In learning the basic sentences in the first section of this unit, you may have had difficulty in pronouncing some of the words. This most likely is a result of the stresses on the different vowels such as in the words:
It is perfectly normal for you to have trouble with these vowels, because, as the dots over them indicate, they are all under weak stress in positions where such vowels do not occur under weak stress in English.
While it is normal to make these mistakes at first, they constitute a very serious error which must be corrected early in your efforts to form Spanish habits of pronunciation. The following lists are for purpose of helping you to master these vowels under weak stress. They are arranged in pairs of words such that the only difference between the numbers of each pair is in the pronunciation of one weak-stressed vowel: such a pair of words is called a minimally contrasting pair.
INSTRUCTIONS: Listen to each audio all the way through. Repeat right after hearing them in the audios. Pay close attention to the different stresses on the vowels in each Spanish audio. For this section do not worry if you are not familiar with the words. These are excersices for your Spanish hearing and pronunciation.
/a/ and /e/ in contrast under weak stress
/a/ and /i/ in contrast under weak stress
/a/ and /o/ in contrast under weak stress
/a/ and /u/ in contrast under weak stress
/e/ and /i/ in contrast under weak stress
/e/ and /o/ in contrast under weak stress
/e/ and /u/ in contrast under weak stress
/i/ and /o/ in contrast under weak stress
/i/ and /u/ in contrast under weak stress
/o/ and /u/ in contrast under weak stress
English speakers of course also distinguish words in this same minimal way -pit, pet, pat, pot, patt, for example - but only rarely under weak stress. That is, English has similar differences only in syllables that are noticeably louder than any of the Spanish syllables you have been practicing. The underlined vowels in the following English words are all the same vowel sound in actual speech, no matter how they are spelled.
They would not be the same in Spanish.
By careful repetition of these Spanish words after a native speaker, and bby observing closely the point of difference between each pair, you can begin to hear and, having heard, to imitate differences of a type and frequency that are quite strange to an English speaker's way of talking.
In learning the basic sentences you were probably corrected for placing too much stress on some syllables, too little stress on others. There are only two levels of stress in Spanish (English has four, as we will discover). These two levels are indicated in the 'Aids to Listening' by an acute accent /'/ over the vowels that have louder stress and a dot /`/ over the vowels that have softer stress. We will call these STRONG STRESS and WEAK STRESS.
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