whether to use the word vieja or viejo. Is it an old book? Un libro viejo. Is it old clothing? La ropa vieja.

So how can you tell what gender the noun is? The basic trick is to look at the end of the word. Generally speaking feminine words will end in ‘a’ while masculine words will end in ‘o’. However, this does not help you with the vast amount of Spanish language vocabulary that do not end ‘o’ or ‘a’, and it does not account for exceptions to this rule. The most notable example of what I will call a ‘trick word’ is the word día for day. Using the methodology outlined above you would think it is a feminine word, but it is in fact, a masculine word. The appropriate way to wish someone a good day is buenos días, and not buenas días.

The staff at Spanish with Style are incredibly well trained and are experts in their field. They have many years of education and experience on the matter and know what to watch out for with the often subtle grammatical differences between English and Spanish. You can be certain your text has been translated accurately, clearly and concisely when you entrust your translations to our Spanish translation and copy editing professionals.

Eager to Learn Spanish? Here is what you need to Know

Eager to learn Spanish

Looking to learn another language? Spanish is a very popular option and one of the most widely spoken languages worldwide. Learning the Spanish language will allow you to communicate with almost 500 million native Spanish speakers and millions more that speak it as their second language.

So what kind of steps should you take to prepare to learn another language? In this article we will discuss some of the most important things to consider:

  • Finding the motivation to learn Spanish
  • Where to begin? Tips for Incorporating Spanish into your Daily Life
  • The benefits of speaking Spanish

 

Finding the motivation to learn Spanish

The first thing you have to ask yourself is why you want to learn the Spanish language. Having a clear motivation to learn something, particularly a new language, makes it infinitely easier to persevere and sort through the barrage of new vocabulary you will need to learn. Are you taking a trip? Hoping to communicate with Spanish speaking friends and family? Keeping your goals in mind can help you get through if you feel like you are struggling. Perseverance is probably the most important aspect of learning a new language and if you have the motivation then you are halfway there. Practicing the Spanish Language as much as possible is the best way to learn and keep fluency.

Learning a second, or even third language, especially as an adult is very different from when you learned your first language as a child. As a child, you are virtually a blank canvas. Your entire life revolves around learning how to exist in the world and communication is a large part of that. As an adult, we don’t have this luxury. We have many other responsibilities and it can be difficult to set aside the time needed to learn. Patience is a necessity for people learning a new language. It’s important to remember that if you are struggling or feel as if you are speaking like a small child would, that this is not a reflection of your intelligence, but rather just a normal part of the learning process.

Where to Begin? Tips for Incorporating Spanish into your Daily Life

Now that you have clearly established why you want to learn Spanish, the second question is: where to begin? While registering for Spanish classes or hiring a Spanish tutor is obviously helpful, there are a few other steps you can take to maximize your chances of success.

The most common starting place is to begin building your vocabulary. Start by thinking about all the basic items around you in everyday life and learning the Spanish names for them. One of my favorite tricks is to put sticky notes on items around your house; this way every time you see an everyday household object, you will be reminded of its Spanish name. When setting out on learning a new language it can be frustrating to search for the most basic of words and committing these to memory will help you gain confidence.

A great way to practice is by conversing with a native speaker. One of the best ways, by far, to learn a language is to be ‘thrown into the deep end’ so to speak. This means seeking out situations where no one speaks English which could be a Spanish speaking country, or simply sitting at a table of native speakers a local bar or cafe. Just speaking about regular, everyday things will greatly increase your vocabulary and, more importantly, increase your comfort level speaking the Spanish language.

Getting used to asking questions and being comfortable knowing you may not understand all the words that are being spoken to you is key. Native Spanish speakers will also often speak very quickly, making it that much harder to follow the conversation. When you are trying to communicate with someone who is speaking the Spanish language and they are saying too much for you to process, don’t worry. Asking for them to slow down or letting them know you don’t understand (no entiendo!) is not an insult and they more likely that not will be happy to explain what they are saying.

If you can’t find a native Spanish speaker to practice with, try watching a telenovela. For those who don’t know, a telenovela is basically a Spanish soap opera and they are wildly popular in the Spanish speaking world. The actors on these shows often speak clear, concise Spanish, both to ramp up the dramatic aspect of the show but also so they can appeal to Spanish speakers across multiple geographical areas. This makes it relatively easy to follow along, learning both the language as well as a little bit about the culture. Making the Spanish language a part of your daily life helps keep Spanish fresh in your mind. Simple things like changing your computer or your cell phone to Spanish will keep you on your toes and thinking about Spanish every day.

The Benefits of Speaking Spanish

There are immeasurable benefits to learning a new language, Spanish in particular. It can help you feel more confident traveling to far-flung destinations, knowing you will be able to communicate. It can help you meet new and interesting people you wouldn’t have been able to communicate with before as well as making new friends. If you need a medical reason, learning two languages actually decreases your chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. According to several studies, learning a second language stimulates creativity and critical thinking skills which keep your brain thinking longer and harder, slowing down age-related mental illness.

Being bilingual can also increase your career prospects, especially as we live in a world that is becoming increasingly connected. We here at Spanish with Style understand the importance of being able to communicate clearly across linguistic boundaries, as we help companies day in and day out expand their audience by taking care of their Spanish translation and copy editing needs.

All in all, there is no downside to learning Spanish and there is a wealth of material available to get you started. The most important thing to remember is of course: practice, practice, practice!

The Evolution of the Spanish Language

The Evolution of the Spanish Language

The Spanish language is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, with more than 500 million speakers in 21 countries. It is no wonder that so many businesses are taking advantage of professional translation and copy editing services such as Spanish with Style in order to reach this massive audience. But just how did the Spanish language evolve to become the language we know today?

In this article we will trace the evolution of the Spanish language throughout history on its journey from its Latin roots through to its spread across the globe by discussing the following factors:

  • The Latin Roots of the Spanish Language
  • The significant impact Arabic has had on the Spanish Language
  • The canonization of official Castilian Spanish

The Latin Roots of the Spanish Language

The Spanish language was originally derived from Latin on the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans in 210 BC. Over time, the Spanish language began borrowing words and grammar from several other Roman languages such as Iberian, Celtic, Celtiberian and Basque. The Spanish language began to be heavily influenced by many of what we know today as Romance languages such as French, Italian and Portuguese. We are still able to see today just how similar these languages are to each other, and the Spanish language in particular. The largest contributor to most Romance languages and especially the Spanish language is of course, Latin. Some even go as far as to say Latin is both the mother and the father of modern Spanish.

The Significant Impact Arabic has had on the Spanish Language

Surprising to some, Arabic is another language that has heavily influenced Spanish. In the early 700’s CE, Arab armies invaded the Iberian Peninsula and began an occupation that lasted hundreds of years. This occupation had a tremendous influence on the modern Spanish language because a significant amount of Arabic words were integrated into Spanish at this time. To this day there are about 4000 words, or 8% of the Spanish language, with Arabic origins.

The Canonization of Official Castilian Spanish

Shortly after the Arabs were expelled from the majority of the Iberian Peninsula in the 13th century, King Alfonso X declared Spanish as the official language of Spain and mandated that all official documents were to be written Spanish. This is where the standard Castilian version of Spanish was formally introduced that is still in use today. It was after this time the Spanish language began to become distinctive from the other Romance languages, particularly Latin, in the way it pronounced its words. The Latin language in general is ‘harder’ while the Spanish language is ‘softer’. For instance, ‘stone’ in Latin is petra with a hard‘t’ but is piedra in the Spanish language with a soft “d”. This change gradually began to take hold throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. During this time the first official book on Spanish language grammar was written called Gramática de la Lengua Castellana and everything changed. In 1492, the Spanish language spread to the far reaches of the Americas with Christopher Columbus. Spanish is now spoken across the majority of South America, Central America and into Mexico and the United States.  This widespread growth has transformed the Spanish language into many unique, local dialects and is now one of the most popular languages today.