PODCAST – S02E04 – Read and listen in Spanish: «ESPAÑOL BÁSICO – Beginners (and intermediates) – «Sonidos y pronunciación en español (PARTE 2)». – «Sounds and pronunciation in Spanish (PART 2)».

Sonidos y pronunciación en español: In this second part episode, you’ll learn and practice how to pronounce the «ll» /ʎ/, the «y» /ʝ/, the soft «r» /ɾ/ and the rolled «r» /r/, the «ch» /tʃ/ and the «ñ» /ŋ/.

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¡Hola! ¿Cómo va todo? Espero que hayas pasado una buena semana. Bienvenido y gracias por escuchar mi pódcast. Hoy te traigo la segunda parte de la serie de sonidos y pronunciación en español. Si no lo has hecho ya, escucha la primera parte y luego continúa con este episodio. Te recuerdo que este episodio es especialmente para ti, si has empezado hace muy poco a aprender español o si todavía eres un principiante. Aunque, como ya dije en el episodio anterior, si estás en un nivel intermedio, también va a ser bueno que practiques pronunciación y seas consciente de cómo se articulan los sonidos en español. Eso va a marcar la diferencia en tu progreso. 

Today, I’m bringing you the second part of the series on sounds and pronunciation in Spanish. If you haven’t done it yet, listen to the first part and then continue with this episode. Let me remind you that this episode is especially for you, if you’ve just started learning Spanish or if you’re still a beginner. Although, as I said in the previous episode, if you’re at an intermediate level, it’s also going to be good that you practise pronunciation and that you’re aware of how the sounds are articulated in Spanish. That’s definitely going to make a difference in your progress.

En esta segunda parte vamos a hablar de la “ll” y de la “y”, veremos los sonidos que podemos articular con la “r”, que en español puede sonar tanto suave, como en “caramelo”, como fuerte, como en “cerrar”. También veremos la “ch”, que es muy fácil porque los angloparlantes tenéis el sonido en vuestro idioma, aunque  vas a aprender que en español solo tenemos un sonido para la “ch”, mientras que en inglés, la podéis pronunciar de formas diferentes. Y, por supuesto, vamos a saber más sobre esa “n” tan rara que lleva un sombrero, nuestra letra especial, la “ñ”. 

In this second part, we’re going to talk about the “ll” and the “y”, we’ll see the sounds that we can articulate with the “r”, that in Spanish can sound both soft, as in “caramelo” and strong, as in “cerrar”. We’ll also see the “ch”, which is very easy because English speakers have the sound in your language, although, you’re going to learn that in Spanish we only have one sound for “ch”, whereas in English you can pronounce it in different ways. And, of course, we’re going to know more about that strange “n” that wears a hat, our special letter, the “ñ”. 

¿Preparado para empezar? Ready to go? 

¡Alla vamos! Let’s get to it!


A tener en cuenta.

(To take into account).

Before getting started with this episode, I’d like to point out that the phonology of a language, any language, is very complex. Sounds vary depending on what other sounds are around them. This is a rough and simplified guide for you to understand the differences in the sounds in Spanish, compared to English or your native language. 

If you venture on looking up phonetic transcriptions, you might find that a consonant in a Spanish word (or a word in any other spoken language) is not always produced the same way and the symbol to represent that sound will be different as it will not always be the exact same one.

So, if you take, for instance, the letter “d”, it will be pronounced in a way when is at the beginning of a word, as in “decir”/de ‘θir/, which is the same as in English, the word “day” /ˈdeɪ/, and another way when is placed between two vowels such as in “ciudad” /θju ‘ðad/, in which case is the same as the “th” in “brother” /brʌðər/. You’ll really have to read this on my blog to see what I’m referring to. 

Personally, I’m very interested in the topic and want to help you improve your production and comprehension. However, like most Spanish teachers, I’m definitely not an expert in pronunciation, although I’m definitely working on getting closer!

For now, I can give you good advice and encourage you to explore the phonology, intonation and pronunciation of Spanish. That will help you be understood by natives and sound more like them. And when I say that, I’m not talking about your accent but rather, sounding natural and blending in with native speakers. Also, it will definitely make a difference in your listening comprehension as well.

Ahora sí, ¡empezamos! 


El dígrafo “ll” en español. El sonido /ʎ/ (“llama”).

The digraph “ll” in Spanish. The sound /ʎ/ as in “llama”. 

The sound that the “ll” produces in Spanish doesn’t exist in English so this will be a new one for you if you’re an English speaker or if it doesn’t exist in your native language. 

The “ll” is pronounced /ʎ/. This sound is called a palatal lateral approximant. But what does that even mean? Let’s see, to produce it the centre of your tongue  should be raised to approach the hard palate and the sides should only gently rub the teeth. There is no friction, that is why it’s called approximant. The airstream is directed to the sides of the mouth and not the centre. That is what makes this sound lateral. 

An example of lateral approximant in English is the sound that the “l”, /l/, makes, as in “learn” /lɜːn/. The difference is that this sound is an alveolar. This means that the tip of the tongue approaches the alveolar ridge or gum line, right behind the teeth. That is what it makes English speakers assume that a “ll” sounds like an “l” in *(!) English. And also, it makes a lot of sense that the Spanish sound is represented graphically with a “ll” o “doble ele”.

Let’s practice now with these words:

  • Ll+a = llamada, vainilla, collar, llave, tortilla, cebolla, paella, casilla, estrella, ellas
  • Ll+e = llegada, calle, detalle, llenar, bollería, billete, cotilleo, valle, ballena, cosquilleo
  • Ll+i = allí, bullicio, aullido, melliza, apellido, ebullición, pellizcar, puntillismo, zambullirse
  • LL+o = llorar, gallo, anillo, pollo, bellota, caballo, ellos, amarillo, cigarrillo, millón, desarrollo, armadillo
  • Ll+u = lluvia, polluelo, velludo

*(!) = I obviously meant to say «in Spanish»!!!! Apologies. 🤦

Practice with me some words with «ll»:

Pronounce these words with "ll" in Spanish.

La letra “y” en español. El sonido /ʝ/ como consonante y el sonido /i/ como vocal.

The letter “y” in Spanish. The sound /ʝ/ as a consonant and the sound /i/ as a vowel.

One of the first things that you’ve probably noticed is that “and” in Spanish is “y”. This is a very important word so I’m 99% sure that you know it. For example, to say “you and me”, in Spanish we say  “tú y yo”. The “y” is working there as a vowel, as the “i”, which is i in Spanish, as  you know. That is because the letter “y” has two jobs in Spanish: working as a consonant and working as a vowel. And that, as we’re going to see, will depend on where it’s placed in the word. 

This sound is called a voiced fricative palatal. This means that, to produce it, you must place the central part of your tongue  towards the hard palate and rub them together, /ʝ/. That will cause a friction that results in the sound in “ya”, /ʝa/. The vocal cords must vibrate, that’s why it’s called “voiced”. Touch your throat and notice that the vocal cords vibrate, that means that you’re doing it right, /ʝa/, /ʝa/.

Normally, the “y” represents a consonant sound, /ʝ/, but it can also have the equivalent to the vowel “i”, /i/.

When do we pronounce the “y” as a consonant? 

  • At the beginning of a word:

Yegua, yogur, yeso, yo, yate, yoga, ya, yema, yodo, yerno, Yugoslavia.

  • At the beginning of a syllable: 

Ayer (a-yer), coyote (co-yo-te), ayuda (a-yu-da), proyecto (pro-yec-to), cobaya (co-ba-ya), mayor (ma-yor).

When do we pronounce the “y” as a vowel? 

  • At the end of a word:

Rey, hoy, ley, muy, buey, soy, estoy, Uruguay, Paraguay, hay, fray.

  • When it means “and”:

y yo,  fresas y plátanos, Elena y Fernando, inglés y francés.


La letra “r” en español.

The letter “r” in Spanish. 

The letter “r” in Spanish, as you might already know, can be pronounced in two different ways: as a soft “r” or as a strong “r”, commonly known as a rolled “r”. 

They are both different from the sounds that the letter “r” produces in English. The soft “r” is quite similar to the way the “t” is pronounced in American English in words like “city” o “later”. Or the “dd” in words like “buddy”. 

La “r” vibrante simple o “suave”. The voiced alveolar tap or the “soft r”, /ɾ/.

What some people refer to as the “soft r” in Spanish, is called voiced alveolar tap. To produce it, you must literally tap the tip of your tongue against the alveolar ridge or gum line, right behind your teeth, /ɾ/. As we’ve seen before, it’s voiced because the vocal cords vibrate. 

When do we pronounce the “r” as soft?

  • Between two vowels:

Pero, para, Sara, marea, cera, Corea, iris, erizo, oro, superior, auricular, oráculo.

  • At the end of a syllable:

Ha-blar, ca-lor, car-te-ra, tor-ti-lla, per-so-na, bar, or-den, ca-rác-ter, bar-co, puer-ta, ser.

  • When it’s attached to another consonant to form a sound:

Tren, abrazo, pregunta, crudo, adrenalina, fresa, agridulce, trabajo, principal, creer, frío,  granada, padrino, broma. 

La “r” vibrante múltiple o “fuerte”. The voiced alveolar trill or the rolled “r”, /r/.

This is one of the sounds that English speakers tend to find more difficult. And I assume it might be the same if you have another native language but this sound is not present either. 

What you commonly know as a “rolled r” is a voiced alveolar trill. A trill is an airflow that causes a vibration. To roll your “r”, you need to relax your tongue and raise it towards the alveolar ridge or gum line, right behind your teeth again. Not at the back and not just approaching (that’s your English /ɹ/). Now, push the airflow towards the tongue, as if you wanted to move it and shake it against the palate. 

Okay, let’s give it a try: say “ron”, “ron”, “ron”.

Don’t worry, it takes a lot of practice! At first, it’s okay to exaggerate it as much as you can as that will help you train. This sound is much subtler than you might think. What happens is, if you don’t have a sound in your language, it seems *like native speakers are making such a conscious effort. In fact, it’s not about moving your tongue so aggressively but rather, it’s more about dragging it with the air and forcing it to vibrate against the palate. 

*I apologise, I said “seems that” instead of “seems like”! 

When do we roll the “r”?

  • When a word has “rr” it’s ALWAYS a rolled “r”. 

Double “r” is only ever written between two vowels. This will be to distinguish it from the soft “r” and to know that we must roll it. You can see this clearly in pairs such as “pero” (“but”) and “perro” (dog) or “caro” (expensive) and “carro” (carriage). 

Perro, carrete, corral, carrera, corrupción, cerrar, morro, sierra, carro, parra, borrar, arroz, correr, pelirrojo, churro, terrible, torre, barrio, terremoto, guitarra,  parrillada, arruga, macarrones, carriles, herramienta, burro.

  • When it’s at the beginning of a word:

Roma, restaurante, rosa, rápido, Rodrigo, radio, revolución, rata, relato, rural, romántico, relax, resumen, rico, robot, Rocío, risa.

  • When it’s between a consonant and a vowel: 

Israel, sonrisa, Enrique, enredar, honrado, alrededor, subrayar, enrevesado, enredo, sonrojar, runrún, sinrazón, ronronear.

Here, you can listen to some words with both rolled and soft ‘r’:


El dígrafo “ch” en español.

The digraph “ch” in Spanish.

In English, the letter “ch” can be pronounced in three different ways: as /ʃ/ such as in “machine”, as /k/ such as in “character” and, finally, as /tʃ/ as in “challenge”. This last sound is exactly how the “ch” is ALWAYS pronounced in Spanish. 

The sound /tʃ/ for the “ch” in Spanish is a voiceless postalveolar affricate. This means that it’s articulated with the blade of your tongue placed against the alveolar ridge or gum line as we saw before. That’s what makes it postalveolar. It’s an affricate sound because the airflow is completely stopped and then redirected to the edge of the teeth. You know this sound, you can make it already: /tʃ/. 

This is definitely an easy one for an English speaker, the only thing that you have to remember is that the “ch” cannot be pronounced in any other way in Spanish. This is particularly relevant for words of French and English origin.

You can listen to some examples of these words on a video that I made and that you’ll find on the post on my website. If you’re reading this, pause for a moment and listen to it: 

Examples of Spanish words with «ch» that come from French and English. Note how they’re adapted to the Spanish phonology and the «ch» is pronounced and in «change».

Even though it’s easy, let’s practice some words:

Charla, chaqueta, trucha, leche, ochenta, noche, chiste, hechizo, archipiélago, ocho, cachorro, chorizo, chuleta, lechuza, churro. 


La letra “ñ” en español.

The letter “ñ” in Spanish. 

The letter “ñ” in Spanish produces a sound that doesn’t exist in English but it does in many other languages. It’s called voiced palatal nasal and it makes this sound: /ɲ/. It’s produced by blocking the airflow out of the mouth and directing it through the nose. That’s why it’s called a nasal consonant. Just like when you produce an “m”, which you do by blocking the airflow with both your lips (bilabial) or the “n”, which you do by blocking the airflow by pushing the tip of your tongue against the alveolar ridge (behind the teeth). 

Then, it won’t be too difficult, will it? It’s the same sort of sound as the “m” or the “n”. But, in this case,  to articulate it, to articulate the sound of the “ñ”,  you must raise the tongue blade towards the hard palate. Try it and then add an “aaah”, then an “eeeh” and so on…

Once you’ve done all the vowels, you can practice a bit with the following words:

Mañana, piña, araña, cuñado, leña, muñeca, niñera, viñedo, añicos, reñido, teñir, sueño, otoño, señor, pañuelo, buñuelo, greñudo.

The “ñ” is never pronounced like an “n” or an “n-i” (ni in Spanish). For instance, we can’t pronounce “España” /es ‘pa ɲa/ as “Espana” /es ‘pa na/, or “niño” /’ni ɲo/ as “ninio” /’ni njo/

You can practice pronouncing these words that contain «ñ» with this video from my Instagram account:

Words with ñ». Do you know how to pronounce them?


Conclusión.

Conclusion.

Bueno, pues ya está. Este es el final del episodio y también de la serie de sonidos y pronunciación del español. Hemos visto los aspectos más esenciales para que puedas aprender a pronunciar y así no solo hablar de forma más clara sino también entender mejor a los hablantes nativos. 

Well, that’s it. This is the end of the episode as well as the series on sounds and pronunciation in Spanish. We’ve seen the most essential aspects so you can learn to pronounce and to not only speak in a clearer way but also to understand native speakers better. 

I hope it’s been helpful and that it’s helpful for you in the future as you can always come back and listen again to any of the two episodes, whenever you need it. 


¡Por favor, apoya mi trabajo!

Please, support my work! 

If you’re enjoying this podcast and the content of my website, if you find that it helps with your Spanish learning, please, consider supporting my work. 

There will be much more content in the future and I hope to keep producing this podcast for a very long time. The longer, the better. That will be much more likely if you support me. I’ll be able to continue offering more and more free and high-quality content on my website and on this podcast. Please, go to https://thespanishnotebook.com/supportmywork and support me. You can donate as a one-off or, if you’re feeling more generous, you can make it a monthly contribution.


Despedida.

Goodbye.

Before I say goodbye, I wanted to remind you that  you can also follow me on Instagram and access more free content to learn and practise Spanish. And if you have any questions or suggestions, you can leave a comment on the post on my website. 

Please, if you’re reading the episode on my blog, press that “like» button which will really help me and I’ll really appreciate it. 

You can also message me on Spotify, on the podcast website on Anchor, on my social media or you can go old school and send me an email at zulemaspanishteacher@outlook.com

Muchas gracias, como siempre, por escucharme y nos vemos de nuevo la semana que viene. 

¡Chao! 


Para saber más.

To know more. 

If you’re feeling geeky, you can check out all the sounds produced in spoken languages, on the International Phonetic Alphabet website:  https://www.ipachart.com/

The first time you listen can be weird… 😆 But it’s truly fascinating. 

Image of the human vocal tract. You can see all the organs that we use to produce sounds and identify the ones that I’ve been mentioning over the two episodes:

Figure 2.1 Parts of the Human Vocal Tract is an edited version of Mouth Anatomy by Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator, is licensed under a CC BY 2.5 licence.

Image of the types of consonants depending on the place of articulation. You can also see some of the sounds I’ve been talking about:

Figure 2.2 Places of Articulation is an edited version of Mouth Anatomy by Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator, is licensed under a CC BY 2.5 licence.

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