Spanish to English


Spanish to English

There are many similarities between Spanish and English speech. The same alphabet is used (with just a few minor exceptions), the verb tenses are similar, and numerous words are very much alike. However there are some differences that will cause problems for the Spanish-first speaker.

Grammar/General Problems

  1. In Spanish it takes about the same time to say each vowel. In English some of our vowels are spoken quickly and other vowels take longer to pronounce. The main reason is that in English we use diphthongs , especially when pronouncing the long sound of each vowel. Long vowels in English actually begin with one sound and change to another sound. For example the letter “a” when pronounced in its long form, as in the word “late” is actually pronounced “layt”. (See Members’ lesson 5). The Spanish-first speaker must become accustomed to saying some of our vowels quickly and be aware that some vowels take longer to pronounce. Spanish-first speakers must get used to the timing.
  2. The vowels in Spanish do not have the same sounds as the vowels in English. The Spanish “a” is pronounced “uh” (“u” in English), the “e” in Spanish is pronounced similar to our long “a”, and “i” is pronounced similar to the English “e”. None of these sounds apply to English pronunciation. Spanish-first speakers must remember the differences.
  3. Final consonants are often omitted by Spanish-first speakers, especially those which are not found in Spanish. It is important that final consonants at the end of words are pronounced.
  4. Final “ed” and final “s” endings are problems. Spanish speakers are accustomed to pronouncing letters as they are spelled. This isn’t the case in English. In English letters can have multiple sounds, and sounds can be created in multiple ways. An example, (and there are numerous examples that could be used), is “ walk” in the simple past tense is spelled “walked”, and is pronounced “walkt” not “walk ed” (adding an extra syllable). Study the various pronunciations of the final “ed” and the final “s”, both are explained on this website. To final ed endings. To final s endings.
  5. Spanish is a syllable timed language, while English is a word stressed language. In Spanish every syllable takes about the same time to say, so if one sentence has double the number of syllables it will take double the length of time to say. English stresses certain words and groups other words together. The length of time it takes to say a sentence depends on the number of stressed words in that sentence not the number of syllables. Don’t speak English as if it was a syllable timed language, this will only cause confusion.                                     (See Members’  lesson 6).
  6. To ask a “wh” question, (who, where, what, why, when and how), in English we add the “w” word to a question. In Spanish the “wh” words are added to a statement to make it a question. The Spanish speaker may have difficulty remembering to say, “When are you leaving?” and will say instead, “When you are leaving? It is important to remember that the “wh” word in a question must be put in a sentence which is already a question.
  7. English idioms are used often and there are many that are commonly used. I have put a short list of idioms under the common problems section. There are many more which will be added, or you can purchase a book on English idioms and go over the book with an English-first friend to find the most commonly used.
  8. Countable versus uncountable nouns require different adjectives. “Much” is used for uncountable, and “many” is used for countable. We say “How many pencils did you have yesterday?” You can count pencils, as opposed to “How much rain fell yesterday?” Don’t get confused now. The word rain is uncountable. You cannot say “One rain (or two rains) fell yesterday”

Pronunciation Issues

  1. The letter “v”, in Spanish is pronounced the same as “b”, and the English “v” doesn’t exist in Spanish. (See Members’ lesson 4 – #8)
  2. The letter “j” sound is used instead of the sound of the letter y. (See Members’ lesson 4 – #16)
  3. The letter “j” sound is used instead of the sound of “ch” in English. (See Members’ lesson 4 – #22)
  4. The “sh” sound is not used in Spanish so the “ch” sound is often used instead. (See Members’ lesson 4 – #20)
  5. Spanish consonant clusters beginning with the letter “S” don’t exist in Spanish. Spanish speakers will often say “es” instead of “s”, so we get words like “estop”, “estreet”, or “estart”. Practise words starting with the letter “s” in English. (See Members’ lesson 4 – #9)
  6. The “th” sounds don’t exist in Spanish, (although in Spain there is a very similar sound. (See Members’ lesson 4 – #18 and #19)
  7. Spanish words end in vowels or consonants which don’t have a complete stop. When words ending in letters with final stops are pronounced (b, d, g, k, p, t), those final letters are often omitted when spoken.
  8. The sound of “z” doesn’t exist in Spanish, “s” is used instead, making the words “zoo” and “sue”, sound the same. (See Members’ lesson 4 – #10)
  9. Spanish to English speakers may pronounce the “m” sound as an “n” sound in the middle or end of words. When pronouncing the “m” sound it is necessary to fully close the lips. (See Members’ lesson 4 – #12)
  10. In Spanish adjectives are stressed more than nouns, but in English nouns are stressed more than adjectives. Practise while reading and record to make certain stress is correct.

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