Spanish makes sense

baby lucheIn Spanish you read and pronounce words as they’re written, it’s very clear. So clear that there’re no spelling bees in Spanish because words are spelled like they sound.

In English on the other hand, we have 26 letters but can make 50 possible sounds when speaking. And, there aren’t always easy rules to follow when trying to read out loud.

These are things native English speakers don’t know about, because they don’t need to. We grew up surrounded by English, like fish that aren’t aware they’re surrounded by water. We just picked up English from listening to the people around us.

An example of how tricky English can be. When there’s a “t” is between two vowels Americans will say it as a soft “d,”  water is “wa-der,” computer is “com-pu-der,” or butter becomes “bud-er.” It happens between words too -“get up” sounds like “ged up.” It’s tough to constantly remember what’s happening in English, but it’s easy to listen for.

The rules for the sounds in spoken English would give most students headaches and really slow their speaking while they tried to sort through rules, if they could even remember them.

Lately I’ve been working with a Mexican woman who speaks English pretty well. But for her work, she wants to improve her pronunciation.

So I try to get her to be aware of the patterns in English she hears and why words often sounds different than the way it’s spelled.

Most students can’t recall every rule that needs to be evaluated, it’d slow down any speaking they might do. By using a smaller list of concepts, rather than checking a large number of rules there’s much less to consider. Just keep an awareness of the concept in mind and let the speaking move along. 

We have a limited amount of decision making we can do in a day. That’s why President Obama has his suits and meals arranged for him. He has so many decisions to make daily that he doesn’t want to waste his allocated amount of decisions on mundane choices.

Stressing some concepts about what’s happening in spoken English, gives the student a flashlight to shine an explanatory light on sometimes confusing sounding pronunciations. That usually helps in recognizing and explaining situations they run into when they hear native English speakers talking.

The concept is this: Here’s why it is that way, but don’t sweat it, just be aware that there’re reasons English is often  spoken differently than the way it’s written. Instead of pronouncing English the way you imagine it to be, try to pick up English pronunciation by listening the way we did as kids.