To summarize my points (and I may well have been talking to myself, as after the initial question the only contributor to that thread was me), these are the difficulties I could think of at the time, with a few other thoughts:
- Ease of mapping from writing to sounds in Spanish. Spanish learners try to pronounce every letter, because that is infallibly right in Spanish. (It's interesting - and perhaps relevant - that when I was at a teachers' training session about dyslexia, one teacher reported that she had had a Spanish student [an adult] who had been successfully through the Spanish education system without having his dyslexia diagnosed .)
- L1:L2 phonemes almost all (?maybe all) don't match.
- Timing - unlike English, Spanish is a syllable-timed rather than a stress-timed language. There is quite possibly a Spanish tale of pet-abuse to match Ding dong bell
Pussy's in the well
Who put him in?
Little Johnny Flynn
But if there is you can bet the line-lengths don't differ so widely (the numbers of syllables fitting into the same four-beat measure are, in the first four lines, 3,5,4, and 5; but What a naughty boy was that, really takes the biscuit, at 7 syllables! :)
- Consonant clusters. English uses lots, while Spanish breaks them up with vowel sounds so the there are usually at most two consonants together in a single syllable. For example, English 'strange' has the cognate word extraño; whereas English is happy to start a syllable with three consonant phonemes, Spanish ensures that there are only two each in 'es-' and '-tra-'.
- English uses many phrasal verbs; Spanish doesn't. An English child might ask its parent 'Why didn't you bring the book you said you'd read to me out of up with you?' and the hearer would go back downstairs to get the right book without missing a beat (though probably not applauding the elegance of the construction).
So the jury's out, or rather it's a hung jury. For me, I think a factor in the difficulties Spanish speakers have with English are something to do with the stress-timed/syllable-timed distinction. But there is plenty more to think about here. For example, I wonder if Catalan is stress-timed - which might account for the fact that I find the Castilian spoken in Catalonia much easier to follow than the Castilian spoken in Castile.[T]his is a complicated and contentious issue, and there have been many ideas over the years about how to rescue the (clearly much-loved) stress-timed vs. syllable-timed distinction. You could write a book about it. (And then someone else would write another book, disagreeing with you.)
Which reminds me of an annoying encounter I had with a barman in Ibiza some years ago. I had asked for dos cervezas and he corrected me: he was used to lingistically-challenged Britishers who he could laugh at when their backs were turned, and presented with a competent speaker he had to find fault with something. It should be [θ], he said. The nerve of the man! He was the imperialist oppressor with his fancy foreign ceceo. In fact, it was a guilt-ridden holiday. It was all-inclusive, meaning that the local economy was virtually untouched (except for some employment at bread-line wages). The local Catalan-speakers had to put up with a lot from the Castilian-speaking interlopers.
But I digress.
updates 13.01.06.16.40 and 13.01.06.19.30
update 13.01.10.17.25 - a few tweaks to the PS
PS And while we're on the subject of annoying encounters involving Spanish speakers, with particular reference to 'fancy foreign ceceo', or 'imperialisp' as I'm tempted to call it, I'd just like to put on record my loathing of José Carreras' rendition of Misa Criolla (which I'm not going to dignify with a link - though Classic FM, and therefore Amazon, was full of it around the turn of the century).
In the '60's, when Ariel Ramirez wrote it‡, it came out at more or less the same time as the Vatican's Second Ecumenical Council. Coming, as I did, from a God-fearing family (and we are talking 'Holy Mother Church' - unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam - none of your Anglican nonsense), and saying the Mass in the vernacular was a big deal. Gloria a dio' e' las altura', E in la tierr' pas a los hombre'.. - so much gutsier than Gloria in excelsis deo. Et in terra pax hominibus.... In the time of Cortez, ceceo ('the imperialisp') didn't happen. I've forgotten the details, but I remember writing an essay with the stirring title 'The De-Voicing of Mediaeval Sibilants in Castilian'; Cortez would have called himself [kortɛdz], or if he was a serious trend-setter [kortɛts] (unless he spelt his name Cortés, as most historians have it - but why should a little thing like spelling be allowed to interfere with a perfectly good joke?) Carreras' pronunciation - you can almost hear him saying 'Thees eeza 'ow djou suppos-et to pronoonce-a eet, paisanos' - is plain offensive (in the 'weapon-like' sense); it's a weapon of imperialism, as when Churchill intentionally mispronounced 'Nazis' as /næzi:z/ or La Thatcher said /gæl ti: eǝ ri:/, giving it four contemptuous syllables.
So when Señor Carreras sings [paθ] a los hombres I want to scream 'You just don't get it!' I want to... (time for my medication).
update 2013.06.24.10.45 - Added this footnote and updated TES stats:
update 2013.06.24,17.05 - L'esprit del l'escalier
‡ This, the Real Missa Criolla was played – in possibly the shortest and most crassly truncated extract I've ever heard on Desert Island Discs (one could almost hear Sue Lawley's 'That's enough of this. No wonder nobody's ever heard of it') – on the radio yesterday morning on Radio 4 Extra. Fortunately it was first recorded in 1996, before Carreras' Crime Against Humanity was perpetrated.
Update 2017.11.20.22:35 – Removed old footer.