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Lesson Transcript


Fernando: This is Lesson 4 of the Pronunciation series.
JP: My name is JP and I’m here with Fernando.
Fernando: Hola JP, ¿cómo te va?
JP: Bien, bien. Okay, what’s our lesson today?
Fernando: Today, we’re gonna talk about regional variations in Spanish, different accents from different places.
JP: Okay. This is one of my favorite topics!
Fernando: Yeah.
JP: We get to do a lot of bad impressions!
Fernando: Except without trying to promote some stereotypes and character traits of people.
JP: I don’t what you’re talking about, Fernando!
Fernando: Yeah, yeah. Let’s just try and keep it linguistic, keep it, you know, scientific.
JP: Keep it scientific, aye, captain! So before we get started, I wanna talk about the idea of standard language and standard Spanish to be specific. There are 20 countries where Spanish is the official language and they all have their own regional varieties. Sometimes, students ask me, which Spanish is the best one to learn, right? Mexican, Spain, South American? Which is the most proper? Which is the clearest? And my answer is that they’re all the same.
Fernando: Oh no, come on now!
JP: Okay. Let me say it this way, it doesn’t matter which Spanish you start learning, all right? No one variety is gonna handicap your future Spanish learning success. So you can start with Northern Mexican like Fernando, or you can start with Madrid like I did or you can start with Cuban Spanish. At the basic level, it’s all Spanish, right? It’s all the same. Then once you get to a more advanced level and start travelling or meeting people that you care about, you start picking up some regional stuff and that’s great and you should do that, but it’s not like one kind of Spanish is gonna hurt you and another kind is gonna give you an advantage. Spanish is a super international language, and Spanish speakers are really used to hearing other accents.
Fernando: And also, we understand each other. None of the varieties in Spanish is so different that you can’t understand each other.
JP: Right. Now, Fernando, you speak Mexican Spanish, right?
Fernando: Yes, I do, and my family is from Northern Mexico.
JP: Okay. So, we’re going to rely on you to show us how people in Northern Mexico pronounce stuff.
Fernando: Rely on me all you want. So today, we’re also gonna talk about other regional pronunciation, so we’ll have to do our best to approximate them.
JP: To approx- you mean, fake them, right? So does that mean I get to do highly exaggerated and possibly offensive repertories?
Fernando: You know, you know, you’re think you’re funny.
JP: I can’t wait to get started. I can’t wait to get started!

Lesson focus

Fernando: All right, all right, all right. We already talked about J.
JP: Okay, so quick review. In México, J is pronounced more forward in the mouth, [j]. And in Spain, it’s further back, [j], [j]. So in Spain, they say - Jorge, no juegues con el jamón. And in Mexico, they say - Jorge, no juegues con el jamón.
Fernando: Jorge, no juegues con el jamón.
JP: Okay. So this is, “Jorge, don’t play with the ham.” Also the difference we should be listening for is between jamón and jamón.
Fernando: Javier, hijo de Jose, come jícama con ejotes y jitomates de Juriquilla.
JP: So that was, “Javier, son of Jose, eats Jicama with green beans and…”
Fernando: jitomates de Juriquilla.
JP: Okay, “tomatoes from Juriquilla.” All right, say it again because this is super Mexican.
Fernando: Javier, hijo de Jose, come jícama con ejotes y jitomates de Juriquilla.
JP: Okay. In Spain, this would sound more like - Javier, hijo de José…
Fernando: And in the Caribbean, it would probably sound like - Javier, hijo de José…
JP: All right, so the Caribbean is using like an American “h” sound for that that -j, right? Jorge, no juegues con el jamón
Fernando: Moving on! Let’s talk about the ceceo.
JP: Okay, the ceceo. So, in Spain, the letter “z” and the soft [z] are pronounced with [θ] sound, right? Like in the English word “think.”
Fernando: Our people, Mexicans, would just pronounce them as “s” [s].
JP: Okay. Okay, so the word for “civilization” in European is civilización.
Fernando: And in Latin America, we would say civilización.
JP: And the word for “shoes” in European Spanish is zapatos.
Fernando: And in Latin America, we would say zapatos.
JP: Now, there are two things that I wanna point out. First of all, a lot of people describe the European Spanish as lispy. Lispy, they speak with lisp. As if 47 million people all had a speech impediment, right? It’s not a lisp. Spanish people make regular “s” sounds all the time. So when we say the word for shoes, there’s an “s” sound a the end, right, which is zapatos.
Fernando: Right, and that actually helps them with their spelling. They can differentiate a -ce, from -z from an -s.
JP: Right, okay. So it’s just they spell what they sound.
Fernando: Exactly.
JP: Okay. Now, how about in Latin America, how do you say the “shoes”?
Fernando: Well, in Latin America, we use the “s” sound for both, zapatos.
JP: Zapatos, so that’s the “s” for both the “z” and the “s,” right? Okay. So, linguists like me call the situation in Latin America as ceceo situation, meaning that the “z,” the “s,” and the -ce, the soft [ce], they all make the same “s” sound, right? The situation in Spain where the [ce]s and [ci]s are all pronounced as [θ], we call that ceceo. So, seseo and ceceo.
Fernando: So, if you speak Spanish with ceceo, you always say zapatos.
JP: Now, the other thing that I wanted to point is that in Northern Spain, the “s” sounds, we’re talking about the letter “s” now, the “s” sounds sound a little thicker than the Mexican “s.” So, I don’t know if you can hear this, but the Mexican “s” is a hissy, -s, -s, -s. All right, it’s hissier, -sss. And the Spanish one in Spain is a thicker one, [sh]...[sh] [sh]. It kind of almost sounds like the “sh” sound, [sh]. Okay, so let’s take the word for the Spanish nationality. So, European Spanish, this is is español and Mexican Spanish is españ-
Fernando: Actually, JP…
JP: Huh?
Fernando: I’m supposed to give the Mexican Spanish.
JP: Oh, I’m sorry, go ahead.
Fernando: español, zapatos, civilización
JP: español, zapatos, civilización
Fernando: Yeah, let’s…let’s move on. The next regional difference we should talk about is the costeño pronunciation.
JP: Okay. Now, when we talk about costeño pronunciation, it’s not as neat and tidy as being able to say, you know, Spain versus Latin America like in the ceceo, seseo. Because the costeño distinction is something that’s started in Spain and was spread to Latin America through the colonies.
Fernando: You better tell us what the costeño pronunciation is.
JP: Okay. So, there are certain regions in Spain and Latin America that don’t pronounce an “s” when the “s” is at the end of a syllable. So, let’s give an example. Fernando, how would you say “How are you?”
Fernando: ¿Cómo estás?
JP: Right. Now, can you do it in a Costeño dialect?
Fernando: I can do an Argentinian, ¿Cómo andas?
JP: Okay folks, so you noticed how he said the word estás (it sounded like etáh), right? That “s” at the end of the syllable kind of turned into an “h” sound (etáh). Depending on where a person is from, those final (s)s ar pronounced as (h)s or they’re dropped altogether, right? ¿Cómo estás?
Fernando: This is kind of complicated. It’s not something people usually teach.
JP: Right and so we’re not gonna teach it, right? We’re not gonna teach you how to do it here, but it is something that you wanna recognize, right? And this is a listening comprehension service, so you wanna recognize it. And it’s something that you can learn to pick up on because a lot of people talk that way.
Fernando: Argentinians, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans.
JP: And even in coastal regions in Mexico and Central America and also in Southern Spain in Andalucía. In fact, they say Andalucía is where it all began, right? That’s what they say, anyway.
Fernando: And how does that work?
JP: Okay. Well, the story goes that the people that colonized the coastal areas were from Andalucía, which is a little bit simplistic, but the pattern seems to hold, at least linguistically. The Spaniards like to build their colonial capitals in the mountainous regions, right? Because it’s harder to get attacked by pirates in the mountains. So, the regions that got mountain capitals like Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, all of these places also got a bunch of colonial administrators from Madrid, right? And so the Spanish from the north of Spain where Madrid is became the standard. Now, that’s the pattern for the mountain dialect, the serrano dialects. They pronounced all the (s)s because they were following the northern standard. Now, the coastal regions got the costeño dialects where they don’t pronounce the (s)s at the end of the syllables. So, in some countries like in the Caribbean, they’re all costeño, they all drop (s)s. In other countries, you can see a pattern where they speak costeño in the coast and serrano in the capitals. So, Colombia is like that, right? And Guatemala and even México. Fernando, this is a lot of information.
Fernando: Yeah, that’s a good history lesson.
JP: Okay, thank you.


Fernando: I think we should probably leave it there. See you later, everyone! ¡Hasta luego!
JP: ¡Hasta la próxima!