masterchefOn Tuesday night, we watched the season finale of “Masterchef Spain”. It’s a TV reality show where amateur cooks dream of becoming professional chefs. The show got 33% audience share and everything should have been perfectly prepared… but it wasn’t. A little mistake in the name of the winner was retweeted into our Twitter account ( @spanish_skype ) by thousand of people: Juán mustn´t be written with tilde.

We’ve already explained the Spanish general rules of accentuation on our blog. But today we’ll see some exceptions that will help our students on

Don’t forget this general rule: Words with only one syllable, are not written with tilde.

We can find 5 vowels in Spanish. 3 of them are “strong vowels” (a, e, o) and 2 are “weak vowels” (i,u). Besides, every word has a strong syllable. What does it mean? (We’ll write the strong syllable in black).

  • Strong vowels can form a single syllable themselves: Ca – sa (house), he – la – do (ice–cream).
  • Weak vowels cannot form a single syllable and they need to be joined another vowel: Vier – nes (Friday), Rui – do (noise).
  • But sometimes, weak vowels get the strength of the word. In these cases, they become strong vowels and they can form a single syllable: – o (river), Ba – úl (chest). If the weak vowel with the strength of the word is next to a strong one, it’s always written with tilde.

What happens with the name “Juan”? It is formed by 2 vowels, a weak one and a strong one. The strength of the word is on an, so the vowel u cannot form a single syllable. Therefore, how many syllables has this word got? The answer is just one. Remember that the general rule says: we cannot write tilde on words with only one syllable.

And this is how a little spelling mistake may become a Mastermistake. If you don’t want to make a mastermistake, you can learn Spanish via Skype with us.