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Where did the Spanish language come from, and how has it changed over time?

In this post, we’ll talk about linguistics, history, and in particular, the evolution of the Spanish language.

We’ll be exploring its roots and learning about the many words we use today that were adopted from other languages or dialects.

Let’s start from the beginning…

How many languages are there in the world?

According to Ethnologue, there are 142 different language families and a total of 7,111 languages are spoken today.

Around 40% of these languages are endangered and only 23 languages account for more than half the world’s population, being the Spanish language one of the most spoken languages in the world.

Learn Spanish: Languages with the most native speakers

Languages with the most native speakers. Source

The Spanish language we know today, has gone through a very interesting and long journey; it’s the result of thousands of years of language development and cultural influence.

Spanish belongs to the Indo-European family and derives many of its rules of grammar and syntax from Latin; around 75% of Spanish words have Latin roots.

However, Spanish has also other influences such as Celtiberian, Basque, Gothic, Arabic, and some of the native languages of the Americas.

How has Spanish changed over the years?

In his TEDed video, Alex Gendler talks about how languages change and evolve, and how groups or linguistic trees give us crucial insights into the past.

Gendler finishes with an interesting request:

…the next time you hear a foreign language, pay attention. It may not be as foreign as you think.

Did you know that there are about 4,000 words in Spanish that come from Arabic?

Spanish, and its distinct dialects, emerged following years of invasion and settlement of many cultures in the Iberian Peninsula: the Moors from Northern Africa, the Visigoths from Central Europe and the Christians from the Roman Empire.

Castillan Spanish was originated as a continuation of the spoken Latin (Vulgar Latin) in the northern and central areas of Spain. Then, the northern dialect spread to the south where it absorbed local Romance dialects such as Judaeo-Spanish or Ladino and borrowed many words from the Andalusian Arabic.

Colonization and the Spanish language

Another important moment in history influenced the development of the Spanish language.

The colonization of the Americas in the 15th Century.

It all started when the Spanish “conquistadores” led by Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon in Spanish) arrived in the Caribbean in 1492.

The process of bringing the Spanish language and Spanish traditions, including the catholic religion, into the continent was referred to as “hispanización”.

There were many challenges in the “hispanización” process, but one of the biggest was communication.

Local languages were starkly different, the Catholic Church stepped in establishing learning institutions to teach Catholicism in Spanish.

The Spaniards occupied the territory for over three centuries, children and adolescents grew up, and the Spanish language started to spread and expand in the region.

Despite the efforts of the Spaniards to impose the language, many of the native local words were adopted.

The Castillan Spanish words were simply not accurate to the description of the many new discoveries of the region.

The adoption of the native vocabulary included local objects such as:

  • “canoas” (canoe) or
  • “hamacas” (Hammocks). Likewise, fauna and flora that didn’t exist in Europe at that time such as
  • ají (chilli pepper),
  • tiburón (shark),
  • iguana (iguana),
  • manatí (manatee),
  • guacamayo (macaw),
  • maní (peanut),
  • camote (sweet potato),
  • cacao (cocoa),
  • tomate (tomato),
  • tamal (tamale) and
  • papaya (papaya).

Over the years, the Americas Spanish evolved and Latin American Spanish and its many dialects emerged.

What About Spanish Today?

Spanish is today the official language of 20 countries.

It’s spoken by more than 500 million people around the world, and it’s the most widely spoken Romance language, both in number of speakers and number of countries.

Today, depending on where you go, you could hear differences in words, accents and even grammar.

Mexico is by far the country with the most native Spanish speakers worldwide, followed by Colombia, Argentina and Spain.

 

Top 12 countries with the largest number of native Spanish speakers worldwide

Countries with the largest number of native Spanish speakers worldwide Source

Spanish is the third most used language on the Internet and it’s second on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Furthermore, it plays an important role in the modern cultural and artistic industry; there are countless films, series, books, songs, and conferences in Spanish. And, it is expected that by 2060 around 754 million people will speak the language globally.

Is Colombian Spanish different?

In general, Colombian Spanish is a group of dialects of Spanish spoken in Colombia.

Since the dialects spoken in the various regions of Colombia are quite diverse, the term Colombian Spanish is of more geographical than linguistic relevance.

It is important to note that when referring to “Colombian Spanish” people normally refer to the standard dialect spoken in Bogotá. This dialect is generally well known for being probably the clearest Spanish to understand and the easiest Spanish to learn.

Colombian Spanish has gained popularity between the non-native speakers willing to learn or improve this language.

What do you think? Did you find the history of the Spanish language as rich and fascinating as we do? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

There is no doubt that Cross-Cultural Relationships can be challenging, not only due to language barriers or in cases with long-distance but also because of different cultural norms, traditions, and customs.

Having a Colombian partner is one of the reasons why many people come to the country to learn Spanish and to learn more about our culture. We asked some women and men from North America and Europe who have – or have had- Colombian partners about their joys and challenges of dating or living with a Colombian.

The joys

Before starting, it is important to note that these are not stereotypes but generalizations. Below are 10 favorable characteristics people tended to notice about their Colombian partner or Colombian culture:

1. They are happy people

Colombians are generally seen as friendly, happy and positive people. You normally see them smiling, singing, dancing. Their happiness is contagious.

2. They are grateful

Colombians have the ability to enjoy simple things and to be grateful for almost anything. It might be due to their strong religious background, due to decades of violence and internal conflict, due to the many social and economic problems, or a combination of these.

3. They are spontaneous and authentic

Colombians have the ability to live and enjoy the present moment. Colombians are generally spontaneous and authentic; they are also very expressive you can easily discern their emotions even when they are not talking.

4. They are creative and positive

Colombians tend to see the glass half full, they are very resourceful and always find ways to overcome any difficulty. Never say to a Colombian they can’t do something, they will prove you wrong!

5. They are talkative and have a good sense of humor

Colombians love making jokes, they love sarcasm and they love talking. Colombian Spanish is characterized by its use of slang, local expression and double meaning jokes. They like simple talks but when it comes to deep and meaningful conversation there is nothing more delightful than speaking with a Colombian, they are so passionate when talking.

6. They are affectionate and generous

Affection is very important for Colombians. They are very open with their emotions. If they love you, they say it and they show it. They like cooking for their partners and families, they like giving presents and even dedicating songs. It is important for them to show their relatives and friends that they care about them. They are generous, they love sharing food, drinks, and their time.

7. They are passionate

Colombian men and women are very passionate and expressive people. When talking to them you can feel how passionate they are about almost anything: their career, their dreams, their family, and, of course, their country. You can especially see, and feel, it when the Colombian national football team is playing. Check out the worldwide known Colombian campaign call “Colombia es Pasión”

8. They love music, dancing and celebrations

Music is an important part of the Colombian culture. It is a way of expressing emotions, sharing discomfort or showing love to friends and family. It is a way of showing their pride for their roots, and a way of living in the moment.

It is common to see Colombian women or men dancing and singing around the house, dancing and playing instruments in the streets and even in public transportation. Colombians have the ability to make a celebration out of any situation.

9. They are proud of their country

When talking about their country they can spend hours showing you pictures about the places you should visit, the food you should try, the books you should read if you show some interest in literature, the movies you should watch (please don’t mention Netflix series about drug trafficking), and the Colombian expressions you should learn to have a better experience when you visit the country or meet their families and friends.

10. They love their family

Family is one of the most -if not the most- important aspect for most Colombians. They spend a lot of time with their relatives and there always seems to be a family celebration to attend. They are very close to their family; including their grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews.

When dating and marrying a Colombian you automatically get a whole new family, they will treat you as a son or as a daughter. This in particular is one of the reasons why people who have a Colombian partner decide to study Spanish. They want to be part of the family and friends’ gatherings, they want to be able to fully understand the conversations and to avoid feeling lost in translation.

The challenges

It all sounds very nice, doesn’t it? However, not everything in the garden is rosy. Most of the positive characteristics could lead to frustrations and challenges.

Here is what people find the most difficult and challenging about their Colombian partners and the Colombian culture.

1. They are emotional, sensitive and impulsive

There is drama in simple situations. They might get jealous easily if they feel they are not getting all the attention, they might get upset if you are being too direct with them. They are the sweetest and friendliest people but when they are upset, they can be really, really upset!

2. They exaggerate

It is common to hear words like “never” and “always”. For example, they might tell you: “you never do this” or “you always do that”, even when it is something that was done – or wasn’t done- a few times.

It is also common to hear words like “hundred”, “thousand”. For example: “I called you 500 times and you didn’t answer” even if they called you three times, or “there were like hundred people making the line” when there were just 20 people.

They normally say “Mil gracias” (Literally translated as “thousand thanks”) when they want to say “thank you very much”. So, when talking to Colombians don’t take what they say too literally, try to understand the context first.

3. Their sense of time

The Colombian sense of time is quite fluid. For example, a promise to do something “tomorrow” can often mean they will perform it in the near future, perhaps next week.

When they say “ahora” (“now” in English) they refer to both the present (now) and the future moment (later), it depends on the context. They also use the diminutive of “ahora”, “ahorita” to say “later” but this term doesn’t mean that it is sooner than “ahora”. In conclusion, “ahora” and “ahorita” regularly means later. If they tell you “Te llamo ahorita” (I’ll call you later) they might call you in 5 minutes or an hour.

If you call someone to ask when they are arriving they are known to say “arriving in five minutes” or “I’m already on my way” when they are still home.

The Colombian spontaneity and sense of time can lead to difficulties for planning and frustrations for last minute change of plans.

4. Non-verbal Language and local expressions

Colombians are emotional, expressive, and passionate. They tend to either exaggerate and to use diminutives. They also use many expressions and sayings. Consequently, it is hard for a non-native Spanish speaker to fully understand what the other person truly means.

In addition, there are many gestures such as pointing with the lips to indicate that something is located “there”, or putting the fingers all together when saying that a place was packed (See common Colombian gestures here)

5. Indirect Communication

In addition to the non-verbal language and local expressions, Colombians are also generally seen as being indirect communicators. It is important to understand contexts and to be able to read between the lines, which is sometimes difficult for people from countries where communication is direct.

Colombians rarely deliver delicate information, negative answers, or negative points of view in a frank or blunt way. They tend to avoid conflict or confrontation, and they often take a long-winded, roundabout approach to conveying their messages sensitively and tactfully.

6. They are “always” right

Colombians have a strong character and temper. They are stubborn and even obstinate when making their point clear because they always want to be right.

7. Machismo

Machismo culture permeates everything, from the jokes to the role in relationships and society. Being a deeply Catholic country, there are many taboos in subjects such as sex and sexuality, mostly when it is related to women.

For people from North America and Europe, it is sometimes difficult to understand certain customs such as paying the bill if you are a man or being constantly asked when are you getting married or having kids if you are a woman reaching her thirties, or being judged if a woman is open and act freely with regards to sex.

8. Sometimes too rooted to their culture and their traditions

There is a thin line between being proud of a culture and being too rooted in certain traditions. In some cases, Colombians can be closed-minded in relation to their family, their food and their country.

9. Too attached to their family

Colombians are sometimes too close to their families. In most cases, Colombians live with their parents until they get married. Families are overprotective, mainly towards women. Colombians, for instance, are often not as independent as North Americans or Europeans.

10. They can be very loud

Colombians are happy, enthusiastic, and passionate and it seems that it is one of the characteristics people love the most about us. However, when they get a little too excited about a certain topic they tend to speak at quite loud volumes, especially when in a group or when having an argument.

Have you dated or are you in a relationship with a Colombian? Do you relate to any these joys and challenges? Let us know your thoughts and don’t forget to share this post on your Social Media and to visit our website Learn more than Spanish!

There are many reasons for being proud to call Colombia our home; and our variety of fruits is definitely one of them.

According to the Humboldt Institute, Colombians could eat a different fruit every day for more than a year. Yes! You are reading well. We could spend a whole year trying different fruits because in Colombia there are over 400 edible native species.

Colombia is known as the “gateway to South America”; it sits in the northwestern part of the continent where South America connects with Central and North America. It is famed for its great climatic diversity, including deserts, tropical rainforests, savannas, prairies and mountain ranges. The climates in these mountainous areas are usually categorized according to their elevation, known as “pisos térmicos” in Spanish.

Furthermore, thanks to its geographical proximity to the equator, Colombia doesn’t have typical seasons like spring, summer, fall and winter. Instead, there are only two seasons, rainy and dry, and the weather stays more or less the same all year round in each region. These characteristics are what make Colombia not only the second most diverse country in the world but also a fruit heaven on earth.

So, what kind of fruits would you find when visiting Colombia?

Here are Learn more than Spanish’s Top 15 of the fruits Colombians like the most :

 1. Lulo

Colombian exotics fruits: Lulo

2. Guanabana (Soursop)

Colombian exotics fruits: Guanábana

3. Granadilla

Colombian exotics fruits: Granadilla

4. Chontaduro

Colombian exotics fruits: Chontaduro

5. Maracuyá (Passion Fruit)

Colombian exotics fruits: Maracuya

6. Gulupa

Colombian exotics fruits: Gulupa

7. Guayaba (guava)

Colombian exotics fruits: Guayaba

8. Borojó

Colombian exotics fruits: Borojó

9. Tomate de árbol (Tree tomato)

Colombian exotics fruits: Tomate de árbol

10. Feijoa

Colombian exotics fruits: Feijoa

11. Curuba (Banana Passion Fruit)

Colombian exotics fruits: Curuba

12. Pitahaya (Dragon Fruit)

Colombian exotics fruits: Pitaya

13. Uchuva (Golden Berry or Physalis)

Colombian exotics fruits: Uchuva

14. Zapote (Sapota)

Colombian exotics fruits: Zapote

15. Mangostino (Mangosteen)

Colombian exotics fruits: Mangostino

These are some of the fruits that you might try at least once during your trip to Colombia, likely with new friends or at family gatherings, but definitely in the streets of Bogota and when visiting the iconic local markets of our city.

When buying fruits from street vendors or in the local markets you should be prepared to have short –or even long- conversations with random people. Colombians smile and talk a lot, we’re very friendly and polite but we also use a lot of informal expressions. Make sure you learn some slang and local expressions, so you don’t miss our jokes.

Learn More Than Spanish students visiting one of Bogota's famous local markets

Learn More Than Spanish students visiting one of Bogota’s famous local markets

Are these fruits already exotic for you? For Colombians these fruits are quite normal; we use them to prepare natural juices at home, make fruit desserts and snacks. However, there are some fruits that are exotic even for Colombians: Amazonian fruits.

Although Colombia accounts only with the 8% of the Amazon rainforest (Brazil 60%, Peru 12%, Bolivia 7%, Venezuela 5%, Guyana 3%, Suriname 2%, Ecuador 2%, French Guiana 1%), there are a large number of Amazonian fruits than can be found nowadays in the main cities.

Here the Top 3 Amazonian fruits for Colombians:

1. Cupuazu

Colombian exotics fruits: Capuazu

2. Camu Camu

Colombian exotics fruits: Camu Camu

3. Arazá

Colombian exotics fruits: Arazá

These fruits are not as easy to find as the fruits listed above. However, in Bogotá, for instance, you can find almost everything that grows in Colombia.

These particular Amazonian fruits have been gaining popularity in the capital city since restaurants like Wok and Crepes & Waffles, two of the most important restaurant chains, are using these products for their juices and desserts. As part of their social and environmental program, these local restaurant chains have started sourcing both local and exotic products from all around Colombia for their menus in order to bring city people back to their roots.

If you have visited Colombia you’ve hopefully tasted some of our diverse and delicious fruits, but if not, we suggest you take note of their names and make sure you try them when you visit us again (yes, we know you will be back!). If you haven’t visited Colombia yet now you have another reason to put this beautiful country in your bucket list destination.

Has this post brought back memories from your trip to Colombia? What was your favourite fruit?

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and to visit our website Learn more than Spanish!

 

Spanish is one of the richest languages in vocabulary in the world.

And it has a good number of long words.

According to RAE, The Spanish Royal Academy the longest word in the Spanish dictionary is «electroencefalografista».

So, to help you get into the habit of enrichening your vocabulary, here are five long Spanish words you can actually use:

1. Esternocleidomastoideo (22 letters)

Meaning: Sternocleidomastoid, muscle of the neck.

2. Interdisciplinariedad (21 letters)

Meaning: Interdisciplinary, combining or involving two or more academic disciplines or fields of study.

3. Internacionalización (20 letters):

Meaning: Internationalization, to make something international.

4. Desvergonzadamente (18 letters)

Meaning: Shamelessly, lacking any sense of shame.

5. Desconsoladamente (17 letters)

Meaning: Inconsolably, that cannot be comforted

6. Electrodoméstico (16 letters)

Meaning: Home Appliance, electrical or mechanical machines which accomplish some household functions

Bonus:

Paralelepípedo (14 letters)

Meaning: Parallelepiped, a three-dimensional figure formed by six parallelograms

Caleidoscopio: (13 letters)

Meaning: Kaleidoscope, a toy consisting of a tube containing mirrors and pieces of colored glass or paper, whose reflections produce changing patterns.

As you can see, most of them are compound words (adverbs or two based-words). It could be a good exercise you try to practice their pronunciation!

 

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses