HomeQ&APronunciation of *dirigir*

Pronunciation of *dirigir*

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I'd like to make sure that I'm pronouncing this Spanish word properly: dirigir

I belive that it's 'dee-ree-heer'

However, I'm not sure if the 'g' is pronounced as it is in 'girafa' or as it is 'agua.'

Thanks in advance for any help.

10554 views
updated JUL 8, 2009
posted by --Mariana--

27 Answers

0
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When you are dealing with English-only speakers that are trying to learn Spanish, especially on a beginner-intermediate level, you have to make allusions to SIMILARITIES in pronunciation for them to have something to which to relate.

The problem is that there are very little similarities, and that's why so many English speakers have such a strong foreign accent, and so many Spanish speakers such a strong English accent: we use different sounds, different stress, different intonation, the length of the vowels is different, our rhythm is different, we compress and release the air differently,... I have a book of Spanish phonetics written for American speakers (from USA), and they spend over 300 pages talking about differences, but hardly any similarity.

OK, Lazarus. That's fine. You have made your point, and we have agreed with it. Spanish is not English and English is not Spanish. The letters are pronounced differently in each language. Ya, ya, ya. When I say there are "similarities" from which we can draw (and then contrast), I'm not saying that they are alike, just that they do have some things in common. Just like your comparison: "The Spanish 'd' is very different from the English one (which sounds like our soft r), ...." You marked a contrast, and then drew a similarity, which did not mean that it was identical. I could follow your line of criticism with this, and say, "If you have Spaniards pronouncing the "d" in the English word "modern" like a Spanish soft "r," they will have such a strong foreign accent that they will not be understood by native English speakers." I think that would be an exaggeration, as is saying that "fleks-SEE-bleh" would not be understood by native Spanish speakers (although I readily admit it is not a perfect equivalent).

Would you say that the Spanish "p" is pronounced similar to the English "p"? I know there are differences, but are they anywhere close, or is it more like the English "d" or the English "z"? I say they have more in common than differences. I would not say that the Spanish "d" is pronounced similar to the English one; they are nowhere close. If I were limited to a text description (especially when dealing with an audience that is likely unfamiliar with the IPA, or where it is not feasible to post IPA characters), I would say something like, "The Spanish "d" is pronounced similar to an English soft 'th' sound." That gets them somewhere in the ballpark, and that pronunciation will be understood by natives, even though it is not a perfect equivalent. At least it doesn't have them pronouncing it like a Spanish soft "r" (or a Spanish "q" or a Spanish "o," for that matter).

"Flecks" is almost identical to "flex" in Spanish. While "flex" in "flexible" does the same trick, the 'i' sound in the English "flexible" is not like the Spanish one.

The final "cy" in "fluency" is almost identical to "si" in Spanish, but "see" is too long.

The final "ble" has a close equivalent in "blemish" or "blend", without the 'mish' and 'nd' rspectively, of course, but unfortunately, English does not have a final sound similar to the Spanish "ble", so those "bleh" should be avoided, in my opinion, as the sound is not a good match.

My original point was to call attention to a common error and clarify that the final "e" in the Spanish flexible is not pronounced like the Spanish diphthong "ei". I think you would admit that "fleks-SEE-bleh" is closer to the proper pronunciation than "fleks-SEE-blay." The truth of the matter is that I hear Americans speak like that all the time ("fleks-SEE-blay"), and the natives understand them fine, but, as you say, it sounds horrible. My intent was to distinguish the all-too-common "-blay" from the correct pronunciation. Since I was addressing Marianne, who I know is taking live, one-on-one lessons from a native speaker, I figured that "-bleh" would call up in her mind the proper sound which she hears from her instructor. For everyone else, it would at least get them in the ballpark.

fleks + [fluen]cy + ble[nd]

This is the closest I can think of. At least, the sounds are nearly identical, and it is easier to interpret.

OK. Maybe in your mind that is easier to interpret than 'fleks-SEE-bleh', but I think to most that would seem more complicated (however more accurate you may argue it to be).

Try this: play sound files of the words "flex," "fluency," and "blend" on a speech simulator, and then chop off the "-cy" and the "ble-" (if you have software to do that) and paste them into a new sound file together with "flex," just as you have suggested in your text example. Now play it and see what you get ... nothing like the Spanish flexible.

Now play your text suggestion on a speech simulator (fleks + [fluen]cy + ble[nd]). It renders something like, 'FLEKS-see-BLEH'. If I do the same with 'fleks-SEE-bleh', it gives me a pretty close pronunciation of the Spanish flexible.

To each his own.

updated JUL 25, 2009
posted by hhmdirocco
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Again, regarding vowels, NONE of the American vowels in isolation is like Spanish vowels (except in a few words); only vowels in English diphthongs are similar to the Spanish ones, but of course, they are pronounced as diphthongs, giving a marked foreign sound. The length of the vowels is also different in English and Spanish.

In other words: I wouldn't use that kind of "flex-SEE-bleh" sort of pseudo-phonetic transcriptions, because the result is invariably a horribly bad foreign accent. I've asked Americans to read these transcriptions for isolated words to natives, without context of any kind, and quite often, they can't even understand what they say.

Learn the IPA.

Point well taken, Lazarus, and that is why I say things such as, "like/similar to the short 'e' in English." Maybe you didn't see my earlier post on this thread (Reply #11):
http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/show/9800/#53316

I will add to this that the Spanishdict.com Dictionary Spanish pronunciation for flexible is "[flec-see-blay]". Is that any better? I think it is very misleading. And it doesn't even show the stressed syllable.

Ideal: "Learn the IPA."
Reality: Most people haven't and won't.

If you make it a quasi requirement to learn the IPA before beginning to learn a second language or participating in discussion such as this one, you are going to turn away most people who are seeking to learn, especially those who don't have a pressing need to learn, such as in relation to employment, etc.

When you are dealing with English-only speakers that are trying to learn Spanish, especially on a beginner-intermediate level, you have to make allusions to SIMILARITIES in pronunciation for them to have something to which to relate. I have seen you do the same thing, even on this thread.

The Spanish "d" is very different from the English one (which sounds like our soft "r"), ...

Don't get me wrong ... I am a stickler when it comes to pronunciation, and many casual learners that I have taught in the past have become frustrated and dropped out because of this. In addition, I always push people to have interaction with native speakers and to mimic their "accent." That is the only way to learn to speak the language correctly, and is much more effective than memorizing a code like the IPA.

The truth of the matter is that very few people will notice a distinction between the English "see" and the Spanish "sí." I'm sure there is some difference in tone or length or whatever, and maybe the IPA draws a distinction, but a beginner student will be able to relate much more with "SEE" than with ['i'], or with
"ah-YOO-thah" (ayuda) than with "[a'''uða]". (Another point ... it doesn't appear to be easy to type IPA characters on these forums.)

One more thing ... when you talk about a "foreign accent," that is inevitable, unless one learns a language at a very young age. Even though many native Spanish speakers tell me that they cannot notice any American accent in my Spanish, or are surprised to find out that I am American after having talked to me only by telephone, the truth is that I notice my own "gringo" accent if I get lax or lazy while speaking Spanish. I would assume it is the same with you, Lazarus, having learned English later in life (not as a small child). My point is that although perfection may be practically unattainable in this area, we ought to continually strive for improvement; and just because someone has somewhat of a "foreign accent," he should not be rejected as a legitimate speaker of the language.

A prime example is that here in the US it seems to be a fad to have news anchors or commercial voice-overs that have foreign accents (many of them British accents, as of late, whereas in years past it was a Hispanic accent, and before that an Australian accent phase ...), as if there didn't exist any professionals without an accent. Maybe this is because it stands out and catches people's attention, or because it gives an eccentric feel to the program; who knows? But it almost seems like anyone seeking a career in broadcasting in this country needs to learn to speak with a foreign accent to have a chance at getting a job.

updated JUL 25, 2009
posted by hhmdirocco
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Now play your text suggestion on a speech simulator (fleks + [fluen]cy + ble[nd]). It renders something like, 'FLEKS-see-BLEH'. When I do the same with 'fleks-SEE-bleh', it gives me a pretty close pronunciation of the Spanish flexible.

I don't know how good your pronunciation is, and how good your hearing is when it comes to languages, but I'd like to hear your versions and judge how close they are, because I asked a British friend of mine an hour ago, and he sounded... bad, but he couldn't tell the difference. To me, it is like day and night.

Naturally, I must defer to you, Lazarus, as you are the native Spanish speaker, and an expert on both English and Spanish. (I say that sincerely, not sarcastically.) Most native speakers cannot tell through a phone conversation that I am not one. I have traveled to seven Spanish-speaking countries and spoken publicly in a number of them, and never have a problem being understood. I have also met and spoken with (in person or by phone) natives of most (if not all) other Spanish-speaking countries. I say this humbly, but most natives marvel at my Spanish and want to know how an American learned to speak so well; they are incredulous when I tell them that I did not grow up in a Spanish-speaking country, nor does anyone else in my family speak Spanish.

I speak with a "Mexican" accent, because that is the people I deal with most, but if I concentrate, I can bring back the Peruvian accent that I was first exposed to. That is somewhat similar to a Colombian accent, although not the same, but closer than a Mexican accent. I definitely note the differences. In fact, I can usually tell what country a person is from, or at least narrow it down to several possibilities, by listening to their accent. When I was first learning Spanish in Peru, I could distinguish if a person was from the south, from Lima (central), or from the northeast jungle region. Many times I can pinpoint what Mexican region or state a person is from by listening to their accent.

I won't insist anymore, but "bleh" is not Spanish, and it will never be.

To me, it is like day and night.

If we could have this conversation face to face, I'm sure that most, if not all, of the misunderstanding would vanish, and we would be in agreement rather quickly. Maybe the problem lies with this:

I don't know how you hear/pronounce "-bleh", but I intended it to convey the approximate sound of "blend". Maybe the difference is that I have never been to England, and that is where you live. You asked a British friend to pronounce something for you, I, an American friend.

I don't know, but I surmise that there is not an ounce's worth of difference (or maybe two ounces' smile ) between what you and I actually enunciate, regardless of how we try to represent that with characters on a computer screen.

In any case, I relent, and I appreciate your passion for the purity of your mother tongue (and that of mine, as well). Maybe some day we can meet in person, and I can further learn from you that which an internet forum does not permit.

updated JUL 8, 2009
posted by hhmdirocco
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If I had to choose, I'd certainly pick IPA over "pseudo-phonetic" English spellings. However, given the delightful consistency of Spanish orthography, I am tempted to say that the use of IPA is overkill (for Spanish). If one can learn to pronounce correctly about two dozen Spanish words (they would need to be chosen with some care so as to reflect subtle changes in certain phonetic contexts), the pronunciation of any other Spanish word can be inferred by analogy.

On the other hand, when I was studying Arabic, I found that using IPA was very more useful (especially for those sounds for which there is no reasonable approximation in English). Of course, once I became reasonably comfortable with the Arabic script (which took a few months), these kinds of "crutches" were no longer necessary.

updated JUL 8, 2009
posted by samdie
0
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I think that would be an exaggeration, as is saying that "fleks-SEE-bleh" would not be understood by native Spanish speakers (although I readily admit it is not a perfect equivalent).

Maybe not that word, but it would be true with many others. It wouldn't be the first time that I hear a foreigner in Spain talking to a guy can only speak Spanish, using a very strong accent, and getting as a reply a confused "Uuuuhhhhh'". I have no problem understanding languages I haven't studied, only because of their similarities with others I know some of, but the way some Americans speak is veeeeery difficult to understand if you don't focus on what they say, and sometimes even I have no option but apologize and ask him/her politely to repeat the sentence, or even say it in English, because I simply can't understand it. Sorry, but many people are very hard to understand, and this is also true when people speak English without attempting to imitate English sounds. I've had a few very embarrassing moments talking to people I could barely understand, both in Spanish and English, because their accents were... well, not the right one. And you have to do it pretty bad so I don't understand you, believe me. Pretty bad!

My original point was to call attention to a common error and clarify that the final "e" in the Spanish flexible is not pronounced like the Spanish diphthong "ei". I think you would admit that "fleks-SEE-bleh" is closer to the proper pronunciation than "fleks-SEE-blay."

Maybe closer... but at least the "blay" one has Spanish sounds (albeit an extra sound that shouldn't be there), whereas "bleh" normally sounds utterly foreign and weird. I don't know which one is worse; at least with "blay" they are using more "natural sounds".

I don't mean to offend anyone, but Americans are one of the foreigners with the worst Spanish pronunciation I've heard among over 20 nationalities, and I've seen the usual "bleh seee aaah huuuh meeey" methods that people use. The result is a disaster! It sounds awful! People from all other countries don't use something like that, and either they learn the IPA, or they learn to pronounce Spanish using the Spanish alphabet imitating the teacher. I won't insist anymore, but "bleh" is not Spanish, and it will never be.

Try this: play sound files of the words "flex," "fluency," and "blend" on a speech simulator, and then chop of the "-cy" and the "ble-" (if you have software to do that) and paste them into a new sound file together with "flex," just as you have suggested in your text example. Now play it and see what you get ... nothing like the Spanish flexible.

That's hard to do even linking Spanish words together. The transition is never right. It is not as easy as cut and paste, plus you need the right intonation and stress so it sounds right.

updated JUL 8, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
0
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Now play your text suggestion on a speech simulator (fleks + [fluen]cy + ble[nd]). It renders something like, 'FLEKS-see-BLEH'. When I do the same with 'fleks-SEE-bleh', it gives me a pretty close pronunciation of the Spanish flexible.

I don't know how good your pronunciation is, and how good your hearing is when it comes to languages, but I'd like to hear your versions and judge how close they are, because I asked a British friend of mine an hour ago, and he sounded... bad, but he couldn't tell the difference. To me, it is like day and night.

updated JUL 8, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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The way to teach is by going into the classroom and use the classical 'listen and repeat after me'.

Of course this is true, but obviously it is not possible over this forum. We must also acknowledge that people have different styles of learning. Some favor (learn better with) oral/audio presentation, others with visual stimulation, and others yet require written/verbal cues. In trying to teach Spanish pronunciation to Americans, I have them repeat after me (or a native-speaking helper, if one is available), numerous times, and invariably, there will be a certain percentage that will not get it. No matter how many times I say "thah, thah" (for the Spanish da), some will continually pronounce it as if it were an English syllable, "dah, dah." So, I point to my tongue touching my teeth and say, "It is kind of like a soft 'th' sound, as in 'this.'" Repeating this several times usually brings along the rest, but sometimes, there is that one or two that still don't get it until I go to the blackboard (or dry erase board) and write "THAH." I tell them, "Every time you see a Spanish word containing a 'd,' rewrite it in the blackboard of your mind with 'th' in place of the 'd.'" That seems to "seal the deal" for them. (Maybe now you will reply that "thah" is NOT an accurate pronunciation for da, but that is not my point. I am not trying to be scientific here.)

It is interesting to me that Americans sometimes display their best Spanish pronunciation when they are trying to mock or mimic what "Juan" said. I capitalize on moments like that to point out that Spanish is not just English sounds and syllables put together in different combinations to form Spanish words, and that the "funny" way "Juan" sounds to them is real Spanish. And the reason 'Juan? sounds so 'foreign? when he speaks English is because he is trying to pronounce English letters and syllables according to his learned Spanish pronunciation. I encourage them to try to say everything in Spanish the way they would imagine "Juan" saying it. (That seems to help with some, although again, I admit it is not a perfect solution.)

In conclusion I think we are in agreement that there is no adequate substitute for learning proper pronunciation from a native speaker. But there will be some that require further visual or verbal explanations to help them 'get it.? I have heard/read that people that have an 'ear? for music also have an 'ear? for language. My observation seems to confirm that. So until such time as we are able to attach audio files to our posts, I think we are limited to the rough, 'pseudo-phonetic? approximations that most people on this forum are content to use (or to IPA pronunciations, if you choose and are able to post them).

updated JUL 8, 2009
posted by hhmdirocco
0
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"Flecks" is almost identical to "flex" in Spanish. While "flex" in "flexible" does the same trick, the 'i' sound in the English "flexible" is not like the Spanish one.
The final "cy" in "fluency" is almost identical to "si" in Spanish, but "see" is too long.
The final "ble" has a close equivalent in "blemish" or "blend", without the 'mish' and 'nd' rspectively, of course, but unfortunately, English does not have a final sound similar to the Spanish "ble", so those "bleh" should be avoided, in my opinion, as the sound is not a good match.

fleks + [fluen]cy + ble[nd]

This is the closest I can think of. At least, the sounds are nearly identical, and it is easier to interpret.

updated JUL 8, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
0
votes

Careful with that pronunciation of the Spanish "e"! Why would you pronounce the first "e" in flexible like a short "e" in English, and then the second one like a long "a"? This is one of the major giveaways of a gringo, non-native Spanish speaker. It should be "flek-SEE-bleh".

This is something that I've been paying close attention to because I DO say "flek-SEE-blay" on occasion although I know very well that it's wrong. I'm working on it. grin

updated JUL 8, 2009
posted by --Mariana--
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...we use different sounds, different stress, different intonation, the length of the vowels is different, our rhythm is different, we compress and release the air differently...

This, especially the length of vowels, is something I notice a lot. I figure it takes an English-speaking person years of diligent practice to get this right.

...when I say foreign accent, I don't mean simply that you people will know you are not a native, but pronouncing all sounds so differently, that it is almost hard to understand what you say, and some words are said plain wrong.

I'm fine with sounding like a foreigner speaking Spanish. However, I'm not willing to sound like I didn't even try to pronounce my words as a native speakers does. That's just being lazy and completely unacceptable. Have you ever heard a high school student say 'Gracias' (gara-cee-yaz)...it's horrific!

updated JUL 8, 2009
posted by --Mariana--
0
votes

When you are dealing with English-only speakers that are trying to learn Spanish, especially on a beginner-intermediate level, you have to make allusions to SIMILARITIES in pronunciation for them to have something to which to relate.

The problem is that there are very little similarities, and that's why so many English speakers have such a strong foreign accent, and so many Spanish speakers such a strong English accent: we use different sounds, different stress, different intonation, the length of the vowels is different, our rhythm is different, we compress and release the air differently,... I have a book of Spanish phonetics written for American speakers (from USA), and they spend over 300 pages talking about differences, but hardly any similarity.

The way to teach is by going into the classroom and use the classical 'listen and repeat after me'. If posts or written letters is your only resource, IPA is the way to go, although it is quite useful with languages like English when you need to check a word in the dictionary.

In Spanish, in any case, it is just a matter of learning how each letter sounds depending on the position and combination with other letters, and keep applying the rule systematically. After that, there is no need to keep asking how to pronounce this or that, like in English; intonation and rhythm comes next, but that has to be learned by listening to natives.

Ah, when I say foreign accent, I don't mean simply that you people will know you are not a native, but pronouncing all sounds so differently, that it is almost hard to understand what you say, and some words are said plain wrong.

updated JUL 8, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
0
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I also wonder why the 'x' in México (pronounced Me-hee-co) and the 'x' in words like flexible (pronounced fleks-ee-blay) are pronounced differently.

Careful with that pronunciation of the Spanish "e"! Why would you pronounce the first "e" in flexible like a short "e" in English, and then the second one like a long "a"? This is one of the major giveaways of a gringo, non-native Spanish speaker. It should be "flek-SEE-bleh".

For more on this, see this post:
http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/show/9726/#52767

I trust that this was an oversight, and that if you are making this error in your pronunciation, your tutor is pointing it out to you.

updated JUL 7, 2009
posted by hhmdirocco
0
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Again, regarding vowels, NONE of the American vowels in isolation is like Spanish vowels (except in a few words); only vowels in English diphthongs are similar to the Spanish ones, but of course, they are pronounced as diphthongs, giving a marked foreign sound. The length of the vowels is also different in English and Spanish.

In other words: I wouldn't use that kind of "flex-SEE-bleh" sort of psedo-phonetic transcriptions, because the result is invariable a horribly bad foreign accent. I've asked Americans to read these transcriptions for isolated words to natives, without context of any kind, and quite often, they can't even understand what they say.

Learn the IPA.

updated JUL 7, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
0
votes

Yes, Marianne, the "g" in Spanish receives the English hard "h" sound (the Spanish "j" sound) before the vowels "e" and "i."

Thanks, Rocco. I knew there must be a rule out there somewhere for the difference in pronunciation.

I also wonder why the 'x' in México (pronounced Me-hee-co) and the 'x' in words like flexible (pronounced fleks-ee-blay) are pronounced differently. Both words have the 'x' preceded by an 'e' and followed by an 'i' but they are pronounced differently. Can you give me the rule on that one?

You've got me on that one. I've wondered the same thing many times myself. Maybe Lazarus (or some other knowledgeable person) can help us with that.

Also, I chose to forego addressing the pronunciation of the "d," the "r," and the "i's" because I assumed by the specificity of your question that the "g" was the only letter you had an issue with. Unless one is proficient with the IPA, which most people are not, one cannot precisely spell out phonetic sounds. I have noticed that the phonetic pronunciations given in this site's dictionary are greatly deficient.

Since most people would be totally lost if we only gave them the IPA phonetic symbols, I try, especially with English speakers learning Spanish, to give as close an approximation as possible using English phonetic syllables. I understand that this lacks preciseness, because, as Lazarus points out, there are subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the pronunciation of the various letters between English and Spanish. One needs to receive oral instruction from a native speaker to capture the subtleties of their accent and intonation. Since I already knew you are doing that, I didn't feel the need to address each letter of the word.

I would have written the pronunciation as "thee-dee-HEED". As Lazarus wrote, it sounds like "dirijir" in Spanish, but that only helps someone who is already intimately familiar with Spanish pronunciation, and many people that have the same question you asked are not.

updated JUL 7, 2009
posted by hhmdirocco
0
votes

I also wonder why the 'x' in México (pronounced Me-hee-co) and the 'x' in words like flexible (pronounced fleks-ee-blay) are pronounced differently. Both words have the 'x' preceded by an 'e' and followed by an 'i' but they are pronounced differently. Can you give me the rule on that one?

There is no rule, because they are exceptions. The X in Spain in the 15th century had the sound of the modern Spanish J, so "Quixote" then was read like "Quijote" today, and "xirafa" like "jirafa". For that reason, "Tejas", "Oajaca" and "Méjico" were written like "Texas", "Oaxaca" and "México", and since they refused to rewrite the names of their cities, those spellings remain as unusual exceptions in the otherwise regular spelling system in Spanish.

Now it makes a lot more sense. I appreciate that explanation.

It is interesting that while traveling in Mexico, I noticed that on most maps the capital of the state of Veracuruz is spelled "Xalapa," but on others, and even on some road signs, it is spelled "Jalapa," according to its pronunciation. I thought that was odd that there could be such a variation as the first letter of a state capital. Since I am accustomed to a certain degree of standardization, I thought at first that the road sign was referring to an entirely different city, that is until I saw some other maps that did the same thing.

I also am slow to the punch ... I think that about eight replies were posted while I was writing my last one.

updated JUL 7, 2009
posted by hhmdirocco
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