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Let’s Begin in Spanish

Since we got to the States, my daughter has seen how much it is needed for people to be able to speak Spanish here, so she has gotten on the web and begun to try conjugating Spanish verbs because she knows that the verbs are the most complicated part of Spanish. In Korea, she was always the one who was good at both English and Korean, and she wants to be the same kind of person here she was in Korea, so she is trying to teach herself Spanish. She keeps reading off the Spanish conjugations she has found and checking them and the pronunciation with me. She has heard me speak Spanish and knows that I have been the Spanish teacher, and she wants the skill of speak Spanish that I have, and I want her to have it. In fact, I know many in America have studied Spanish in high school, but they didn’t learn to speak, so I have decided to perhaps try a little on my blog to get those of you who studied, but can’t speak Spanish to speak.

My daughter is right to begin by learning how to conjugate the verbs. She is pretty good at the pronunciation because she spoke Romanian when she was a little girl, but for those of you who took high school Spanish, but can’t speak, I know pronunciation is part of it. Perhaps we should begin a little with pronunciation. When I took Japanese classes, one of the best things that my Japanese teacher taught me to do is to write sentences in Japanese and say thing out loud as I wrote them. I suggest that any Spanish I send out that you write it by hand and say it as you are writing it. It will help. Another thing you can do is to listen to the Spanish radio or to television programs in Spanish. In the beginning, you won’t catch a lot, just a word here and there, but give it time and patience, and keep trying, and you will eventually be catching more and more.

Let’s work on some pronunciation. One of the best things my Spanish teacher did for me was to begin by giving me the Spanish alphabet and teaching me to pronounce it, so I will begin like that with you.

A, a – pronounced like “a” in “father”

B, b – pronounced somewhere between a “b” and a “v,” but if it is to strange to try, don’t worry so much and just use a “b.”

C,c – This is pronounced differently according to which letters come after it. If an “e” or an “I” come after it, it is pronounced like an English “s.” Otherwise, it is pronounced like a “k.”

Ch, ch – This is pronounced like the English “ch,” but at times, it is pronounced like the English “sh.”

D, d – This is pronounced like an English “d,” but your tongue is rather thick and hits your top teeth in the back instead of the ridge in back of your teeth. It rather flat on the ridge, but the tip of your tongue hits your teeth bluntly. If it is too hard, don’t worry and just use the English “d,” and after listening to them and copying them for a while, it will come.

E, e – This is pronounced like a short “e” in English, like the “e” in “pet” or “get.”

F, f – This is pronounced the same as the English “f.”

G, g – Usually pronounced like the English “g.” Here are some examples: “guapo”- pronounced like a hard “g.” “gigantic” – The first one is pronounced like an English “j,” but the second “g” is pronounced like the hard “g” in English. Before “e” and “I,” it is pronounced like a “j.” At other times, pronounce it like a hard “g.”

H, h – It really has no pronunciation in Spanish.

I, I – Pronounced like an long “ee” in Englsih.

J, j – Pronounced like an English “h.”

K, k, – Pronounced like an English K.”

L,l – Like an English “L.”

LL, ll – If you are speaking to a Mexican, pronounce this as an English “y.” If you talk to someone from Panama, pronounce this as an English “j.” The pronunciation of this letter varies from country to country.

M, m – Like the English “m.”

N, n – Like the English “n.” If there is a mark over this letter like an “s” laying on its side, it is called an “enya.” It is not an “n.” It is pronounced more like “nya.”

O,o – This is pronounced like “O” that begins “opportunity.”

P, p – This is the same as the English “P.”

Q, q – This is like an English “k.” In fact the word, “que’,” is pronounced exactly like the English letter “k.” The word “quedarse” is pronounced “kaydahrsay.”

R, r – This is one that the English speakers usually struggle with, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. If you have every played as a child like you are making a motor sound, like when you are playing cars, you just flapped your tongue on the ridge in the upper part of your mouth. Have you ever growled? Growl and end it with the tongue on the ridge on the top of your mouth behind your teeth and then flap your tongue. Have you ever said, “B-r-r-r-!” because you are cold? Your tongue flaps on the ridge on the top of your mouth behind your teeth. Practice, and it will come.

RR, rr – This is the same as “r” except you just hold it a little longer.

S, s – The same as the English “s.”

T, t – The Spanish “t” is slightly different from the English “t.” It is blunter. When we say it in English, we hit the back of our tongue and kind of make an explosion. In Spanish, they put their tongues on the ridge on the top of their mouths behind their teeth. In fact, sometimes, they just completely flatten their tongue out and hit the back of their teeth and the ridge in the back of their teeth at the same time. If you want to teach yourself to do it right, get a piece of paper. Hold the paper up in front of your mouth. Say the English “t,” and you should see the air coming out of your mouth. However, if you are saying the Spanish “t,” the air does not escape. Your tongue stays there and blocks the air. It is almost, like an
English “d” or “th.”

U, u – This is pronounced like the long “u” in English.

V, v – This is pronounced like “bv” again, but if it is too hard, just go ahead and pronounce it like the English “v.”

W,w – Pronounced like an English “w.”

X, x – Pronounced like an English “h.”

Y, y – Pronounced like the English “y.”

Z, z – Pronounced like an “s.”

This chart has the names of the Spanish letters, but more than anything, you need to know how to pronounce what you see on the page.

Now, I will give you some Spanish sentences to write and practice the pronunciation. Write then again and again and practice saying them as you write.

  1. Quiero ir. (pronunciation: kee-yeroh eer) = I want to go.
  2. Mi blusa es amarilla. (Pronunciation= mee bvloosah es ahmahreeya.) = My blouse is yellow.
  3. Que’ haces? (pronunciation: kay ahses) = What are you doing? or What do you do?
  4. Mi madre esta’ en Tejas. (pronunciation: mee mahdray estah en tehas) = My mother is in Texas.
  5. A donde’ vas? (pronunciation: ah donday vahs) = Where are you going?
  6. Voy en Mexico. (pronunciation: voy en meh-heekoh) = I go to Mexico.
  7. Me gusta comer enchiladas. (pronunciation: May goostah kohmer encheelahdahs) = I like to eat enchiladas. 0r Eating enchiladas is pleasing to me.
  8. Tengo una amiga. (pronunciation: tengoh unah ah-mee-gah) = I have a friend. (The friend is a girl.)
  9. Fui en Japonia. (pronunciation: foo-ee en hapohnee-ah) = I went to Japan.
  10. Te gustan los chili reyenos? (pronunciation: thay goosthan los cheelee rayaynos) = Do you like stuffed Mexican peppers?

Good luck! Perhaps we will do verb conjugations next, but beginning with pronunciation will help. Write each sentence several times trying to get the pronunciation right as you say it.


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