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Lesson Transcript

Fernando: I’m here with JP. Hey, JP.
JP: Hey Fernando. What’s goin on?
Fernando: Not much, how are ya?
JP: Good.
Fernando: Let’s talk about the Spanish alphabet.
JP: Ok. So the Spanish alphabet is based off the Roman alphabet and funnily enough the English alphabet is also based off the Roman alphabet. So, when you look at Spanish, it looks like the same alphabet.
Fernando: I guess that’s why you make the point that it’s easy to learn Spanish.
JP: It is. Sharing an alphabet between English and Spanish, that does make it very easy, you know for me at least.
Fernando: Right, obviously there are a few differences with some of the letters.
JP: Ok, we’ll talk about the differences in a second. But first, I want to say that the Spanish alphabet consists of 27 letters: 5 vowels and 22 consonants. And all of the letters in the Spanish alphabet also are used in the English alphabet with the exception of one very important letter which is the la /ñ/, right, which is important because you use it in the name of the language.
Fernando: Español
JP: So la ñ looks just like the /n/ except that it’s got that it’s got that exotic squiggly thing on top.
Fernando: Yes a tilde
JP: A tilde yes. So that’s the /ñ/. Now there’s a couple double letters like la /ch/, la /ll/ and la /rr/, la double /rr/. It used to be that we used to teach those as single letters, as diagraphs, two letters that make one letter.
Fernando: Diagraphs
JP: That’s the teacher word.
Fernando: Ok, there you go.
JP: Ok. But now the academy, the Spanish academy, recognizes them as two separate letters and we know what to do when we see them together. Anyway, before we get started in hearing all of those, Fernando do you know the song?
Fernando: Uh?
JP: Ok so in English we have the alphabet song right? “A, b, c, d, e, f, g”…Now, do you have that in Spanish?
Fernando: Not that I’m aware of. I mean, we can do that, it’s just more of a chant. Because we’re so diverse, we’ll probably sing it in different ways and there’s different pronunciations obviously. For example the double /l/, the /j/, /ll/, etc etc.
JP: So let’s go through the alphabet really fast. There’s 27 letters but we’re going to go through them really fast. So what do we got?
Fernando: /a, b, c, ch/
JP: /a, b, c, ch/. So /a, b, c/ is obviously /a, b, c/.
Fernando: Yes
JP: And then /ch/, this doesn’t happen in English but this is /c/ and /h/ together, right?
Fernando: That is correct, yes.
JP: So if you see /c/ and /h/ together you can call it /ch/.
Fernando: Ch, pretty simple.
JP: Ok, moving on.
Fernando: /d, e, f, g/
JP: Ok, that /g/ is the letter /g/, right?
Fernando: Right, it’s the /g/. I mean, there are two ways to pronounce it basically. The strong way, the [hard-g] as in gato and the soft way as in [soft-g].
JP: [soft-g] or like “gel” like you put in your hair.
Fernando: Yes, “gel.” You are wearing gel. /h, i, j, k/
JP: Ok so /h/ is the letter /h/…
Fernando: Yes
JP: … and it’s totally mute in Spanish. If you see it you don’t pronounce an /h/ sound
Fernando: no
JP: Ok now the /j/, this is the letter /j/
Fernando: That is correct
JP: Ok now that’s pronounced kind of like an English /h/, especially if you’re from the Caribbean, you’ll pronounce it [very soft-h]
Fernando: Yes, yes exactly.
JP: So we did /h, i, j, k/. And la /k/, the letter /k/ is also in Spanish but it’s not a very popular letter in Spanish.
Fernando: It’s not that used.
JP: No, like “kilometros”
Fernando: Exactly.
JP: What about the /ll/ Fernando, did you forget that?
Fernando: No, I was coming up on it.
JP: Ok
Fernando: So we have the /l/, then the /ll/
JP: Ok so the single /l/, the /l/ is pronounced [la] as in “light”, right?
Fernando: Right
JP: So la la la. Now, remember in English we have different /l/’s, we have the /l/ as in “light” and we have the /l/ as in “mall” and that “mall,” you don’t use it in Spanish.
Fernando: Not really, no.
JP: That /l/ is [soft-l]. Ok so just the [la] sound. Now what’s that /ll/?
Fernando: That /ll/ is [ye]
JP: [ye]
Fernando: Yes, it’s similar in pronunciation to the /y/
JP: Which we’ll get to later, obviously, that’s the end of the alphabet.
Fernando: That’s toward the end, yes.
JP: But that /ll/ also has regional variations, right?
Fernando: That is correct. You’ll hear that pronounced in South America, let’s say in Argentina as a [zhe]
JP: [zhe] kind of like an /sh/ or a /zh/
Fernando: Yes, exactly.
JP: And in Mexico sometimes you’ll hear a /y/
Fernando: Yeah, you’ll hear a /y/
JP: Give us a word, the word for “street”
Fernando: street, “calle”
JP: Calle. That’s the way you say it in Mexico, right? That’s /c-a-ll-e/. /c-a-ll-e/. Calle
Fernando: Calle.
JP: A lot of people from Spain would say [caje]
Fernando: Right
JP: And the people from Argentina obviously would say [cazhe]
Fernando: Exactly, exactly. So, there’s different ways to articulate the letter.
JP: Ok, does it freak you out if someone does the different one?
Fernando: No not at all. It actually kind of helps me out in knowing where they’re from, so that can open up an interesting conversation.
JP: So after the /ll/, after the /k/
Fernando: You have /m, n/ and /ñ/
JP: Ok. That /ñ/, we talked about earlier, is the /n/ with the squiggly on top. And it makes the sound [nya]
Fernando: [nya]
JP: And unlike English, it can start a syllable. So when we say the word for Spain
Fernando: España
JP: España. That last syllable is [nya]. Now it’s hard for us to do it in English. Sometimes we think “nia.” We think like an /n/ and an /i/ and an /a/
Fernando: Right, or /n, y/ or something along those lines
JP: Right, but it’s the [nya] sound and it starts a syllable
Fernando: Yes.
JP: Ok, so moving on
Fernando: /o, p, q/
JP: Ok, that /q/, this is the letter /q/, and it always makes a hard /c/ sound so [hard-c]
Fernando: Siempre.
JP: So like “que”
Fernando: “Queso”
JP: “Queso”
Fernando: Cheese, hm, hungry.
JP: Ok, moving on
Fernando: After /q/ we have /r, rr/
JP: Ok so let’s talk about the /r/ and the /rr/. Now the /rr/, that’s the stereotype that everybody loves, the rolling-/r/
Fernando: yes exactly
JP: [rrrrrrrrrrr]
Fernando: Right, but you can get that with both /r/’s
JP: You can. Actually the single /r/ is also pronounced as a rolling-/r/ [rrrr] when it starts a word
Fernando: Yes exactly
JP: Or if it comes after like an /n/ or something
Fernando: Like Roma
JP: Roma. Ok, that’s definitely the [rrrr] and it’s the single /r/. Now a lot of the time when you see the single /r/ it’s not going to be the rolling-/r/, it’s just going to be a single flap
Fernando: yes
JP: So for example, like the word for expensive
Fernando: Caro
JP: Caro. Now you didn’t hear me roll that /r/, it sounded actually like an American /d/ right?
Fernando: Right.
JP: caro caro. What happens if you do roll that /r/?
Fernando: It becomes an automobile.
JP: Carro, right?
Fernando: Yes, exactly.
JP: “Carro” is the word for car. Ok so “caro,” expensive. “Carro,” car. Ok, so there’s a difference between the single-/r/ and the double-/rr/
Fernando: Yes, absolutely, you can notice it.
JP: Ok, hold on Fernando. I know there are some people that are stressed out about that /r/, like they can’t make it.
Fernando: Well, because I’ve grown up learning both languages it’s been easy for me.
JP: Now what about the people that don’t know how to roll it. Are they going to be mocked when they speak Spanish?
Fernando: No, not at all, not at all. If they’re really close with their Spanish-speaking friends they might get mocked a little bit.
JP: But it’s the friendly kind, right?
Fernando: It’s the friendly kind, of course. We’re a loving people.
JP: Right. Nobody is going to come at you with pitchforks and torches.
Fernando: No, not at all.
JP: Ok, I think we’re going to try to put together a pronunciation lesson on that /rr/ just in case. I mean, we’ll try.
Fernando: That’s a great idea. I mean if you can teach our listeners something about that, that would be great.
JP: Ok, well we’ll see what we can do. Anyway, let’s finish the rest of this alphabet. So, we’re at the /rr/
Fernando: Then we move on to /s, t, u, v/
JP: /v/ ok
Fernando: yes, /v/ which is a /v/
JP: is a /v/. No I know “uve” is the Spain word for it. Now do you say “uve” too?
Fernando: Yes.
JP: Ok now a lot of people I know don’t say “uve.” So I learned it from my teachers as “/v/ de vaca” which is “/v/ as in cow” because the word for cow starts with a /v/. And the reason why it was called that, “/v/ de vaca,” or actually some places call it “/v/ de Valencia,” in Spain they call it “/v/ de Valencia”
Fernando: That would make perfect sense
JP: In English we say “/v/ as in Victor.” And it’s the same reason we say “/v/ as in Victor” in English because on the phone or actually talking to somebody the sounds /b/ and /v/ are very close.
Fernando: Yes
JP: Right, the sounds between “/b/ as in Bob” and “/v/ as in Victor,” they’re very close together. In fact, a lot of people in a Spanish speaking world, most of them pronounce them the exact same way.
Fernando: That’s true, that’s true.
JP: Now you don’t Fernando.
Fernando: I don’t, but because I’m more self-conscious.
JP: Ok. He’s from LA, too, folks. Ok that’s the /v/ or the “/v/ de vaca” or the “/v/ de Valencia” or whatever you want to call it
Fernando: Yes
JP: Or the /v/ chica, some people call it /v/ chica
Fernando: /v/ chica, which also makes sense
JP: ok
Fernando: Ok, so last couple letters: /w, x, y-griega, z/
JP: Ok, is that the end?
Fernando: I think so.
JP: Ok so that /w/, this is the letter /w/ right?
Fernando: Exactly.
JP: Now, when do you use it in Spanish?
Fernando: When?
JP: Yeah, when?
Fernando: Well, actually we don’t use it that often in our language.
JP: Right. So all the /w/ words, if you look in the dictionary, in the Spanish dictionary, the /w/ words are like “Washington.” They’re foreign words, they’re taken.
Fernando: Exactly
JP: They’re foreign words, they’re taken. So, like wiener schnitzel.
Fernando: Yes
JP: Would you spell that with a /w/?
Fernando: Yes you would.
JP: But also English words like “Washington,” “Wisconsin”
Fernando: Yes, exactly
JP: Ok so moving on, we’re almost done.
Fernando: So we have /x/, [equis]
JP: La /x/, right?
Fernando: Yes la /x/
JP: And we all know that from the brand of beer, Dos Equis, right?
Fernando: Dos Equis, yes of course
JP: Now the [equis] usually makes the same /x/ sound right?
Fernando: Yes, for the most part.
JP: Ok. Now there’s one important exception, right?
Fernando: There is. How do you say Mexico in Spanish?
JP: In Spanish you say “México”
Fernando: There you go
JP: So that /x/ in México does not make the /x/ sound, and that’s the exception.
Fernando: Yes, that is the exception
JP: And we say it that way because México, that comes from a Nahuatl word, right?
Fernando: Exactly
JP: This is the language of the Aztecs
Fernando: Yes, so there are some other words that also have the /x/ with a different sound
JP: For example…
Fernando: Xochimilco
JP: Xochimilco. Now that obviously sounds Aztec to me.
Fernando: Right, it is actually. But it’s a city in the southern part of Mexico City.
JP: And you don’t say /x/ “Xochimilco”
Fernando: No, you don’t say /x/ Xolchi…I mean, I can’t even do it
JP: Ok, Xochimilco
Fernando: Right, so it has more of a /z/ sound. Kind of like Xerox, there you go.
JP: Xerox, is that Spanish too? Xerox
Fernando: I have no idea. I don’t think it was invented back in the day.
JP: Ok but if you wanted to say that brand name you wouldn’t say “Xerox”
Fernando: Yeah, exactly. That’s a good example.
JP: Well, there’s two /x/’s right? The one at the beginning is like the /z/ sound
Fernando: yes
JP: And the one at the end is the /x/ sound. Complicated. Anyway, last two letters.
Fernando: Last two letters, we have /y-griega/
JP: /y-griega/, now this is the letter /y/ right?
Fernando: This is the letter /y/
JP: Ok, so it’s called y-griega because it’s the Greek version of the letter /i/
Fernando: Exactly
JP: So there’s also an i-latina, the Latin version which is the letter /i/
Fernando: Yeah
JP: Now the y-griega makes the same sound as the i-latina right?
Fernando: That is correct
JP: Ok, one last sound
Fernando: [zeta]
JP: la /zeta/
Fernando: Yes
JP: Ok, this is the letter /z/. For our non-American listeners this is the letter /zed/
Fernando: /zed/
JP: Ok, now you pronounce it the Mexican way, right?
Fernando: [seta]
JP: [seta] with an /s/ sound
Fernando: With an /s/ sound yes.
JP: And all the /z/’s, all the [seta]s in your pronunciation have an /s/ sound
Fernando: Yes
JP: Now in Spain it’s different and we talk about this in our pronunciation lesson, that, in Spain they pronounce the /zeta/ with a [theta] right?
Fernando: Yes, with a /t-h/ sound
JP: Like a /t-h/ sound like in the English word “think”
Fernando: Yes, exactly.
JP: Ok, so when you say the word for shoes, you say:
Fernando: Zapatos
JP: Zapatos, with an /s/ sound at the beginning
Fernando: With an /s/ sound yeah, zapatos.
JP: And in Spain they pronounce that:
Fernando: “Thapatos”
JP: “Thapatos” with a /t-h/ sound, ok the /zeta/. Ok, so that’s the whole Spanish alphabet. Did we leave anything out?
Fernando: I think we’ve covered every single letter. Well thank you so much JP.
JP: Ok, thank you.
Fernando: It’s a pleasure as always.
JP: The pleasure is mine, Fernando.
Fernando: And listeners, thank you for tuning in and we’ll catch you on the flip-side, All About lesson 3.
JP: Hasta luego.
Fernando: Bye-bye.