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English Loanwords Abound in Modern Spanish

Lesson 3 in the 'Real Spanish Grammar' Series

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Excerpt from news article: La empresa francesa Semiocast, publicó el ranking de las ciudades y países más activos en el popular microblogging, Twitter. Según esta clasificación, Venezuela ocupa el décimotercer lugar entre todos los países del mundo y el cuarto en Latinoamérica, superado en la región por Colombia (tercero), México (segundo) y Brazil (primero).

Source: Últimas Noticias (Venezuela). Retrieved Jan. 4, 2013.

Suggested translation: The French business Semiocast published the ranking of cities and countries most active on the popular microblogging service, Twitter. According to this classification, Venezuela is in 13th place among all the world's countries and fourth in Latin America, surpassed in the region by Columbia (third), Mexico (second) and Brazil (first).

Key grammatical issue: This paragraph offers two examples of how English words have increasingly become part of the Spanish language, particularly in areas of technology and popular culture. Ranking has become firmly entrenched enough in Spanish that it has been recognized by the Royal Spanish Academy, although microblogging has not (while the Academy does recognize blog).

The way microblogging is used here indicates how meanings of loanwords can change when they become part of a new language. "Microblogging" is used in English as an adjective or the name of an activity, but here it becomes a related type of product or service. Something similar has happened with the word camping, which in Spanish usually refers to a camping site, although it can also refer to the activity. And sexy, obviously from the English adjective, is listed as both adjective and noun in the Royal Spanish Academy's dictionary.

Words have shifted in meaning coming from Spanish to English as well. For example, in Spanish a sombrero can refer to many types of hats, but the English word typically refers to a traditional broad-brimmed Mexican hat.

Secondary grammatical issue: Although this paragraph came from the largest Venezuelan news site, it shows how even native speakers can make errors. There are at least three things in the paragraph that are not standard Spanish:

  • The first comma, after Semiocast, is not needed.
  • The preferred spellings for the word for word for "thirteenth" as used in the paragraph would be decimotercer (no accent mark) and décimo tercer (two words).
  • The Spanish spelling for the largest country in South America is Brasil, which is how Últimas Noticias usually spells it. Perhaps the writer was reading a press release in English when composing the story.

Other notes on vocabulary and grammar:

  • Francesa, like other adjectives of nationality, is not capitalized except at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Both of the English loanwords in the sentence are masculine, which is typical of words new to the language unless there's a reason for them to be feminine.
  • Según is a preposition that often means "according to."
  • Ocupa, from the verb ocupar, could have been translated literally as "occupies."
  • The full word for the ordinal number "thirteenth" is usually given as decimotercero (with an -o at the end). The final letter has been dropped here due to apocopation.
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