Soft “j”, that’s how.

Colombians pronounce the double-L and y as a soft j sound, like the j in “jay”, e.g. “llegar” = “jay-gar”, “yo” = “joe”, etc.

This is in contrast with the traditional pronunciation of those two sounds that you’ll hear in Spain as well as some other countries where they’re both pronounced with a y sound, e.g. “yo” is pronounced the same way it would be in English, “llegar” is pronounced “yay-gar”, etc.

And then there’s Argentina…Che.

They pronounce those two sounds as either (depending on region) a “ch” or a “sh” sound, e.g. “llegar” is pronounced “chay-gar” or “shay-gar”, “yo” is pronounced either “cho” or “show”.

Here’s a great video (short, ~1min) of two men, one from Spain and the other from Argentina, demonstrating the differences in their pronunciation.

And here’s an audio recording of a Colombian saying “pollo” (which means “chicken”).  Sorry, I couldn’t find a video of Colombians demonstrating this particular aspect of their dialect.

Hope that helps, there will be more to come in this series.  I’m just wrapping up my trip to Colombia (leaving for Chile in a little more than a week) so I’ve got plenty of material to write about.

Important (and quick) side note before we end!

If you’re reading this you’re probably learning Spanish at a beginner or intermediate level, and if so could I recommend you quickly check out a site called Yabla? They teach you Spanish using videos made by and for natives (e.g. TV shows, movies, YouTube videos, cartoons, news and documentaries originally made in Spanish-speaking countries for native speakers) coupled with a set of tools specifically designed for that purpose which are integrated into the video player:

  • Verbatim subtitles in Spanish shown at the same time as English subtitles (you can turn either or both on or off)
  • An integrated dictionary and flashcard system that both automatically looks up a word in the subtitles when you click on it as well as adds it to your flashcards for later review
  • Exercises and quizzes about what you just watched that make you apply the new Spanish you just learned.

Check it out here (discounts for educators and institutions, by the way, I know a lot of you are teachers) or read my full review if you’d like more information (and screenshots of the system) first.



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