25 may 2017

Spanish: Europe's fastest language

If you’re a student of Spanish and you have spent some time in Spain, you won’t be a stranger to the well known fact that Spanish is an extremely fast language and that overwhelming feeling when a Spanish person starts speaking. But just why is Spanish spoken so quickly?

The linguistic answer lies in the fact that Spanish syllables are fairly short. On average, they are formed by 2.1 phonemes, which are the distinct sounds in a language that differentiate one word from another, whereas other European languages are formed by a higher number of phonemes, for example German, 2.8, and English, 2.7. In short, this means that due to the nature of some Spanish sounds (for example the soft ‘d’), Spanish speakers, compared with other European language speakers, pronounce less fractions of a word.

In addition to this, it has been found that the pace of a language also comes down to the number of syllables pronounced per second, where, once again, Spanish speakers take the lead. As Spanish syllables are generally shorter than the average European language, there are more pronounced each second in comparison with other languages throughout the continent, meaning that Spaniards take the top spot when it comes to talking quickly.

So, don’t worry if you feel that you are struggling to understand when you are speaking to a Spanish person – the likelihood is that they’re speaking very quickly! In fact, in Croatian, there is a phrase which translates to ‘it sounds like Spanish’ which is used when someone doesn’t understand anything! Having said that, don’t be afraid to ask a Spanish person to speak a little slower – they’re often more than happy to¬ slow down and will love speaking Spanish with you!

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