10 curious facts about the Spanish language

Beyond vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, each language has infinite details and small peculiarities that make it unique. Us professional translators love finding those words, expressions, exceptions and uses that make every language unique.

Previously, in another article we talked about the curious facts about the English language that helps us get a deeper understanding of this language’s singularities. However, the Spanish language has its own curious facts that deserve a separate article. With this in mind, we invite you to begin a new journey through the peculiarities, rarities and colorful facts that make this language so rich, attractive and interesting.

Following, the 10 curious facts that stood out the most for us of the Spanish language:

Curious fact #1

Even though the first impression seems to indicate that Spanish is spoken only in Europe and Latin America, this language is spoken in all six continents!

While in the American continent it is spoken in every country of Central America and South America, (except for Brazil) and in various other areas in the United States, in Europe it is only spoken in Spain. In Africa, Spanish is spoken in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, in the Canary Islands, in Equatorial Guinea and in Western Sahara territory. In Oceania, Spanish is spoken in the Easter Island, and in Antarctica it is spoken in in the Villa Estrella area (Chile) and Fortín Sargento Cabral (Argentina). 

So, this language has native speakers in every continent and it is the third most spoken language of the world, surpassed only by English and Mandarin Chinese.

Curious fact #2

Related to the previous fact and this language’s expansion through the world, the first ever document written in Spanish was written in the year 959.

The author of this historical document was a monk from the San Justo and San Pastor monastery, in La Rozuela, Spain. The curious thing about this is the content of the manuscript: it is just a list of supplies and cheese deliveries to the convent’s pantry.

Curious fact #3

Which are the letters most commonly used by Spanish speakers? The vowels A, E and O and the consonants L and S. On the opposite side, the least commonly used letter is the W.

Curious fact #4

Related to letters as well, another curious fact is that the LL and CH do not exist officially since the year 1994, when they were removed from the official Spanish Alphabet by the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE). Furthermore, the H is the only letter in the Spanish language that has no sound, unless it is preceded by a C.

In ancient times, a big part of the words that now-a-days start with the letter H used to be written in Latin with the letter F instead, such as the words smoke: “humo” (Spanish) – “Fumo” (Latin), flour: “harina” (Spanish) – “farina” (Latin) and to hurt: “herir” (Spanish) – “ferir” (Latin).

Curious fact #5

The letter Ñ is no doubt a curiosity in itself. Even though it does not belong to the basic Latin alphabet, the origin of its tilde is actually another, smaller N that was written in some cases on top of a regular sized N and in time flattened to become what it is today.

Even though it is one of the most distinctive signs of the language, the Ñ is not exclusive to the Spanish language, but it is also found in other alphabets such as the Asturian, Aymara, Filipino, Galician, Guarani, Mapuche and Quechua, among others.

Curious fact #6

Amongst the curious facts of words, we can highlight that the words “ecuatorianos” (Ecuadorians) and “aeronáuticos” (aeronautics) are anagrams, since they have the same number of letters but in a different order. Additionally, the verb “reconocer” (to recognize) reads the same word from left to right and from right to left, which is called a palindrome.

Even more, “ferrocarrilero” (railroad worker) is the only words in Spanish that has the letter R five times, whilst in the word “aristocráticos” (aristocratic) each letter is repeated twice and the only word that has each vowel twice is “guineoecuatorial” (‎Equatoguinean).

Curious fact #7

The longest word in the Spanish language according to the RAE dictionary is comprised by 23 letters: “electroencefalografista” (EEG technologist). However, the longest words that have no repeated letters are: “vislumbrándote” (14 letters – to glimpse), “calumbrientos” (13 – fiery) and “centrifugados” (13 – centrifuged). 

Curious fact #8

The word “ojalá” (hopefully) is widely used in the Spanish language to represent the “candid wish that something will happen”. However, not many people today now that the etymology of this word comes from a prayer to Allah: “law sha’a Allah” (God willingly in Arabic).

Curious fact #9

The number one thousand (“mil” in Spanish) is the only one in the Spanish numerical system that does not contain the words O or E. Furthermore, the number five (“cinco” in Spanish) has five letters and it is the only case where this occurs.

Curious fact #10

It has been proven that the Spanish language es the fastest to be spoken.  What is this affirmation based on? The number of syllables that an intermediate speaker can pronounce by the second. IN this ranking, Spanish shares the first place with Japanese, while in the opposite side sit German and Mandarin Chinese, two languages that are characterized by its extremely slow pronunciation. 

We hope you enjoyed learning these 10 curious facts about the Spanish language. Till next time!