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Old June 24, 2011, 12:44 PM
alpinegroove alpinegroove is offline
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Word Stress

I am trying to help someone who is learning Spanish and is having a lot of trouble stressing the correct syllable in each word, especially with 2-syllable words with the first syllable stressed (most present-tense conjugation in Spanish).

In trying to help her, it has become clear that she has the same trouble distinguishing, both in speaking and listening, between different types of word stresses in English as well. It is not a problem in English because she is a native speaker and just knows how to pronounce the words.

She recognizes that there is a difference between SUSpect (noun) and susPECT (verb), but she cannot consisntently discern which word has the first syllable stressed and which one has the last syllable stressed.

In Spanish, she cannot, for instance, consistently hear and reproduce the difference between the present tense first person HABlo and the past tense third person habLO.

So asking her to stress the first syllable when conjugating a verb doesn't really mean anything to her. She seems to understand the theory but is unable to recognize/reproduce consistently.

Any ideas?
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  #2  
Old June 24, 2011, 01:06 PM
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Perikles Perikles is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alpinegroove View Post
Any ideas?
But in this respect, Spanish is a million times easier than English, because the written accent always tells you where to stress the word.

If there is NO accent, the word is stressed on the next to last syllable if they end in a vowel, n or s, and on the final syllable if they end with a consonant which is not n or s

Otherwise, the stress is where the accent is. Dead easy.

As far as I can see, this is the only grammatical rule which has no exception.
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Old June 24, 2011, 01:20 PM
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aleCcowaN aleCcowaN is offline
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Just to speculate a bit on the subject.

If my little experience many English speakers can't tell the difference between a stressed syllable and one with open vowels. When you tell them to plenty pronounce the vowels in unstressed syllables, all syllables become stressed. This is reinforced by English having a rhythm with tonic syllable beating time. Again, when these students plenty pronounce the vowels in unstressed syllables, all those syllables becomes sort of stressed. If she identifies which is the stressed syllable in "monotonous" /məˈnɒtənəs/ but she doesn't in "monótono" /mɔ'nɔːtɔnɔ/, maybe you just need to let her pronounce it /mə'nɔːtənə/ and wait for a better time to correct her pronunciation.

I'm not saying this is the cause; just some thoughts.
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Old June 24, 2011, 01:28 PM
Luna Azul Luna Azul is offline
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If the person doesn't understand the concept it's quite difficult. It doesn't make sense. There are people who just can't learn a foreign language. People who have no ear for music have a very difficult time even pronouncing their native language.

Maybe that's the case with this person. Even if she can read --as Perikles says--, the way the words are written, she cannot perceive the difference.. That's what I understand you're saying, right?

I think you have a difficult task on your hands.. I've no idea what advice to give you..
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Old June 24, 2011, 01:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Luna Azul View Post
she cannot perceive the difference.. That's what I understand you're saying, right?
Maybe I was responding on the wrong level. If the problem is an acoustic one, then what might help is a little tape recorder where she can record her own voice and compare it with the correct version. The only problem with that is most people run away and drown themselves when they hear their own voice, so you might need some assistance.
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Old June 24, 2011, 01:54 PM
alpinegroove alpinegroove is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
But in this respect, Spanish is a million times easier than English, because the written accent always tells you where to stress the word.
The problem is not with knowing the rules or the theory of stressed syllables. She has them all memorized. She usually, but not always, hears the difference between stressing different syllables, but she can't tell which syllable is stressed. She might say HABlo five times, which is correct, but then would say habLO and I would ask her to stress the first syllable and she tells me that that what she is doing.

I do not think that she will be able to indicate which syllable in "monotonous" is stressed. At this point, two-syllable words are difficult enough.

I suppose this could be some kind of learning disability.

aleCcowaN, thanks for the interesting explanation. Please let me know if you have any other ideas.

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Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
Maybe I was responding on the wrong level. If the problem is an acoustic one, then what might help is a little tape recorder where she can record her own voice and compare it with the correct version. The only problem with that is most people run away and drown themselves when they hear their own voice, so you might need some assistance.
We will try that. Perhaps when she hears herself pronouncing it, she will get a better feel for it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luna Azul View Post
If the person doesn't understand the concept it's quite difficult. It doesn't make sense. There are people who just can't learn a foreign language. People who have no ear for music have a very difficult time even pronouncing their native language.

Maybe that's the case with this person. Even if she can read --as Perikles says--, the way the words are written, she cannot perceive the difference.. That's what I understand you're saying, right?

I think you have a difficult task on your hands.. I've no idea what advice to give you..
She pronounces English perfectly fine. But if I ask her, which syllable is stressed/emphasized/accentuated in SUSpect as opposed to susPECT, she doesn't know.

She hears the difference between LIsa and liSA, and knows what the syllables are, but when I ask her to pronounce lisa with stress on the first syllable, she doesn't know how to.

Last edited by AngelicaDeAlquezar; June 24, 2011 at 04:22 PM. Reason: Merged back-to-back posts
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Old June 24, 2011, 02:14 PM
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The way I would introduce her to word stress it first through English.
Example: the noun address(áddress) and the verb address (addréss)

From there your friend may correlate hablo and habló
with address and address.
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Old June 24, 2011, 02:25 PM
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The way I would introduce her to word stress it first through English.
Example: the noun address(áddress) and the verb address (addréss).
A very bad example if that person speaks BrE
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Old June 24, 2011, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
A very bad example if that person speaks BrE
That's true. In fact many American English speakers say the noun and
verb the same way. I used to, but changed for the sake of clarity.

I know there are many other words whose meaning changes with stress
but at the moment I don't recall any. recall of course.
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Old June 24, 2011, 03:13 PM
alpinegroove alpinegroove is offline
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She doesn't. She speaks American English. She recognizes that there is a difference, she just doesn't know how to interpret it.
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