Learnability: Spanish is easy to learn

Spanish is easy to learn for English speakers. Because of their Latin origin, English and Spanish share many common words; there are dozens of English words in the Spanish language and vice-versa (vista, patio, mosquito, fiesta are all Spanish words). No other major language has sounds that are as easy to learn as those of Spanish. Spanish is a very flexible, expressive and freely spoken language. It is estimated that an English speaker can learn Spanish in a fraction of the time it would take to learn an Asian language.

As a result, the average student is able to maintain a simple conversation in Spanish after a few months of study, and a long conversation on everyday topics after just a couple of years.

Once the basics of the language are solidly planted, it is possible to develop a reading competence in any area of expertise or specialization in a few months. Typically, students of technical and scientific disciplines with a reading ability in Spanish will merge it with their studies as a matter of course.

The high learnability rate of Spanish for English-speakers depends primarily on the relative closeness of both languages, and secondarily on the relative inner complexity of the target language. Thus, Spanish is easier and quicker to learn, due to its simple grammar and phonetics, compared with Asian or other European languages.

For many English speakers, Spanish is a good gateway into other languages of the Romance family, such as French, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan and Romanian.

 

Spanish words in the English language

“Many Spanish words have come to us from three primary sources: As you can hypothesize from the list below, many of them entered American English in the days of Mexican and/or Spanish cowboys working in what is now the U.S. Southwest. Words of Caribbean origin entered English by way of trade. The third major source is the names of foods whose names have no English equivalent, as the intermingling of cultures has expanded our diets as well as our vocabulary. As you can see, many of the words changed meaning upon entering English, often by adopting a narrower meaning than in the original language.

Following is a list, by no means complete, of Spanish loanwords that have assimilated themselves into the English vocabulary. As noted, some of them were adopted into the Spanish language from elsewhere before they were passed on to English. Although most of them retain the spelling and even (more or less) the pronunciation of Spanish, they are all recognized as English words by at least one reference source.”1

 

Spanish loanwords in English

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I  | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

  • adios (from adiós)
  • adobe (originally Coptic tobe, “brick”)
  • aficionado
  • albino
  • alcove (from Spanish alcoba, originally Arabic al-qubba)
  • alfalfa (originally Arabic al-fasfasah. Many other English words beginning with “al” were originally Arabic, and many may have had a Spanish language connection in becoming English)
  • alligator (from el lagarto, “the lizard”)
  • alpaca (animal similar to a llama, from Aymara allpaca)
  • armadillo (literally, “the little armed one”)
  • armada
  • avocado (originally a Nahuatl word, ahuacatl)

B

  • banana (word, originally of African origin, entered English via either Spanish or Portuguese)
  • barracuda
  • barbecue (from barbacoa, a word of Caribbean origin)
  • bonanza (although the Spanish bonanza can be used synonymously with the English cognate, it more often means “calm seas” or “fair weather”)
  • booby (from bobo, meaning “silly” or “selfish”)
  • bravo (from either Italian or Old Spanish)
  • bronco (means “wild” or “rough” in Spanish)
  • buckaroo (possibly from vaquero, “cowboy”)
  • burrito (literally “little donkey”)

C

  • cafeteria (from cafetería)
  • canary (Old Spanish canario entered English by way of French canarie)
  • canasta (the Spanish word means “basket”)
  • cannibal (originally of Caribbean origin)
  • canoe (the word was originally Caribbean)
  • canyon (from cañon)
  • cargo (from cargar, “to load”)
  • chaps (from Mexican Spanish chaparreras)
  • chili (from chile, derived from Nahuatl chilli)
  • chocolate (originally xocolatl, from Nahuatl, an indigenous Mexican language)
  • cigar, cigarette (from cigarro)
  • cilantro
  • cinch (from cincho, “belt”)
  • cocaine (from coca, from Quechua kúka)
  • coco (type of tree, from icaco, originally Arawak ikaku from the Caribbean)
  • comrade (from camarada, “roommate”)
  • conquistador
  • condor (originally from Quechua, an indigenous South American language)
  • corral
  • coyote (from the Nahuatl coyotl)
  • creole (from criollo)
  • criollo (English term refers to someone indigenous to South America; Spanish term originally referred to anyone from a particular locality)

D

  • dengue (Spanish imported the word from Swahili)
  • desperado

E

  • El Niño (weather pattern, means “The Child” due to its appearance around Christmas)
  • embargo (from embargar, to bar)
  • enchilada (participle of enchilar, “to season with chili”)

F

  • fajita (diminutive of faja, a belt or sash, probably so named due to strips of meat)
  • fiesta (in Spanish, it can mean a party, a celebration, a feast – or a fiesta)
  • filibuster (from filibustero, derived from Dutch vrijbuiter, “pirate”)
  • flan (a type of custard)
  • flotilla

G

  • galleon (from Spanish galeón)
  • garbanzo (type of bean)
  • guacamole (originally from Nahuatl ahuacam, “avocado,” and molli, “sauce”)
  • guerrilla (in Spanish, the word refers to a small fighting force. A guerrilla fighter is a guerrillero)

H

  • hammock (from jamaca, a Caribbean Spanish word)
  • habanero (a type of pepper; in Spanish, the word refers to something from Havana)
  • hacienda (in Spanish, the initial h is silent)
  • hurricane (from huracán, originally an indigenous Caribbean word)

I

  • iguana (originally from Arawak and Carib iwana)

J

  • jaguar (from Spanish and Portuguese, originally from Guarani yaguar)
  • jalapeño
  • jerky (the word for dried meet comes from charqui, which in turn came from the Quechua ch’arki)

K

  • key (the word for a small island comes from the Spanish cayo, possibly of Caribbean origin)

L

  • lariat (from la reata, “the lasso”)
  • lasso (from lazo)
  • liberal ( from Cadiz Courts)
  • llama (originally from Quechua)

M

  • machete
  • machismo
  • macho (macho usually means simply “male” in Spanish)
  • maize (from maíz, originally from Arawak mahíz)
  • manatee (from manatí, originally from Carib)
  • mano a mano (literally, “hand to hand”)
  • matador (literally, “killer”)
  • marijuana (usually mariguana or marihuana in Spanish)
  • mesa (in Spanish it means “table,” but it also can mean “tableland,” the English meaning)
  • margarita (a woman’s name meaning “daisy”)
  • mariachi
  • menudo (Mexican food)
  • mesquite (tree name originally from Nahuatl mizquitl
  • mestizo
  • mole (unfortunately, the name for this delightful chocolate-chili dish is sometimes misspelled as “molé” in English in an attempt to prevent mispronunciation)
  • mosquito
  • mulatto (from mulato)
  • mustang (from mestengo, “stray”)

N

  • nacho
  • nada
  • negro (comes from either the Spanish or Portuguese word for the color black)
  • nopal (type of cactus, from Nahuatl nohpalli)

O

  • olé (in Spanish, the exclamation can be used in places other than bullfights)
  • oregano (from orégano)

P

  • paella (a savory Spanish rice dish)
  • palomino (originally meant a white dove in Spanish)
  • papaya (originally Arawak)
  • patio (in Spanish, the word most often refers to a courtyard)
  • peccadillo (from pecadillo, diminutive of pecado, “sin”)
  • peso (although in Spanish a peso is also a monetary unit, it more generally means a weight)
  • picaresque (from picaresco)
  • pinole (a meal made of grain and beans; originally Nahuatl pinolli)
  • pinta (tropical skin disease)
  • pinto (Spanish for “spotted” or “painted”)
  • piñata
  • piña colada (literally meaning “strained pineapple”)
  • piñon (type of pine tree, sometimes spelled “pinyon”)
  • plantain (from plátano or plántano)
  • plaza
  • poncho (Spanish adopted the word from Araucanian, an indigenous South American language)
  • potato (from batata, a word of Caribbean origin)
  • pronto (from an adjective or adverb meaning “quick” or “quickly”
  • pueblo (in Spanish, the word can mean simply “people”)
  • puma (originally from Quechua)

Q

  • quadroon (from cuaterón)
  • quesadilla
  • quirt (type of riding whip, comes from Spanish cuarta)
  • quixotesc (from Don Quixote book)

R

  • ranch (Rancho often means “ranch” in Mexican Spanish, but it can also mean a settlement, camp or meal rations)
  • reefer (drug slang, possibly from Mexican Spanish grifa, “marijuana”)
  • remuda (regionalism for a relay of horses)
  • renegade (from renegado)
  • rodeo
  • rumba (from rumbo, originally referring to the course of a ship and, by extension, the revelry aboard)

S

  • salsa (in Spanish, almost any kind of a sauce or gravy can be referred to as salsa.)
  • sarsaparilla (from zarza, “bramble,” and parilla, “small vine”)
  • sassafras (from sasafrás)
  • savanna (from obsolete Spanish çavana, originally Taino zabana, “grassland”)
  • savvy (from sabe, a form of the verb saber, “to know”)
  • serape (Mexican blanket)
  • serrano (type of pepper)
  • shack (possibly from Mexican Spanish jacal, from the Nahuatl xcalli, “adobe hut”)
  • siesta
  • silo
  • sombrero (in Spanish, the word, which is derived from sombra, “shade,” can mean almost any kind of hat, not just the traditional broad-rimmed Mexican hat)
  • spaniel (ultimately from hispania, the same root that gave us the words “Spain” and español)
  • stampede (from estampida)
  • stevedore (from estibador, one who stows or packs things)
  • stockade (from a French derivation of the Spanish estacada, “fence” or “stockade”)

T

  • tobacco (from tabaco, a word possibly of Caribbean origin)
  • taco (in Spanish, a taco can refer to a stopper, plug or wad. In other words, a taco originally meant a wad of food. Indeed, in Mexico, the variety of tacos is almost endless, far more varied than the beef, lettuce and cheese combination of U.S.-style fast food)
  • tamale (the Spanish singular for this Mexican dish is tamal. The English comes from an erroneous back formation of the Spanish plural, tamales)
  • tamarillo (type of tree, derived from tomatillo, a small tomato)
  • tango
  • tapa (small meal)
  • tequila (named after a Mexican town of the same name)
  • tejano (type of music)
  • tomatillo
  • tomato (from tomate, derived from Nahuatl tomatl)
  • toreador
  • tornado (from tronada, thunderstorm)
  • tortilla (in Spanish, an omelet often is a tortilla)
  • tuna (from atún)

U, V

  • vamoose (from vamos, a form of “to go”)
  • vanilla (from vainilla)
  • vaquero (English regionalism for a cowboy)
  • vicuña (animal similar to a llama, from Quechua wikuña)
  • vigilante (from adjective for “vigilant”)
  • vinegarroon (from vinagrón)

W, X, Y, Z

  • wrangler (some sources say word is derived from Mexican Spanish caballerango, one who grooms horses, while other sources say the word comes from German)
  • yucca (from yuca, originally a Caribbean word)
  • zapateado (a type of dance emphasizing movement of the heels)2

 

Footnotes
1. Gerald Erichsen (2014) “Spanish Words Become Our Own: Adopted and Borrowed Words Enrich English” on the About Education website [Online] Cited 09/11/2014
2. Ibid.,