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Lesson Transcript

Fernando: Welcome back, everyone. Great to have you back, JP. You look a little excited.
JP: This is the All About Pronunciation lesson, all about Spanish Pronunciation. And You know, I wrote a bit thing about the Spanish alphabet and the vowels and everything, but I don’t wanna do that. Instead, I want to do the top 5 pronunciation tips so that you don’t sound gringo-fabulous. Now this is a way to improve your Spanish accent so you sound a little bit more like a native speaker, like you Fernando.
Fernando: If you are a non-American English speaker…
JP: Which many of you are, I know
Fernando: Yes, so you will basically learn how to improve your Spanish accent
JP: This hold for everybody. But some of the pitfalls that I’m going to talk about today are specifically pitfalls that Americans do and I know because I hear them all the time as a Spanish teacher.
One of them is that the vowels are always the same. You see a letter /a/ it’s always an [long-a] It’s never an [short-a] or an /i/ or an /e/. It’s always an [long-a]. Ok so what’s a word with a lot of [long-a]? How about the word for illiterate.
Fernando: Analfabeta
JP: Analfabeta. All of those are the same. An-al-fa-bet-a. So all those /a/ make the [long-a] sound. They never make the [uh] sound. If I saw the word and I wanted to sound gringo-fabulous I might say: an-el-fe-bet-a
Fernando: You sound a little tired
JP: Is that what gringo-fabulous sounds like to you, a little lazy?
Fernando: Maybe a little lazy, not too much spunk.
JP: Ok so Spanish has spunky vowels. Let’s do one with an /o/
Fernando: Osmosis
JP: Osmosis. In English if you see that word, it is an English word… osmosis. And when we say it in English those /o/s make different sounds. Os-mo-sis, [long-o] and [short-o]. In Spanish when you see that word you’re going to say
Fernando: osmosis
JP: Osmosis so [short-o] and [short-o]
Fernando: You don’t hear any change in the two /o/s that are pronounced
JP: Now that hold true with /a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ and /u/
The next thing you can do to improve your pronunciation in Spanish is get the /r/s and the /d/s straight, especially if you’re American like me.
Fernando: Sí por favor
JP: So as Fernando just demonstrated that /r/ is going to make that [rolling-r] sound. Now to illustrate the point I am going to use a word with a /r/. Give me a word with a /r/
Fernando: Toro
JP: Ok this is the word for the bull right? You scream it at the bullfight when you’re tired of the matador.
Fernando: You can do that
JP: Ok so toro. That’s /t-o-r-o/, toro. Now there’s another word in Spanish that means “all”
Fernando: Todo
JP: Todo. This is with a /d/ right? /t-o-d-o/. Now some of us, including me when I first started, when I saw the word /t-o-d-o/ I said “todo”
Fernando: Sounds just like “toro”
JP: It sounds just like the word for bull. The reason why is that I was doing an American thing to that /d/. The American thing I was doing was flapping it. So I was going “todo,” that’s the word for bull. So if you do American things to that /d/ it’s going to end up sounding like a Spanish /r/. So you want to do Spanish things to that /d/ and in Spanish it’s called la /d/ and it’s a lighter /d/ and when I say it my tongue is between my teeth. So that word that means “all” is “todo.” “Todo” to a Spanish-speaker’s ears sounds totally different than “toro”
Fernando: Yes it sounds different, it sounds correct
JP: Ok, that’s the second tip I’ve got three more to go. The next one is all about aspiration, linguistic aspiration.
Fernando: I’m not familiar with that
JP: What happens is English speakers add a puff of air after certain consonants when we begin a word. So in English when I say the word /p-o-t/ I say “pot” and if I say it slow you can hear a little bit of a puff of air behind my /p/, “pot.” If that /p/ is not at the beginning I don’t have to have that puff of air. So if I start the word with an /s/ I can say “spot.” “Spot” doesn’t have any kind of aspiration on that /p/
Fernando: No, not that I’m aware of
JP: So when you start speaking Spanish you can’t use any aspiration at all otherwise you start sounding gringo-fabulous. So let’s take Spanish words that start with /p/
Fernando: How about “pasado”
JP: “Pasado.” That’s the word for “past” right?
Fernando: Yes
JP: Now if I did aspiration like in English it would be “pasado”
Fernando: “Pasado”
JP: And that sounds super gringo-fabulous. This point I’m making about aspiration holds with /p/s. It also holds with /t/s. In English I can say the opposite of bottom is top and you hear me aspirating “top.” If I put an /s/ in front of that word, “stop,” I don’t aspirate the /t/. Now let’s take a word in Spanish that starts with a /t/
Fernando: Tomas
JP: Tomas, this is a dude’s name right?
Fernando: This is a dude’s name, yes
JP: Ok so “Tomas,” you can hear that I’m not aspirating it. If I say it in a gringo-fabulous accent, “Tomas,” you can clearly hear the difference. So it’s /p/s, it’s /t/s, it’s also /k/s, like the /k/ sound, even if it’s the letter /c/
Fernando: So “Carla”
JP: “Carla.” So Carla in Spanish is…
Fernando: is “Carla”
JP: “Carla,” right. Now if I say the English version, “Carla,” you can hear the aspiration, right?
Fernando: Right
JP: In Spanish, “Carla”
Fernando: What about /q/ JP?
JP: What about /q/? If it has that /k/ sound, if it has the [k] sound, then it counts
Fernando: Yeah, kind of like a delicious quesadilla
JP: Quesadilla. Ok so if you say it in English, you can hear the aspiration in that initial sound. So you hear, “quesadilla.” If you say it in Spanish…
Fernando: Quesadilla
JP: Quesadilla. There’s no aspiration. Ok so that’s the tip. The tip is: English aspirates, Spanish never aspirates.
Fernando: JP, we do have aspirations
JP: Ok, everybody has their dreams
Fernando: So, we’ve gone through three JP?
JP: Yes, we have two more to go.
Fernando: Two more, alright bring it on.
JP: Ok, my fourth tip of how to not sound gringo-fabulous when you’re speaking Spanish is to keep your /l/s consistent
Fernando: /l/
JP: /l/, this is the letter /l/. Now in English we have the same /l/ when it begins a word. So for example the words “light” and “lamb” right? They sound exactly like when you start a word in Spanish with an /l/
Fernando: Lampara
JP: Lampara right? Luz. It’s that same [l] sound right?
Fernando: Or lago
JP: Lago, which is the word for “lake”
Fernando: Yes
JP: Now in Spanish that same /l/ sound is used at the end of a word. So if I want to say the word for “bad”
Fernando: Mal
JP: Mal. Ok, it’s “mal.” Now because of my gringo-fabulous tendencies I might try to say “mal.” Because in English if an /l/ is at the end of a syllable it will be [long-l] and you don’t have that at all in Spanish, right?
Fernando: No
JP: So what’s that cactus that you eat in Mexico?
Fernando: Nopal
JP: Nopal, right?
Fernando: Wow I am hungry
JP: Okay so it’s “nopal,” and it’s not “nopal”
Fernando: No it is not
JP: Ok I have one last tip to improve your pronunciation so you don’t sound gringo-fabulous
Fernando: This is gonna be awesome
JP: Now this of course is the rolled /r/. [rrrrrrr]
Fernando: [rrrrrrr]
JP: Now we already kind of talked about /r/s in the /r/ vs. /d/ tip, which was the second tip, but here I want to talk about the rolled /r/ [rrrrrr]. Now this is an important sound in Spanish right?
Fernando: It is
JP: But not all /r/s are rolled
Fernando: That is true. Now listeners this is very important. JP please explain.
JP: So for example if you see a single /r/ in the middle of a word, it’s not gonna roll. Alright so the word for “but,” like however “but”
Fernando: Pero
JP: Pero, right? You don’t hear any [rrrrr]ing that, no?
Fernando: No, because if you did that would be a dog.
JP: Perro.
Fernando: Yes
JP: Ok, perro is a double /r/. Single /r/, by itself in a word: pero
Fernando: Yes
JP: Ok so not all /r/s roll
Fernando: Not all /r/s are rolled
JP: Ok now some of you are probably thinking, “JP I can’t roll my /r/”
Fernando: What do you say to that JP?
JP: Ok there’s a couple things you can say to that. First of all, nobody’s gonna kill you, nobody’s gonna come after you with pitchforks and torches if you can’t roll your /r/
Fernando: Wait so I should put down the knife?
JP: Put it down
Fernando: Ok
JP: If you end up saying “pero” for however, I mean, Latinos are probably just gonna let it go, right?
Fernando: Yes
JP: And they’re going to understand what you’re saying. The other thing, if you can’t roll the /r/, you should keep trying. It’s a skill that takes a long time, it takes a lot of practice.
Fernando: It does
JP: If you can’t make the /r/ don’t despair, just keep practicing. Ok, you’ve got five tips: vowels are always the same, keep /r/s and /d/s different, there’s no aspiration, keep your /l/s consistent, and work on your /r/s.
Fernando: Yes, that sums it up. These are all great, valuable lessons. Thank you very much JP.
JP: Thank you, Fernando.
Fernando: Yes, it’s been a pleasure. Listeners, thank you so much for tuning in and we will catch you on the flip side. Have a good one.
JP: Hasta luego.
Fernando: Bye bye!