Language

The good news is that the Spanish spoken is this area of Spain is the Spanish that you might have learned at school: Castellano Castilian. The bad news is that you might not recognise it when you hear it; for two reasons: Speed and the Andalú accent. But don’t despair!

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Your linguistic endeavours will be rewarded as generally speaking the locals are delighted if you make the effort and will really try to understand you. They will also try to slow down, but find it almost impossible. It’s a fast language.

Here are some useful notes on the language, broken down into three sections, to get you started:
Pronunciation Emphasis & Accents Idiosyncrasies of Andalú

Pronunciation

More good news is that Spanish is a phonetic language, once you have learned the rules, you say it as you see it. Here is a quick run down of the rules of pronunciation.

Vowels

A = ah as in cat eg. caja box

E =  eh as in end eg. enero january

I = ee as in iguana eg. igual the same

O = oh as in cot eg. comer to eat

U = oo as in dude eg. uno one

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Consonants of note

C = ka as in car eg. coche car
OR = th
when C goes before i and e as in thanks eg. cielo sky (in Andalucía, and so in Granada, pronounced s not th*)

CU = qu as in queen eg. cuenta bill

G = hard(ish) as in fig eg. higo fig
OR = h
when G goes before i and e as in hello eg. girasol sunflower

H = silent eg. helado ice cream

J =  between a soft ka and gutteral h as in loch eg. esponja sponge

LL = y as in yellow eg. torilla omlete

Ñ = ny as in canyon eg. mañana tomorrow

 

QU = k as in cake eg. pequeño little

R* = rolled or tapped r eg. pero but

RR* = trilled r eg. perro dog

V = as in bin eg. vino wine

X = s before consonants or end of words eg. experimento experiment.
OR = x before vowels eg. éxito success

Z = th before i and e as in thanks eg. zapapto shoe (in Andalucía, and so Granada, pronounced s not th**).

* Whole chapters and web pages have been devoted to the rolling and trilling of the letter r and it is something that takes practice to achieve. It is particularly difficult for native English speakers, though not the Scots, and, interestingly, even in countries such as Spain, r is often the last consonant learned by children. For more information on how to roll the letter r click here.

Emphasis and accents

Emphasis

In Spanish the general rules on where to place the emphasis in words, unless otherwise indicated by accents, are as follows:

When the word ends in a vowel a, e, i, o, u or n or s the stress falls on the second-to-the-last syllable.

hablo I speak | hablan they speak | palabra word | lunes monday

When the word ends in a consonant other than n or s and the stress falls on the last syllable.

 calor heat | comer to eat | velocidad speed | papel paper

Accents

Accents are used to indicate where the emphasis should be placed when the rules (left) do not apply.

habló he/she spoke | farmácia pharmacy | ladrón thief | hablarás you will speak | relámpago thunder | melo give it to me | cilmente easily

Idiosyncrasies of Andalú

The foregoing tips are of course only the beginning of the story, to go any deeper would be to go beyond the scope of this site, but, I hope, that this is enough to get you going. But before you do, there a few idiosyncrasies about Andalucían Spanish that you might find it useful to know. There is a great deal of difference between text book or phrase book Spanish and the reality of the spoken language.

Don’t feel bad if at first you can’t make out a word of what is being said to you. Or indeed if your efforts are initially met with puzzled faces. Take comfort in the fact that in some places even a Madrileño, person from Madrid, might be considered as foreign as a Londoner.

Castellano is the official language of Spain and is spoken among a number of other languages, including the co-official Basque, Catalan, Aranese, Galician languages and the recognised but not official Aragonese, Asturian and Leonese. Andalucia has a distinct dialect known as Andalúz.

Dialect can vary massively from region to region, even from pueblo to pueblo. The classic distinctive characteristic of Andalúz, as mentioned above**, is that in Southern Spain, similar to South America, C and Z are generally pronounced s not th. It is quite a bit easier for the complete beginner to drop the thuthing, which can cause you to trip over your own tongue, from the start.

Andalucíans also have a habit of eating their words. By this I mean that pescado fish will become pescao. They will also drop the end of words and swallow their esses so that buenos dias becomes bueno dia, autobus becomes autobú, ¿dónde estás? becomes ¿dondehtah?, español becomes ehpañol and of course  Andalúz becomes Andalú.

Here are a couple of great online language resources for Spanish. SpanishDict and StudySpanish. ¡Suerte! Good luck! And have fun.

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Have fun with the language | Image: Flickr CC. Dan Queiroz