If you’re shy about speaking Spanish, you’re not alone. Even if you feel comfortable reading and writing it, speaking it can be nerve-wracking! Check out these tips from tutor Emmanuel N. to learn how to pronounce Spanish words quickly and efficiently…
As you’re learning Spanish, you may notice that reading it and writing it is often the “easy” part. Many people agree that speaking Spanish is the hard part. Wondering why that is? Usually it’s because learning how to pronounce Spanish words takes time. We’ve all heard the stereotypical American way of speaking Spanish, in which the language is utterly butchered:
Fortunately, most Spanish learners do not speak this way. However, some Spanish learners still have trouble getting the accent and pronunciation correct. This is one reason why you might not like talking in Spanish – you might feel embarrassed. With that said, allow me to help you, my Spanish learners.
Common Problems For Spanish Learners
In my experience, most Spanish learners have difficulty with the different sounds that Spanish words ask of them. Below are the most common problems:
1) Putting emphasis on the wrong syllable on a word with an accent mark, e.g. “obstáculo,” which means “obstacle.” People can sometimes mispronounce it like this:
…when the correct way is this:
2) Not putting enough force on the beginning of a word, e.g. “el gato” which means “the cat.” People sometimes say the word like this:
…when it really should be said like this:
3) Failing to pronounce words with “r’s” and “rr’s” correctly, e.g. “es caro” and “el carro,” which means “it’s cheap” and “the car” respectively. People sometimes pronounce both words like this:
…or both words like this:
When the correct way is this:
Spanish relies heavily on pronunciation, so if you don’t pronounce words correctly, it becomes extremely difficult for others to understand you!
That’s why I recommend trying to mimic the sounds that Spanish speakers make as you learn. I, for one, never spoke Spanish despite knowing it growing up. I never had the accent Latinos had because I spoke only English for school. But then I practiced for years with my family, cousins, and friends, and though I do not have the perfect Latino accent, I am able to pronounce words correctly and be understood by anyone.
Tips For How to Pronounce Spanish Words
Remembering how to pronounce Spanish words can be tricky if you’re not Latino or if you didn’t grow up in a household where people spoke Spanish on a daily basis. If you were never exposed to the accent and the proper way of speaking the language, then you naturally use your natural tongue (i.e. your own accent from your language) to speak Spanish – hence the Spanish we all know of when we think of a stereotypical American trying to speak it. Here are some tips for learning to speak Spanish properly:
- Watch TV shows and movies either in Spanish or translate them in Spanish (i.e. SAP). By listening to Spanish speakers, you’ll hear how the words are meant to be spoken. Keep in mind, though, that dialects do exist in all Spanish-speaking countries, so the words might sound different depending on what show or movie you’re watching.
- Listen to and sing along to Spanish songs. Some Spanish songs have words that are sung slower than they are normally spoken, thus making it easier for Spanish learners to hear how they are pronounced. Singing along helps more than just listening because you are practicing the words and sounding (singing) them out like the singer.
- Ask your Spanish-speaking friends to help you. Ask them to have conversations with you. Ask them to read Spanish words and sentences out loud for you, slowly if need be. Also, try speaking in front of them and ask for feedback to find out where you are having trouble.
- Keep your Spanish lessons consistent, and ask your tutor for extra “homework” if you’re struggling!
Learning any language is hard as it is, but being able to speak it and pronounce words correctly can be a whole different challenge. But like with everything, practice makes perfect!
Interested in studying Spanish with a tutor? Search for a Spanish tutor today!
Emmanuel M. teaches Spanish online. A California State University, Fullerton graduate and native Spanish speaker, he also teaches essay writing, study skills, and singing. Learn more about Emmanuel here!
Photo by ismael villafranco