Drills on Pronunciation
A. /d/ in Spanish
The problem that arises from /d/ is that it has two varieties of pronunciation which are, from the point of view in English speakers, actually different sounds; but from the point of view of Spanish speakers, they are one and the same sound.
How can there be such a difference in point of view? A sound is, one would think, either the same as another or it isn't. But this is an instance where the 'common sense' viewpoint does not hold. From infancy speakers of Spanish are taught to ignore the difference between (d) and (d). English speakers are taught to respect the difference but ignore others (such as the puff of air that comes after the /p/ of pill but does not come after the /p/ of spill).
The symbol [d] represents the initial sound of English den, do, die, dare, etc., but the tip of the tongue actually touches the back side of the upper teeth when this sound is produced in Spanish, whereas in English it touches somewhat further back.
The symbol (d) represents the initial sound of English then, thee, the, those, that, there, etc., or the middle sound of either, mother, other, father, etc., or the final sound of lathe, bathe. However, it must be distinguished carefully from the other sound which English writes with th, the initial sound of thin, thick, thistle, or the middle sound of ether, Ethel or the final sound of bath. This other sound is written [s] in this book and it has no connection with /d/.
You will notice that both of /d/ appear here, and wonder how you can tell which variety to expect. The rule is reasonably clear and consistent, though in some dialect areas, slight variations may occur:
The real importance of producing the right variety of /d/ at the right time becomes evident upon examination of the contrast below, where the use of [d] instead of [d] in the left-hand column will cause the word to be misinterpreted as being the one in the right- hand column.
Exercise on /d/ and /r/ between vowels
B. /b/ in Spanish
The problem of /b/ is similar to that of /d/. There are two varieties which are the same form the Spanish point of view but noticeably different from the English point of view.
The symbol [b] represents the initial sound of English word like bee, bill, buy, borrow the middle sound in baby, tabby, tubby, the final sound in tub, hib, rub, flub.
The symbol [b] represents a sound which does not exist in English. It is produced by bringing the lips close to each other, but not allowing them to touch, so that the air passes through them with a slight friction noise. The result sounds like a cross between a, b, v, and w. The easiest way to learn to produce it is to start out as though to make [b] in a word like about, but not allow the lips to touch so that the resulting sound is v-like in character (but remember that it is not a v).
To make a mistake in the production of / b / is not a serious as with the / d /, but errors can lead to misunderstanding. More important, there is no v sound in Spanish, even though it is in the writing system. The Spanish sound which Americans may hear as v in a word like Havana is actually the [b ] sound.
C. /g/ in Spanish
The problem of / g / is similar to that of / d / and / b /. There are two varieties which are the same from the Spanish point of view but noticeably different from the English point of view.
The symbol [ g ] represents the initial sound of English words like go, get, got, guess, the middle sound in ago, again, the final sound in tug, tag, tog.
The symbol [ g ] represents a sound which is heard only rarely in English, in a word like sugar. It is produces by raising the back part of the tongue up towards the roof of the mouth as tough to make a [ g ] but without allowing the tongue to touch, so that the air is free to pass through with a slight friction noise.
Examples of [g] and [g] follow:
As with /d/ and /b/, the distribution of the two varieties of /g/ is fairly clear and consistent:
To make a mistake in the production of /g/ is not serious, but unless you learn to produce the [g] variety you will find that it is difficult to identify when you are listening to a Spanish speaker. So for the purpose of comprehension it is worth the trouble to master it.
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