about learning Spanish
can you type the Spanish characters on a computer? (Question asked by
participant at Spanish that Works workshop at Nicholson Memorial Library
in Garland, Texas.)
ANSWER (by Elizabeth
use Microsoft Word for PC, for which there are shortcut keystrokes you can
use to type the characters. You make the shortcut by holding down
the control key and a punctuation key, and typing the key to have the
example, to get the e with an accent mark (é), you hold down the control
and the apostrophe key (') and then you type the letter e.
print out a list of all the shortcuts by looking up "insert an
international character by using a shortcut key" under the
"help" function in Word.
shortcuts do not work in my email program or when I write html,
however. One way to get around this is to write in Word and then
copy and paste into an email or html editing program. Usually the
also special number sequences that can be used to type the characters in
emails. For example, Alt + 164 will produce ñ. These number
sequences are more complicated to use, however, so often people sometimes
just omit accents when they write emails. If you do this, you can
use double n for the ñ (for example, mañana would be written mannana.)
about typing special characters is available on the internet, so if you
want to get a list of all the number strokes, a keyword search in whatever
search engine you prefer should lead you to what you want.
Windows you can supposedly also change your keyboard settings in the
control panel to the "United States International" mode, which
on my computer is found under the "input locales" tab and the
"properties" button. Then you use the ALT key plus the letter of
a punctuation key to type Spanish characters. (You may have to enable the
keyboard to accept these ALT key sequences on your computer. So far
I haven't been able to get this method to work for me.)
Macintosh, the Option key fulfills the same general function as the ALT
(or the Control) key for the PC shortcuts.
the Mac, the accent mark is under the "e" key (so Option + e +
(any vowel) = á, é, í, ó, ú.
The ñ is under the n (so you hit Option + n + n again.) The reverse
exclamation point and question mark under the regular ones, so you would
type Option + ? + ? again to get the reverse ¿.
It's been awhile since I used a Mac, but I believe the
is made by hitting Option + u + u.
you know when do you use -sión or -ción in Spanish? What
is the rule here? I was looking at different words and thought that if the
letter preceding is a vowel you use -ción, but I was wrong. Thank
you! (Question submitted by online reader.)
ANSWER (by Elizabeth
As far as I know, there is no "spelling"
rule. The words are spelled
differently, because they are derived from words that had completely
different sounds in Latin.
Latin Americans have to learn which words are
spelled –ción and which words are spelled -sión because
in Latin American Spanish, “ci” and “si” are pronounced the same.
However, Spaniards, don't have trouble
distinguishing –ción and –sión words, because in
Spain, "ci" is pronounced with the voiceless "th" (as
in "thick") sound, and not with an “s” sound as in Latin
The "t(i)" in Latin changed to a "ts"
in Vulgar Latin, and then became "th" or "dz" or
“z” or "s,” depending on the Romance language into which it
evolved. In Spanish, these
Latin “t(i)” words are usually spelled with a "c" or
There are various examples where a Latin –tio
ending results in a Spanish -ción ending:
natio – nación
terminatio – terminación
accusactio – acusación
admiratio – admiración
Latin “t(i)” origin is the
reason why the "th"
(as in "thick") sound exists in Castillian Spanish. This should lay to rest a popular legend
circulated among students that the Spanish
“lisp” was inspired by some medieval king with a speech impediment.)
I couldn’t find a regular pattern to the –sión
words, but I did find several examples where there had been an “s” in
the original Latin:
visurn – visión
possessio – posesión
processus – procesión
You can see these patterns in English, also.
The –ción ending usually corresponds to –tion in
English, and the –sión ending is usually –sion or –son.
If your English spelling is good, then you can usually keep the
words separate that way.
If your English spelling is not so good, then you
have pretty much the same problem: when is it –tion, and when is
Sometimes the English cognates of the –sión
(-sion) words will have a “zh” (as in “pleasure”), or a “z”
sound, while the –ción (-tion) words have a “sh” sound.
So, going from Spanish to English, you have:
visión – vision (“zh” sound)
decisión – decision (“zh” sound)
prisión – prison (“z” sound)
nación – nation (“sh” sound)
terminación – termination (“sh” sound)
acusación – accusation (“sh” sound)
However, sometimes you get a “sh” sound with the
–sión (-sion) words in English, so the rule is far from perfect.
mansión – mansion (“sh” sound)
procesión – procession (“sh” sound)
though they spend long hours teaching American school kids proper spelling
in English, the research suggests that the best spellers are those who
read a lot. Once you’ve
seen a word in print many times, you will tend to spell it correctly,
whether or not you were consciously aware of having learned it.
hope this helps clarify the confusion, or at least gives you an
understanding of why it doesn’t seem to make sense.
luck with your spelling!!!
For those of you who are beginners with Spanish, the -ción
and -sión words are certainly a good way for you to
increase your vocabulary, since many of the words have English
cognates. Just be sure to stress the LAST syllable when you
pronounce these words, and don't use a "sh" sound for the
"s" (Latin American pronunciation). So, terminación
is not ter-mi-NA-tion, as in English, but tairr-mee-nah-s'YOHN.
Give that last syllable PLENTY of emphasis!
For those of you who find this sort of word history interesting, I
highly recommend “From Latin to Romance in Sound Charts” by Peter
Boyd-Bowman, Georgetown University, 1980. ISBN
You may also want to check out the link to an online Spanish-Latin dictionary
on the free page.