The charming softness of the Spanish sound patterns

One of the nicest rewards of teaching a language is to be complemented by your students about aspects not directly connected to you as a teacher but to the language that they’re learning from you.

It happens to me quite often. One of such rewarding aspects relates to comments they make about the nature of the Spanish sounds; as it happened during the development of a lesson today, while going over the standard pronunciation of some words, one of my students mentioned to me how interesting and ‘nice to the ear’ are the Spanish sounds when spoken loudly.

Getting to a situation were a student can make comments about the nature of the sounds of the language they’re studying tells a lot about how well they’re making progress in mastering basic aspects of their learning process.

The student that I’m making reference to here has clearly been able to understand how consonant and vowels when combined to form Spanish words change according to certain inherent properties attached to a particular letter whether they are a consonant or a vowel.

Consonant letters in Spanish have a soft sound when they are used between two vowels – in the words abeja, guayaba, envergadura, ataviada, alabado or escalada for example, all the consonants between vowels, are pronounced in a very soft manner.

For the words from above, the sounds of the b of abeja, the v of ataviada and the d of envergadura lend to these words certain phonological properties that change their particular nature. This produces very soft oral structures that create a feeling of auditory softness when they are pronounced in a loud voice.

Understanding how the consonant sounds mix with vowels within the basic language structures – nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, etc, is for me a very delicate but appropriate area to start phonological work with any student that may be unfamiliar with the nature of the Spanish sounds.

Students can obtain great benefit in acquiring the standard basic aspects of Spanish phonology by focussing in an analytical way on the individual structure of the lexical repertoire that they are learning in the classroom, namely, to be observant about the way that any word is written and pronounced. To do this they need to have a good understanding of all the basic phonological properties attached to the sounds used in Spanish words.

As I have written elsewhere here, students must be able to relate and use the basic symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet in order to be able to succeed in their endeavour to become fluent, intelligible speakers of the charming Spanish language.

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About L. A. Pinel

I'm the founder and Director of Tres Culturas Spanish Language Studio, a specialist Spanish language school in Melbourne, Australia. As a teacher of Spanish I view the study of issues about the nature of the Spanish language in particular and of applied linguistics in general with great passion. I’m also an avid language learner, my other languages are Italian, Portuguese and French; at the moment I'm studying Latin and Mandarin Chinese.

Posted on July 17, 2009, in Education, Foreign Language Learning, Language, Language learning, Learning Process, Phonetics & Phonology, Second Language Learning, Spanish, Spanish Language Learning. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hi,
    I wanted to know if you could help me with an explanation as to why Spanish speakers pronounce V as Bs and Ys as Js?


  2. Hi Dani,

    Please see my post here about the v/b issue. Y is pronounced close to the sound of J mainly by some Spanish speakers in the southern part of South America. Like in the case of the v/b, speakers of a language make use of sound patterns according to historic natural evolving linguistic factors.

  3. Hello L. A.,

    Felicitaciones por tu blog, encuentro que son muy interesantes tus artículos sobre los diferentes aspectos del idioma. Como también estoy en unas actividades de enseñanza de idiomas, he marcado tu blog para futuras referencias. Asimismo tengo que felicitarte por tu manejo del inglés, el cual, aunque no es mi idioma materno, lo conozco bastante bien (modestia aparte) y me gustaría saber más sobre las técnicas que has empleado con éxito para llegar al dominio casi perfecto de tu segundo idioma.
    Por otra parte, quería mencionarte en esta nota que existe un pequeño error en este artículo, cuando dice:

    Getting to a situation were a student can make comments …

    porque me parece que debería ser WHERE en vez de were. Por favor corrígeme si estoy equivocada.


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