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Introduction They probably don’t know at a young age but those who speak Spanish as their mother tongue have it quite easy. However, when they start to learn English it becomes clear, how much easier it is. Spanish Pronunciation There’s very few inconsistencies in the way that the Spanish pronounce their words. Each vowel is pronounced in only one way and that vowel sound is always pronounced. No such things as dipthongs here. There are 4 examples of variations in the consonants but all have a completely defined rule • The letter ‘C’ is pronounced as a soft ‘th’ when followed by and ‘e’ or an ‘I’. • The letter ‘G’ is pronounced with a hard guttural sound when followed by an ‘e’ or an ‘I’. • The letter l is pronounced as a ‘y’ when it is double to ‘ll’ • The letter ‘H’ never sound - ever That’s it! Everything is pronounced in one way with only 4 variants that have their own hard and fast rules. Unlike the famous “I before E except etc. etc. English Pronunciation Before we delve into some of the inconsistencies we must recognise the cause of a lot of them. We’ve had a lot of visitors in England in the last 2000 years. From the Romans to the Vikings, the Gaul to the Celts and many more recent visitors, each have made their mark on the spoken word. This ha affected not just the regional dialects but the national tongue as well. Writing by definition has been less affected as it can maintain some of its consistency by being written down and therefore lasting. Although writing and spelling has its own set of problems. Inconsistencies in English Pronunciation (a small view) Vowels All our vowels have at least two different sounds to them. Some of them are influenced by the presence of other letter and some of them for no visible reason at all (Apple, Ape, All) Dipthongs and combined letters We also like to combine various letters to produce different sounds • Dipthongs are combined vowels that produce another sound. Look at “AI” as in Fairy and OU’ as in Tourist. • We’re quite use to combinations of vowel and consonant too. OW as in Show is one of many • We also can combine consonants with consonant as in ‘TH’ and ‘SH’. Throw and Shape Homonyms Homonyms are words in the English language that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. To go one step further a true Homonym rather than a Homophone is spelled the same too. As you can imagine, this introduces a further layer to the problem Some examples of Homonyms are • Trip and Trip (one a journey and the other a fall) • Fair and Fair (one a festival and one equal treatment) • Lie and Lie (one and untruth and one to remain horizontal) …and Homophones • Pare and Pear (to halve and a fruit) • Beach and Beech (a tree and sand next to the sea) So we can see why English pronunciation might be a challenge to the Spanish (or other non-native speaker). I am always amazed when I meet someone (and I’ve not met many) that can speak Spanish without a trace of any other accent and speak English the same. The Answer! The Phoenic Alphabet There is a clever weapon in the teacher’s arsenal to allow students to find for themselves what the correct pronunciation for a particular word is. It’s the Phoenic Alphabet (lots of good examples on-line) which has a symbol representing each of the sounds in the English spoken language – 43 of them! Every word consists of one or more sounds and when the symbols are joined together the whole word can be said using the sounds the symbols represent Most dictionaries will have a phoenic entry against each word to show how the word is pronounced so students can find out for themselves. A teacher can use it to explain in class but I believe and excuse to encourage the use of a dictionary is a good one. Articulation If a student is struggling to reproduce the sounds required then there is a need to go back one step and look at articulation. This consists of how to make the mouth forms to produce the sounds as well as the manner of articulation. The mouth forms are what you are doing in your mouth with your speech organs (tongue for instance) in conjunction with the places of articulation (palate for example). The manner of articulation is usually relevant to how you use the air in your mouth to produce the sounds. Again there are plenty of charts on line to make this process easier. Although these things will take some time to drill and learn they will be vital skills to enable the student to achieve good pronunciation. There are plenty more examples other than these that show the difficulties someone from Spain might have in correct pronunciation but this is an taster of the journey ahead.