Week 13 – The Letter ‘N’
Like the letter M, I’m happy to tell you that the pronunciation of the letter N is the same in Spanish as in English! You see, it isn’t all bad news! If you actually listen to the way Spaniards speak, you will notice that practically all the consonant sounds are lighter or softer than in English which make them difficult for us to pick up at times. With a simple phrase like no pasa nada it is always the vowel sounds that will come over clearest, while the mouth glides over the consonants. It’s just a question of tuning in to this and getting used to it over a period of time.
As usual there are plenty of words beginning with the letter N that remind us of their equivalent in English. The first three are linked to each other and show how words are built up.
Nación (nation), nacional (nacional), nacionalidad (nationality). It’s interesting to note particularly here that the Spanish ending “-dad” is the equivalent of “-ity” in English and there are scores of words that work in the same way.
Nativo (native), we usually associate this word with primitive people, but in Spanish it simply means someone born in a particular country. Natural (natural), this sometimes translates as “fresh” as in zumo de naranja natural “fresh orange juice.” Necesidad another “-dad” word meaning “necessity.” Neutral (neutral) – be careful with the pronunciation, a combination of the Spanish “e” and “u” with the “e” being the stronger sound. Normal (normal) nostalgia (nostalgia), nutrición (nutrition). Norteamericano (North American) is an interesting one in that the Spanish differentiate clearly between the continent of America and the various countries belonging to it. When we say “American” we usually mean someone from the US, whereas for the Spanish americano means someone from any part of North or South America. The word for someone from the US (Estados Unidos) is estadounidense.
An interesting “false friend” is the Spanish word nervioso. This can mean nervous in the English sense of fearful, but is more often used to mean nervy, agitated or energetic. It is the same as when we say in English “he has a lot of nervous energy.” If a parent says to a teacher “Mi hijo es muy nervioso.”. (My son is very active or energetic) the teacher usually expects the worst!
And to finish off, a saying containing the letter N:
Los niños y los locos dicen las verdades. Children and fools cannot lie.
Not sure how true this actually is, but the equivalent phrase in English is “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings.”
Jane returns next week for more on the Spanish alphabet series, continuing with the letter Ñ.
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