Do the Spanish actually speak as fast as they sound?

Having just started my Spanish here, I have to say that so far I am finding it very easy to pick up compared to German, vocabulary and grammar mainly. Although when i listen to content both here and externally, it seems the Spanish speak very fast.

I know that as of yet I do not understand anything listening wise, but compared to the first few months of German, I’m sure it is much harder to pick up with the ears.

Do Spanish natives actually talk fast or is it an illusion due to the ‘soft’ and ‘blurry’ nature of the pronunciation?

Is Spanish known as a difficult language to pick up listening wise?

I speak neither spanish nor German, so you are welcome to ignore me, but…

So far as I know Spanish is not spoken any faster than German, and it’s to do with it being a “syllable timed / mora timed” language (like Japanese) rather than a stress timed language (such as German or English). To native English speakers, mora timed languages tend to be initially perceived as faster than stress timed languages, though the actual speed of speech / rate of morpheme information is roughly the same.

Given a short time your ears will adjust and it will seem as though the language is slowing. : )

100 miles an hour. Eventually the lips stop moving and the sound just falls out in a mumbled mess.
People don’t enunciate.

But yeah, It is spoken fast, and natives usually acknowledge they speak really fast, but it probably varies in region.
Because we speak english slowly in the Midwest, but in your more new jersey and north eastern accents they speak very quickly. I imagine similar phenomena in a lot of languages.

But yeah, as he said, It’ll begin to “slow” for you as you progress, and your brain adjusts.

That is what i thought, that as it is softer and less plosive than German it can sound faster. Then again my instincts tell me it IS spoken more ‘quickfire’ than a lot of other languages.

Any Spanish learners/natives out there that can testify to this?

The beginner and intermediate lessons in the German library have usually a low or mid speed of speech. I cannot speak for the other languages. Usually there are clear distinctions between the words in German which makes it easier to identify the words.

My rate of speech depends on to whom I speak. In general I try to speak not too fast and to speak clearly, not only on LingQ, in real life too. I think this is more polite. But I agree with Farrago that there is an influence of the region where you live.

I agree that it is spoken quite quickly when spoken naturally, at least judging from the Spaniards that I have heard. If you want to know what it will sound like when it’s ‘natural’, have a listen to ‘Con 2 Cojones’ in the library. You’ll probably find that they speak very quickly.

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… a good article on research into perception of speed in language.

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maths wrote:
“So far as I know Spanish is not spoken any faster than German, and it’s to do with it being a “syllable timed / mora timed” language (like Japanese) rather than a stress timed language (such as German or English).”

And in plain English…? From what I can see (after having looked it up for the first time), syllable-timed languages simply don’t have long vowels (an explanation that works better for me).

Ha, I’d never thought of it like that, that would go some way to describing it.
Although in fairness there’s more to it; certainly Japanese can have the occasional long vowel (ーー), and no closed syllables…
I think the effect is more about the regularity/eveness of stress across syllables, that doesn’t generally occur in “stress timed” languages.

I promise I wasn’t trying to make it sound more complex!
: )

Having read a bit more on it since my first post, it seems this theory has been criticized quite a lot, but to me does seem to explain why some languages sound so much faster.

I’m a Mexican who can testify from experience in Latin American culture. I think they are faster. Part of the reason is because of the pronounciation. I think its easier to pronounce words in Spanish. Also, some go faster than others because they don’t pronounce the words completely. Cubans, Puerto Ricans, natives of the Dominican Republic, they don’t really pronounce the words completely or use “shortcuts” if you will. I personally love how they talk, them along with the Argentinian accent. For example, the name Eduardo pronounced by a Mexican would be just as written, but I think Puerto Ricans would say “Edualdo.”

As I see it, the stress is even/regular because of the phonology of the language. All syllable-timed languages have machine-gun speed since the pronunciation rules and phonology not only enable but also encourage you to speak fast. It’s “easy” to speak faster because of the sounds involved (i.e. usually no long vowels… :)).

Music analogy - think of it as languages with more quavers than crotchets (and fewer rests). Some kinds of traditional music (e.g. Irish) are often perceived to be faster than others.

The “pulse” may still be the same as a tune from a seemingly slower tradition.

Yes, that’s more like it, the music analogy is good in conveying that it’s perceived as faster, rather than actually being faster. That staccato/machine gun pace that Japanese or Spanish seem to have can be overwhelming for native English speakers, or speakers of unevenly stressed languages (Russian, Swedish etc.), as there’s very little in that constant flow of sounds that we’re used to in orienting ourselves. Of course there’s usually some kind or prosody, or some stress marking in there somewhere to a greater of lesser extent. (i.e. Japanese having pitch-accent and some long vowels).

It gets complicated trying to determine how “fast” a language is, depending on what we measure: number of words a minute, number of syllables, number of phonemes. On top of that, trying to measure the amount of information packed into those sounds is another problem. e.g. a full sentence of Japanese/Spanish may be faster to pronounce, but perhaps that same information can be squeezed into fewer words or phonemes in a language with more complex (and thus “slower” sounding) syllable structure. As tends to be the case with highly inflectional or fusional languages.

Well, as a Mexican I can testify that it definitely depends on the region you’re in. For example, the other day I was just watching a movie with my brother, even though the movie was in Spanish I didn’t understand a thing and even my brother suggested we watched it subtitled until we got confortable with the accent. I consider Spaniards and Cubans or Puerto Ricans speak quite fast, but that’s just them, they don’t pronounce the complete word. I’d hear “E que etá loto!”, but they’re really saying “Es que está roto” and they’re more likely to say it all together as a single word… So to my ears in a first instance it would sound terribly odd. I consider Mexican accent to be quite clear and even accents from other regions like Colombian or Argentinean.

That is interesting as I have friends from Argentina, Colombia and Spain and I do think the South American Spanish sounds a lot nicer to the ear, and has more clarity.

alxnojrd: in Spain we do pronounce all the words, maybe you’re referring to the accent from the South of Spain, where they do sometimes eat letters and sometimes even words. But the Standard Spanish does pronounce all the letters and words.

guitaro: I can understand that South American Spanish sounds nicer to you, but I can’t see how the “seseo” makes it any clearer.

‘seseo’ refers to Latin American Spanish and the Andalusian accent (from the South of Spain), where they don’t make any distinction between the phonemes s, c or z. Most of the initial immigration to America from Spain was from the South of Spain, this is why in Latin America they do the “seseo”.

I have also noticed that the “seseo” accent is easier for me to understand than the standard Spanish accent. I believe this may be because “seseo” pronunciation of s, c, and z closer resembles the English pronunciation of the s, soft c, and z. When we native English speakers hear the aspirated s sound it sounds like an English “th” to us, which can throw us off when we are listening. This feeling I’m sure will diminish over time as we get used to listening to Spanish from Spain.

Yes odiernod, you’re right, seseo makes Spanish sound more familiar for English speakers, and also much easier to pronounce, but I wouldn’t say it is clearer in any way. Easier and more familiar… yes, definitely!.

One should listen and mimic the accent one likes best, of course. The only thing is that when you make the “seseo” you’ll struggle more when you want to write in Spanish. I see it all the time, people from Latin America and the South of Spain making errors and ending up not knowing if something is written with an S, a C or a Z

So I guess that you have to choose between struggling at first with the pronunciation or later on with the writing, it’s your choice! :stuck_out_tongue:

Berta: Probably I was a bit unclear in my example, because I was referring more to the people in Puerto Rico and Cuba but yeah, I’ve noticed that sometimes people from the south of Spain tend to mispronounce some words or don’t pronunce those last S’s or they even change the letter R to an L and viceversa [and they do speak a bit fast]. Like I was listening to some people saying “Sirvar” when they actually meant “Silvar” [But probably that can be discussed in another conversation forum].
Also, thank you for the explanation on the “seseo”, because I was always wondering how come is there a complete continent mixing up the S, C and Z and the country from which the language was brought has such distinctive sounds.

Odiernod I totally understand why it’s easier for you to undertand Latinamerican pronunciation, however, you should consider which pronunciation would be more useful for you with or without the “seseo”… or just which one appeals you more. Either way I believe that you’ll have fun learning our language which is just beautiful :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t find South American Spanish (I know I’m clumping them all together here) to be any easier to understand than Spanish from Spain. Many Spanish speakers in South America eat a lot of their S sounds, which can make it a bit hard to follow (especially when it’s fast). I think speed plays a big part in making an accent hard to understand. With regards to producing the language, I’ve noticed that it’s much more instinctive for me to produce a seseo accent than one that incorporates both the TH and the S sounds. For me, being an English speaker and having learned French, it’s counterintuitive to produce C sounds in any other way but K or S. But I’m learning :slight_smile: