How to Improve Pronunciation When Speaking Spanish

Ready for a public speaking in Spanish
“Microphones” flickr photo shared by Håkan Dahlström under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Pronunciation is a challenge for those who want to learn to speak Spanish.  Although Spanish is famous for being easy to speak as words are pronounced the same way they are spelled, there is still a twist of the tongue to master in order to speak like a true native.  If you’re looking to perfect your accent, consider some of the following tips and tricks:

Sing Songs in Spanish

To work on your pronunciation, repetition and practice are key. To keep things from getting boring, try learning some songs in Spanish and belt them out.  Sing while in the shower, making dinner and in the car, all the while working on your Spanish pronunciation.  Some great Spanish speaking singers to look for on Youtube that won’t disappoint you are Juan Luis Guerra, Juanes, Alejandro Sanz, Ana Toroja and Ella Baila Sola.

Learn Some Spanish Tongue Twisters

Nothing gets your tongue moving quite like a tongue twister.  By practicing tongue twisters in Spanish, you’ll improve your agility when speaking and be able to practice tough pronunciations by repeating them over and over.  Then your normal Spanish speaking will seem like a breeze.  For native English speakers, the most difficult part of Spanish is often the regular “r” and the double r.  To practice the double r, try rolling an r for as long as you can.  Time yourself.  Have a competition with a friend.  By isolating your rolling r, you’ll be ready to use it.  Below are some tongue twisters to try with a special focus on the r and double r.

Tres tristes tigres tragaban trigo en un trigal

Un burro comía berros y el perro se los robó, el burro lanzó un rebuzno, y el perro al barro cayó.

Erre con “erre” cigarro,
“erre” con “erre” barril.
Rápido corren los carros,
Cargados de azúcar del ferrocarril.

Looking for more twisters?  This site has a wealth of Spanish tongue twisters to explore.

Listen, listen, listen

Listening to native speakers and imitating them is necessary to be able to speak like a true native Spanish speaker.  Whenever you get the chance, listen to Spanish radio, watch Spanish TV or movies and speak with native Spanish speakers.  Pay special attention to the way they pronounce the words, noticing the way they pronounce the vowels and how the syllables sound.  Many native English speakers make the mistake of pronouncing the “s” as a “z” for example when saying “Rosa” they’ll say “Roza.”  By listening carefully, you’ll start to notice the pronunciation errors that you make.

Watch Mouths

While you’re watching Spanish TV or hanging out with Spanish speakers, notice the way their mouths move.   It may sound a bit odd, but by noticing where they place their tongue or the shape of their mouths, you may be able to better imitate a true Spanish accent.  If you’re comfortable enough with a native Spanish speaker, ask them to show you in slow motion how they pronounce a word that’s difficult for you.  It’s incredible what accurate tongue placement will do to help you pronounce each word like a pro.

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