As some of my acquaintances know, I am an enthusiast of almost everything language-related, which does not, mind you, means that I am actually proficient in the languages I rant about. I can, however, try to deceive people I know enough to communicate silly thoughts in many european languages. Since most of them are Romance languages, or have strong Latin influences, it is easy enough to spot similarities and figure out the rough meaning of sentences. However, for strong personal reasons, I have been strugling to take an initial grasp of Spanish, and go beyond saying trivial things on parties, or tricking my friends into complimenting women's breasts instead of saying good night.
Some might think that Portuguese (my native language) is similar enough to Spanish that it would be a trivial thing to just spew it out with a Castillian twang and hope for the best. It turns out that most people in Brazil think exactly this, to shameful (and sometimes ludicrous) effect, which some people call Portunhol. In fact, the number of false cognates and different meanings which arose from the separate evolution of these languages make them distinct enough that some formal study is necessary.
Since language courses are somewhat expensive in the UK, especially in these foreign languages here, I am trying to get a proper grasp of spanish by reading literature in Spanish. Initially I thought that reading Don Quixote would be a clever ideia, with Cervantes being the greater representative of Spanish literature. Though it is definetely easier to read since the Spanish there had not yet fully developed its current quirks with sounds, it is not a good representative of modern Spanish.
On the bright side, a Spanish friend from Brazil just provided me with good tips on modern Spanish literature to read in order to jumpstart my learning. Granted, most of the authors are latin american, like Julio Cortazár (who looks like a pimp from the 70s), Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Marquez. Right now I am going through Crónica de una muerte anunciada. With any luck, I should be able to do more than swear in Spanish after this exercise.