What you need to know to improve pronunciation of Spanish

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1 What you need to know to improve pronunciation of Spanish D. Eric Holt University of South Carolina Introduction: Pronunciation is part of the (unconscious, intuitive) knowledge that a native speaker has about his/her language. Three brief examples: 1. Possible sequences of sounds: strid bnid English * Arabic * Spanish * * cf. Polish zloty (currency) * And how to fix bad sequences: estrid, nid / benid 1. An example from English: Plurals of words. How many are there? How is the plural formed? truck[s] rug[z] crash[iz] This is true even of invented words: snick[s] shub[z] flish[iz] 3. Myth: Spanish is pronounced as it's written. False! (But the native speaker knows this.) Examples: un perro un cerro un ñandú un gato n = [m] n = [n1] (nθ, as in English tenth) n = [ñ] n = [N] (like English bank) Consequently, when I talk about "improvement of pronunciation of Spanish", I mean "How to make the sounds I make more like those a native speaker uses intuitively". Three areas for today: 1. Vowels 1. Consonants 1. Syllabification

2 Page 2 of 6 How to improve pronunciation of Spanish 2 Vowels: There are only five vowel sounds (and letters) in Spanish: / i e a o u / In English there are at least 12 vowels, which presented in visual form are: iy uw beat boot I U bit but ey ow bait putt boat, no E ç bet bought æ a bat cot, father The long vowels of English are really diphthongs (two vowel sounds pronounced as a unit): [iy, ey, uw, ow] In English, all unstressed vowels lose their unique personality and come out as schwa [ ]: atom [æ] vs. atomic [ ] invite [ay] invitation [ ] clone [ow] clonation [ ] etc. Schwa does not exist in Spanish! Problems: (i) Pronouncing all vowels as schwa destroys the contrast between various words (besides sounding really bad): amigo amiga 'friend' masc., fem. diría daría 'I/she would say', 'I/she would give' meses mesas 'months', 'tables' cantaron cantaran 'they sang', '(that) they sing (subj.)' (ii) Spanish vowels should be 'pure', shorter, with more muscular tension. Otherwise, it doesn't sound native(-like). /i/ is pronounced more like the first part of the vowel in beat. [iy] si mis /u/ boot. [uw] su sus /o/ boat. [ow] no lo /e/ bate [ey] se le freight /a/ is very similar to the first vowel of father, but is shorter, tenser.

3 Page 3 of 6 How to improve pronunciation of Spanish 3 Extra danger for / e /: If it's pronounced as in English, confusion of meaning can result: le ley 'to him/her' 'law' reno reino 'reindeer' 'kingdom' ves veis 'you (sg.) see' 'you (pl.) see' OJO!: [ey] does indeed exist in Spanish, BUT ONLY WHEN IT IS WRITTEN THAT WAY (either as ey, as in ley, rey, or as ei, as in reino, seis). Dalbor (/a e o/): A, B, C, D (/i/): A, B, C, D (/u/): A, B, C, D Consonants: 1. English: aspiration de / p t k / p h pit vs. p spit * an extra puff of air t h tack t stack k h car k scar Barrutia 325 Teschner / t d / are not pronounced identically in Spanish and English: English: tip of tongue in contact with the alveolar ridge, the protuberance behind the upper front teeth. Spanish: tip of tongue in contact with the back of the front teeth. 3. The letters b, v represent the exact same sound, / b /. 4. / b d g / are pronounced two slightly different ways, depending on the phonetic context: [ b d g ] hard' (stop, occlusive) [ β δ γ ] soft' (fricative, spirant) b m ambos β Any other context n enviudar V V abierto, ella baila bien Vamos -br-, -bl- abrir, cable # club d n viendo, un dado δ Any other context l falda V V todo, una dama Dámelo -dr- Pedro # red, ciudad

4 Page 4 of 6 How to improve pronunciation of Spanish 4 g n manga γ Any other context Goya vive allá V V haga -gr-, -gl- agradecer, la gloria Dalbor : A, B, C, D, F Syllabification: 1. Spanish is pronounced as if all words were pronounced as a single word, with no boundary between them. ( enlace, linking ) English: Night rate vs. nitrate Why choose white shoes Spanish: las aves 'the birds' [ la-sa-βes ] la sabes 'you know it' [ la-sa-βes ] Affects the pronunciation of /n/ when it ends a word -- /n/ ASSIMILATES to a following consonant. (Cf. the "myth" above.) Dalbor : A, B 2. ambisillabicity in English of a medial consonant after an stressed vowel. * No en español! Very Eric Writer Apple Hello ver-ry Er-ric writ-ter ap-ple hel-lo List of common errors in the pronunciation of Spanish: (From Camino oral, ch. 7.) Vowels and Dipthongs: El monoptongo nunca se convierte en diptongo ex. sí = [si], not [siy] No hay reducción vocálica a schwa ex. casa = [ka-sa], not [ka-s ] Vowels across syllables and words: No hay golpes de glotis ('glottal stops') El diptongo nunca se divide en dos sílabas ex. el árbol = [e-lar-bol], not [el-/ar-bol] ex. bien = [bjen], not [bi-yen]

5 Page 5 of 6 How to improve pronunciation of Spanish 5 Consonants: No se aspiren las consonantes [p t k] ex. petaca = [pe-ta-ka], not [p h e-t h a-k h a] Consérvese la dentalidad de [t d] ex. Tomás, David Pronúnciese [β δ γ] como fricativas ex. ave, Adán, haga No se emplee el alófono sonoro [z] excepto ex. mismo, not casa ante consonantes sonoras Evítase la palatalización [š] o [č] de los grafemas ex. fusión, acción, cuestión "ci", "si" y "ti" en las combinaciones "-ción", "-sión" y "-tión" El grafema "u" nunca se pronuncia [ju] ex. humor, mula, Hugo (con deslizada inicial) El grafema "h" nunca tiene sonido ex. hola, hablar El fonema / l / no tiene alófonos velares ex. alma, lagarto, sol como en inglés [i.e., no 'dark l'] Sources of pronunciation errors: (From Spanish Pronunciation: Theory and Practice, ch. 32.) The sounds of the target language do not exist in the native language. [r#] [l] (not [ł]) [x] [β] The sounds of the native language do not exist in the target language. [p h, t h, k h ] English bunched (retroflex) [r] English 'dark l' ([ł]) Open o ([ç]) (hombre, hambre can end up homophonous) Schwa [ ] (about) Glottal stop [/] (button) The phonemes of the native language exist in the target language as allophones. [b] and [v] (berry and very different for us; tuvo, tubo not in Spanish) [d] and [δ] (ladder, lather; Sp. un dado) [s] and [z] (fussy, fuzzy; Sp. mismo) Allophones in the native language are phonemes in the target language. "flap" [D] (moro--moto--modo may end up pronounced identically.) Some phonemes and allophones in both languages have different distributions. [s, z]; pronunciation of /n/ + C (tan goat, tango, ingrown); etc. Miscellaneous influences of the native language on the target language. pronunciation of cognate words influenced by English (gracias, cordial, hospital) stress levels rhythm

6 Page 6 of 6 How to improve pronunciation of Spanish 6 Class A errors -- Critical schwa 'dark l' observing word boundaries: pauses, glottal stops, lack of linking, assimilation p h, t h, k h using flap [D] instead of Sp. /t d/ making stressed vowels diphthongs (sí, me, tú, yo) Class B errors -- Serious, but non-critical Class C errors -- Important but not serious Recommended Reading: Dalbor, John B Spanish Pronunciation: Theory and Practice. 3 rd ed. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. (Comes with tapes.) Teschner, Richard V Camino oral: Fonética, fonología y práctica de los sonidos del español. McGraw Hill. (Comes with tapes.) Barrutia, Richard and Armin Schwegler Fonética y fonología españolas: teoría y práctica. New York: Wiley. Whitley, M. Stanley Spanish-English Contrasts. Washington, DC: GU Press. Also recommended: Pronunciation software like Spanish Phonix; Phonix Tool Kit; Spanish Pronunciation Tutor.

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