Why work on pronunciation?

Why work on pronunciation?

Spanish pronunciation tends not to receive much attention in post-beginners' courses, once the phonetics of sounds and basic intonation patterns have been covered. The fact that Spanish is a very ‘phonetic’ language – that is, a language whose written form is closely related to its pronunciation – can lead to the false assumption that it is an easy language to pronounce. Without the right training, though, students may continue to reproduce the sounds of their native language when trying to pronounce written Spanish words.

Here are some of the common ‘pitfalls’ for English-speaking learners of Spanish:

  • failure to open the mouth (oral cavity) wide enough to produce the ‘open’ vowels of Spanish successfully;

  • aspirating consonants (adding a breathy ‘h’ sound to them);

  • making vowel sounds too long or pronouncing them as diphthongs;

  • raising the pitch of the voice unnecessarily such that the natural ‘tone’ of Spanish is lost.

The section has a practical rather than a theoretical bias, the ultimate aim being to enhance communication. Tackling difficult sounds will contribute to easing your flow of speech; imitating native speakers will encourage you to construct sound patterns and word combinations outside the limited range with which you may feel ‘comfortable’; this will in turn enable you to use longer speech units with confidence.

This material is aimed at lower-intermediate or intermediate students and therefore assumes some basic knowledge of the sounds of Spanish; these can, however, be reviewed by using the List of symbols used in A viva voz following the Glossary.

The content of the book is structured to reflect the general aims stated above. All the exercises in A viva voz belong to one of the following categories:

  • A nivel de sonido focuses on those sounds or groups of sounds in Spanish that continue to cause problems for the learner even at intermediate level.

  • A nivel de palabra looks at the problems that arise when pronouncing whole words, such as stress patterns; it also looks at words that cause particular difficulty, such as place names of Arab and Amerindian origin, acronyms and dates.

  • Los acentos del español is about regional varieties of Spanish. The purpose of this category is to highlight the salient features of different accents, many of which overlap between one region and another. You will be shown strategies for coping with the many accents of Spanish found in over 20 countries. Unfortunately, space limitations do not allow coverage of all regional accents so the following selection was made: Cuba, Peru, the River Plate region, Andalusia and Madrid.

  • Enlazando palabras focuses on connected speech. Failure to link words together properly can result in the ‘foreign accent’ effect.

  • A nivel de frase explores the intonation patterns of sentences. The types of sentences included in this section have been carefully selected to match both your grammatical knowledge and level of communicative competence.

Last modified: Saturday, 8 Jun 2013, 23:44