The Three Most Difficult Sounds To Master in Spanish 

. Compared to many other languages, the pronunciation of Spanish is really straightforward. Unlike French and English, the writing system is very phonetic, meaning that, with a few exceptions and regional differences, all the letters in a word are pronounced individually. So once you have established the right associations between sounds and letters, reading aloud a text in Spanish is quite easy.

Most of the sounds of the Spanish letters are close to their English equivalents. However, the main difficulty in speaking Spanish arises from the fact that some letters in Spanish are not pronounced like their English counterparts. The letters look the same but are pronounced differently. Here's a look at three challenging sounds of Spanish.

1. The r

This is the really fun sound of Spanish. Totally different from the English r, the Spanish r is pronounced at the front of the mouth by vibrating the tip of the tongue against the front of the roof of the mouth just behind the upper teeth.

There are two variants of this sound. The first is a strong vibrating or trilled sound that can be held for quite a while. This is the sound that you will hear in words that begin or end with r. Here are some examples:

rosa, ramo, remitir, reir, ruso, professor, castigar, andar, hacer, alquilar

The same strongly rolled r is heard in words with double r's, as in:

perro, carro, tierra, hierro, burro, arroz

This sound is also heard when the r comes after n or l. Here are some examples:

alrededor, honrar, enredar

The second variation of the letter ris pronounced in the same manner but the vibration is short with one flap of the tongue. This is the sound of a single r in the middle of a word. Here are some examples:

pero, pera, para, mero, pirata, abril

Be aware that the trilled r at the end of words is often reduced to the short version when the word is followed by a vowel sound, as in:

me gusta ir al cine
andar a pie

2. The letter j

The pronunciation of the Spanish j, called jota, is unlike anything in English. This is probably the most challenging sound of Spanish It is the rasping sound produced at the back of the mouth as if you were clearing your throat, gargling or about to spit something out. This is the sound in:

jota, bajo, Julio, jota, Jaime, Javier, caja, relajar, semejante, empujar, hoja

3. The letter b

The Spanish b is somewhat tricky because in certain positions it resembles the English sound b and in other positions it has quite a different sound. The first thing to keep in mind is that in Spanish the sounds of letters b and v are the same.

At the beginning of a word or after the letter m, as in bomba, the the b is somewhat like the English b sound but not as strong. In English the word bomb is pronounced with the lips projecting a strong b sound. In Spanish, the lips do not extend as much. In fact, they lightly touch each other to produce a kind of weak b sound that you find in:

barrio, burro, bala, bailar

This is the same sound that you find in words starting with v, as in:

vaca, vale, vaya, vete, vamos, ver

When the b or v comes in the middle of a word, the lips hardly touch each other. Here are some examples:

debido, acabar, beber, caballo, entablar, andaba, hablaba

The identical sound with v is found in: cavar, chaval, chavo, esclavo, servir

(First publishd by articles@ezine )