How to pronounce Spanish
One of the things that we like to do when studying a foreign language is to try to sound like native speakers of that language.
Of course, there are a number of specific Spanish language characteristics that we want to reproduce.
In this article I will discuss pronunciation.
My first point of reference is my students.
I listen to what they tell me that they find easy or difficult, what seems to come naturally and what needs more work.
Help from technology
As far back as anyone can remember Spanish books and methods have tried to include recordings of the spoken word.
Reel to reel tapes, cassettes, C.D.’s and now we have applications that we can download to our phones and online audio and video support.
One of the quickest ways to check the pronunciation of a Spanish word is to use Google translate.
Type the word you want in your own language, English or other and then select Spanish for the translation.
For example, if you type in Spain in English, you will get España for the translation.
Click on the microphone symbol and you can hear the word España spoken by a native Spanish speaker.
Technology, then is helpful for a quick sound check.
Full Spanish Language Immersion
This is an absolutely key point and I know that it is not always so easy to put into practice.
We have to be reasonable with ourselves and do what we can do and not try to force ourselves to do more than we sensibly can.
By full immersion I mean to try to find as many different ways as possible to experience the Spanish language.
I do think that it is a good idea to listen to Spanish songs and watch Spanish films.
Naturally, when we are at the beginning of our journey to Spanish fluency it is likely that we will understand very little of the songs and films.
This should not dishearten us.
What we want is to be soaked with Spanish language.
Our brains absorb and store the sounds.
After time we will be surprised when words and the pronunciation of those words start to sound rather familiar.
Nowadays, it is also quote easy to watch video clips online.
Considering text books
A text book can help to bring everything together.
This is one of the reasons why I like the latest 4th Edition of the Spanish language method ‘Pasos’.
With ‘Pasos’ you have the well illustrated main course book and the activity book for self study.
However, you also have the audio C.D.’s and most importantly the video.
Thus, you study a piece of language with the main book.
You see the photos in the book and when you watch the video you can see the real life Spanish people having the conversations that you have read.
I would suggest watch the video first, then listen to the audio C.D.
This is because seeing and listening at the same time is more complete than just listening.
With the video you are really reinforcing the Spanish language from the book. You are in fact facilitating you listening activities.
Some typical Spanish sounds
Some of the most typical Spanish sounds are:
RR (the double r)
LL (the double l)
Ñ (in Spanish this is called tilde or virgulilla)
It is important to note that not all Spanish people pronounce these sounds equally well.
Some people, for example do not pronounce the double r very strongly.
Likewise in some parts of Spain, notably Andalusia the double ll sounds more like a powerful g than a y.
Hence typically the word paella would sound something like: paelya but the other approach is to say something like paelga.
Once again this is where technology can be so helpful to us.
We can listen to the pronunciation of Spanish words very easily online.
Spanish people pronouncing Spanish
Here is some good news!
While it is true that most Spanish people naturally pronounce their own language perfectly, there are exceptions.
There are always some native speakers of the Spanish language who do not quite make the double RR.
Further, it is quite typical for Spanish speakers to make the strong sonorous G instead of a softer double LL.
Needless to say, there are plenty of country and regional differences in Spanish pronunciation.
The key is that you do not have to sound absolutely native standard Spanish to be able to communicate most successfully.
Furthermore, people from Spanish speaking countries are pleased that you want to speak their language and are usually very happy to communicate with you.