Diphthong Mnemonic: The Spanish Language Is Greater Than You & I
In Spanish, two vowels side-by-side may be pronounced as one syllable or two syllables, depending on the vowels in question. (Note that the order of the vowels doesn’t matter.)
“Strong Vowels”: A E O
“Weak Vowels”: U I
• 2 strong vowels together = 2 separate syllables
aeropuerto: a – e – ro – puer – to
• 2 weak vowels together = 1 syllable (diphthong)
ciudad: ciu – dad
• 1 strong vowel + 1 weak vowel together = 1 syllable (diphthong)
pueblo: pue – blo
An accent mark on a weak vowel will undo what would otherwise be one syllable.
día: di – a
The true pronunciation of aeropuerto still kind of messes with my mind. I also used to think of ciudad as 3 syllables. That’s the whole idea behind having the mnemonic.
As for the mnemonic itself, it’s simple and pretty self-explanatory – just convert “you & I” to “U & I”, and those are the two things noted as being smaller or weaker than something else. It helps you remember which two vowels are the “weak vowels”. As for the rest of the rules, one could make up something like the following: Two “strong vowels” side-by-side will each demand their own limelight; they each demand to be pronounced separately. Conversely, two “weak vowels” will band together to be pronounced.
Of minor interest is the fact that if you perhaps disagree with the jingle, in its surface-level reading, then that mental dissonance would, in general, probably create a more effective mnemonic for you.