Pronunciation – Vowels
English-Spanish Basic Differences
We all know that in Spanish the five vowels have each only one invariable sound, and each of those sounds has no 100% match in English.
In English the five vowels have at least 14 possible articulations and there are no rules when, for instance, the ‘a’ is pronounced short (the mouth less open) as in ‘at’ or long (the mouth more open) as in ‘artist’.
English: stressed vowels are lengthened
Spanish: stressed vowels are somewhat louder but not lengthened (except for emphasis)
atom - átomo
atomic - atómico
English: The [ǝ] symbol is called the schwa and it is used to indicate the indefinite sound of an unstressed vowel.
If you look up the word ‘atom’ in the dictionary, you’ll find it is pronounced as átǝm (the ‘o’ is indistinct)
Take the word ‘átomo’ in Spanish. A movie actor trying to imitate the English accent when speaking Spanish would pronounce it as ‘aatǝmǝ’.
The schwa [ǝ] is also found in stressed syllables consisting of a vowel plus the letter ‘r’, such as bird [bǝrd], turn [tǝrn], earn [ǝrn]. Again, in these words the vowel has become blurred.
Spanish: No such thing as a schwa. Unstressed vowels are not shortened and blurred. No vowel blurring in Spanish pronunciation.
Exercise. Make sure to pronounce every vowel clearly in the Spanish version of these words. First exaggerate the articulation of every syllable in Spanish, and then pronounce it normally.
atom - átomo [á-to-mo]
atomic – atómico [a-tó-mi-co]
competitive - competitivo [com-pe-ti-ti-vo]
original - original [o-ri-gi-nal]
invitation - invitación [in-vi-ta-ción]
famous – famoso [fa-mo-so]
And those who want to reduce their American accent when speaking Spanish should practice by reading at least a couple of paragraphs exaggerating the articulation of every syllable and then read them again normally. Do that every day.
We can practice further in class.