Spanish, also known as Castilian, ranks as the second most spoken language in the world. The United Nations classifies Spanish as one of the six official languages and the European Union and Mercosur use Spanish as an official language. Spanish belongs to the Ibero-Romance dialectic group of languages, which emerged from several Latin dialects in central-northern Iberia during the ninth century. It gradually spread into central and southern Iberia with the expansion of the Castile monarchy. Early Spanish dialect had strong Basque and Arabic vocabulary. Modern Spanish vastly differs from these dialects; however, it continues the pattern of adopting foreign words. Spanish made its way to the Americas when the Spanish Empire expanded its conquest into the New World between the 15 th and 16 th centuries. Its immersion into the New World continues its influence among native English speakers in the North, Central, and South America.
An individual must immerse themselves in Castilian culture to fully understand its language. Spanish culture encompasses a wide array of music, art, entertainment, politics, government, and religious rites. The Spanish has a reputation for its Flamenco music and dance, gorgeous beaches, and ferocious bullfights. Tourists become entranced by the eccentricity that Spain has to offer, including its influential Castillian language. Spain has held its prominence in Europe for centuries. Spain boasts itself about the artistic creations bestowed by Toledo-based artists, such as El Greco and Diego Velazquez. Francisco de Goya left an impression on the rest of Europe as he produced brilliant portraits for the Spanish royalty of the 18 th century. During the early 20 th century, the art world reflected on a group of marvelous Spanish artists, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Joan Miro.
Spain's architecture dates back to the prehistoric monuments in Minorca of the Balearic Islands, the picturesque Lonja in Seville, Mudejar buildings, castles, cathedrals, and the ruins of Merida and Tarragona. Other architectural monuments include the awe-inspiring sculptures found in Barcelona, Spain. Spanish cultural music cherishes its beloved guitar, which was invented during the 1790's in Andalusia. Spanish musicians have taken their humble guitar to respectable heights in the same vein as Flamenco music. In fact, Spain has seen a revival of Flamenco music in recent years. Spanish cuisine heavily emphasizes seafood from its local shore, and maintains its historical maritime roots. Spanish dishes vary according to its country; however, it usually involves fresh and healthy ingredients.
Dictionaries serve as valuable tools in learning the meaning and pronunciation of words, especially when learning a new language. Spanish dictionaries can help native speakers of other languages look up the meaning of unfamiliar words. Since the advent of the Internet, many online dictionaries actually translate words in one's native language into an unknown dialect. These tools can help learners become acquainted with basic nouns, pronouns, and sentence structure with relative ease. Other sophisticated programs can instill an understanding of the Spanish language at a rapid pace, unlike the previous methods of using tapes and textbooks to formally learn a language.
Grammar and Language Training
As with other native languages, Spanish can pose difficulties in learning the grammatical mechanics in written and verbal composition. The grammatical rules within the Spanish language may conflict with other leading official languages, including Mandarin Chinese and English. For instance, the verb conjugation, word order, and pronoun usage may vastly differ from the aforementioned native tongues. While this may cause confusion at first, it could ultimately pay off in the future when it comes time to converse with native Spanish speakers.
Spanish vocabulary may have words rooted in a foreign language. Therefore, Spanish learners may see similarities between their own native tongue and the Castilian meaning. Spanish learners will have to become familiar with the slight differences between the masculine and feminine connotations of words. For instance, “chico” and “chica” reflect both male and female persons; however, they have identical roots. Beginners should start with learning the days of the week, the four seasons, animals, and numbers. Intermediate and advanced learners can explore complex expressions that make Spanish unique from other foreign languages.
As a Romance language, Spanish shares a vast array of rich literary works in the form of novels, drama, short stories, and poetry. Miguel de Cervantes, a pioneering novelist, authored one of the world's most renowned novels entitled, Don Quiote. In fact, Miguel de Cervantes heralds as one of the most influential Spanish writers, and perhaps within classic literature in general. Miguel de Cervantes authored El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, his first European novel. Spanish learners can read literary works composed by Cervantes and other classical writers by using learning materials that will help translate, define, and describe the content contained within its pages. These tools will help instill an advanced understanding of the Spanish language for intermediate to fluent speakers.
Games and Exercises
Games, word searches, crossword puzzles, coloring pages, and lesson modules will provide a fun and exciting outlet for Spanish learners of all ages. Textbooks, dictionaries, and cassette tapes can only provide a limited understanding of the Spanish language. In general, a younger audience needs a visual aide that stimulates their creative faculties to really understand the fine details of a foreign language. A smaller percentage of those visual learners may also require an interactive element that helps them utilize their practical skills through hands-on training. Students should consider incorporating visual, hearing, and written aids that help promote the retention of the material.