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English

I want to improve my pronunciation of words beginning with p, such as pleno, práctica, and padre. I have been taught that I should put my hand in front of my mouth when I say these words, and if I feel any air when I say the p, I am not pronouncing the word correctly.

However, I still feel air. Not nearly as much as when I say English words like plenty, practice, and parent, but definitely some.

Do native speakers of Spanish aspirate this consonant? Do they feel any air when saying words beginning with p?

Español

Quiero mejorar mi pronuncación de palabras empezando con la p, como pleno, práctica y padre. Me ha sido enseñado que debo poner mi mano en frente de mi boca cuando digo estas palabras, y si siento un soplo cuando digo la p, no estoy pronunciando la palabra corectamente.

Sin embargo, todavía siento un soplo. No tanto como cuando digo palabras inglesas como plenty, practice, y parent, pero sin duda un poco.

Entre hispanohablantes nativos, aspiran este consonante? Sienten un soplo cuando dicen palabras empezando con p?

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You WILL feel the air while pronouncing /p/ no matter how you do it and that's perfectly alright. It's not because /p/ is aspirated; it's because /p/ is a plosive or an oral occlusive. That's the linguistic jargon for consonants that are produced by obstructing the vocal tract, blocking the flow of wind inside the mouth. Another example is /b/. The air you feel upon pronouncing /p/ is not due to /p/ itself but the vowel that comes after it (it's very difficult to pronounce a consonant strictly without a vowel; most often you would append a schwa to it).

If you really wish to pronounce the unaspirated /p/, just make sure you don't sense any hint of /h/ while uttering /p/. Aspirated consonants are nothing but their unaspirated counterparts suffixed with an /h/. To feel the difference between aspirated and unaspirated forms of the same consonant, try pronouncing the words ways (lāz) and beige (bāzh). The second syllable in ways is the unaspirated version of the second syllable in beige. Try pronouncing the two words and you'll sense a distinct /h/ while pronouncing beige. Just make sure you avoid that distinct /h/ while pronouncing your /p/ in Spanish.

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  • Thanks for the clarification on what "aspiration" means. My main concern is that I pronounce the /p/ without excessive breathing out; I don't think I'm adding the /h/ sound. – Nathaniel is protesting Oct 2 '15 at 1:49
  • If you're not adding an extra /h/ sound, you have nothing to worry about. The breathing-out is inevitable. Since you already understand aspiration, it IS breathing out by definition. As for "excessive", you can't breathe-out too much or too little; you either breathe out or you don't. I don't think you have anything to worry about as long as the /h/ sound is not getting involved with your pronunciation. – TheLearner Oct 2 '15 at 2:05
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    You will always feel the air when trying to pronounce a plosive consonant like /p/ or /b/. The reason you feel it more in English words like plenty and parent than in Spanish words (as you have stated in your question) is because you're not adding the extra /h/ while pronouncing the Spanish p. And that's the right thing to be doing. You shouldn't have anything to worry about. Your question is if native Spanish speakers feel the air in their p's and the answer is yes, they can't avoid it because it's a plosive. – TheLearner Oct 2 '15 at 2:08
  • There is no /h/ in the pronunciation of the word beige: that's crazy talk! Ways is pronounced /weɪz/ while beige is pronounced /beɪʒ/. No haitches were harmed in the make of this public service announcement. – tchrist Apr 30 '17 at 21:17
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Old thread, but just in case...

Whereas Spanish only has non-aspirated plosives, English has both aspirated and non-aspirated plosives. Just compare the /p/ in "pain" and the /p/ in "Spain" and you'll clearly see the difference.

This means that if you can speak English correctly, you already know hot to say non-aspirated plosives. Since in English /p/, /t/ and /k/ are aspirated only when they are the first letter of a stressed syllable, when speaking Spanish you should use the same /p/ as in "potato", where only the first "t" is aspirated, but not the "p" or the second "t".

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  • Where I come from the 'p' in potato is aspirated. – aris Nov 5 '19 at 20:46

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