The importance of the pronunciation

The importance of the pronunciation

Why does Spaniards have the impression that a not-native speaker has a higher linguistic level, if he has a good, natural pronunciation? In this question, you can find the key to the importance of the acquisition of a natural pronunciation.

At the moment, there are surely many controversial discussions on the question if grammar is more or less neglected in language teaching or if one should pay more attention to a few types of exercises because of their importance for the acquisition of communicative competences. But what nobody would deny is the fact that the pronunciation is more and more excluded from the lessons, that it represents one of the most marginalized competences. Today, everyone seems to agree with this point of view, but only a few people do something to change that. Of course, it is true that some schools stipulate topics, which have to be treated in a limited period of time. Because of that, the pronunciation suffers in many classes, because there is not that much time to deal with it intensively.

Spanish is a language which is very syllable-oriented, and that is why it demands a considered, not theoretical learning of phonetics, especially for students from a country of which the language differs a lot from Spanish. In the latter, the rhythm of the language is characterized by the syllables. That means that you have to pronounce every syllable in every word. In this respect, the Spanish language differs from other languages, for example from English, which is accent-oriented; the accents of the words are here important for the rhythm, their syllables not that much. The most plausible example for the phenomenon just mentioned is the difference in pronunciation between Spanish and English: In English, there are syllables which you virtually never pronounce – you have the impression that the intonation curve is falling -, whereas in Spanish, you have to pronounce all the syllables in order to not change the meaning of what has been said. For this reason, in the Spanish lessons, we have to treat tasks which deal with questions of the phonetics and which work with this characteristic aspect of language.

Beyond that, it is important to become aware of the application-oriented value of the pronunciation in a language like Spanish. The student has to keep in mind that the tone of voice is more higher and that the Spaniards make clear with it the intentions in a conversation. Besides completely phonetic elements, others like gestures, the expressions on the faces as well as other nonverbal aspects play a big role. They emphasize the meaning of what has been said.

Now, let’s return to the question from the beginning: Why do you equate good pronunciation with a good linguistic knowledge? – Because without a good pronunciation and a feeling for the phonetics, the learning process is not completed, even if all the other linguistic competences are very well developed. For this reason, it is important to further this ability from the beginning, so that the progress will take place as quickly as in the field of other skills. The students who achieve a higher level in the field of pronunciation are able to give the person they are talking to a better idea of their linguistic knowledge. In addition to that, the nonverbal and situational factors are, of course, also important. If you keep all of that in mind, the student will achieve a good linguistic level and he will be able to manage everywhere in the Spanish-speaking world.


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  2. While I agree with your opinion about paounncirtion being less important than other aspects of speech, I think you are confusing ‘stress’ with ‘intonation.’ Intonation is the change in pitch (up and down) to reveal emotion. ‘Stress’ is the use of volume and speed to reveal emphasis. Of these two, I would say that stress is the most important to teach and the hardest to learn.Mulit-syllabic words have stress points, which can change according to the form of the word. (i.e. the verb ‘produce’ is stressed on the second syllable, while the first syllable of the noun ‘produce’ is stressed. Furthermore, stressing specific words in a sentence is largely a matter of speaker choice and is entirely context dependant. As your red hat exercise shows.Most students beleive stress is acheived mainly through volume, but it is my belief that focusing on speed is the most effective way to help students understand stress and develop natural rhythm.For example, when saying the sentence, “I’m not going to buy those shoes, I just want to try them on.” If we ask the student to stretch the words ‘buy’ and ‘on’ (i.e. say them very slowly in comparison to the rest of the sentence, they understand the idea of stress very clearly. The other benefit of this method is that while focusing on slowing down the stressed words, they automatically say the rest of the sentence more quickly and fluently. It ends up sounding like this, “I’m nogonna BUY thoshoes, I’m jusgonnatrythem ON.” A very natural native sounding rhythm!

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