Posted by: janecronin | December 29, 2011

Spanish pronunciation for English speakers – the letter G

The letter G is probably the least favourite letter for English speakers of Spanish. There are two reasons for this, one is that it represents a sound that doesn’t exist in the English language, so therefore is a bit hard for us to grapple with, and the other is that it is one of the few letters that has more than one pronunciation depending on where it appears in the word. Having said that, it’s really not that scary, we just have to remember a few basic principles. First of all, the rule about the two sounds, which is very similar to the letter C rule. Here it is: if the G is followed by the vowels “e” or “i”, it is pronounced like a noisy, throaty “h”. The sound is the same as the Scottish pronunciation of “loch”. Now this is hard for a lot of people, but there is some leeway. The important thing to remember is that this sound is made in the throat. If you put your hand to your throat and say “loch” the Scottish way, you should actually feel the movement there. If you find it hard to produce a sound with that much friction, then notice that the English “h” sound is produced in almost exactly the same place. If you can manage a sound anywhere between the English “h” and the Spanish “ge” or “gi”, you’ll be fine. Even the Spanish themselves vary this sound slightly from the full strong sound to a lighter, almost “h” sound, depending on the area they come from and other factors. This sound appears in words like gente (people) and girasol (sunflower). If the letter G appears before any other letter, the sound is similar to the English “g” (as in goat), although rather lighter. At the beginning of a word, for example, gafas (glasses) it is very close to the hard English “g”, whereas in the middle of a word such as agua (water) it is much lighter, and in some accents disappears completely giving us a sound a bit like “awa”.

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