HomeQ&AWhat are some major pronunciation differences in Spanish it's good to be aware of?

What are some major pronunciation differences in Spanish it's good to be aware of?

3
votes

Trying to practice understanding spoken Spanish while I don't have direct access to Spanish speakers leads me clicking around the 'net looking for Spanish videos with subtitles etc... just to get my brain used to picking out the Spanish sound. There are some big differences to be aware of that I was initially caught out by, such as

  • An Argentinian speaker was pronouncing 'yo' as 'sho', and dropping the 's' from 'esc' combinations, so 'escribir' would become 'ecribir' etc.

What are some major pronunciation differences one can expect to come across or will be generally better armed being aware of? I guess the c => s / th difference goes without saying as this is usually taught early on. What differences if any have caught you out?

Cheers all, Alex

7432 views
updated OCT 2, 2010
posted by AnnoLoki
You should be aware of rioplatense, a dialect which is common in Argentina. A main difference is that it replaces tú with vos. This is called voseo and second person conjugations are a little bit different. Check it out. - benweck, OCT 2, 2010
Vos sos amigo! Yeah I do like el voseo variation and even some of their 'lunfardo', but I haven't looked for the more umbrella 'rioplatense' so will do so, cheers :-) - AnnoLoki, OCT 2, 2010

13 Answers

4
votes

The biggest most commonest things you are gonna run into are dropped letters. Some groups don't even bother to pronounce "s" unless its a short word. For others, the "s" is a thing that is more like a breath. Still others use it in a way that if way far back in the mouth, as it were. Certain groups from spain and puerto rico pronounce "j" way far back in the mouth, as if they were clearing their throat. Lots of people, people like myself and other people from street have a tendancy tend to drop la letra "d" when talking about the past tense. "El esta embaracha'o, un pocito toasta'o, su mente numbla'o. Those are the major things you'll encounter.

updated JUN 29, 2010
posted by ChamacoMalo
Many thanks for your answer :-) - AnnoLoki, SEP 11, 2009
Just a note on your English: I think it should be 'most common', not most commonest. A little nit-picky, but may help down the road. Great answer, however I voted you up for this.! - chica_rica, JUN 29, 2010
2
votes

Pronunciations, spellings and words can all very within spanish and español. It's simply a matter of colloqialisms and dialect. Take America for example: Think of how a person from Texas might talk, then think of how a person from Massachussetts might talk.Not only are their accents and pronunciations different, but even their word choice. Hope this helps. :D

updated SEP 12, 2009
posted by Limit
I understand this; I see the differences in how English is spoken around the world compared to here in Britain (and even across the UK), I thought some examples people have come across might be interesting - AnnoLoki, SEP 11, 2009
Are the dialects in Spanish comparable to the ones in English? I have little trouble understanding British English or any Americans unless they speak with a Hispanic accent. I cannot imagine being able to comprehend that well in Spanish. - epicfail, SEP 11, 2009
1
vote

Many people in Spain pronounce "c" and "z" much like the English "th" sound.

updated OCT 1, 2010
edited by benweck
posted by benweck
Like the "unvoiced" "th" sound (since in English it can be either voiced or unvoiced - samdie, JUN 28, 2010
1
vote

Most certainly generalisations are going to be highly error prone, which is why I thought I'd ask for some examples of differences that people have encountered... examples being observations/descriptions of specific real life instances that must be true because they have been experienced. Generalising from examples (employing inductive reasoning) would of course be error prone, but knowledge of examples of things that can catch you out can only be a good thing.

JohnJuan's answer is a perfect example of what I'm trying to get at. Note that there were no generalisations or even rules mentioned, there was no "in this place they say x, whereas in other place they say y", just information on some differences that can crop up.

I could of course just have looked on wikipedia or something, but that only helps me, and considering we learn other languages so we can communicate with people, I thought bringing together collective experiences and information here in discussion form would be more in line with that spirit.

I ask this question because this knowledge lies between interesting and helpful to me. I ask it in a public forum because I have no reason to believe that I am unique on this.

On the c/s and z/s distinction mentioned... I've only learnt that 'z' is pronounced as 's', does that mean that some pronounce it as an English reader would pronounce a 'z' sound? This is a good thing to know.

I will go away and see what I can find out from other sites and post back my findings here for everybody else here who's also interested.

Alex

updated SEP 12, 2009
edited by AnnoLoki
posted by AnnoLoki
1
vote

Without doubt there are differences between European Spanish (Peninsular Spanish) and American Spanish - search on wikipedia and there are some useful, all though sometimes technical articles on the subject. I think a useful addition to the dictionary on this website would be the European pronunciation, but then I am European 8^)).

updated SEP 12, 2009
posted by tom5
0
votes

The arrogance as to suggest that the question itself is somehow wrong is, however, beyond me. Really. Who objects to somebody wanting to know something?

I do/did not object to the question. In fact, I find the subject very interesting. What I did criticize was your method of obtaining an answer/information. What I said was:

If, on the other hand you intend to become a phonetician/dialectician your questions make sense but your methodology is all wrong.

In some ways native speakers are rather poor sources of information about their own languages. They are quite good at distinguishing between what sounds "normal" and what sounds "funny" (when the difference is not very subtle) but, absent special training, very poor at explaining why something sounds "funny". If you ask someone who grew up in Boston about the grammar/pronunciation of someone from Dallas, you are most likely to get responses such as "That sounds funny." / "That's not the way I would say it." However, if you then ask "What exactly sounds funny?" "Which sounds would you say differently?", they are at a loss to provide a detailed explanation.

During a child's acquisition of its first language, important changes take place in the (language processing portion of the) brain. In simple terms, the brain learns to ignore differences that are irrelevant to the understanding of native the language. If your father is from Boston and your mother from Dallas, they pronounce words differently but your brain learns to "filter out" the differences so that you understand them both.

In much more extreme cases, such as a child raised in a bi-lingual household, in early years the child has no conscious awareness of speaking two languages (if anything it's a case of "I say this to Mommy and that to Daddy" [the fact that "this" and "that" are in two different languages is transparent to the child)

In short, we are built/adapted to recognize similarities (because they lead to understanding) and to ignore differences, unless they are so obvious as to suggest a possible "outsider"/enemy.

When I was in college and took a course in linguistics, I first became aware of the fact that the sounds of "t" in "stake" and "take", or the "k" in "scape" and "cape" and the "p" in "spot" and "pot" were not really the same. The text pointed out that is some languages (especially Hindi, or one of the other major dialects in India) treated these as entirely separate sounds (much like our distinction between "s" and "z"). For several months, I amused myself by using the "unaspirated" version (e.g. the "t" of "stake" / the "k" of "scape" or the "p" of "spot") where one would normally use the aspirated version (and vice versa). Nobody ever objected to this substitution (as far as I could tell, they were completely unaware of the difference). Such is the power of the mind to hear what it wants/expects to hear.

To hear what is actually said is difficult and requires training. To describe what one actually hears requires even more training.

I am familiar with, at least, three different ways to pronounce the "j" (jota) in Spanish (oddly enough in [at least some] dialects of Arabic these correspond to three different letters/phonemes. In standard English, only one can be represented (the "h"), in (most of) the Scottish dialects "ch" would represent another). The third would require expressions such as "sound sort of like ..."

If your interested in the subject, more power to you but don't solicit/rely on the (uninformed ) opinions of bystanders.

updated OCT 2, 2010
posted by samdie
0
votes

I would like to mention that the letter 'd' is often mispronounced by new students, especially those with English as a first language. I don't recall this really being brought to our attention back when I first studied Spanish but I find that it is almost as obvious to me now as the 'r's' not being rolled properly. It is something that I always mention and try to help correct.

updated JUN 30, 2010
posted by margaretbl
0
votes

Oh, I get it now, thanks for dumbing down. Listen, if you don't want to or can't answer the question, that's fine, you've nothing to prove here, just let it go. If you want an example of how one might go about answering such a question, I would recommend reading and understanding ChamacoMalo & benweck's responses, because they are proof that I'm not asking some kind of unanswerable question. If you wish to show off and demonstrate how knowledgeable you are, then try answering the question, that would work a lot better. If, however, you just have some misguided notion that I must fall into one of only two categories of people you can think of, with only one of two categories of intentions, and so must be a person to whom protection against misleading answers from the big bad scary world must be given, then I do suggest that you look into that, because that constitutes a delusion which may cause you further problems in life, but which if you take on board what I am saying, I have no doubt you are intelligent enough to avoid them.

Now please accept this expression of how genuine I am here: if you have any actual answers you can add to this question and feel generous enough to share them with myself and others by posting them here, at any time, I would actually appreciate that, no word of a lie. I can't offer anything more than appreciation, which is why this is just an invitation to share, not a request to.

updated JUN 30, 2010
posted by AnnoLoki
0
votes

Try this link Pronunciation differences. When the page come up click on "Launch". From there there various sub-areas that you can explore.

updated JUN 29, 2010
posted by samdie
0
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That is precisely the problem with his answer

I'm not learning Spanish so I can go visit one place. I'm not learning it because I think it will be useful for me. As foolish as it might seem to you, being able to collect opinions about things from people all round the world is kind of what the internet's for.

I meant the question I asked, and am grateful for the answers of that question. This isn't a difficult concept. The arrogance as to suggest that the question itself is somehow wrong is, however, beyond me. Really. Who objects to somebody wanting to know something?

updated JUN 29, 2010
posted by AnnoLoki
0
votes

JohnJuan's answer is a perfect example of what I'm trying to get at. Note that there were no generalisations or even rules mentioned, there was no "in this place they say x, whereas in other place they say y", just information on some differences that can crop up.

That is precisely the problem with his answer. His description applies to the Spanish spoken by some people is some areas.Unless your interest is to collect information about peculiarities/variations throughout the Spanish speaking world, this is not helpful information. If you will never go to Spain, then the dialectical variations that occur there are irrelevant for your purposes. If you intend to spend your time in Mexico, what do you care about the vagaries of pronunciation in Argentina (or areas within Argentina)?

If, on the other hand you intend to become a phonetician/dialectician your questions make sense but your methodology is all wrong. You should equip yourself with recording equipment and go and visit all these areas (recording their speech) and not rely on second-hand reports. To accept the opinion of someone born and raised in Philadelphia about pronunciation in Spain or South America is the height of foolishness.

updated JUN 28, 2010
posted by samdie
0
votes

On the c/s and z/s distinction mentioned... I've only learnt that 'z' is pronounced as 's', does that mean that some pronounce it as an English reader would pronounce a 'z' sound? This is a good thing to know.

No. That was referring to the widespread practice in Latin America (and parts of the south of Spain) to pronounce both "c" and "z" as they pronounce "s" (they make no distinction among the pronunciations of the three letters).

The English sound for "z" only occurs in Spanish when pronouncing an "s" that is immediately followed by a nasal (m/n) e.g. "mismo", "cisno"

updated SEP 12, 2009
posted by samdie
0
votes

Making a distinction between "c/z" and "s" is, for all practical purposes, not done in Latin America and is done in much (but by no means all of Spain). Beyond that distinction, you are seriously into the issue of regional dialects and there is nothing that you can say about (all of) Spain nor about (all of) Latin America. There are something like four ways to pronounce the "ll"/"y" (depending on the area). The degree to which they "swallow" their "s", the omission of the "d" in words that end in "ado" (and, to a lesser extent" in "ido") all depend heavily on the region and the educational level of the speaker.

However tempting it may be to speak of Span vs. Latin America (in terms of pronunciation, there is almost nothing that you can say that will not be (at best) a gross oversimplification or, simply, wrong.

updated SEP 11, 2009
posted by samdie
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