I am aware that this post is not about books, but a few days ago I was so annoyed with this issue that I was about to scream it out loud in the middle of the street, until I remembered that a) I wouldn’t like to live in a psychiatric hospital, and b) I have a blog! I can complain here if I need to, right?
If you are reading this, I hope you don’t mind.

SyllabificationSource

Even though learning a new language is a rewarding activity, sometimes one just reach a point in which she can’t take in any more. I didn’t think I knew it all already, far from it, but I liked to tell myself that what was left were little things I could easily absorb by reading and listening to books and films; a new word here, a new expression there… Until I realized I had an unbeatable enemy: syllabification.

I had never come across syllabification while studying English, but I can’t blame my teachers: first, because they had it hard enough trying to make English sound acceptable in our disabled tongues to even think about introducing us to this whole new nightmare, and second, because they really couldn’t have imagined that someday this would be an issue in our future lives – They were almost right.

I first noticed about syllables while reading books in English. From time to time I would see a word broken in two lines that caught my attention for the simplest reason: I couldn’t figure out why it was broken in that particular way that made no sense to me. Then I would find other words in the same awkward fashion until I finally came up with the only possible conclusion: in English you divide the words into syllables at random.

(They should have called me for assistance when they made the rules for written English, don’t you think?)

I had easily avoided syllables in my writings by writing the last word of a line tinier than the rest if I was writing by hand, or by writing my assignments on the computer – the easiest way. But what do you do when you are writing with a typewriter? (I know: this is not a question you are asked every day). I thought the right answer was to follow the my rule: separate the letters at random! I still can’t understand what went wrong…

I was writing a letter with my new Hermes baby and I wanted to make sure my correspondent wasn’t going to think I am stupid, so I asked my friend Jennine to see if there were any rules for this. She, apart from being an angel, suggested two tips:

1) Clap your hands while you say the word out loud. Great, this was going to be easy, indeed! Let’s try it:

already2) Check the word with a dictionary.

syllables

*epic fail* 😥

Alright, this was also my second option and, for the moment, my only way to know the syllables in a word. Jennine says that, eventually, I’ll start to recognize patterns, and I really want to believe her, but this seems like a whole new business to me.

Due to English pronunciation, which is so different from the Spanish rules on the matter, I just can’t figure out what the syllables are in the words. For example, I know that you pronounce “gaged” like a single sound in the word “engaged”, but in Spanish a single syllable is often composed only of a consonant followed by a vowel, so my brain needs to think I can separate “ga–ged”. Another option just seems too wrong!

As I result, I use my typewriters with the computer beside me, dictionary.com open in the screen. It’s funny, I know, but for now is the only way I have not to make mistakes in my writings. I guess that the goal is not to give up!

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Do you also find new problems with your second language almost every day, or it’s only me?

PS: for those English native speakers who are studying Spanish, I want to tell you something: you deserve all our verb tenses!

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