Dipthongs in Spanish

I’m going through an interesting course on Spanish phonetics with the goal of improving my pronunciation. The course started out by going through the alphabet with pretty basic stuff, but now it’s getting more interesting and challenging. In lesson 5 we tackled dipthongs (los diptongos), which are two vowels that are blended into a single sound.

We have a lot of these in English, but as native speakers we don’t really notice them until they’re called out. An example is “ay” in “ray” – it’s really two vowels (“eh” and “ee”) that are blended together. (Here are more English dipthong examples, aimed at Russians learning English!).

Spanish identifies quite a lot of them, and these helped me finally understand some details I’d noticed but couldn’t figure out before. For example, “día” (day) is only one syllable, but I kept wanting to pronounce it as two (“dí-a”). Instead, it’s “dyah”, one syllable. And in general Spanish seems to default to stressing the second-to-last syllable, with an accent employed to override this; the dipthong concept now explains why “comedia” (which is stressed on the second syllable) doesn’t need an accent on the e: “dia” is (again) one syllable, not two!

This contrasts with the hiatus, which is when two adjacent vowels are pronounced separately (and in separate syllables). An example in English is, in fact, the the “ia” in “hiatus” :). In Spanish, words like “caer” (to fall) and “leer” (to read) have hiatuses.

Next up are lessons on where the stresses are placed in Spanish words!

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I knew this already. I learned something new!