2.2 Anticipating, listening out for and practising unfamiliar sounds
Being able to understand names and places can tell you a lot about what the speaker intends to say. However, it can be difficult to pronounce and understand foreign names because often we apply the sounds, stress patterns and intonation of our mother tongue.
In this section, you can listen how Spanish people pronounce the sounds of names in English. Pay attention to the following aspects:
- How the Spanish speaker pronounces the names with the consonant ‘h’.
- How the Spanish speaker pronounces the names starting with the consonant ‘s’.
- In the box below, make a note of how the names with the consonant ‘h’ are pronounced, and also the names beginning with ‘s’.
These are the names you heard:
Notice how the native speaker of Spanish tends to adapt the English pronunciation of ‘h’ and ‘s’ to fit the Spanish sound system. ‘H’ sounds like the Spanish ‘j’. Words beginning with ‘sc’, ‘sl’, ‘sm’, ‘sn’, ‘sp’ and ‘st’ have an ‘e’ added to them.
Box 2: Understanding names and places
When it comes to understanding native Spanish speakers knowing what kind of pronunciation to expect will help you catch places and names more easily.
Although the consonant h is not pronounced at all in Spanish, Spanish speakers usually pronounce English names and words with h making them sound like a Spanish j (jota, jamón, personaje, etc.).
The combination s+consonant in a syllable does not exist in Spanish. Words that contain this combination of consonants often start with the vowel ‘e’ (español, estructura, Esteban, estilo) When it comes to pronouncing this combination of consonants in English, Spanish speakers therefore tend to replicate this common combination and create an extra syllable, pronouncing an e in front of the s: Scarlet is pronounced as Escarlet.
Having listened to native Spanish speakers in Actividades 3 and 4, now think of the following:
How do you think a Spanish speaker would pronounce your name and surname?
How would they pronounce the place where you are from and where you live?
How would you help him / her to pronounce those names correctly in English?
Take into consideration what you know about pronunciation of certain consonants and differences in sounds and intonation.
Now it is your turn to say something about yourself. Remember that when talking about yourself in Spanish, you need to be aware that a native Spanish speaker might find it difficult to understand names and places in English. To help them, slow down if necessary, without exaggerating too much.
As a last resort, native speakers of other languages sometimes adapt their pronunciation to imitate a Spanish native speaker, pronouncing ‘h’ like a ‘j’ and adding extra ‘e’ at the front of words that start with ‘s+ consonant'.
Say out loud your name, your age, the name of the place where you were born and where you live using the prompts provided. Imagine you are introducing yourself to a group of Spanish speakers. Put yourself in their shoes and make sure that they understand the pronunciation of all names and places.
Use some or all of the following prompts to help you structure your introduction.
- Me llamo…
- Tengo… años
- Nací en…
- Vivo en…
- Trabajo de/en…