25 January 2013

Español and things that irk me...

The native language in Costa Rica is Spanish, or español. It is one of several of the romance languages and it's alphabet, unlike English, officially contains 27 letters: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, ñ, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, and z.

When I learned to speak, read and write Spanish, some 40+ years ago, the alphabet consisted of 30 "letters", 3 of which were letter combinations that have since been eliminated by the Real Academia Española (the ultimate authority on the Spanish language. The other 3 letters where ch, ll and rr.

Spanish was not easy to learn, but certainly it is much easier to master in your 20's than in your 60's. Now that I have turned into "that crabby old lady" (John's words, not mine) I get irked when people try to write in Spanish without taking the time to spell the words correctly. I see it all the time in the online forums and blogs of English speakers. Most of these folks depend on a spell checker to make sure their English is spelled correctly, but they don't bother to ensure their Spanish is spelled correctly.

At times, these misspellings can be rather comical, but occasionally they can be down right insulting. One of the biggest mistakes I see people making is spelling words with the letter ñ, or Ñ. Yes, this is a unique letter, not the letter N with an accent mark. The letter N is pronounced "ene" and the letter Ñ is pronounced "enyea".

I'm sure you've all heard the Christmas song by José Feliciano, that goes like this...

Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Prospero Año y Felicidad.

Well, the word Año is one of my major pet peeves.... it is spelled "año" not "ano" and it is the difference between wishing someone a prosperous year, or a prosperous "asshole", or "anus" if you want to be anatomically correct.

Here are a couple of other examples the irk me...

cumpleaños (birthday)
Cumple, comes from the verb "cumplir", or to comply, so you can probably guess what it would mean if written as "cumple anos"

sueño (dream/ or sleepy.."tengo sueño")
But when written as "sueno" it means sounded, as in the past tense of the verb "sonar", or to sound.

Doña (title of respect as in lady, mistress or madam)
The word written as "dona" comes from the verb "donar", or donate. It is also a misspelling of the English word "donut". So if this is placed in front of a woman's name, it could mean "Donate Patricia", or maybe even Patricia Donut.

uña (nail---as in finger nail)
If written as "una" it means one, or the article an.

cañón (canyon)
When written as "canon" it means canon, dogma, or doctrine.

We have a local restaurant in Atenas called "Antaños", or "Yesteryears" in English. After this brief lesson, I'll bet you can noodle out the definition if it were written as "Antanos". I can't begin to count the number of times I've heard expats mispronounce this word. They probably get tired of me trying to correct them, but they need to suck it up. I'm just trying to help and pay it forward.

When I was learning Spanish, my best friend Maritza, a Tica, spent more time correcting me than she did talking to me. Here it is, some 40+ years later, and she still giggles when I mispronounce something in her native language. My Spanish will never be perfect, and everyday I learn something new. She continues to teach me and I continue to improve.

If you are learning español, you need to bookmark the Real Academia Española as your "go to" site when you need to know the correct spelling of a Spanish word. There is no better source. Another excellent resource is the Spanish Language Lab at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne

I'll get off my soapbox for now, but only until this old curmudgeon finds something else worth sharing.

Hasta luego señores...

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