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The Sounds of Spanish: Analysis and Application
Robert M. Hammond
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Preface to the Student

The acquisition of a native-like pronunciation of Spanish is both an important and elusive goal. Historically in the United States, the study of the Spanish language has been and continues to be relegated to departments of foreign languages. However, a strong argument can be made that in the U.S., Spanish is really a second language rather than a foreign language. This unique status of Spanish as a second language in the United States, however, places a greater acquisition burden upon students of the Spanish language. Because there are so many native and near-native Spanish speakers residing in this country, Spanish is not merely an academic subject, but a useful communication tool. Therefore, it is extremely important for students of Spanish to be able to pronounce Spanish accurately. At the same time, the status of Spanish in the U.S. provides students with many valuable resources not readily available to students studying other languages. Among these useful resources are many native Spanish speakers, Spanish language television channels and radio stations, and the availability of Spanish language movies.

If you are a typical non-native speaker of Spanish enrolled in a Spanish phonetics and phonology course, you have already studied Spanish for two or more years. In studying Spanish, you have most likely noticed that there are some apparent similarities between the sound systems of English and Spanish, and hopefully you have noticed that there are also many differences. The purpose of this book is to present to you in a systematic and formal manner the information about the Spanish and English sound systems that you will need in order to improve your Spanish pronunciation to a near-native level. However, this important information is only a first step to improving your Spanish pronunciation. What is additionally required on your part is a strong desire and effort to achieve such a pronunciation improvement. That is, knowledge of the rules will not automatically improve your pronunciation. You must work hard at applying your knowledge about how Spanish is correctly pronounced until these rules become an automatic part of your spoken Spanish. Seek out native speakers and use Spanish with them as a communication tool. Most importantly, continuously compare your pronunciation of Spanish to that of native Spanish speakers. It is by means of this type of practice and comparison that you will be able to improve your Spanish pronunciation.

If you are a native speaker of Spanish, you may be interested in improving your pronunciation of spoken American English. While this is not the primary focus of this book, there is ample information provided about the pronunciation of American English to help you achieve that goal. However, you will also have to work hard at applying your knowledge about how English is correctly pronounced until these rules become an automatic part of your spoken English.

If you are planning to become a teacher of Spanish, you will want to formalize your understanding of the Spanish and English sound systems so you can help your future students eliminate their own Spanish pronunciation problems. You may also want to learn more about different varieties of Spanish that are spoken on four different continents and in many different countries. Since this book is descriptive in nature, it attempts to present a true picture of the Spanish language as it is spoken by native speakers from the vast majority of different dialect zones.

Whatever has motivated you to take a course on Spanish pronunciation, The Sounds of Spanish: Analysis and Application will be an invaluable tool to help you achieve these goals. ¡Buena suerte, y manos a la obra!

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