Spanish as a Third Language

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Spanish phonetics is a challenge to the beginner. Some sounds in Spanish do not exist in French or English, and its rhythm is quite difficult to reproduce. But assimilating these phonetic elements is important in order to be understood by one’s listeners.

Students first establish the correspondence between Spanish phonemes and graphemes; then, gradually, they learn to reproduce the distinctive sounds, to place the stresses correctly using the rules learned and to put words and sentences together in accordance with the models seen in class. During spontaneous or planned conversations, they progressively apply their knowledge of the prosodic system.

The following table presents the knowledge to be acquired in pronunciation, stress and intonation.


Student constructs knowledge with teacher guidance.

Student applies knowledge by the end of the school year.


Student reinvests knowledge.


Cycle Two

  1. Spanish pronunciation
3 4 5
Sound/spelling correspondence
  1. Establishes a connection between the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they produce (e.g. papa [papa], casa [kasa], queso [keso], kiosco [kiosko], beso [beso], vaca [baka], Wagner [bagnɛr], hada [ada], estudiante [ɛstudjante])
Pronunciation of phonemes1
  1. Vowel phonemes
    1. recognizes and pronounces vowel phonemes correctly (e.g. paso [paso], peso [peso], piso [piso], poso [poso], puso [puso])
    1. recognizes and pronounces the hiatus2 correctly (e.g. tí‑o [ti:o], Ra-úl [ra:ul], cre-o [cre:o])
    1. recognizes and pronounces diphthongs3 correctly (e.g. causa [kausa], duerme [duɛrme], peine [peine])
  1. Consonant phonemes
    1. recognizes and pronounces consonant phonemes correctly  (e.g. pala [pala], bala [bala], mala [mala], sala [sala], año [aɲo], ano [ano])
    1. pronounces adjacent phonemes that affect the meaning of words correctly (e.g. pero [peɾo] and perro [pero]; lama [lama] and llama [ʎama]; ano [ano] and año [aɲo])
  1. Spanish stress
3 4 5
  1. Recognizes that, in the spoken language, the tonic accent is on
    1. the syllable that has an orthographic accent4 (e.g. xico, jaro)
    1. the penultimate syllable when the word ends in a vowel, an n or an s (e.g. amigo, comen, casas)
    1. the final syllable when the word ends in a consonant other than n or s (e.g. profesor, hotel)
  1. Recognizes that the stress can vary depending on the meaning of a word (e.g. canto – song, can – I sang; el – the / él – he)
  1. Pronounces the stressed syllable in a word correctly
  1. Spanish intonation
3 4 5
Linking words
  1. Liaison
    1. knows the process of linking two different vowels or a consonant followed by a vowel (e.g. mi amigo – mi amigo, sin embargo – sin embargo)
    1. links the words correctly when speaking
  1. Elision
    1. knows how two identical vowels or consonants are linked (e.g. la casa azul – la casaazul, mi hijo – mihijo, esos señores – esosseñores)
    1. links the words correctly when speaking
Rhythm and pauses
  1. Knows the rhythmic groups and how to accentuate the syllables of words in a statement (e.g. En verano, / cuando estoy de vacaciones, / me gusta bañarme y jugar al tenis.)
  1. Speaks sentences in rhythmic groups, including pauses as required
Intonation of sentences
  1. Connects sentence type and intonation
    1. declarative sentence and falling intonation (e.g. Duerme tranquilo.)
    1. interrogative sentence and rising intonation (e.g. ¿Duerme tranquilo?)
    1. exclamatory sentence and rising, then falling, intonation (e.g. ¡Duerme tranquilo!)
  1. Uses the intonation appropriate to the sentence type
1.  The phoneme is the smallest sound unit in a language that is capable of conveying a distinct meaning. It does not carry any meaning itself (e.g. padre, madre).
2.  The hiatus is the separation of two immediately adjacent vowels into separate syllables.
3.  The diphthong is the union of two immediately adjacent vowels into a single syllable.
4.  The vowel that has an acute orthographic accent (e.g. teléfono, marrón, lápiz) is stressed.

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