One of the most important first lessons in Spanish is learning the months of the year.
Time and words related to time (such as days and months) are in fact some of the most important words in any language.
The months, days of the week, and dates in general are key phrases to learn when studying any new language, and Spanish is no exception. While the shared root languages between Spanish and English make learning the Spanish calendar a cinch, it's still a good idea to brush up on some of these basic terms before you start any conversation.
Fortunately, the months of the year are easy to learn and even easier to remember!
In Spanish, most of the months of the year sound pretty similar to the English months of the year. English and Spanish, among several others, share a common root language, Vulgar Latin. As a result, several Spanish words and English words sound similar enough that you may be able to guess at their general meaning even if you don't know the specifics.
On the Spanish calendar:
January is enero. Like the English January, the Spanish enero derives its name from the Roman god Janus, who was the god of doorways and beginnings.
February is febrero. The ancient Romans celebrated a purification ritual around February fifteenth, and the Latin term februum, or purification, gives February or febrero its modern name.
March is marzo. Named after the Roman god of war, Mars, March was traditionally considered the season of warfare in ancient Rome. Festivals in Mars's honor were held throughout the month, which was actually the first month of the year for Rome until 153 BC, and in Russia until the 15th century.
April is abril. Some believe that the name comes from the Latin aperire, which means "open", as a reference to the opening of flowers and plants throughout the season. Others believe that the name derives from the Roman goddess Venus's older Greek name—Aphros from the Greek name Aphrodite.
May is mayo. May and mayo likely derive from the Latin Maius, in honor of the Greek goddess Maia. While Maia was a Greek goddess, she was associated with the Roman fertility goddess, Bona Dea, whose festivals were celebrated in early May. The month may also take its name from the word majores, or elders, in contrast to the next month of the year.
June is junio. This month either derives its name from the Roman goddess Juno or from the Latin word iuniores, or the younger ones. The Roman poet Ovid offers both explanations as the inspiration behind the name.
July is julio. Unlike the previous months, July's name has a fairly simple origin. The month is named after Julius Caesar, as this was the month when the famous general, senator, and dictator was born.
August is agosto. Originally called sextus, as it was the sixth month on the Roman calendar, today August is named in honor of the first Roman emperor, Augustus.
September is septiembre. Because the Roman calendar started in March, September, as the seventh month, takes its name from the Latin word septem, or seven.
October is octubre. The eighth month on the Roman calendar, October takes its name from the Latin word meaning eight.
November is noviembre. November comes from the Latin novem, or nine.
December is diciembre. Like the previous three months, December or diciembre takes its name from a simple Latin number—in this case, decem, or ten.
The main difference between English and Spanish months is that Spanish months are not capitalized. They are always written in the lowercase unless they're starting up a sentence or a new paragraph.
While English has no gender-specific articles, the Spanish language breaks all nouns down into masculine and feminine phrases. Every month of the year is masculine, which means that it should be written with the masculine article, el, instead of the feminine la. (For the most part, you don't need to use an article to write down the month: el cuatro de julio, or Fourth of July doesn't require an article. Articles are only used when writing out an extremely specific date, and are only used rarely overall.)
April, March, and August also have adjective forms. Abrileño, marzal, and agosteño are used to refer to events or objects specifically related to that month. For example, calor agosteño specifically refers to august heat.
The other months have no specific adjective. For example, to talk about a hot September, the translation becomes el calor de septiembre. March, April, and August, however, are unique in that they carry their own unique adjectival forms.
In general, when telling the date in Spanish, follow this simple format:
el + the date + de + the month + de + the year.
For example, to refer to November 3rd, 2020, follow the template to write the date as follows: el 3 de noviembre de 2020.
Like most other languages worldwide, Spanish speakers and writers record the day of the month before the month itself. This means that instead of 11/3/2020, as November 3rd would be rendered in American English, the date should be recorded as 3/11/2020.
Pay attention to this distinction to avoid confusion! :smile:
The only exception to this basic structure is found in the first of every month. Instead of saying el 1 de agosto, for example, instead write or say, primero de agosto. You may sometimes see el segundo de agosto or even el tercero de agosto, these two later dates are far less common. The use of primero instead of a number is relatively common, however, and is often used to refer to the first day of each new month.
Most of the months of the year in Spanish are short enough that they don't really need abbreviations on their own. When telling the date in Spanish, however, it may be quicker or easier to cut down the words to a more manageable abbreviation.
There is no "official" abbreviation for the months of the year, but as a general rule, each month can be shortened down to three letters. Junio becomes jun, septiembre becomes sep, and marzo becomes mar. (These abbreviations can actually make it easier to learn the months of the year in Spanish, as most of the month's abbreviations in Spanish are virtually identical to their abbreviations in English.)
Again, there's no official ruling, but you may notice that Spanish speakers often use Roman numerals to write out their dates. For example, instead of 16-9-2020, you may see 6-IX-2020. While this isn't a requirement, it's fairly common among native and non-native Spanish speakers alike.
Overall, the grammar of Spanish dates matches that of English dates fairly closely. The only real difference comes from the day-month order, which lines up with the day-month order of most of the world. As long as you remember to flip it from American English, you should be safe!
No matter your level of Spanish proficiency, knowing the proper way to talk about the time, date, and year can go a long way towards helping you sound just like a native speaker! Besides boosting your proficiency level, being comfortable with important time descriptors can be extremely helpful in communicating in a personal or business setting. Fortunately, the months of the year are pretty easy to learn for even the newest Spanish speaker. Because Spanish and English share so many linguistic roots and so much history, a lot of the words sound similar enough that it should be simple to remember.
When it comes to dates, English and Spanish may not be as similar as they are when it comes to months of the year. However, with just a little bit of extra practice, you'll be able to rattle off the exact date in no time at all!