En Español

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It’s all over. The inverted punctuation marks in front of a word, statement or question.

At first I thought they are used as a local advertising design but apparently these form part of the Spanish language, a unique way of preparing a reader of a sentence that is interrogative and exclamatory.

Like the inverted punctuation marks, I put my foot forward to learn the second mostly widely spoken language in the world (after Mandarin).

Spanish – one of the Romance languages such as French, Italian and Portugese. One may relate these languages to the emotion of love but it is not. “Romance” here links back to the Roman times when “vulgar” (though “common” would be nicer word) Latin was adopted instead of its classical form and colloquialism got blended with intrusive cultures, developing into a true medium for the Iberian people at large.

It’s also the most popular second language learned by native speakers of the English language and it is easy to understand why. Both Spanish and English have Latin influence and many words are similar so that you can guess the meanings. For example, restaurante, profesiones, hotels…

But pronounciation and grammar are another matter. “H” is silent so hotel is otel. “ll” is read as ‘y’ Marbella should be read as Marbeya. “V” is pronounced as “B”, thus Valencia becomes Balencia.

The Spanish 29-letter alphabet is known as abecedario, from the name of the first four letters, a b c d, each letter pronounced the way its written. And there’s also a whole lot of masculine and feminine nouns to deal with.

For me, ABC (Absolute Beginner Class) at Don Quijote is where the breakthrough may happen. Learning a new language is like treading into the unknown, an alien space with alien sounds that gradually makes sense and you can begin to integrate into another culture, word by word.

Joan Yap

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