Thursday, December 10, 2009


The pressure is on to simplify Spanish with that pressure coming from modern technology such as the internet. The move has the approval of the Real Academia de Española – the guardian of the language.

In the firing line are the accents and the tilde that are currently major elements in the language but which are not compatible with the world governed by the keyboard or mobile phone key pads.

Victor García de la Concha, the director of the RAE, explained: “To survive, a language has to be used by a large number of people, to have a unified language and to be in tune with technology.”
Therefore the adverb ‘sólo’ along with pronouns such as ‘éste’ and’ aquél’ would all lose their accents and the ‘ñ’ would cease to be. After all – how many people use these accents when sending an SMS message?

The object is to have a language more modern and attractive, simple and dynamic, clear and globalised. There is also a desire to unify the Spanish languages that are spoken in Spain and in Latin America which over the years have developed their own differences.

The RAE is aware that certain English words are now entering the Spanish language and is thinking seriously about adding such words as ‘marketing’, ‘parking’, ‘sex appeal’ whilst others such as ‘sponsor’ have already become ‘espónser’ and ‘CD-ROM’ ‘cederrón’. The internet is of course the internet.

The experts want to see an economisation of the language – the minimum force for the maximum results and to use a reduced number of words to communicate. The RAE says that we use an average of 300 words in sentences whereas in the lexicon of Spanish there are 283 million endings – so only 0.10per cent are used.

The writer and former director of the Instituto Cervantes in London, Juan Pedro Aparico, stated that Spanish was in fashion but added it was more highly valued overseas than in Spain. He also pointed out that in the UK Spanish has taken over from German as the key second language and was running close with French.

According to the magazine ‘Ethnology’ Spanish is the second most spoken mother tongue in the world and occupies third place on the internet after English and Chinese. Over 400 million people currently speak Spanish and by 2050 that is expected to leap to 537 million.

So how do I as a Briton living in Spain feel about these pending changes to the language that has become my adopted tongue? Well having struggled for years with the accents as well as the ñ and come through triumphant I am rather sad that these may now be pushed to one side. Equally I do not approve of the ‘dumbing down’ of the world we live in. Having said that I do see the sense in simplifying and unifying the Spanish language so as to make it more accessible to all. And anybody who has received a SMS message from a Spaniard will know that whatever the RAE might decide the change is already upon us.


Justin Robert said...

I wonder how "ñ" will be rendered? Possibly as "ny" like they do in Catalan.

Mary said...

Spaniards wanting to lose the richness of their language by dumbing down? - we should be encouraging our future generations to cherish the diversity of words, not simplifying- what use english language classes to British kids
then? I like to challenge Spaniards who pontificate about theirs being the richest language that English ain´t no slouch when it comes to variety. How sad it is to hear Shakespeare for instance and compare it with todays
unimaginative everyday usage. We'll be grunting at each other far too soon.

PROSPERO said...

What's so complicated (in Spanish complicado can mean difficult)? My keyboard is Spanish, including tildes, or accents (of which Spanish only has one, as opposed to French, which has two) and that lovely letter Ñ (it comes up here doesn't it?) - in fact, you can find these on an English keyboard if you can be bothered to look for them.
My mobile phone, admiteddly almost an antique, also has accents and Ñs. All I have to do is press a button to change the language and then a couple more clicks on whichever letter needs a tilde. The Ñ comes up after the N and before the O - notcomplicated at all.
If Spanish loses its character it will only be because of what some will call American Imperialism. (Has anyone noticed that the default language on a Word document is English US, and that at the drop of an haitch it will revert to that without your being asked?)
And anyway, spelling in English is a nightmare for anyone using a single sound for any of the vowels, such as in Spanish.
Before I can post this, Sancho, I'm asked to type out a squiggly 'word verification': 'ineducke' - what does it mean and can anyone pronounce it correctly?