The differences between English and Spanish
Introduction: Spanish is a Romance language and part of the Indo-European language family. It is closely related to Italian and Portuguese. Spanish is a major language, with up to 400 million native speakers in Spain, Latin America and the USA.
Alphabet: Spanish uses the Latin alphabet. The vowels can take an acute accent, and there is the additional letter ñ. When spelling English words or writing them from the teacher's dictation, beginning Spanish students may make mistakes with the English vowels a, e, i. The consonants h, j, r, y may also cause trouble, since they have significantly different names in Spanish.
The English writing system itself causes no particular problems to Spanish learners. Beginners, however, may be tempted to punctuate questions or exclamations as follows, since this is how it is done in Spanish: ¿What is your name? / ¡What a goal! Punctuation of direct speech may also be a problem because quotation marks are not used in Spanish.
Phonology: The phonological system of Spanish is significantly different from that of English, particularly in the aspects of vowel sounds and sentence stress. These differences are very serious obstacles to Spanish learners being able to acquire a native-English-speaker accent. Coe (1987) says:
"European Spanish speakers, in particular, probably find English pronunciation harder than speakers of any other European language."
Spanish has 5 pure vowels and 5 diphthongs. The length of the vowel is not significant in distinguishing between words. This contrasts with English, which has 12 pure vowel sounds and 8 diphthongs. The length of the vowel sound plays an important role. It is not surprising, therefore, that Spanish learners may have great difficulty in producing or even perceiving the various English vowel sounds. Specific problems include the failure to distinguish the sounds in words such as ship/sheep, taught/tot, fool/full or cart/cat/cut.