How to teach english sounds?

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by SrGilberto, Jan 24, 2007.

  1. SrGilberto Member

    U.S. of A. - English
    I teach english to spanish speakers. I've noticed that it is difficult for native spanish speakers to pronounce the english "th" sound and also they have problems with the english "v" sound. And how do you get native spanish speakers to pronounce the "r" like americans? They seem to have a problem with the "er" sound as in "earth".

    Any cool english pronunciation learning tips?

    thanks in advance,
  2. gvergara

    gvergara Senior Member

    Santiago, Chile
    When it comes to pronouncing the th-sound, tell your Spanish speaking students to pronounce it as a Spaniard would pronounce the z in taza, as it is the same sound. In order to get them to pronounce a word like earth or burn, tell them to round their lips and to say a "normal" Spanish e. Those are my tips, hope they're useful

  3. Ana_Fi

    Ana_Fi Senior Member

    Madrid, Spain
    Spain - Spanish
    I think he's talking about the other 'th', like in this. Also, 'd' and 't' are different, they're stronger in English. They're not difficult to pronounce for us, but we usually don't pay attention to that difference until someone tells us.
  4. Redline2200

    Redline2200 Senior Member

    Illinois, United States
    English - United States
    Regardless of what "th" sound they are having problems with, both sounds exist in the Spanish language.

    If they are having trouble with the voiced "th" (as in rather) then you could compare it to the soft "d" pronunciation in words like hablado and comido and or even like the way the "d" at the end of salud is somtimes pronounced.

    If the unvoiced "th" is what is causing them trouble (like in thin or thread), then (just as gvergara has said) have them pronounce any Spanish word with a "z" (or certain c's) in the way a Spaniard would say it.

    As far as the "r" in earth, I have no good advice. :(
    That sound simply does not exist in any form in Spanish, and I would have to say they will need to listen to how you pronounce it over and over again (and have them watch your lips carefully) to get a grasp on it.
  5. MariposaChou Member

    USA, English
    I've had the same problem with my Spanish speaking students. I'd recommend that you take a phonetics class in both Spanish and English if possible, and this will help you in the future when you have to teach English phonemes.

    In English, there is a voiced th and a voiceless th. You have the voiced th in words such as these and this and the voiceless th in words such as teeth and with. All dialects of Spanish have the voiced th because it is an allophone (a variant) of d. In careful pronunciation in Spanish, the letter d always represents the d in English words such as dog. However, when people speak normally, the d in between vowels and in other situations is weakened and becomes a voiced th.

    So see if you can have your students isolate the voiced th sound in words such as lado. Now, whenever you have to teach the voiceless th, tell your students that their tongue is going to be placed in between their teeth, in the exact same position as when they pronounce the voiced th. The only difference is that they are not going to vibrate their vocal cords.

    In order to get my students to produce this sound, I normally have them exaggerate the sound by sticking out their tongue in between their teeth and blowing. It doesn't take that long to teach them this sound. But they may slip out of the habit of trying to reproduce the voiceless th in words. But it's not that big of a deal, really.

    The v in English is the voiced version of f. In Spanish, you already have the f sound. Tell your students that when they try to pronounce the v, they are going to have their mouth in the same position they do as when they pronounce the f sound. That is, they are going to have their upper teeth lightly resting on their bottom lip. Now, the difference is that their vocal cords will vibrate whenever they pronounce the v sound. If you blow out air for a long time whenever you try to produce the f sound, your vocal cords will start to vibrate, and that f sound becomes a v sound. Eventually your students will be able to produce the v sound automatically if they practice enough.

    The r is the hardest sound in the English language and is the last sound that most native English speakers learn to produce. In fact, even some English adult speakers are physically unable to produce this sound at all and always replace it with a w.

    So, how do you teach your students this sound? Well, both the English r and the Spanish r are liquids. The difference between them is that with the English r, the tongue does not touch the roof of the mouth at all. The tip of the tongue just curls back towards the roof of the mouth. Also, in English, whenever you start to pronounce an r, the lips are slightly pursed. In Spanish, the lips are not pursed at all when you pronounce an r.

    First of all, have your students practice pronouncing a Spanish r with their lips pursed. For example, have them practice saying the word rama with their lips slightly pursed. Then have them practice saying the word with their lips pursed, but with their tongue not touching the roof of their mouth, and just curling towards it. It takes practice, but if they can master is, it's well worth the effort. But if they can't, it's not that big a deal.

    Finally, English has a vocalic r, which is an r that functions as a vowel in words such as bird, word, chirp, earth. Tell your students that although there is a vowel in the way the word is spelled, it is actually the r that is working as the vowel. So they should not try to pronounce the vowel at all.

    In language learning, whenever students first start to study a language, they have so many obstacles to face. I would not worry if they cannot pronounce every sound as an English speaker does. That will come with time, so I wouldn't bring it up too often in the beginning. Because it can become discouraging to them if you do. As long as you understand what they are saying, that should be enough. If they want to just to pronunciation drills, they can always take accent reduction class, where the whole point is to create a more native-like pronunciation in foreign speakers.

    Good luck teaching~!
  6. lamartus

    lamartus Senior Member

    Spain Spanish
    Thanks for the explanation!
    I'm learning a lot about English sounds with this advice!

    Thank you!
  7. ernest_

    ernest_ Senior Member

    Catalan, Spain
    Try saying phrases a number of times. For instance, to get the d/th sounds right, you can use: 'who do they think they are?'. It may seem easy but it's not trivial; most speakers of Spanish, particularly when speaking fast, would probably say something like: 'who tho they think dey are?'.
  8. blueaspen Senior Member

    San Sebastian
    Spain Spanish
    Ernest, I'm afraid that you missed one really annoying sound that many Spanish speakers have trouble to avoid.

    They have a tendance to prounounce the spanish J sound when they have to say words like : who, how, home, etc

    So let me give my own transcription of your sentence. ( I'll give a Spanish transcription, meaning that my transcription should be read with a Spanish pronunciation)

    who do they think they are? >>> Jú du déi zink déi arr ?
  9. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)

    Maybe this can offer some (extra) help.


  10. lazarus1907 Senior Member

    Lincoln, England
    Spanish, Spain
    Not really! This is a typical misconception:

    The "d" in Spanish is a dental or interdental sound, and it is pronounced as fricative (e.g. lado) or stop (e.g. dama).

    The English, the "d" is alveolar, stop and voiced. The "th" (wither) in is a dental sound, fricative and voiced.

    English speakers pronouncing the Spanish word "todo" (all) as if the d was alveolar, sound almost exactly like the way we pronounce "toro" (bull). I suppose Spanish speakers sound weird in English when they try to use their "d" sound to speak English.
  11. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    However, the English "th" sounds can be acceptable first approximations to the Spanish "z" and soft-"d" sounds, and vice-versa. My biggest problem with MariposaChu's post is when she claims that "In careful pronunciation in Spanish, the letter d always represents the d in English words such as dog", as though the approximant pronunciation were a mistake. That is wrong. Spanish speakers do not pronounce all "d"s as stops, ever.
  12. Jellby

    Jellby Senior Member

    Spanish (Spain)
    The second "d" in "dedo" is fricative, the first one is exactly like the one in "dama". And "mi dedo" and "mi dama" are fricative too... Just to make it clear.
  13. lazarus1907 Senior Member

    Lincoln, England
    Spanish, Spain
    Tienes razón, me olvidé de la primera d. Lo he cambiado por "lado".
    Because they are all (inter)dental and fricative.
    I agree!
  14. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    That sound presents two difficulties for Spanish speakers. First, the alveolar "r", does not exist in Spanish. And second, the "r"-colored vowel which precedes it, again a nonexistent sound in Spanish.

    Another useful site.
  15. ernest_

    ernest_ Senior Member

    Catalan, Spain

    Hang on, this is the single alveolar flap you are talking about. It's not quite the same as the voiced alveolar stop. The alveolar flap is an allophone for intervocalic [t] and [d], in most American dialects. This thing is coming to England now, but it is still nowhere near as common as in the States.
    If you want to hear the difference between these two, listen to any Scotsman, as thay have bith of them.
  16. lazarus1907 Senior Member

    Lincoln, England
    Spanish, Spain
    I've lived in Scotland for 5 years, thanks. I know there are many English accents all over the world, but the point is: The standard Spanish "d" does not sound like the standard English "d". Some Scots pronounce the "r" closer to the Spanish "rr", but that is not standard English neither.

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