ONU Bienvenidos a las Naciones Unidas. Son su mundo.

Día del idioma español (23 de abril)

Biblioteca de Obras en Español

Por José María Perazzo

José María PerazzoSpanish, the third most spoken language in the world, was the official language of the largest number of nations when the United Nations was founded.

The Organization has 21 Spanish-speaking Member States. The Real Academia Española's dictionaries and guides exercise a standardizing influence in their use of language, but each variety follows its own national academy and has a distinctive flavor, an unavoidable consequence of history, geography and politics.

Thus, words have acquired different meanings in different Hispanophone countries, which may sometimes cause confusion and even embarrassment. In its meetings and documents, the United Nations strives to adhere to pan-hispanic español neutro, a standard meant to be understood by diplomats, officials, NGOs, academics, media outlets and the general public from all Spanish-speaking Member States.

While Spanish pronunciation varies widely between countries, it can be entirely inferred from the spelling. Forget the complicated pronunciation rules of your native language and you’ll soon pronounce Spanish words you've never seen or heard before and still be understood, or even read a text at first sight and have no idea of its meaning. Try this at your own risk, though.

But we would not want to make learning Spanish too simple, would we? That is why we engineered ser and estar (both mean “to be”), quirky irregular verbs you have to conjugate and words that, while sounding the same, have different meanings, only to be inferred from context, orthographical accent or intonation:

¿Cómo "cómo como"? ¡Como como como! ("What do you mean / 'how / do I eat'? / I eat / the way / I eat!").

The good news: on the written page, Spanish shares the Latin alphabet with English and French, yet leaves it mostly free of diacritical marks, with the exceptions of ~ for the letter ñ, and only one type of ortographic accent (´). As for the inverted opening exclamation points and question marks you just noticed, they are a unique feature we are particularly proud of... ¡Sí, señor!