Spanish is Flamenco. English is Rock n’ Roll. ¿Por qué?

¿Por qué decimos que “El español es flamenco. El inglés es rock n’ roll?

Idiomas silábicos

Primero, veamos el español. Es un idioma silábico, igual que el francés, italiano y japonés, entre otros.

En los syllabic languages, todas las sílabas tienen más o menos la misma duración y las vocales reinan, marcando el paso del ritmo. Además los sonidos son cortos y abruptos y producen un ritmo que se parece a una ametralladora o un bailaor, “ták-tak-tak-ták-tak-tak”. Es por eso que decimos que el español es flamenco.                                    

Representación gráfica no científica del ritmo del español y otros syllabic languages

Idiomas acentuados

El inglés, por otro lado, es un idioma acentuado, también lo son el holandés y el sueco*, por ejemplo. En los stressed languages (acentuación = stress), las sílabas tienen una duración variable que tiende a alternar entre sílabas largas y fuertes y sílabas cortas y vagas. Las sílabas largas y bien enunciadas son las tónicas, a las cuales llamaremos punched/”pegadas”. Las sílabas cortas y medio “murmuradas” son las no acentuadas, que llamaremos eaten/”comidas”.

*Si crees que los nórdicos parecen tener ventajas misteriosas a la hora de aprender el inglés, es verdad. El hecho de tener una lengua materna que es un stressed language puede ser la principal. Es una putada para vosotros, sí. Pero estoy aquí para desvelarte los secretos.*

La alternancia entre punched sounds y eaten sounds nos da un ritmo que llaman “galopante”. Pues ese ritmo, esa música que alterna entre PUNCHED-eaten-PUNCHED, es la razón por la que no decimos “rok-and-rol” (tak-tak-tak), sino ROCK n’ ROLLLLL. Huelga decir de la importancia de los eaten sounds que sin ellos (en este caso, and/n’) NO podríamos alternar entre sílabas largas y cortas.

Representación gráfica del ritmo del inglés, tampoco es científica.

La duración

Un hecho que me chocó al descubrirlo es que en español, por su ritmo silábico, cualquier frase de, pongamos, 20 sílabas dura lo mismo que cualquier otra frase de 20 sílabas, mientras que con el ritmo acentuado del inglés no es el caso. La duración de una frase de 20 sílabas depende de cuántos punched sounds y cuántos eaten sounds haya. Si hay 8 punched sounds y 12 eaten sounds, las 20 sílabas van a durar menos que si hay 12 punched sounds y 8 eaten sounds.

El ritmo del es|pa|ñol|es|fla|men|que|ro.

the RHYthm of ENGlish is ROCK n’ ROLL.

Sigo descubriendo este tema en la publicación, Why can’t I understand spoken English? / ¿Por qué no entiendo el inglés hablado? Ve a leerlo ahora.

*sacado del capítulo 1 de “El español es flamenco. El inglés es Rock n’ Roll” (ebook) disponible en Amazon y en esta web.

Como ya sabes, aquí estamos comprometidos con la comunidad y con ayudaros a mejorar tanto como os sea posible. No olvides de dejar comentarios, dudas y preguntas. Y si hay algún tema que querrías que investigáramos más a fondo, déjalo también en los comentarios.

Why do we say that “Spanish is Flamenco. English is Rock n’ Roll”?

Syllabic Languages

First, let’s look at Spanish. It is a syllabic language, just like French, Italian and Japanese, among others.

In syllabic languages, all syllables have more or less the same duration and the vowels are king, setting the rhythm. Additionally, sounds are short and abrupt and produce a rhythm that sounds like a machine gun or a flamenco dancer, “ták-tak-tak-ták-tak-tak” . That’s why we say Spanish is Flamenco.                                                             

Nonscientific graph showing the rhythm of Spanish and other syllabic languages.                        

Stressed Languages

On the other hand, English is a stressed language, and Dutch and Swedish* are too, for example. In stressed languages, syllables have a varying duration which tends to alternate between long, strong syllables and short, lazy ones. The long, clearly-pronounced syllables are the “tonic” syllables, which we’ll call punched. Our short, half-mumbled syllables are the non-stressed ones, which we’ll call eaten

*If you think Nordic people have some mysterious advantages when it comes to learning English, it’s true. The fact that their mother tongue is also a stressed language might be one of the biggest ones. It sucks to be you, doesn’t it? But, hey, I’m here to show you the secrets.*                                      

The alternating between punched sounds and eaten sounds gives us a galloping rhythm. That rhythm, that music that alternates between PUNCHED-eaten-PUNCHED, is the reason we don’t say “rock and roll” (tak-tak-tak), but ROCK n’ ROLLLLL. It’s worth mentioning about the importance of eaten sounds is that, without them (en este caso and/n’), we would NOT be able to alternate between long sounds and short ones. 

A graph showing the rhythm of English, it’s not scientific either.

The Duration

A fact that shocked me when I first learned about it is that in Spanish, because of its syllabic rhythm, any phrase with, let’s say, 20 syllables will last the same as any other phrase with 20 syllables, while with the stressed rhythm of English, that’s not the case. The duration of a 20-syllable phrase depends on how many punched sounds and how many eaten sounds there are. If there are 8 punched sounds y 12 eaten sounds, the 20 syllables are going to last less than if there are 12 punched sounds and 8 eaten ones.

The|rhy|thm|of|Spa|nish|is|Fla|men|co.

the RHYthm of ENGlish is ROCK n’ ROLL.

I keep exploring this subject in the post, Why can’t I understand spoken English? / ¿Por qué no entiendo el inglés hablado? Go and read it now.

*taken from chapter 1 of “El español es flamenco. El inglés es Rock n’ Roll” (ebook) available on Amazon and on this site.

As you know, I’m all about the community and helping you improve as much as possible. So, make sure you leave any comments, doubts or questions below. And if there’s a subject you’d like me to cover more in depth, please leave that below, too!

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