Guinea pigs, garlic, and Spanish vowels

November 20, 2023

Hello friend,

This week's featured story is actually a mashup of two: one about love for a country's cuisine, and the other about a strong aversion towards an ingredient that's very hard to avoid. We follow Cuy al ajillo with refreshers on Spanish vowels and a shout-out from one of our favorite teachers.

Hand drawn artistic representation of a fork, bowl, garlic, and other food

Featured story
Cuy al ajillo

What would you be willing to do to eat your favorite meal again? That was the question Peruvian Fidel Dolorier asked himself when he realized that, in his new home in California, his favorite dish was, in fact, a beloved domesticated pet. And, how far can one’s hatred for an ingredient go? When it comes to garlic, one family is unwilling to compromise. Soundbites from Cuy al ajillo cover an animal that has its own holiday, a pronunciation tip for perfecting your Spanish vowels, a common grammar mistake, and more.

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Artwork by Laura Pérez

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Language learning tip
Pronouncing Spanish vowels

Want to know the key to mastering Spanish pronunciation? It's all in the vowels. (Okay, not all, but let us be dramatic for a sec.) In Spanish, vowels are a lot more important (and a lot stronger) than they are in English. Think about it — have you ever noticed how strong some Spanish natives' vowels can be when they speak English?

Let's review them and see how you can make these sounds yourself:

  • A: The A only makes one sound in Spanish: 'ah', with your mouth wide open. Spanish examples: cama, árbol, naranja
  • E: Pronounced like 'eh', with your lips slightly open and your mouth stretched. Spanish examples: estufa, merengue, ese
  • I: Equivalent to the English 'ee', as in "eerie." Say it with your lips slightly open and your mouth stretched. Spanish examples: isla, inglés, irritar
  • O: A strong, long 'oh' sound with your lips rounded and opened slightly. Spanish examples: hoyo, oveja, otoño
  • U: Equivalent to a long 'ooh' sound in English. Say it with your lips rounded and your mouth almost fully closed. Spanish examples: universo, uva, uniforme
  • Y: Pronounced the same as 'I' (see above).

And when it comes to Spanish vowels, don't forget that they often come in pairs. These vowel combinations are called diptongos (diphthongs), and they create all-new sounds out of the basic building blocks! Here are a few common ones you'll see:

  • Ai/Ay: Makes a sound like "eye." (ex. aire, hay)
  • Au: Makes a sound like "ouch." (ex. aula, causa)
  • Ei/Ey: Makes a sound like "hay." (ex. rey, reina)
  • Ue: Makes a sound like "wet." (ex. fuente, puedo)

ICYMI: Spanish vowels

If you found the above pronunciation tip a bit too abstract, check out this short video that walks you through some of the Spnaish vowel sounds.

Preview image for an Instagram video about Spanish vowels - click it to play the video

From the community

Amy Macy, Teacher
Oregon, USA

Jiveworld Español is such a great way to improve your Spanish listening and comprehension! This team’s dedication to quality content that can be adjusted and individualized for intermediate to more advanced learners is unparalleled.

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Team Jiveworld