Pronunciation (rules for pronouncing letters in Spanish)

0
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Vowels

a as in apple
e as in a (long English a)
i as e (short English e)
o as in oval (but short)
u as in oo (and not ewe)

Consonants

b = bay (short) c = thay d = day f = effay
g = hay (as if the h were ch in loch) h = achay (but it is silent in words)
j = hota k = ka (short)
l = ellay m= emay n= enay ñ= enyay p = pay q = koo r = erray
s = essay t = tay v = uvay w = uvay doblay x = ekis
y = ee gree yega z = theta
A good rule of thumb is to remember that all the sounds are short, not drawn out, except the letter r. If you can roll your r's you will get on really well in Spanish.

There are a couple of exceptions to the rule about pronunciation ? g is hard when it is followed by an a or o or u. Double ll is pronounced y, so for example llamar ? the verb to call - is pronounced yamar.

8342 views
updated ABR 2, 2014
posted by Chegx

14 Answers

1
vote

James Santiago said:

Yes, simple, but the vast majority of English speakers are not familiar with the IPA system, and therefore cannot use it. So if a textbook used the IPA spellings, students would have no idea at all about how to pronounce the words. By the way, we usually spell the word "huh" as you used it above. "Uh" is used as a space filler when a speaker is thinking, similar to "este" or "um." For your meaning, we also use "eh'"

I am not saying that everyone should be familiar with it, but a lot of people from many countries (normally, not English speaking ones) use it, and they find it quite effective. My wife, for instance, has a very good pronunciation, and she learnt from these symbols (as I did). Anyway, the point is that Spanish is relatively logical, and the IPA has been designed to be logical, while English spelling is as random (if not more) than genders in Romance languages, plus most vowels in English are not even close to the Spanish ones, so the patchy English spelling can only result in sounds vaguely resembling ours, but distorted, so it is best if a link is given to a page where the sounds can be heard, rather than describing them in an extremely distorted way, only because people feel comfortable with their own sounds.

Regarding the "uh", I was purposefully copying some English natives, just for fun. I find it very amusing when I see different natives choosing different written vowels for the same sounds (e.g. grammer). English should have never adopted the Latin alphabet as a writing system - it doesn't suit its pronunciation.

updated JUL 22, 2011
posted by lazarus1907
1
vote

Experts in phonetics normally use the IPA convention (International Phonetic Association), shared with linguists, foreign language teachers, singers and actors. In this logical system devised to be accurate,

The Spanish "a" has the symbol /a/
The Spanish "e" has the symbol /e/
The Spanish "i" has the symbol /i/
The Spanish "o" has the symbol /o/
The Spanish "u" has the symbol /u/

Simple, uh'

updated JUL 22, 2011
posted by lazarus1907
1
vote

Just to nitpick a little bit: the speakers from that link are natives, but the girl seems so concerned about pronouncing "clear", that she does it in an affected manner in two or three words, exaggerating the sound of the T to the point of making it sound artificially hard, instead of clear. Particularly, the word "autor" sounds like "auTTTTor".

updated JUL 22, 2011
posted by lazarus1907
1
vote

:

a as in applee as in a (long English a)i as e (short English e) o as in oval (but short) u as in oo (and not ewe)

Ok, first of all, English vowels are completely different to the Spanish one. All of them! English has 17 vowels, and Spanish only 5. English vowels are pronounced as diphthongs, opening the mouth to pronounce them first, and then gradually relaxing the mouth and closing it. In Spanish the vowels maintain full tension throughout.

"a" does definitely not sound like "a" in apple. That "a" sound in apple does not even exist in Spanish.
"e" is not even close to the long English "a" AT ALL.
"i" is like "i" in "bit", but longer. No exact equivalent in English.
"o" does not sound like "oval", which has an initial sound that does not exist in Spanish.
"u" is close enough.

"e" sounds almost like "e" in "they", but you need to ensure that you don't close your mouth, finishing the typical "ei" sound in English.

If you use your rules, all you get is an extremely strong foreign accent, that it is even hard to understand unless you concentrate on every word. In other words, it sounds awful. Spanish vowels have to learnt one by one, for they are quite different.

:

b = bay (short) c = thay d = day f = effay g = hay (as if the h were ch in loch) h = achay (but it is silent in words) j = hota k = ka (short)

l = ellay m= emay n= enay ñ= enyay p = pay q = koo r = erray

s = essay t = tay v = uvay w = uvay doblay x = ekis

y = ee gree yega z = theta

"b" has two sounds in Spanish, one of which does not exist in English. The other one is softer than in English.
"d" has two sounds in Spanish. One is similar to "th" in "th", and the other is quite different from the English "d", which sounds like an "r" to us.
"p" is softer than in English.
"v" does not sound like the English "v", but exactly like a "b".
"t" sounds different from English, since your "t" (the American version) sounds to us like an "r".

Wouldn't it be a lot better to write the alphabet in Spanish, instead of using those dirty "bay", "thay", "effay" that don't sound like Spanish at all'

updated JUL 22, 2011
posted by lazarus1907
0
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and for the "x",
if between vowels, like "x" in "box", eg. taxi
if before a consonant, like "s" in some,eg.sexto
in few other words, like "ch" in "loch", eg.Mèxico

updated ABR 2, 2014
posted by YCZ
in Mexico the x is pronounced like what? is it silent or is it like jota?
0
votes

Simple, uh'

Yes, simple, but the vast majority of English speakers are not familiar with the IPA system, and therefore cannot use it. So if a textbook used the IPA spellings, students would have no idea at all about how to pronounce the words.

By the way, we usually spell the word "huh" as you used it above. "Uh" is used as a space filler when a speaker is thinking, similar to "este" or "um." For your meaning, we also use "eh'"

updated ABR 2, 2014
posted by 00bacfba
if i may be so bold, "Simple, uh;" should be "Simple, eh?" as it is expressed as a (rhetorical) question.
0
votes

Today's technology does provides one tools to make it possible to at least pretend that one has a native speaker to solicit and listen to. "Georgie" on my audio CD about Barcelona (no written text) has become a virtual friend. He has even suggested books I might like [once I will have come that far]: "La ombra del vento" and any book from the series Pepe Carvalho. What do you think? Good choices?

The tack that the army took with you - only listening - had proven itself for me, too, when I learned other languages for which I had no other choice - no book, no lessons, no vocabulary lists. And so I took that tack when I decided to tackle Spanish all alone and with no Spanish friends, no chance to go to a class, but a computer and the Internet, a library and a bookstore with a good selection of Spanish CDs for the self-learner. I practically memorized the first Spanish I heard before I ever had a clue as to what any of it meant. Yes, I memorized a bunch of what might have seemed to me to be nonsense syllables. But that was the only way I could ever finally begin to make out actual syllables and words rather than just one long run-together bunch of sounds. And now, I am still a beginner. I still have a small vocabulary, I still cannot hear all the sounds, I still cannot make out what the voices on my tapes are saying, I still need that native speaker from whom I can solicit help [and whom I often find right here!] but Spanish no longer sounds at all foreign to me.

In fact, I have a vocabulary trainer with German,

updated FEB 1, 2009
posted by Janice
0
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I think it could be a good practice if spell name in Spanish letters at first place

updated FEB 1, 2009
posted by YCZ
0
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Chegx said:

Holaaa Hey James you are right about the IPA system Aquí una prueba de nuestra amiga 'Mz Badger'

Reply by Mz Badger on January 30, 2009 at 2:53pm

That's the only type of phonetics that has ever been of any use to me, but you need to know where you are coming from, as different languages pronounce things differently... I totally refused to learn those symbols used (as it seemed to be different in different languages and dictionaries) at school, as they made no sense what so ever to me. I wasn't the only one....
What that proves is that many people (well, one, at least) resist learning what they perceive to be less than useful to their immediate purposes. By the same token, James' comment could be taken as a (partial) explanation for why English speakers have earned a reputation for sounding like English speakers, not matter what language they are attempting to speak.

Most of the plosives in English and, basically, all of our vowels are not present in other European languages and their use marks one, immediately, as a foreigner (and usually as a native-speaker of English). Obviously, if one's goal is to communicate, then it is not necessary to "speak like a native" but most of the language learners that I've ever encountered wanted to sound like a native. For various reasons, that may have been an unreachable goal but, nonetheless, that's what they hoped to achieve.

In some ways it's an advantage to study a language that does not use the Latin alphabet because one is immediately confronted with a different system of notation and that can help to remind one that the sounds represented, too, are different. When I studied Arabic at the Army Language School, we had no written materials for the first forty (or so) class hours. The reason being that we were supposed to learn the sounds based on their pronunciation, rather than some arbitrary system of notation. One of the saddest language experiences that I've ever had was seeing Japanese high school students (in an English class) taking all of their notes using katakana (a Japanese syllabary) (which is totally inadequate for faithfully recording the sounds of English).

Obviously, the ideal would be to have a native speaker on hand so that one could solicit and listen to any word/sound that was new. Failing that, the next best approach is (I think) to have a notational system that preserves distinctions (makes them obvious) and, lastly, a system based on the sounds of a particular language (but in this last case one also needs extensive comments to the effect that the sounds are not really the same and providing some explanation of the differences).

updated FEB 1, 2009
posted by samdie
0
votes

Holaaa
Hey James you are right about the IPA system
Aquí una prueba de nuestra amiga 'Mz Badger'
Reply by Mz Badger on January 30, 2009 at 2:53pm
That's the only type of phonetics that has ever been of any use to me, but you need to know where you are coming from, as different languages pronounce things differently... I totally refused to learn those symbols used (as it seemed to be different in different languages and dictionaries) at school, as they made no sense what so ever to me. I wasn't the only one....
[url=http://my.spanishdict.com/forum/topic/show'id=1710195%3ATopic%3A1106521]http://my.spanishdict.com/forum/topic/show'id=1710195%3ATopic%3A1106521[/url]
Saludooos! smile

Chegx

updated FEB 1, 2009
posted by Chegx
0
votes

lazarus1907 said:

Just to nitpick a little bit: the speakers from that link are natives, but the girl seems so concerned about pronouncing "clear", that she does it in an affected manner in two or three words, exaggerating the sound of the T to the point of making it sound artificially hard, instead of clear. Particularly, the word "autor" sounds like "auTTTTor".
Just to pick another nit, the speaker that introduces the section says "dip-thong" instead of diphthong".

updated ENE 29, 2009
posted by samdie
0
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I agree that it is difficult to compare sounds between languages, but the method Chegx uses does offer some help to early beginners, because it provides them with familiar ways to approximate foreign sounds. Such systems should not be relied on for very long, but they can help until the learner has time to absorb the sounds from someone who can pronounce them like a native speaker.

"i" is like "i" in "bit", but longer. No exact equivalent in English.

I think the "ee" sound is pretty close. The short I in bit is very different, though, and does not exist in Spanish.

Of course, as you say, Spanish vowels are held open, while English vowels are usually closed, but again, for a complete beginner, it might be helpful to learn the Spanish vowels as follows.

A as in father
E as in bet
I as in elite, or the EE of meet
O as in oh
U as in the OO of cool

updated ENE 29, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
0
votes

Yes you are right Nat
y es muy bueno el Link que nos pasas
simplemente trato de ayudar, gracias por tu critica, nos es útil a todos
Saludos Ces

Natasha said:

Hi, Chegx, your rules are a little oversimplified. a is NOT pronounced like apple in American pronunciation. e sometimes sounds likes long a, but really is closer to a short e. Here's one link motley had posted:http://www.studyspanish.com/pronunciation/diphthongs.htmLazarus had posted a link to a really nice site with diagrams of how the phonemes in Spanish are pronounced, but I can't find it. (Think it's bookmarked on my computer at home.)

>

updated ENE 29, 2009
posted by Chegx
0
votes

Hi, Chegx, your rules are a little oversimplified. a is NOT pronounced like apple in American pronunciation. e sometimes sounds likes long a, but really is closer to a short e. Here's one link motley had posted:

http://www.studyspanish.com/pronunciation/diphthongs.htm

Lazarus had posted a link to a really nice site with diagrams of how the phonemes in Spanish are pronounced, but I can't find it. (Think it's bookmarked on my computer at home.)

updated ENE 29, 2009
posted by Natasha