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Lesson Transcript


Fernando: Hola a todos, soy Fernando. Basic Pronunciation 1. I’m here with JP. JP, what’s going on?
JP: Hey, Fernando, I’m ready to talk about pronunciation. How about you?
Fernando: I am ready as well.
JP: Cool! So, in this pronunciation series, we’re gonna talk about the different sounds of the Spanish language. That’s a big topic and there are all kinds of variations, a lot of stuff to cover, and we’re gonna try to do it all in five podcasts. Basically, what we’re gonna do is go to the alphabet and talk about the different sounds. Now before we start, Fernando, can you tell us a little bit about the kind of Spanish you speak?
Fernando: Sure thing! Now, because I went to school in Chihuahua, that’s in Northern Mexico, I speak Mexican Spanish.
JP: Okay. Now, for all our listeners out there, Mexican Spanish is a great place to start learning Spanish because everybody understands Mexican. Mexicans pronounce all the letters.
Fernando: Gee, JP, thanks for the endorsement!
JP: Okay, now, this is important because I wanna say that every once in a while, I get email from people saying I only wanna learn European Spanish or I only wanna learn Chilean Spanish. And so, I wanna say at the beginning that it really doesn’t matter which Spanish you start with because they’re not all that different.
Fernando: Do they really send you emails on that?
JP: Yes, they do. Absolutely! Yes, believe me.
Fernando: Okay.
JP: All right. And it’s ridiculous. To me, it’s like saying I don’t wanna learn American English, I only wanna learn Canadian English or I only wanna learn, I don’t know, North Dakota English. Yes, there are differences between countries and regions, but in English, just like in Spanish, there are more similarities than there are differences.
Fernando: True, very true.

Lesson focus

JP: Okay. So, what are the sounds we’re gonna hear today?
Fernando: Well, we’re gonna start with the five vowels.
JP: Of the Mexican vowels?
Fernando: Yes, the Mexican vowels. No, the vowels are all the same no matter where you’re from.
JP: All right. So, where are we gonna start with?
Fernando: Let’s start with la a.
JP: La a. This is the letter “a” in English, but in Spanish it’s [a].
Fernando: Right and the sound is [a] like ala or alma.
JP: Alma is your “soul” and ala is the word for “wing.”
Fernando: Yes.
JP: Ala
Fernando: Or Ana.
JP: The woman’s name, Ana.
Fernando: Ana, yes.
JP: Okay now, a couple of things here, we’re not gonna try to teach these words as vocabulary yet. So, you don’t have to go out and learn the words for “soul” and “wing” right now, okay? We’re just trying to demonstrate the sound of [a] which is a sound that we don’t have in standard English, right? We have /a/ like father, then we have /a/ in cat, but we don’t really have [a] like the Spanish [a].
Fernando: Right. Now, you should notice that [a] is always going to be [a] no matter where it is in the word. So, alma has “a” at the beginning and “a” at the end. Alma.
JP: That’s true, because in English, you might try to “alma, alma.”
Fernando: Yeah, alma.
JP: Alma. All right, let’s move on to [e]. Now, this looks the English letter “e” but in Spanish, it’s [e].
Fernando: [e]
JP: How about elefante, right?
Fernando: Yes.
JP: The word for “elephant.”
Fernando: That’s a good one.
JP: Okay. Now, we don’t have this [e] vowel in English either because in English, we always “ae” like “bay” or “bidet.” We’re sliding into “e” sound, “bay.”
Fernando: Right. In Spanish, it’s just [e], elefante.
JP: elefante
Fernando: The next vowel is [i], like idílico.
JP: Idílico. Now, this [i] looks like the English letter “i” but in Spanish, it’s always [i], okay?
Fernando: Yes, mm-hmm.
JP: The same as the English word “eat” or “tree.”
Fernando: Yes. [i] idílico. Let’s move on to [o].
JP: [o]. Now, this is like the English letter “o” but in Spanish, your lips don’t slide into a U sound because in English we say “ooo” like “boat.”
Fernando: Yeah, this is just [o]. So, an example would be horóscopo.
JP: Just like one, two, three, four [o] in this horóscopo.
Fernando: That’s a pretty good example.
JP: Yeah, it means “horoscope,” right?
Fernando: Yes.
JP: Horóscopo. Now, all four of those [o] are the same [o], horóscopo.
Fernando: Exactly. So, I think we’re missing one vowel.
JP: Which is probably the U, right?
Fernando: The “u,” [u].
JP: [u], okay. In English, we say “u.” In Spanish, we say [u].
Fernando: [u]
JP: And what’s a good word with an [u] in it?
Fernando: Uruguay
JP: Uruguay is the country.
Fernando: Yes.
JP: Okay.
Fernando: universidad
JP: Universidad, “university,” universidad.
Fernando: unión
JP: Right. Now, notice that we’re not sliding into it. We’re not saying “Uruguay,” “university,” “union.” We’re saying [Uruguay], [universidad], [unión], right? [u]
Fernando: Yes. Okay, JP, let’s do a quick review before we move on to the consonants. Now, the five vowels in Spanish are [a], [e], [i], [o], [u].
JP: [a], [e], [i], [o], [u]. Okay. Now, Fernando, how are we gonna do the consonants? Because we don’t have time to do them all in this podcast.
Fernando: Right. Well, today, we’re gonna just do the letters in the Spanish alphabet that make the same sounds as in English. So, we’re gonna just go through them quickly so you might wanna follow along in the lesson notes. These are the sounds in Spanish that are the same in English. The first one is la f.
JP: [f]. This is like in English letter “f.”
Fernando: And the example we have is fanfarrón.
JP: Fanfarrón. Is that a brag? Somebody boasting?
Fernando: Yeah, it’s a boastful person.
JP: Okay, fanfarrón. That’s the [f].
Fernando: Next is la [l], lapislázuli, leal.
JP: Now, that’s just like the English letter “l” but it’s the “l” as in light and in lake and not “l” as in “mall,” right? So, leal.
Fernando: La [m] like México is exactly like English.
JP: Okay, México, [m].
Fernando: [m]. Next one, [n]. [n] is the same as in English.
JP: As the English “n,” right?
Fernando: As the English “n,” yes.
JP: Okay, what’s next?
Fernando: Let’s go with S.
JP: Okay. In Spanish, that’s [s].
Fernando: [s]. An example would be sesenta.
JP: Sesenta means “sixty.”
Fernando: So now, let’s do a group of three.
JP: A group of three consonants.
Fernando: Yes.
JP: Okay, so [k], [p], and [t], all right, the “k,” the “p,” and the “t.” So, what’s the trick?
Fernando: The trick is that in Spanish, you never have that puff of air like you have in English.
JP: Right. Because in English, if we start a word with a “k” or a “p” or a “t,” there’s always an aspiration, rihgt? So, when I say “popcorn,” you can hear the pop in the microphone. Now, we have to ask the audio engineer not to edit that out because people need to hear the pop, right?
Fernando: Yes.
JP: And that goes for all of these three letters. So, if I a say “can of tomato paste,” you can hear the puff after the /c/ sound in “can.” Another puff after the /t/ sound in “tomato,” and another puff after the /p/ sound in “paste.” “Can of tomato paste.”
Fernando: Yes, but you never have that puff of air in Spanish, so it’s papaya, kamikaze, and tutear.
JP: Okay, and not “papaya,” “kamikaze,” and “tutear.” So you can hear now that puff of air, makes me sound gringo fabulous. So, it’s [papaya] not “papaya,” [kamikaze] not “kamikaze,” and [tutear] not “tutear,” right? Okay. Are there any more?
Fernando: Just one, la [x]. It’s just like the English letter “x.” So, we have, as examples, explotar or extinguir.
JP: Explotar, extinguir. Great, Fernando! That’s a lot of information. But basically, it’s the sound in Spanish that are the same as in English.


JP: Now remember, take a look at the lesson notes, if you wanna see what these words look like in writing. This has been Pronunciation, Lesson 1. A little later on in the series, we’ll talk about the other sounds in the Spanish language that are a little more exotic.
Fernando: ¡Hasta luego!
JP: ¡Hasta la próxima!