Banner
Logo

ABC's for Spanish-speaking with recipes

Home Main Submit Contents Recipes

It’s as Easy as ABC :
Presenting the Alphabet as an ESL Lesson to Spanish-speaking,
by Stephen P. Gross

First, the challenge is to convince the Hispanic student that the alphabet is worth learning. I have asked students to spell their names to me and I have written on the board or tablet exactly what I hear -- very often completely wrong. We all laugh about it, but it drives home the real problem. I ask the, “Are the names of the letters of the English alphabet important?”

Then, I ask for the name of the street he or she lives on. (They say “ DOO-glah” for “Douglas”). Since most teachers are not familiar with the side streets of the inner city where the students live, and do not understand their pronunciation of the usually Anglo-Saxon names, again it is made clear that the need is there to “Spell it!” In Spanish “Deletreelo”

NOW, WE HOPE THAT THE STUDENT SEES THE NEED FOR LEARNING THE ALPHABET IN ENGLISH TO RESPOND THE THE FREQUENT COMMAND
“SPELL IT!”.

In contrast, it is very rare in Spanish-speaking countries to ask a person to spell (deletrear) anything, the Spanish language being so phonetic. THERE ARE A FEW CASES:

b contrasted with v

At most the letters b and v are confused. The labiodental (i.e., lips and teeth) “v” has not existed in Spanish since the sixteenth century (See: Tomás Navarro-Tomás) except in the region of Valencia and ( I noticed) in Argentina. Both are pronounced as “b”. You will hear for Victor Vargas: BEEKtor BAHRgas or BEEKtor BAHRgah (where final s’s are “eaten up”.

There is a joke that the maestra in teaches her young charges the rule: We do not swallow up our s’s and proceeds to do exactly that:
“ Nosotro’ no no’ comemo’ la’ ese’ ” .

s contrasted with z and c

The other confusion in Spanish is when to use the s and the z. In Spain it is easy because the “z” is lisped like the “th” [q] in “thing” as well a ce and ci.
In Latin America (and many parts of Spain) this sound has changed to “s” and the spelling nuances have to be learned in school.

y contrasted with ll

The stereotype of the Hispanic saying “ jess” for “yes” follows from the confusion of the sounds in Spanish in many regions.

General observation about attitudes towards spelling.
I have had students that have taken a book and taught themselves to read and write, practically an impossibility in English with its complicated spelling. It is possible in a language with such an alphabet that is almost phonetic. However, the student of ESL who has little education in his own country is not very motivated or upset about mixups in his own language. The well-educated Hispanic looks down on such mistakes because these fine points are the sign of education and usually the concomitant higher class status.

Difficulties for the Spanish -speaking with the English Alphabet Names
An explanation of the form of the “Abecedario” List

CONFUSION BECAUSE OF SIMILARITY CONFLICTS:

The first letter “A” is pronounced in English like the letter “ e ” in Spanish.
The fifth letter “E” is pronounced in English like the letter “ i ” in Spanish.

CONFUSION BECAUSE OF NONEXISTENCE OF THE SOUNDS IN SPANISH:

1.) The initial voiced sibilant “Z” in English hardly exists in Spanish.
They will say, “The elephant is in the Soo.”
I teach this sound by asking them to pronounce the Spanish word “mismo” (meaning “the same”) where the s before the voiced consonant is the sound [z] BUT NOT IN ALL DIALECTS! Some say [mi:smo], some [mi:hmo] (International Phonetic Alphabet transcriptions in square brackets.) I had better luck with the Spanish word “desde” [de:zde] (meaning “since”) to get their ears attuned to the voiced [z].

The English letter “C” is pronounced SEE (no problem)
BUT, the English letter “Z” they pronounce “SEE” ( a BIG problem)
` “Spell your name, please.” and you hear SEE-A-EN-OH-AR-A Zamora!

2. ) The final “N” and “M” are not different as in English; rather they both often sound like the nasal sound of “ng” in sing. Therefore, the names of the letters “m” and “n” are sounded alike.
The last letter of “album” is pronounced the same as “albun”;
E.G., Bethlehem is variously spelled “Belem” or “Belén”.
One student whose name was Amparo spelled it “ei, en,pee, ahr, o”.

SOLUTIONS SUGGESTED:

TO USE THE PHRASE “LIKE IN” AS IN TELEGRAPH AND RADIO CODE WORDS
OR MILITARY “ABEL, BAKER, CHARLIE” STYLES, HENCE:

“B” LIKE IN BOSTON
“V” LIKE IN VICTORY
“M” LIKE IN MONEY
“N” LIKE IN NEW YORK
(I write the English words “like in” as “laiquin”

This has confused some Hispanic assistants who do not have the comparative linguistics knowledge to understand this problem and may not even be aware of the problem.
Don’t explain. Just tell them to do it. My years of experience teaching ESL to Spanish-speaking and courses in English linguistics and Spanish phonetics led me to develop this first class in ESL geared toward their group. CAUTION: For Spanish -speaking ONLY.

IS IT WORTH THE EFFORT? YES!
THE ALPHABET IS THE KEY TO COMMUNICATION
WITH THE DOCTOR, SOCIAL WORKER, UTILITY COMPANY, ETC.

THE “ABECEDARIO” APPENDED USES THE SPANISH ALPHABETIC
PRONUNCIATION AS A GUIDE

“LIKE IN” APPEARS AS THE ODD-LOOKING “LAIQUIN”

This “abecedario” has evolved over my years at Hasbro Industries, Institute of Labor Studies and Research, and Central Employment Agency. I have tested and adapted it and my students found it useful .
S.P. Gross Providence, RI

==========================================================



ABECEDARIO DE LA LINGUA INGLESA
A ei
B bi laiquin Boston
C si
D di
E i
F ef

G yi
H eich
I ay
J yei
K quei
L el

M em laiquin Money
N en laiquin New York

O ou

P pi

Q quiu

R ar

S es

T ti

U iu

V bi laiquin Víctori

W dábeliu

X ecs

Y uai

Z si laiquin cibra

Comentario: La v inglesa es labiodental como la f del castellano. Hay que morder el labio inferior con las
dientes superiores.
La z inglesa se llama la “s sonora” que existe en castellano solamente en tales situaciones de la “s” de “desde luego”. Escuchen y pratiquen.

¿Qué significa "laiquin"? Son las palabras en inglés: “como en” escritos en inglés así: “ like in.” En español se dice “be de burro”. En inglés se dice “B like in Barbara”, “C like in Charlie”, “E like in Edward”. Es mejor que se use aquella frase con ciertas letras donde el angloparlante tiene dificuldades de entender la pronunciación típica de esas voces españolas.
También tenga cuidado porque las letras: ch, rr, ll se consideran dos letras en inglés: c, h -- r, r -- l,l.
English explanation of the above text: What does the strange “ laiquin” mean? It is the Spanish pronunciation of “like in.” I prefer it to “as in” because that comes out “ahssing” in the Spanish sound system since there is no voiced “zee” sound in Spanish between vowels. Also, Spanish considers some consonant combinations as separate letters of the alphabet.
S.P. Gross 5/99 Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Home Main Submit Contents Recipes

World's Best Jobs!
Best Jobs

Dave's ESL Cafe Copyright © 2008 Dave Sperling. All Rights Reserved.