Spoken Spanish - very hard to understand?

ex-Guest   Wed Oct 22, 2008 4:04 am GMT
Hi, is it just me or is spoken Spanish actually incredibly difficult to understand relative to the written language and relative to the spoken forms of other languages.

As a comparison, I learnt German also and I can understand it more easily than Spanish even though I have been learning it about half as long and find it more difficult in an overall sense than Spanish (over 5 years). I consider myself quite competent in Spanish, yet I very frequently miss words, need to ask for repetition and need quite a long time to adapt to a new accent to the point of understanding even fairly basic utterances. German on the other hand is much much easier and I have no non-standard issues. So what's up with that? Could it be because my native language English is more closely related to German so I am better equipped to understand it? I doubt that, for I also learnt some Italian at one time and although I didn't reach an advanced level, I recall no problems of this kind.

Thank you for your kind correspondence, my esteemed colleagues.
Rhoi (Sp3ctre18)   Wed Oct 22, 2008 5:15 am GMT
A bit more info on your circumstances could help, such as your 1st/native language(s) and what is ths spoken Spanish you speak of. People you know? TV? Univision (shudders!)? etc? and what nationalities?

With my 1st/native languages being both English and spanish, I sitll have trouble understand some people Spanish, but usually it's more beacuse of either accent, or most commonly, slang usage. Puerto Ricans and Mexcians especially... both have tons of Americanisms and made up slang words I'll miss them and cringe, such as when one woman told me a vase was all "esctrachado," and there's more common ones like "trucko" or "parkiado." OH MY GOSH MY EARS HURT. Puerto Ricans has similar things, but are also very informal. Their constant "tu"s stab at me, like, who do I think I am, gosh? and even though they're in America, they're talking to people they maybe just met, they use all of these slang words that i'll miss, and cause to miss other words cause they lost me.

Accent may be an issue too. For example, although most spanish speakers would say I speak spanish in an American accent (and I speak english with slight spanish accent, darn it), the way I speak the spanish might actually be a Nicaraguan accent, if not maybe more specific than the whole country. Apparently, we put the accent in verbs in the wrong place many times. For example, if my head isn't being too muddle up from being late know, if I want to ask "what do you want" as in "what would you like," accenting should be: "que qui-EH-res?" However, we say "que qui-eh-RES?" Even if said in a good tone, it already sounds harsher and unfriendly than "qui-EH-res." Even though that's how I've heard all my life within the family, I notice the difference, and it does feel wrong. Intonation can throw you off too, though relatively light, all these things together can cause difficulity. To go to an extreme, I think we can understnad how I know a guy from India who speaks and pronounces English very well..but that sing-songy accent is hard to follow.

I'm kinda really gotten onto my parents and a bit upset like "why?? If you knew it was wrong, why didn't you corrent me like all other other stuff you've corrected me on??" I mean, everything else they're been good with; they use some slang and americanisms, but have always taught me the right words and to use those, of course. I don't know. And with each other they use "vos," but again, they do let me know it's informal, not right, and only in certain countries, so I've never used it.

Another thing is speed. People from different countries, upbringing, etc., will talk a different speeds, and, like in english, pronounce differently. some will really rush through their words (even worse if they slur), while some will be slower and more careful. Just like in english, I mean, English is what I know best due to being in USA.... but I can't understand everyone. I visted my GF in January, went to a Target for some starbucks and the guy was like, I can't remember what he said but it wasl ike "hawryltday." I was like... *blinks*...... wat? My gf had to translate like "he said how are ya'll today." I'm like.... wow.... he said all of that? That happend 2 more times in differnet places; the southern accent and their speed! Some fellow college students slur their words and talk so lazily I can't understand them well.

all of that may be crap as a response to you, i dunno, since it' all general, but it IS important to remember stuff liek slang, accent, etc.

conisdering how it's written, I don't think there's anything too hard, i don't see how spnaish should be uniquely more difficult or anything. Every vowel has one distinct sound, so looking at a word you know how it's pronounced, and if you know what a word sounds like, you can always figure out how it's spelled, unless it's an issue of consonants like V or B, C or K, G o J, Y or LL, etc., so you really won't have words sounding exactly like another words because one spelling = one way to say it; no DEER vs DEAR in spanish.

could it be an issue of simply practice as well? how much and how consistenly do you hear and try to understand spanish vs german?
Guest   Sat Nov 01, 2008 10:10 pm GMT
I think it depends on the accent. For me the easiest to understand is Colombian or Argentinean Spanish. The Chilean or the Mexican Spanish are really difficult o comprehend.
Invited   Sat Nov 01, 2008 11:32 pm GMT
I love it when people who don't know nothing about a subject just give "their opinion"..

Here is the thing, Spanish has lots of accents (way more than English) so depending on which is the one you learned, the other ones are gonna have a different rythm and entonation, the easiest ones to understand are the Colombian, Spaniard and Mexican ones (since these 3 pronounce all letters at a normal speed), the hardest ones to understand are the Caribbean and Chilean ones (since these 2 skip lots of S's and speak too fast), despites this fact, Spanish is still pretty straight forward, unlike English were its speakers don't speak clear and there are even "hidden" tricks to sound native.
François de Gaule   Sun Nov 02, 2008 1:30 am GMT
Spanish is VERY HARD to understand when spoken.
Poorly articulated. Vowels are relatively easy to grasp (hey, they have only five) but consonants are a hell to distinguish.
Compared to Spanish, German and Italian are a breeze.

Well, I think that English and French may sound quite blurry too to non experienced listeners.
Prinkalin   Sun Nov 02, 2008 1:41 am GMT
Poorly articulated? what are you talking about, in Spanish the clearest you speak the better, as for English were the less clear you speak the more native you sound.
Halcotian   Mon Nov 03, 2008 3:16 am GMT
I think any language you're trying to learn is very difficult to understand when spoken :)

I know I had (and still have) problems understanding both spoken French and Spanish. On the other hand, understanding spoken English is duck soup (except for people from Glascow).
Miscreant   Mon Nov 03, 2008 5:33 pm GMT
<<I think any language you're trying to learn is very difficult to understand when spoken :) >>

Perhaps, but some are harder than others. For instance, I think Japanese is one of the easiest languages to comprehend because it is has a simple phonology and is usually spoken clearly compared to, for example, Spanish. After not much study, I could understand a lot of spoken Japanese, but I couldn't understand very much Spanish, which I had been studying for a while.
Popeye   Mon Nov 03, 2008 6:27 pm GMT
If a language is only spoken in one country then it's only going to have one accent, but if it's spoken in several countries (like Spanish) it's going to have tones of accents, and you can only get used to one.

For example I learned American English, therefore I'm used to it, and everytime I watch one of those British films, I don't understand most of it, the same thing happens when people learn Mexican Spanish and have a hard time understanding Cuban Spanish or they might've learned Spaniard Spanish and have trouble understanding Chilean Spanish.
Metiche   Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:33 am GMT
To Rhoi (Sp3ctre18), I think you're generalizing and you've been talking with Hispanics whose language skills must be bad in both languages. A good Spanish speaker hardly use Anglicisms -not more than an English speaker uses words of foreign background. I've met Puertoricans and those who live in the U.S. have some of the worse Spanish speaking skills. And many Mexicans who live in this country hardly have a proper knowledge of Spanish, unless they're properly educated. I'm Mexican by the way and I'm many times embarrassed by the Spanish those Mexicans speak. If you visit México and talk with educated Mexicans you will see the quality of the language, same thing I can say about Puertorricans.
Latin Boy   Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:14 pm GMT
I'm Italian. My opinion is Spanish or Latin is very very simple but English and German is very difficult. If your mother-lenguage is English you think is very simple German. I had studied english for 12 years but I can't speack vey good with everybody. I had studied Spanish for 3 month and I can speack without difficult with spanish boy.
Morticia   Sat Nov 15, 2008 11:40 am GMT
Japanese people speak Spanish very well too, their phonologic inventory is very similar .
JApanese HALF   Sun Nov 23, 2008 9:34 pm GMT
if you speak one of the romances languages derivatives from Latin you can learn it so easy, the portuguese if you speak spanish you can understand portuguese even if you ever heard a word from that language, its like italian and french there are 5 romances languages derivatives from Latin the most antique language ,

my mother speaks spanish, & my father teach me japanese but what you learn only in few years you lost as fast as you have learned, my english isn´t good enought but i´m still learning, i perfectly understand every single variation of spanish accent, the only one i can´t got is the catalá and even don´t know if is it a dialect or a language
euskalrats   Fri Nov 28, 2008 5:45 pm GMT
Hi, Im spanish and is not true that we have problems to understand the spanish of other counties.

Maybe spanish is difficult to you because we speak a bit fast for a person that has other language as native.

i think that maybe the spanish from colombia, venezuela and mexico are the easier ones to understand because they speak like separating more the words...
Anyway, the most beautiful one is the european spanish, it was the first one ^^
Popeye   Fri Nov 28, 2008 9:27 pm GMT
hehe you're Spanish so obviously you think your accent is the best, but that's fine.

Going back to the subject, no one said that Spanish speakers have a problem understanding each other, they all undestand perfectly. Regarding the non-native speakers who are learning Spanish, it's obvious that will have a problem understanding a Spanish dialect that they're not used to hear.