Spelling mistakes are the bane or our lives, or would that be that bain, bayne or beign? I’d better check in the dictionary – are yes, I was write, it is bane, oops know, I was right. Well, you no what I mean.
We are painfully aware of the problems of English spelling, as well as the feelings of superiority and inferiority that can result from being good or bad at it. The Spanish are certainly not immune from what they call “faltas de ortografía” but they are really in a different league. Spanish has a few hidden spelling traps, but as I’ve been at great pains to explain over the last few weeks, 99% of Spanish spelling is obvious because of the phonetic nature of the written language.
There are three typical Spanish spelling mistakes which arise when there are two alternative spellings for the same sound. Firstly, there is the old chestnut of “b” and “v”. We struggle to hear the difference, and that is because in everyday modern spoken Spanish, there isn´t any. Thus the Spanish themselves can get muddled and write words like “nobiembre” instead of “noviembre” or “Benir” instead of “venir”. These are simple examples which people with a primary education would get right, but with more obscure words such mistakes are more likely. Sometimes there can be two words which mean different things depending on their spelling. For example “vaca” means “cow” whereas “baca” means “rack” such as the roof rack on a car.
Another typical spelling mistake in Spanish is knowing whether to add an “h” or not, since the letter “h” is not pronounced. It’s quite common to see these mistakes in texts and tweets, when people are writing quickly and get mixed up between “a” and “ha”. This might not look too terrible to you, but they are completely different parts of speech so, “ha visto a mi amigo” means “he/she has seen my friend” whilst “a visto ha mi amigo” means “to seen has my friend”, in other words in its written form it is meaningless, even though the two sentences are pronounced the same.
The third mistake of a similar ilk is the confusion between “y” and “ll” which are also pronounced the same as each other in modern European Spanish. I have (albeit rarely) see “yo” spelt “llo”. A common confusion is between the two verbs “rayar” (to scratch) and “rallar” (to grate – as in “queso rallado” – grated cheese). Both verbs are pronounced the same but mean different things. However, before you throw your hands up in horror at the difficulty of the Spanish language, just remember that English has – there, their, and they´re; bare and bear; stare and stair and a myriad more of the same kind of challenges, with very few guidelines to help us out.