42: Spanish speakers special episode

Special episode covering the issues that native Spanish speakers have when speaking English.


Hi everyone, and welcome to this special Spanish speakers edition of Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation podcast. In the coming months I will be publishing these special podcasts to help direct certain language groups to the resources that group will find the most helpful.

This podcast is an overview of issues that Spanish speakers are likely to face when they are learning to speak English. The transcripts for this show are online at www.pronuncian.com, and all the episodes mentioned during this podcast will have direct links from this show's transcripts. Also, I'll put links at the top of the page to all the free sound lists mentioned during this show.

I have taught Spanish speakers from a number of countries, including Spain, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic. I know that Spanish speakers from different countries have different specific issues when speaking English. Because some of you are from countries closer to the United States, some of you learned English with an American accent. But many of you learned English with a British accent, which will mean you learned the r sound and r-controlled vowels, in particular, differently than I teach them. I am going to make generalizations about native Spanish speakers in this podcast, and not differentiate between all the differences groups of Spanish speakers have. That would simply be too confusing and take too much time. I hope you all understand.

Spanish speakers have a number of difficult challenges when speaking English. Many of these issues I have already created podcasts about, so you can pick and choose which areas you would like to work on first. Although there are lots of sounds to work on, I have taught many Spanish speaking students who have made wonderful progress in their pronunciation skills through practice, practice, and more practice. Remember, you need to train your ear just as much as the muscles in your mouth. Spend plenty of time listening to audio files, especially at the beginning of your practice.

Many of the consonant fricatives give the Spanish speaker problems. Fricatives are sounds created when air is forced out of the mouth through a small opening. These sounds include the voiced and unvoiced th sounds, the zh and sh sound, the s and z sound, the f and v sound, and the h sound.

Episode number 1 covered the very important th sounds. It's a good idea to practice the word lists for both the voiced th sound as well as the unvoiced th sound. Also, learn which sound you might be substituting for these sounds and practice those minimal pairs lists. Many Spanish speakers say the t sound in place of the unvoiced th sound, and the d sound in place of the voiced th sound.

The z sound is a voiced fricative that Spanish speakers often replace with its unvoiced counterpart, the s sound. A confusing aspect of these two sounds is that spelling does not always tell you which sound to say. Many words are spelled with an s, but pronounced with the z sound. Unfortunately, you just need to memorize which pronunciation to use. Episode 3 can help you learn more about this issue.

The voiced fricative v sound is troublesome for many Spanish speakers because of its similarity to the b sound. The v sound is created by forcing air out between the bottom lip and the top teeth. The b sound is created by pressing the top and bottom lip together for a very short amount of time, then letting it go without any friction against the teeth. Listen to both of these sounds: v sound (v sound) b sound (b sound). Can you hear the difference? Episode 18 is about the f sound and v sound, and might be helpful for this problem. Our upcoming episode 23 will talk more about the b sound.

Many Spanish speakers do not properly say the sh sound, and will replace it with the ch sound. Like the v sound, the sh sound is a fricative. The air needs to leave the mouth smoothly, but with friction. The ch sound has a stop at the beginning of it. The air is held inside the mouth in the same position as the t sound, then let go with the same friction of the sh sound. I know this is confusing. Basically the ch sound is the combination of a t sound plus an sh sound. Listen to the difference between these two sounds. sh sound (sh sound) ch sound (ch sound). Can you hear the difference? Listen to episode 17 for more information on the sh sound. I haven't created an episode for the ch sound yet, but you can still practice the sound list for that sound.

Consonant stops, especially the unvoiced stops, the p sound, t sound, and k sound, have a puff of air after they are released. If you don't let out enough of a puff, your stops may be heard as their voiced counterparts, the b sound, d sound and g sound. Also, make sure you are fully voicing the voiced stops, especially at the ends of words. Learn the correct -ed endings and make sure that you are saying the d sound when it is appropriate for the -ed spelling. I hear a lot of Spanish speakers who always say the final sound of the -ed ending as a t sound. It only should sound like a t sound some of the time, not all of the time. Episode 19 will explain how to know which sound the -ed ending should be, and episode 2 explains how to properly say the t sound and d sound.

I hear differing amounts of personal difficulty with the r sounds and l sound. This includes all the r-controlled vowels. Some Spanish speakers are big "tappers", meaning you tap the tip of your tongue to the tooth ridge, that bony ridge behind the front teeth, during your r sounds. This creates a very beautiful sound that English speakers have a very hard time saying, but that sound does not exist in English. We also don't roll our r sounds. If you were taught British English pronunciation and now are trying to learn an American accent, you will need to relearn the r-controlled vowels, as we say them very differently. Be sure to listen to episodes 4, 5, and 6 for specific instruction for those sounds. Remember, your tongue touches the inside of your mouth, directly behind the front upper teeth during the l sound, and it does not touch anything during the r sounds.

Be careful that the tip of the tongue does not touch anything inside the mouth during the y sound. Many Spanish speakers substitute a j sound for the y sound. Listen to the difference: y sound (y sound), j sound (j sound). Listen to episode 7 for more information about the y sound.

Vowels also cause considerable difficulty for the Spanish speaker. Pay special attention to the short i, which many speakers replace with the long e. Spend plenty of time with those minimal pairs at the bottom of these sounds' lists. All of the short vowel sounds are talked about in episode 9.

Spanish speakers also need to practice the u as in put sound. Make sure you aren't saying it as the oo sound. Listen to the difference between these two words: look, soon. Both words are spelled with an oo, but the word look has the same vowel sound as the word put. Episode 10 talks about these sounds.

Also pay attention to the aw sound, the sound in the word dog. Do not substitute a long o for this sound. Listen to the difference between these two words. The first word has an aw sound, the second word has a long o sound: bought, boat (aw sound) (long o). The aw sound is a part of episode 11. Also, remember that the long a, long i, long o, and long u are two-sound vowels. Listen to episode 8 for a reminder of what that means, as well as how to fully produce those sounds.

I know this was a lot of information. I have linked to the other episodes in the transcripts for this show, which can be found at www.pronuncian.com. I have also included a link to the sound lists along with these transcripts.

In addition to all the free online practice, I have created another way for you to take your practice with you wherever you go. You can now buy the sound practice audio in convenient MP3 practice for just $10US. You will get a PDF file of the sound list, so you can easily print it, and you will get 3 audio files for each sound, one file for each list of words for that sound in the beginning, middle, or end of the word. Of course, some sounds don't occur in all the part of a word in English, so those will just have audio files for where the sound does occur. If you've been wanting to put sound practice onto your iPod, this is the way to do it, and buying it supports this free podcast, which I really appreciate. You can buy the audio files from any country that PayPal accepts, and that is most currencies of the world. So you do not need to be here in the United States to buy this great practice.

You can also support this podcast with a purchase of a copy of my book, Pronunciation Pages: Sounds of American English. The ebook is only $25US, and you can immediately download it over the internet. The book can be yours in only minute. When you purchase a copy of the book, you receive 6 months full-access to Pronuncian.com and the online audio files for all the book's exercises. Just click the "Add to cart" button under the picture of the book on any of the transcript pages of Pronuncian.com.

You can buy both the book and the sound practice for just $30 US, which gets you all the lessons and audio exercises for the book, as well as the MP3 sound practice. All of your purchases go toward supporting this podcast, which I intend to keep producing for free.

I hope all you Spanish speakers have found this special episode of the American English Pronunciation podcast helpful. You can email me comments or suggestions at podcast@pronuncian.com. I love hearing from listeners around the world! I also really appreciate iTunes reviews. So, if you have the time, writing a review is also a great way to offer me support.

This has been a Seattle Learning Academy Digital Publication. Seattle Learning Academy is where the world comes to learn.

Thanks for listening!