Contents of Lesson 2

Introduction
Word Stress and Written Accents
How to Find a Word's Stressed Syllable
Pronunciation of Vowels
Pronunciation of Consonants
Consonants with unchanging pronunciation
The letter x
Consonants whose pronunciation changes depending on the following vowel.
Table 1: How to Pronounce the Letters
Table 2: How to Write the Sounds
Exercise: Finding Dictionary Entries
Exercise: Pronunciation Practice Using Geographical Names
Answers to Exercise on Finding Dictionary Entries

Lesson 2: Spanish Pronunciation and Spelling

Introduction

Even if one's main interest is reading, some treatment of pronunciation is necessary. Many words differ only in minor aspects of their pronunciation, such as hablo (I speak) and habló (he/she/it/you spoke). A knowledge of pronunciation makes some verb problems go away: it explains, for example, why the verb hacer (to do or make) has a z in its third person singular preterit form, hizo (he/she/it/you did or made).

Also, most students learning to read Spanish want to know how to pronounce it correctly. Thus, we will include an overview of the features of Spanish pronunciation most problematic for English speakers and most relevant to learning to read. Spanish pronunciation is much closer to the written form of the language than is that of English or French, which makes the learner's task easier. Letters not discussed below have the same or nearly the same pronunciation as English.

You can click on any Spanish word in this lesson to hear its pronunciation. With the letters z and c before e or i, as discussed below, the pronunciation used is that which distinguishes them from the s: the pronunciation of Spain, sometimes called "Castilian Pronunciation."

Each sound file (each word) is approximately 50K in size. That is to say, each word is longer than the entire text of this lesson. There are ways to shrink the files, but then you'd have to have different software to hear them. This is why there may be delays, depending on the speed of your connection and the congestion of the network.

Word Stress and Written Accents

How to Find a Word's Stressed Syllable

Pronunciation of VOWELS

Pronunciation of CONSONANTS


Recapitulation: consonants whose pronunciation changes depending on the following vowel.

Table 1: How to Pronounce the Letters

Table 2: How to Write the Sounds

Table 1: How to Pronounce the Letters (from the letters to the sounds)

Letter

Sound before a, o, u, or at the end of a word

Sound before e, i

C

like k: coche (this is also the sound that English c has before a, o, u)

like the z, however that is pronounced: cero, licencia

G

the same as English, a “hard” g sound: gato, agonía, laguna

like the Spanish j: gelatina, gitano

Gu

gw: guapo, guante

“hard” g sound: guerrilla

(does not occur)

gw: lingüística

Table 2: How to Write the Sounds (from the sounds to the letters)

Sound How written, before a, o, u, or at the end of a word How written, before e, i

hard g sound

g: rogar; siga

gu: rogué, ruegue; seguir

gw sound

gu: averiguar

gü: averigüé

th (pronounced as s in Spanish America)

z: venza, haz

c: vencer

jota sound

j: cojo, reloj

g: coger; or j: Jiménez

k sound

c: buscar, coñac

qu: busqué


Exercise: Using pronunciation to find dictionary entries

Depending on the initial vowel of the ending, the sound preceding if varies in its writing. Remember: the important point is how the sound is written under the changed vowel context.

The following includes endings which change their initial vowel. Following the indication of the different ending, see if you can find the spelling of the new form, and find it in your dictionary. Then click on each for the correct answer.

  1. veces: remove ending -es completely.
  2. averigüé: ending is -ar instead of .
  3. luces: remove ending -es completely.
  4. chiquito: ending is -o instead of -ito.
  5. mosquito: ending is -a instead of -ito.
  6. vaquero (English buckeroo): ending is -a instead of -ero.
  7. venza: ending is -er instead of -a.
  8. surja: ending is -ir instead of -a.
  9. cargue: ending is -ar instead of -e.
  10. acerqué: ending is -ar instead of é

Here are the answers to this exercise.


Exercise: Pronunciation Practice Using Geographical Names

The following are the names of coujntries as spelled in Spanish, and in parentheses the names of the inhabitants of these countries. As we discussed in Lesson 1, adjectives (such as mejicano) derived from proper nouns (México) are not capitalized in Spanish.

  1. España (español)
  2. México (mejicano)
  3. Guatemala (guatemalteco)
  4. El Salvador (salvadoreño)
  5. Belice (beliceño)
  6. Honduras (hondureño)
  7. Nicaragua (nicaragüense)
  8. Costa Rica (costarricense, )
  9. Panamá (panameño)
  10. Colombia (colombiano)
  11. Venezuela (venezolano)
  12. Ecuador (ecuatoriano)
  13. Perú (peruano)
  14. Bolivia (boliviano)
  15. Chile (chileno)
  16. Paraguay (paraguayo)
  17. Uruguay (uruguayo)
  18. Argentina (argentino)
  19. Cuba (cubano)
  20. República Dominicana (dominicano)
  21. Puerto Rico (puertorriqueño)
  22. Guinea Ecuatorial (?)
  23. Estados Unidos (estadounidense, norteamericano)
  24. Madrid (madrileño)
  25. Sevilla (sevillano)
  26. Granada (granadino)
  27. Buenos Aires (bonaerense)
  28. Yucatán (yucateco)
  29. Galicia (gallego)
  30. Jalisco (jaliciense)
  31. Xalapa (jalapeño)

Answers to exercise on finding dictionary entries:

vez

averiguar (Note that the , which writes the gw sound before e, has changed to gu, since the following vowel is an a.)

luz

chico

mosca

vaca

vencer

surgir

cargar

acercar


This page Copyright © 1998 Daniel Eisenberg. Please report errors or omissions: daniel.eisenberg@bigfoot.com. ¡Mil gracias!