How good is your Spanish spelling? Do you know the difference between cegar and segar? Rosa and roza? Bazo and vaso? How about Bibiana and Viviana? (That last one still befuddles me as well.) This test, which has been all the rage on the internet these past few weeks, will help you see if you’re a Spanish spelling diva or if your ortografía could use some work. Or is it, hortografía? Hmm. While I ponder that, take the test–it’s short, snappy, and well-designed. If you never took the Spanish vocabulary test I shared a few months ago, be sure to take that one as well.
There are 41 questions, and I’m happy and relieved to say that I got 41 out of 41 when I took it last week. Most were a piece of cake, but there were a few where I had to think about it for a second. Something important to keep in mind for when you come back and tell us your score: unless you get a perfect score, your number will not be your score out of 41 but rather how far you got. Because it’s game over with just one mistake; yes, the test is a little unforgiving. Since I didn’t know that it worked that way, I was a little unforgiving as well when someone close to me told me that they got a 2. 2? 0-2? Out of 41? My heart went out to them. This person’s texts and Facebook chats with me have their fair share (wow, what a nightmare spelling their fair share must be for a non-native English speaker!) of spelling mistakes, but I’d always chalked them up to smartphone typos and stupid Autocorrect. It’s not like I expect the whole world to be part of the literati or a fellow language nerd. But, a mere 2? I couldn’t help but look a bit askance at the relationship. Then they tried again the next time we saw each other, and I got to see firsthand how the music stops with your first misstep (they made it to 13 this time). Whew!
Spanish spelling is a breeze compared to English spelling. Why do you think spelling bees don’t exist in Spanish? To spell perfectly in English is a feat (I can’t–I regularly look words up); to spell perfectly in Spanish seems like it should be a given. So says this impertinent gringa. However, I know some Spanish speakers who are voracious readers and tremendous intellectuals, and I still occasionally catch things like asares or has todo lo posible in their writings. So, I understand that it’s not as easy as I might paint it to be. I and many other language learners largely learned Spanish through reading: my first contact with most words (and certainly the big ones) was in written form. More than sounds, words are emblazoned on my brain as images, unalterable units composed of a certain string of letters. But if I were a native Spanish speaker, my first contact and acquaintance with most words would be orally/aurally. And, in that case, I could totally understand perpetually being unsure of a certain spelling that is much more alive to you as a sound than as an image (After all, how many times must I look up calendar, cemetery, chandelier, etc.? And if you’ve never misspelled the word nuisance, perhaps now is the time to take one step forward.), or simply typing with your fingers and mind more closely connected to your ears, before your eyes get a chance to jump in and revise. I recognize that in this one instance, I might have a slight advantage over the native Spanish speaker.
It’s so difficult for me to misspell in Spanish that we can say that the times that I’ve done it have been practically nil. However, I confess that I once wrote princeza to an ex-lover, and I never lived it down. I don’t know what came over me. It’s also recently been brought to my attention that I use losa and loza incorrectly. I’m yet to do anything about it, though.
Take the test, and then come back and tell us what your score was. And, if applicable, what word was your undoing. Also, what words in Spanish regularly get you? Thinking about it, I realize that once in a blue moon I misspell words that are similar to English words when I’ve never seen the Spanish word in its written form. For example, while taking notes in class the other day, I wrote intrínsico. A classmate who glanced at my computer screen informed me that the word in Spanish is intrínseco. Ahh. I don’t recall ever having seen it written before, and I didn’t catch the slight difference between the English and Spanish forms when the professor said it. I also find it so easy to want to say or write asasinar and not asesinar. As I move into a more oral realm of Spanish, speaking as much as or even more than I read, I wonder if my spelling in Spanish will worsen? When I reach the point where I have to pause to puzzle over valla or vaya, callo or cayo, or hola or ola, maybe then I’ll know that I’ve truly arrived.