When accent marks count

Learning a foreign language includes acquiring an awareness of subtle distinctions. Oh, we really can have pity on anyone trying to navigate English as a second language!

Here are ten things I’m finding in Spanish.

  • Bebe / bebé … He/she/it drinks versus a baby.
  • Papa /  papá … A potato versus Daddy.
  • Mamá / mamaMom or mommy versus breast.
  • Esta / está … “This” versus he, she, or it is.
  • Si / síIf versus yes.
  • Hablo / hablóI speak versus he, she, or it spoke. In other words, that accent changes both the person doing the speaking as well as the tense.
  • Que / quéThat versus what.
  • Él / elHe versus the.
  • Sé / seI know versus reflective pronoun for he, she, it, even you.
  • Cómo / comoHow versus I eat.
  • Sólo / solo … With the accent, it can also mean “just,” in addition to “only.”

Of course, I don’t have those accent marks on my English keyboard or cell phone. Things can get really tricky when I’m trying to reply en Español.

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