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Readers Respond: Advice for Improving Your Spanish Pronunciation

Responses: 18

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From the article: Spanish Pronunciation
No matter how many words you know and how well you know grammar, you're not going to be effective in communicating in Spanish unless you master the language's pronunciation. If you have been able to accomplish that, please share with our readers what has been most helpful for you. Thanks!

Time and help from native speakers

You will catch some of your own mispronunciations over time and can work on them, but native speakers will point out mispronunciations of mine that sound just fine to me. It's frustrating because I often can't hear the difference between what they say and what I say, but they certainly can. Words that currently confound me contain "bolb" or "volv" such as "devolver." There's something about that "volv" that eludes me.
—RexFury

serious help

All of the comments I read are nice, but I have to say that a class I had with Dr. Bob Philips at Miami University long ago was incredibly helpful. We were learning phonetics and he made us write out sentences in one long word and then divide it into syllables. mihermanomiguelesmuyinteligenteysimpatico. You realize how and why the words seem to run together, they do because when you are speaking its all one word with syllables from the capital to the full stop or comma. We also learned how to pronounce the vowels as short and the p with our hand in front of our mouths - you don't feel any air as when you make the p sound in English. 18 yrs later, I still value that class and wish I had taken a similar one for French so I could teach my Aussie students to pronounce French well!
—Guest Lesly Windle

Practice makes perfect

I have found that practicing over and over again helps so much, especially if you can get your teacher or a Spanish person to hear it so you can then learn for next time.
—Guest marissa

Front of the mouth

I find that focusing on the correct pronunciation of the vowels (a, e, i, o, u) automatically brings Spanish to the front of the mouth and therefore less English accent. Spanish is a language that is centered in the front of the mouth rather than the back of the throat where one forms more of the English sounds.
—Guest Mary Jo Carson

Pronunciation

Obviously, interacting with native speakers (and I try to as often as possible with people in my area)/ But listening carefully to Spanish-language TV is very helpful. I love Mexican cooking shows -- I can learn wonderful recipes and practice pronunciation at the same time.
—Baobhan_sidhe

Spanish isn't English

Accept that Spanish is not pronounced as English! Many people just speak Spanish like another dialect of English with different words.
—Guest JJ

Mastering Spanish pronunciation

Es que algunas personas tienen una "oreja" (an ear) para aprender idiomas con un acento parecido a los hablantes nativos y algunas, hagan lo que hagan, no pueden adaptar sus lenguas a los sonidos porque es muy difícil hacerlo. Tengo la fortuna de tener esta capacidad a copiar los sonidos de cualquiera lengua que aprendo casi perfectamente (hablaba árabe y francés también con un acento muy bien, o mejor dicho, sin acento).
—Guest knitaluthria@gmailcom

Watch out for the D

I agree with Guest Ducktart. I would add that I used to feel silly when I pronounced the "i" (ee). It felt almost like pretending. Sometimes you have to feel like you are exaggerating to get the sound right. Of course there are the rolled r's that must be practiced and practiced. But even though I have an accent, I can hear the worst offenders of the non-native speakers. One of the worst offenders is the "d" sound. Most non-native speakers pronounce it like in English, very hard. Even at the beginning of a word, it is never as hard as English. Although the "d" is not a "th" sound, it is much closer to that than our English hard "d." Practice that over and over. It will pay off. I've heard native English speakers who are fluent in Spanish that murder the pronunciation with their "d" sounds.
—Guest Ron

Read out loud

I am reading children's books out loud to a Latina friend. She corrects me when I say a word wrong.
—Guest Trisha

Add a phonetics course

Mimicry, practice and association with native speakers are excellent ideas. And when the opportunity presents itself, add taking a phonetics course in the target language. Spanish-language students with several years of grammar and literature courses find their pronunciation markedly improved by simply learning the rule-governed nature of the sound system.
—Guest Avila

Mastering the accent

Mastering the accent, if there is such a thing is best accomplished by living in the country in which the language is spoken (duh!!!). Some tips I learned in a college class were to look at common words in Spanish and determine which types of words are best "joined or merged" together to make one word. We (those with English as a first language) do this all the time. For example, Ana anda a Anapolis con Nadia. Join Ana, anda, a, and Anapolis as well as con Nadia to make things sound smooth. Tip #2. Speed does not equal the sound of a native tongue. Being smooth is more important even if you slow things down. Also, try softening the letters that come out of your mouth. Learning to roll your r's is a biggy but not crucial, as some native speakers cannot. Don't overdo it, though. Finally, look for natural breaks in a sentence. Meaning, find natural pauses, so if you need to compose yourself, it sounds like you are taking a break, and not searching for the correct word.
—Guest puravida34

Listen!

I speak English, Spanish, and Portuguese and have been able to develop a very good accent for all of the languages... I can even change my accents when I speak, or just speak comfortably. I find for me, that the best way to develop the accent is to LISTEN to the accent and have fun mimicing it. Here is how its done: Find a famous person with an accent that you like, then go to youtube and watch some interviews of that person (find one that you like and refer back to it to check your understanding), research the accent and why it sounds the way it does (Wikipedia will work for that)... then find some good music from an artist who speaks with the target accent, and LISTEN to it (joke around, mimic the accent, repeat words/sentences without the accent and then with the accent)... You can even do a google search for internet tv from the country of your target language.... AND LISTEN... The truth is, you have to have fun, be interested, research it, and practice a little every day.
—Guest ModernMogul

Letter by letter

I think learning the correct pronunciation of the alphabet helps a great deal. Spanish seems to be quite phonetic.
—Guest leslie dumont

Practice with native speakers

I have developed friendships with many Hispanic friends. Because of our relationship, we feel safe to help each other. If I say something and they look blank, then I know that either I wasn't thinking "Spanish" or my pronunciation was wrong. Sometimes both in English and Spanish, a person can say one vowel sound incorrectly and the listener's mind doesn't compute it. I have improved my pronunciation not only by listening to music and other Hispanic media, but by asking for help from my friends. I have been corrected a lot about the rolling of my R's. I think that I always do when appropriate, but they roll them more often than I have realized. So now, I have noticed that when I put more emphases on doing this, they seem to approve more. Little details like that enable me to be more understood.
—Guest jcrickey

Learning Pronunciation

I bought the Spanish Accent Maestro from Learning Like Crazy. I sit at my computer learning to trill my "rr's" for at least 10 minutes a day. .. I'm getting closer.
—caniches

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