Learning a second language can be a daunting task, but grammar rules can make it much easier. In the Romance languages, such as Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian, names have gender and this is indicated by the article that precedes them. Generally, feminine names end in “a”, such as in Spanish, where “table” translates to “mesa”. As such it takes the feminine definite or indefinite articles of “the” or “a/an”, respectively, i.e. “la mesa” or “una mesa”.

Grammar Exceptions: Learning a second language

However, there are exceptions to this rule, with many words that end in “a” but are masculine in Spanish. An example of this is “problem” which in Spanish translates to “problema” and is masculine, requiring the masculine definite or indefinite articles of “el” or “un”, respectively, i.e. “el problema”, “un problema”. Other examples of this include “el sistema”, “un sistema”, “el teorema”, “un teorema”, “el dilemma”, “un dilemma”, “el fonema” and “un fonema”.

The gender of nouns is just one of the many grammar rules that can help learners of Romance languages. Other rules include verb conjugation, which is the process of changing a verb’s form to express person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood and voice. For example, in Spanish regular verbs end in “ar”, “er” or “ir”, and to conjugate them, the verb ending must be dropped, to get the verb stem, and the appropriate ending added, depending on the conjugation rules for that type of verb.

In addition to grammar rules, International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is a very useful tool for language learners to use when trying to accurately pronounce words in a foreign language. IPA is a standardized set of symbols that represent syllable and word sounds, and can be found in many dictionaries, including English ones. Using IPA, learners can practice their pronunciation in the Romance languages, as the sounds covered by IPA are the same across these languages.

By learning and following the grammar rules of a second language, learners of the Romance languages can ease their language learning process. In addition, using IPA can help them to properly pronounce the words they are learning. While there are exceptions to the rules, with some practice, learners will be able to identify them and use them correctly.

By Andreina Ojeda, M.A. Modern Languages ​​and M.A. International Studies.
President and Founder of Lingua Language Center at Broward College.

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