Saturday, June 1, 2013

Learn Spanish Pronunciations


To learn Spanish (or any language for that matter), one has to know the important systems: functions, grammar, vocabulary and phonology or pronunciation. These are the four equally important structures one needs to master.

Function is knowledge and usage of the different parts of the language. Grammar is all about verb tenses, numbers and subject-predicate agreements. 

Vocabulary is the knowledge of words and how they are used. The right sound of the words in a language is classified under pronunciation.

Spanish pronunciation

In actual interaction with people, one must properly pronounce words to be understood. Fortunately, there is a great deal of similarity in the Spanish and English alphabets. 

Special letters

Since Spanish had seeped into several cultures in different countries, there are some pronunciation variations. They are all accepted as correct on both sides of the Atlantic (Latin America and good old Spain). 

In Spanish America, LL is always pronounced like the letter Y. Thus, the Spanish word ELLA sounds like EH-YAH. In other parts of the world, the LL is pronounced like BILLIARDS (botella, llave). 

The Spanish H is not pronounced at all. So, HOLA is pronounced OLA, like COLA without the C.

The Ñ in Spanish sounds like the NY in the English word CANYON. Thus the word SEÑOR (mister) is pronounced SEN-YOR, and AÑO (year) is pronounced AN-YO.  

Vowels 

The best feature in Spanish vowels is that they are pronounced only one way. In Spanish, the vowels have only one sound, regardless of whatever letters they precede or follow, or whatever accent marks are on them. 

The letter A is pronounced like the one in the word CAR. The E sounds like the E in BED. The Spanish I is pronounced like the long English E, like in the word SEE.

O is always pronounced like the O in COLD. The letter U has the sound of the English OO in the word TOO or the UE in the word BLUE.

Consonants 

There are two values assigned to the letter C. Before the letters A, O, or U, it is pronounced like the C in CAT, as in CASA or CANTAR. If it is before the vowels E or I, it is pronounced like a TH in the word THIN. (decir, conocer)

The letter D has a hard and a soft sound. At the beginning of a word and after the letters N and L, it is like the D in DOG. In other situations (mostly between vowels) the D is softer, like the TH in the word THIS.

The letter J sounds like a harsh H, as in PAJARO. 

G has two values. Before the letters A, O, U or a consonant, it is pronounced like the G in the English GO, like the word TENGO. Before the letters E and I, the letter stands for a harsh letter H, as in PAGINA.

The Spanish R is formed using the tip of tongue on the upper palate behind the front teeth. The English R is done in the back of the mouth with the back of the tongue.

Meanwhile, RR produces a trilling sound. And the letter Z sounds like the TH in the English word THIN.