- In this blog post, I will talk about the Different Pronunciations of the Letter “Y” and “LL” in Spanish This blog post is actuallly from an email that a customer sent to me in Jaunary 2007. In her email, she made a very interesting comment about Level One of the original version of Learning Spanish Like Crazy. The original version as opposed to the NEW version which was released in 2015.
I thought that you might find her comment interesting and my response helpful.
She wrote, “Patrick, I noticed an inconsistency in the course.” She said, “sometimes the male speaker pronounces the Spanish letter ‘y’ and the Spanish double ‘l’ (ll) so that it sounds like the English letter ‘j.’ For example, he will pronounce the Spanish word ‘yo’ like the English word ‘Joe.’ On the other hand, the female pronounces the Spanish letter ‘y’ and the Spanish double l (ll) so that it sounds like the English letter ‘y.’ For example, she will pronounce the Spanish word ‘yo’ so that it sounds like ‘yo’ in the English word “yoyo.”
I wrote the reader to tell her that the “inconsistency” was by design.
The Different Pronunciations of the Letter “Y” and “LL” in Spanish
When I first started learning Spanish most, if not all, of the self-teaching materials used the “neutral” pronunciation. In other words, the Spanish letter “y” and the Spanish double l (ll) were pronounced like the English letter “y” in “yoyo.”
One day I finally met a bi-lingual Spanish speaker that did not use the so-called neutral pronunciation. He used the “regional” pronunciation. And his pronunciation of the Spanish letter “y” and the Spanish double l (ll) sounded more like the English “j” sound.
I remember how confident and excited I was to tell him that I spoke Spanish. I think at the time I had been studying Spanish for about six months and I was really happy with the progress that I was making. So I asked him to speak to me in Spanish — AND ONLY IN SPANISH.
Speaking at a slower than normal pace, he said a very simple phrase to me in Spanish. Referring to his wife he said “ella habla español” — which means “she speaks Spanish.”
“Ella habla español” is a phrase that is basic enough for anyone who has been studying Spanish for six months to easily understand. Especially, when the speaker is speaking at a slower than normal pace.
But since I was unfamiliar with regional accents, it sounded to me as if he was saying “Asia habla español.”
And I responded, “no, en Asia no se habla español,” Then I added, “En Asia, se habla chino y japonés.”
For a about 5 or 6 seconds he was completely silent. And then he began to roar with laughter as if I was a stand-up comedian and I had just told a joke that HE FINALLY GOT.
He must have been thinking, “This guy can’t be really serious.”
So when developing the learning method for the ‘original’ version of Learning Spanish Like Crazy course, I felt that it was really important to have native speakers with neutral accents and regional accents. Even though the regional accents are less common than the neutral accents.
From my experience, you can find both accents in the same country when you travel from one region to another. For example, the female speaker (Pamela) on most of the lessons has a very neutral accent. She is from Mexico.
Ruben the male speaker on most of the lessons, is also from Mexico but he is obviously from a part of Mexico where they have a very slight “regional” accent.
In some of the lessons in Level One we used Maria. Maria is from Medellin, Colombia. She has a very strong “regional” accent and when says the Spanish word “ella” to my Gringo ears it sounds a lot like the English word “Asia.”
And in the some of the lessons in Nivel Uno we used a voice actor from Bogota named Juan Pablo. Juan Pablo sounds very “neutral.”
If you are serious about speaking Spanish fluently, you will undoubtedly come across both accents when speaking to native Spanish speakers.
Please note that in 2015, we released a new version of Learning Spanish Like Crazy Level 1. In 2016, we will release a new version of LSLC levels 2 and 3.