Most people, even those who don’t speak Spanish at all, know the letter “ñ” and identify it with the Spanish language. This is probably its most recognisable symbol, especially since the foundation of the Instituto Cervantes, whose logo clearly reminds of the letter. However, there are other aspects of the language that are not so well-known around the world.
♦ Inverted question and exclamation marks ♦
Most languages use question and exclamation marks at the end of a sentence, so it isn’t hard to understand why many people are so surprised when they first see “¿” or “¡”. The funny thing is that most Spanish speakers won’t be able to give you a good reason why these are used.
♦ The silent “h” ♦
In Spanish the letter “h” is never pronounced, unless it is written after a “c”. Then, both become the digraph “ch”. That is why “ola” (Spanish for “wave”) and “hola” (Spanish for “hello”) are homophones, i.e., they are both pronounced the same! And that is also the reason why Spanish speakers, when they laugh, go “jaja” instead of “ha-ha”.
♦ “B” equals “V” ♦
Many people keep pronouncing these letters differently, but try as they may to convince themselves that’s the right thing to do, it is not: “Barcelona” and “Valencia” do have the same initial sound. Both letters represent the phoneme /b/ in Spanish.
♦ Diaeresis: “ü” ♦
Unlike in other languages –German would be a good example– the use of the diaerisis in Spanish is not very common. However, it is necessary in order to pronounce the letter “u” between “g” and “e” or “i”: “paragüero” (Spanish for umbrella stand) or “pingüino” (Spanish for penguin).
♦ Five vowels ♦
When it comes to learning Spanish, the correspondence between its pronunciation and its spelling is one of the biggest advantages. Having only five vowels (a, e, i, o y u) and five vocalic phonemes (/a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/) makes it a relatively easier language to pronounce. For Spanish speakers, on the other hand, this becomes a big disadvantage when they try to learn other languages with much broader vowel spectrums, such as French.
And now, to finish the article, something that might come in handy for you:
Ñ: Alt + 165 / á: Alt + 160 / Á: Alt + 181 / ñ: Alt + 164 / é: Alt + 130 / É: Alt + 144 / ¿: Alt + 168 / í: Alt + 161 / Í: Alt + 214 / ¡: Alt + 173 / ó: Alt + 162 / Ó: Alt + 224 / ü: Alt + 129 / ú: Alt + 163 / Ú: Alt + 233