Anyone can learn 5000 commonly spoken Spanish words quickly and easily. In 5 minutes in fact. And this little post will share the secret. Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world. If, like me, you’ve tried and failed in the past to gain fluency in another language, it may be because you worked using traditional methods. What if there were an easier way?
Don’t get me wrong here. There are no shortcuts to fluency, whatever all those enticing language school promises might say. Learning a language is a lifetime journey, just as we continue to learn our mother tongue every day. But fluency and getting by are different skills, and here I’m talking about getting by.
First, ask yourself how many words in your native language do you actually know? Depending on our education level, it may be as little as 5000. Some know many times that number of course, but rarely come across and seldom use the vast majority of the words they know. Believe me, a vocabulary of 5000 words is more than enough for the average person to get through the average day. In fact we only need to know about 2500 words to communicate effectively in a wide range of social and practical situations. If I spend a day with my wife I may speak less than 100 words from dawn to dusk. “I was wrong” being the three most often spoken words used by me that day. Take a thick quality daily newspaper. How many different words are there in your quality daily newspaper? I’m talking quality newspaper, not trashy tabloid. I’m told a quality newspaper typically contains less than 600 different words. And in this blog I’m promising a secret to learn and memorise 5000 words in 5 minutes!
Enough preamble, let’s get to the meat. But first, trust yourself, you already know or can instantly recognise hundreds of Spanish words, either because they have been incorporated into the English language, like ‘Fiesta,’ or because you’ve been to the movies and seen the ‘gringo’ being shot by a ‘hombre’ in a ‘poncho’, smoking a ‘cigarillo’, under a ‘sombrero.’ In fact, if you’re still with me, you’re well on the way to discovering the secret for yourself. And the secret is that there are over 10,000 English words that are almost identical in their Spanish form, and many that are 100% identical. (I know you can’t have 99% identical, but this is not an English class here).
It’s all about understanding the language patterns. For example, once we know that ‘nation’ is spelt ‘nacion’ in Spanish, and the ‘c’ is pronounced like ‘th’, then we’re cooking with gas. (Don’t you love cliches?). Extrapolate from this knowledge the following: Almost any word you can think of in English – and there’s thousands of them – that ends in ‘ion’, like celebration or imitation, is going to follow the same pattern as ‘nation’ in its Spanish equivalent. There you have it. Now you can already recognise (and pronounce), thousands of Spanish words.
But it gets better. ‘Nation’, is just the tip of the sombrero. There are dozens of other patterns that work the same way. For example, any English words ending in ‘ive’ will usually end ‘ivo’ in Spanish (so now you’ll immediately recognise ‘positivo’ and ‘constructivo’ and ‘incisivo’). We’re on a roll here. Any English word ending in ‘ic’ is likely to be the same in Spanish but with an ‘ico’ ending. So we can now translate critic and diabetic and frenetic and hundreds of similar English words into Spanish. Still with me? Fantastico! And once we’ve got the basics, we can go on and work out more tricky customers, such as words in English that end in ‘ty’, like celebrity, that will likely end ‘dad’ in Spanish, which gives us ‘celebridad’. And when you get really good at this, you get to guess words that are variations on the pattern, e.g you’ll guess ‘ciudad’ is ‘city’ because your new language processor will recognise the ‘dad’ as ‘ty’.
I could go on with this, write a book on it, and make lots of money with a chapter for each pattern, but life is too short, or la vida es corta, as they say in Mexico. So the question is, if we can now recognise thousands of Spanish words, why can’t we understand a damn word we hear of spoken Spanish? We struggle even when the word is spelt exactly the same in both languages, like ‘virus’, or almost the same, like ‘terible’ (i’ll trust you to figure that last one out, and when you do you’ll be able to figure out another thousand Spanish words that end in ‘ble” !!!). Think what a diferencia that could make to your abilidad to get by in Spanish.
Well, the understanding problem is about tuning our ear to Spanish pronunciation. And that is something we can learn easily too. Once we know that Spanish typically stresses the syllable before last, and that the “i’ in virus is pronounced more like an ‘e’ in English, we have a good chance of recognising “virus” when the ‘nina’ or ‘nino’ at the bar asks us “tienes virus sexual?” Answer that one with ‘si’ and it will be a short ‘conversacion‘.
Now how do I know all this fascinating stuff or, more to the point, why have I troubled my butt to learn it? Well, in real life from Florida to California and all along the America-Mexico border native Spanish speakers, and there’s tens of millions of them, speak English often using Spanish speech patterns, and will often either speak ‘Spanglish’ or at least drop Spanish words like ‘delicioso’ into their everyday spoken English. (And once you know that hundreds of everyday Spanish words ending in ‘oso’ typically have an english equivalent ending in ’ous’ you’ll know ‘delicioso’ is ‘delicious’ !) So when I set my ‘brillante‘ new suspense novel ‘When the Siren Cries’ smack bang on the America-Mexico border and populated it with a number of smouldering senoritas and hunky hombres, then for the dialogue to mirror authentic speech I needed to incorporate Spanglish in the characters’ vocabulary. But to ensure everyday English speakers could follow the dialogue easily, I needed to be selective, and use words and phrases that were either instantly recognisable like ’hola chica’, or words like ‘bonita” that the English language tuned brain would easily translate using it’s actual or subconscious understanding of Spanish language patterns. So if you’re over 18 and want to read a gripping story of sex, secrets and lies (‘sexo, secretos y mentiras’) on the dark side of the America-Mexico border, while also getting to really appreciate that you already know how to recognise lots of everyday Spanish, check out my new suspense novel. Before you know it you’ll have a whole new ‘vocabulario’.
Hasta luego amigos