Many philologists and other language experts maintain that learning any other language sharpens one's understanding of one's own native tongue. This is especially true if the languages are closely related. English has strong Latin roots, so all of the Romance Languages are related to English.
Latin was the official language of England up until the year 1250, when King John of England declared English to be the official language. The Magna Charta, written in 1215, was written out in Latin.
The English language encompasses two major branches: the Old English branch and the newer, mostly Latin-based branch. Old English is noted for its strength, simplicity, clarity and forcefulness. It uses mostly words of one syllable. A good example of old English might be, “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. "
The newer, mostly Latin-based branch of English is the colorfully descriptive side, the words used to paint pictures in the mind's eye, the colors the tones, the descriptive nuances.
It is said that English is a language of merchants, of traders, and as such, it has borrowed from many languages (that is why the grammar, spelling and pronunciation is so irregular!)
There are still Latin words used directly in the English legal dialect. Words like “pro se" (literally, ‘in favor of one's own self': If you represent yourself in court, without an attorney, you are said to be acting ‘pro se') and habeas corpus (literally, ‘you shall have the body': a writ requiring the body of a person to be brought before a judge or court, especially for investigation of a restraint of a person's liberty).
Medical terms are predominantly of Latin origin. When you know even just a little Spanish, you will find that you can read medical documents written in Spanish easily, because the medical terms are almost identical.
Frequently Spanish medical terms use the exact same words as English, only adding an ‘a’ or making other minor changes. Thiamin becomes tiamina, melatonin become melatonina, aspirin - aspirina, etc.
The relationship between English and Spanish is so close that there are even learning courses to learn Spanish based on this closeness. They focus primarily on words that are the same in each language, such as ‘actor', ‘doctor’ and ‘parasol’.
[Parasol in Spanish is literally, para sol, for sun. The word in Spanish for umbrella is paraguas, for waters (rain). ]
In American English there are even words, coming mostly from the Southwestern U. S. , taken directly from Spanish. ‘He's in the hoosegow’ (jail) is from the Spanish word ‘juzgado’. Juzgado is a Spanish word for Court. The Court holds people in or sentences them to jail, hence the word hoosegow, for jail, or ‘under the power of the Court’.
Another example is the word, “cahoots" as in, “They was in cahoots!" The word cahoots comes from the Spanish, “con juntas" meaning in conjunction or (working) together.
As you can see, there are many similarities between English and Spanish that sharpen our understanding of both languages.
We also learn from the differences. In English the verb ‘to be’ is basic and has a wide scope. In Spanish the broad meaning of ‘to be’ is broken into two distinct parts and is expressed by two different, separate verbs, ‘ser’ and ‘estar’.
Ser deals with the nature or intrinsic, relatively unchangeable aspect of a thing. ‘estar’ deals with more temporary, changeable aspects of a thing that speak to its present condition rather than its nature.
For example, in Spanish I would say, “Soy hombre. Estoy cansado. " (I am a man. I am tired. ) This because once I have rested, I will no longer be tired; that condition is changeable; so I use the present tense of ‘estar’ which is estoy, to indicate that right now, I am tired.
But the condition of being a man is (generally) permanent and unchangeable, so I use the present tense of ‘ser’ which is ‘soy', to indicate that I am a man (was, am and will be, permanently!).
This leads to some deep and interesting thinking about which characteristics are intrinsic and which are changeable. “To be, or not to be, that is the question!" brings up some intriguing questions; is that ‘soy’ or ‘estar'? Since ‘soy’ is generally unchangeable (thus there would be no choice) it must mean ‘estar’. . . doesn't it?
In conclusion, in response to the question, “Will learning Spanish improve one's understanding of English?, the answer is clearly, “Yes!".
And I hope the above examples and discussion have given you an idea of why this is true, and piqued your interest to learn more!
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Jorge Chavez Learned Spanish after he was 30, now is bilingual, with clients, friends and family who only speak English, and others who only speak Spanish. http://rocket-spanish.ya23.com