I lived in Spain for two years. From the time I found out I was going there until now, I’ve heard the same question.
Don’t they talk with a lisp there?
The short answer is no, they don’t talk with a lisp, and if you think they do, and you speak English, then you speak with a lisp too.
You see, Castellano (the form of Spanish spoken in Spain) has the ‘th’ sound while other dialects don’t, such as the Spanish spoken in South America. However, and this is important, Castellano also has the ‘s’ sound. Someone with a lisp is unable to pronounce a normal ‘s’ sound.
For example, in both dialects of Spanish, the word ‘nosotros’ (we) is pronounced the same way, with just ‘s’ and no ‘th’.
However, the word ‘gracias’ (thank you) is pronounced ‘grah-see-us’ or ‘grah-thee-us’. The soft ‘c’ makes a ‘th’ sound while an ‘s’ continues to make an ‘s’ sound. In English, we have the word ‘thinks’ which has a ‘th’ sound and an ‘s’ sound. According to some people’s logic, if it was pronounced ‘sinks’ in the US and ‘thinks’ in the UK, the British would have a lisp.
It’s quite beneficial to have the ‘th’ sound because it allows you to distinguish between words. Without the ‘th’ sound, it’s hard to know how to spell words because you don’t know if it’s spelled with a ‘c’, ‘z’ or ‘s’. In addition, where was Spanish first spoken? Spain. It’s like Americans telling people from England they speak with a funny accent.
I find it funny that people go to such great lengths to explain the story behind the lisp when there isn’t one. Some claim a Spanish king had a lisp and all the members of his kingdom imitated the lisp to keep him happy. In fact, this site still hasn’t figured it out.
People think Spain is weird for using a ‘th’ sound, when it fact it’s the South Americans who are the odd ones because they don’t have a ‘th’ sound. Why aren’t there any stories to explain how that happened?
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