https://www.duolingo.com/Maria_321-

Spanish is NOT spoken more quickly than English

Spanish speakers and English Speakers actually speak at about the same rate.

What!!?

Well, this is fascinating information from the FSI, Foreign Service Institute, that teaches Spanish to USA diplomats.

From FSI “Mastering Spanish: Hear it, Speak it, Write it, Read it" In Lesson 1.22.4 Discussion of contrasting stress patterns:

“You probably noticed, in listening to and imitating these (practice words), that they seem to be pronounced faster than English words of similar length. Actually they are not, but there is a big difference in RHYTHM which makes it SEEM that they are. This difference in rhythm can be indicated something like this, using CAPITAL letters to indicate longer syllables and lower case letters to indicate shorter syllables:

English Speaker:

WHERE DO yOU THINK IT’Ll BE FOUND?

Spanish Speaker:

wHEre DO yOU thINk IT WiLL BE fOUnd?

Thus the Spanish way is to make every syllable almost equally long, giving a machine-gun effect, whereas the English way is to make the louder syllables longer. The two languages divide up their time differently.”

Here is another FSI quote about weak and strong stress patterns in speech:

“In learning the basic sentences you were probably also corrected for placing too much stress on some syllables, too little stress on others. There are only TWO LEVELS OF STRESS in Spanish (English has four, as we will discover)…..

Now because we consider this a very important point indeed, and because it is a point which is rarely drilled elsewhere, we have put together the following long list, arranged according to the number of syllables and placement of stress. Until you can say these using only the two stresses that are marked instead of the four of English you cannot expect to go on and learn complex utterances successfully. Time spent practicing these, therefore, will be very well spent.”

Want to see the actual exercises? The are in the FSI Spanish Part 1 book online, link below, on page 1.23 Lesson 1.22.4 Discussion of contrasting stress patterns page 1.15 - stress levels in pronunciation page 1.16 Lesson 1.22.2 Discussion of minimal stress contrasts

Thank you to 01LearnFrench01 for posting these links:

FSI Spanish Part 1 https://www.livelingua.com/fsi/Fsi-SpanishBasicCourse-Volume1-StudentText.pdf FSI book online

FSI Spanish Part 2 https://www.livelingua.com/fsi/Fsi-SpanishBasicCourse-Volume2-StudentText.pdf

You can often find the Foreign Service Institute Mastering Spanish series with workbook AND CDs for listening exercises at your local public library if you live in the United States. You can buy an older version of the book for under $4.00 at ABEBooks.

It is best to get BOTH the book and cassettes together, which costs @$40 at ABEBooks.

https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=0812073258&cm_sp=mbc--ISBN--all

ISBN: 10-0-7641-2371-8 13-978-0-7641-2371-9

4 days ago

16 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Maria_321-

Great article, thank you.

People seem to get frustrated learning Spanish by how "fast" it is spoken. The points the FSI makes help give ways to chip away at the speed of hearing, to more quickly learn how to "Hear" the Spanish language to be better able to comprehend it.

Focusing exclusively on the speed seems a way to quickly become discouraged when learning Spanish. Obviously, lots of people don't worry about that, they just jump in to learning.

But for anyone who is tempted to think the speed at which Spanish is spoken is an insurmountable barrier, my point is really that the FSI (Foreign Service Institute's) teaching methods really help a lot to overcome that barrier to learning.

4 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MissSpells
MissSpells
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I certainly didn't share this to discourage any one. However, I think every language has it's unique challenges and speed is one of them with Spanish, especially once you want to progress past the intermediate level and listen to native media. Knowing a languages challenges does not need to be discouraging, it can help to know what to work on. I think the FSI gives some great tips.

My take away is also that instead of focusing on individual words, focus an the content and meaning. Spanish is spoken faster.. in terms of syllables per second, but the meaning is delivered at the same rate (at least according to this study) so if you focus on content rather than trying to catch every single word, you will understand far more and develope your ear gradually.

4 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SusanMurph17

Great article, thanks! There is another point that needs to be made, and I will draw from an example from where I live: New Mexico. In our state, almost 50% of the population speaks Spanish at home. We have native New Mexicans whose first language is Spanish, yet they cannot follow the Spanish of our compadres from Mexico, who, they say, speak "way too fast." I listen to the New Mexico radio station where they speak and sing very slowly. Then I ramp it up by listening to the Mexican stations! I asked my Mexican husband if anyone else speaks as fast as he does, and he thinks probably the Cubans do.

4 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Maria_321-

Excellent points. Yes, my point is also an attempt to encourage people to keep studying.

4 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/StevenBloc3

One of the problems that I'm struggling with is that subtle changes in single syllables dramatically change the meaning when I mishear or misspeak them. I could picture languages with longer words for more redundancy having a completely different set of challenges.

4 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Maria_321-

The FSI book and CD have "minimal pairs." You practice listening to words that are only one letter different, or only have a difference in accent. It really helps to be able to hear those subtle differences.

4 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/speising
speising
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those suggest a 25% faster speed of spanish. regional and individual variations within one language are probably higher than this, so it's still no reason for a language learner to despair.

2 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/GetUpStandGreen

Depends, some English speakers speak too fast like me and can not always be understood. I had to have speech therapy at a young age (because I couldn't talk when I was supposed to be able to) so I guess that's why it's so. Now a days I just speak in short phrases and sentences or not at all.

4 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CrypticWor

Spanish is the second fastest spoken language behind Japanese...that's what I read.

3 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Becky245205
Becky245205
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I think technically Spanish is spoken slightly faster as CrypticWor says but I don't think it is as fast as language learners perceive. It may feel like everyone is speaking much quicker because you need more time to understand it as a learner. You may still be trying to translate from one language to another which make sit feel like the speaker is talking faster because you can’t translate at the same speed as you can understand a direct sentence in your native language.

I can say something at a normal speed in English and English-learners may need more time to process or will ask me to repeat myself at a slower pace. Any language is hard if you focus on the difficulties or expect to be able to understand everything right away. Practice, exposure to more vocabulary, and more practice is going to slowly increase your ability to understand. When I first started to learn Spanish it felt like it would be impossible to understand what others are saying and I still have to ask people to repeat themselves but it is motivating to now be able to have one on one conversations and surprisingly understand new phrases every time.

3 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Maria_321-

Yes, that's it exactly ... Spanish is not quite as fast as many new language learners perceive. Thank you for your succinct summary.

2 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Erika10915

As an American English speaker from the northeast, I always find that people from the southern US speak much more slowly.

3 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Manuel599019

I think one of the main problems for English speakers trying to understand spoken Spanish is that Spanish has just a few vary basic sounds: only five vowel sounds, all the consonants sound the same all the time, and there are no mute letters (only the H), therefore Spanish speakers many times are not very careful with their pronunciation, because you can pronounce something wrong and still be understood. That makes spoken Spanish harder to understand for an anglophone.

English, on the other hand, is more complex with a lot more vowel sounds, a lot of consonants that sometimes are mute and other times are not, diphthongs that change pronunciation depending on the word, words that are pronounced differently depending on the meaning (lead, live...), and a lot of subtleties; therefore English speakers are more careful with their pronunciation since a very subtle change can make a difference in meaning, and a little mispronounced word can make a whole sentence incomprehensible.

For this reason I believe that the ears of a Spanish speaker are trained to listen and understand mispronounced words, whereas the ears of a native English speaker not so much. My friend at work, whenever he has to call the phone company's technical support line, he asks me to do it for him because he cannot understand the broken English spoken by the foreign people in the call center, and I have no problem understanding really bad pronunciation.

2 days ago
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