When I was in college, one of my professors said something about vowels being pronounced differently in Spanish than in English, but I don't remember exactly what it was.

I'm not asking what sounds the vowels make, and the tip I can't remember isn't that the vowel sounds are shorter in Spanish, it was something about how speakers are supposed to hold their lips and/or tongue when pronouncing vowel sounds in Spanish.

  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because it is much too broad. The OP needs to buy a book online for this or get one from a library.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 20:57

1 Answer 1


English has many vowels (13-16, depending on the dialect) and Spanish has relatively few (just 5). What we consider English vowels are very often diphthongs (i.e. a gliding vowel in the articulation of which there is a continuous transition from one position to another). Take the example: fate /feɪt/; afeitar (to shave).

The two Spanish vowels that this tends to affect are e and o.

The English vowel a is pronounced similarly to the Spanish vowel e, except that in English we say [eɪ], moving the tongue closer to the palate at the end.

The English vowel o is pronounced similarly to the Spanish o, except that in English we say [oʊ], closing the lips at the end.

In Spanish the vowels are pure. They have the same quality (i.e. your tongue/lips should be in the same position) all the way through the pronunciation.

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    As an addition to your excellent answer, it's also worth mentioning that unstressed vowels are always pronounced with their full pronunciation in Spanish, unlike what happens in English (and other languages like Portuguese or Catalan) where they are reduced to a weak vowel. For example, in 'banana' and 'Canada' the English pronunciations are /bə'nɑːnə/ (or /bə'nænə/) and /'kænədə/, where the unstressed vowels become [ə], whereas in Spanish all the a's preserve the same vowel quality: /ba'nana/, /kana'da/. Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 11:11
  • What matters in English are not vowels. What matters are minimal pairs: sheep and ship, which you can't pronounce unless you have heard the words. There is no one single "a" sound in English: pate versus pair. It gets really complicated. And the sound i as in ship or flit does not even exist in Spanish. This question is too broad for this forum.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 21:00

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