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Episode 44: How to Fix the Most Common Spanish Pronunciation Mistakes

    How to Fix Spanish pronunciation mistakes
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    Learn Spanish Con Salsa Podcast

    Episode 44

    How to Fix the Most Common Spanish Pronunciation Mistakes

    Interview with Andrea from Spanish Con Salsa

    Do you want to find out how to fix your Spanish pronunciation errors? In this interview with Spanish Con Salsa Coach Andrea, we’ll share the most common Spanish pronunciation mistakes made by English-speaking Spanish learners.  More importantly, we’ll give you some practical tips to fix those mistakes so you can sound more like a native Spanish speaker.


    Time Speaker Transcript
    01:34- 02:03 Tamara ¡Hola y bienvenidos! In this episode, we’re going to talk all about those pronunciation mistakes that are dead giveaways that we are not native Spanish speakers. And of course we’re going to help you fix some of those mistakes so you can sound more like a native Spanish speaker. And to help me with this topic today, we have a member of the team of Spanish con salsa Andrea, and she is here to help us really learn how to correct some of those mistakes.
    02:03- 02:13 Tamara So I want to welcome Andrea to the show ¡Hola, Andrea! ¿Cómo estás? Hi Andrea, how are you?
    02:13- 02:19 Andrea Hola Tamara, bien ¿y tú? Hi Tamara, I’m fine, and you?
    02:19- 02:19 Tamara Andrea, ¿De dónde eres? Andrea, ¿Where are from?
    02:19- 02:25 Andrea De Honduras. I’m from Honduras
    02:25- 02:25 Tamara De Honduras, y ¿en cuál ciudad de Honduras vives? From Honduras, what city do you live in?
    02:25-02:25 Andrea Yo vivo en la ciudad de Tegucigalpa I live in Tegucigalpa city.
    02:25- 11:29 Tamara Andrea, y ¿Cómo aprendiste Inglés? Andrea, how did you learn to speak English?
    02:27- 02:37 Andrea Yo aprendí Inglés en la escuela. Desde que tengo cuatro años: Kinder hasta onceavo grado. I learned at school. Since I was four years old: from kindergarten to the eighth grade.
    02:37- 02:51 Tamara Y hubo un momento en que te sentías como “Ay, por fín yo soy bilingüe, no estoy tratando de aprender Inglés pero de verdad ahora soy bilingüe!” “And was there a moment in which you felt like: “Woah, I’m finally bilingual, I’m not trying to learn English but I am actually bilingual”
    02:51 -03:15 Andrea Sí, así me sentí después de terminar el colegio. Ya cuando empecé a platicar o a hablar con muchas personas. Y me dí cuenta que practicándolo me sentía más confiada y a gusto del Inglés como segundo idioma. Yes, I felt like that right after finishing school. Once I started talking with lots of people. And I realized that while practicing it I was feeling more confident and comfortable about the English as a second language.
    03:15-03:15 Tamara Entonces la clave es la práctica. So, practice is the key.
    03:15- 03:44 Andrea Exacto, sí: si no lo practico y sólo lo aprendo como de memoria, no, para mí, no me sirve para nada, porque se olvida, lo que memorizaste se olvidó y después quieres recordar cómo se decía y, como nunca practicaste, es más difícil. Pero si lo aprendes, y lo practicas, para mi pensar, se queda por siempre. Exactly, yes; if I don’t practice it and I just learn it by heart, not for me, it is not worth it at all, because you forget it, everything you memorized is forgotten and later you want to recall what whas a word like and, since you never practiced it, it gets harder. But if you learn it, you practice it, from my point of view, it stays forever.
    03:44- 04:31 Tamara Entonces, bienvenida y vamos a cambiar al Inglés porque tenemos muchos que son principiantes en Español. So, now we’re going to switch to English because I know a lot of you are beginners. But if you have any doubts about what we just talked about, no worries, the entire transcript of our conversation today will be available on our website and you’ll be able to access that in the show notes. So let’s get into our conversation for today. So Andrea, you’ve been working with some of the members in Spanish Con Salsa and you’ve also been teaching Spanish for quite some time on your own as well. What are some of the mistakes that you’ve noticed that English speakers tend to make when speaking Spanish?
    04:31- 04:55 Andrea It will be pronouncing the letter “h” in words: That is a common mistake. Also, the double “l”and the “y”, that’s something that is kind of a challenge for people. And the letter “l”.
    04:55- 05:02 Tamara So, let’s take those one by one. When pronouncing the letter “h”: in Spanish the “h” is always silent, correct?
    05:02- 05:04 Andrea That is correct, always.
    05:04- 05:17 Tamara And I think sometimes, as English speakers when we see the “h”, we might get a little tripped up and we may forget that we’re not supposed to pronounce it. I think most of us know “hola” and we don’t usually say “hola”.
    05:17- 05:20 Andrea That is correct.
    05:20- 06:09 Tamara But there’s so many other words that have the her “h” and we sometimes just forget that it’s not supposed to be pronounced. So that can be a dead giveaway if you are trying to sound more like a native speaker. And you may be reading something in Spanish and you see the “h”. Just Remember that no matter where the “h” is in the word, you do not pronounce it. And I think one common mistake that English speakers make, is with names, right? So there’s a very popular figure in Latin America, and we usually say, from the US, Hugo Chávez, right? We usually, abandon all of our Spanish knowledge when we see names for some reason. So, Andrea tell us how we would correctly pronounce that name.
    06:09- 06:13 Andrea It will be Hugo Chávez.
    06:13- 06:31 Tamara So, Hugo without the “h”. Not, Hugo, Okay? And Chávez. So the “ch” sound, I think a lot of us sometimes say “Shavez”, like a [ʃ] sound in English instead of [tʃə] like Chávez.
    06:31- 06:32 Andrea That’s correct.
    06:32- 07:17 Tamara So that name I think really highlights a lot of mistakes that English speakers make because you have first the “h” righ? Which is not pronounced. Then you have the letter “u” , which sometimes, we would say Hugo. So it’s “Hugo” and then Chavez, we have that, “ch”, which is never the [ʃ] sound. It’s always like [tʃ] “choo choo train”. So that’s another thing to remember. And the last thing in that name is actually the “z” at the end. Andrea, how is the “z” pronounced in Spanish? And I know this could be a little bit different depending on Spanish from Spain or Spanish from Latin American.
    07:17- 07:22 Andrea The way we pronounce that is like an S.
    07:22- 07:28 Tamara So the “Z” is always a [s] sound. So, it wouldn’t be Chavez, it would be Chavez.
    07:28- 07:44 Andrea That is correct. In Spain it will be Hugo Chavez. They can pronounce the Z in a different way. But in general, most of the Latin American countries, it’s just an “s”.
    07:44- 08:16 Tamara So the “z” is generally pronounced like an “s”, but if you run into any Spanish speakers from Spain, it’ll sound more like a lisp or it’ll be like the “th” sound in English. So it’d sound like [tʃʌveθ] or like the [θ] in the word thought something like that. Which I think is a little weird actually. I actually prefer the Latin American accent to me it sounds like a lisp.
    08:16- 08:19 Andrea For me it’s better and I think it’s easier sometimes.
    08:19- 09:09 Tamara It’s definitely much easier when you see the “z”. Just think of it as an “s”. so no sort of hard English [Z] sound. It’s always [s]. So we talked about a couple of different things just with that one name he talks about, not pronouncing the “h”, we talked about the letter “u” always being the [u:] sound. We talked about “ch” being the [tʃ] sound. I’m going to talk about “z” being the [s] sound. And another, letter actually in the same name (I think we could do a whole episode just on Hugo Chavez) Is the letter “b” in English. Can you explain a little bit about the difference between what we call an English, the “b” versus the “v” in Spanish.
    09:09- 09:53 Andrea “b” and “v” sound the same; like in “botar” and “votar”, like “botar” with a “b” will be like “to throw something away” like “throw that to the garbage” Like “botar a la basura” y también “votar” with a “v” will be like “vote”: “I’m going to go vote for a new president”.
    09:53- 09:42 Tamara So explain: How do you spell the “botar” that means “to throw something away” versus the “votar” that means “to go vote”?
    09:53- 10:07 Andrea “botar” to throw something away will be B-O-T-A-R and “votar” “to vote” will be V-O-T- A- R.
    10:07- 10:38 Tamara Those ones pretty much sound the same. And I think from an English speaker’s perspective, this can kind of throw us off a little bit because we’re used to pronouncing the “v” in English, which has a much stronger sound. And when people tell us: “Oh, the bee”b”and the “v” are the same, I think sometimes we can hear that there’s a slight difference. But as English speakers we tend to overemphasize that letter “v”. So, what’s the names of the letter “b”and letter “v’ in Spanish?
    10:38- 10:45 Andrea “b” will be “be” and “v” will be “uve”.
    10:45- 11:33 Tamara And do you have any tips on how to pronounce those letters? Because I think that, even the way that we pronounce the “b” in Spanish, which is a little bit stronger than a native speaker. So just reading this sort of, as a native English speaker, I might look at it and say [voʊtɜ:ʳ] so explain how that’s wrong and how we can fix it, so we don’t sound like we have a really strong accent. It will be [boʊtɜ:ʳ] that just like the same, flow in the letters. You don’t need to emphasize the “v” or the “t” or the “a” it will be “botar” that. It’s like the same flow with both of them.
    11:33- 11:57 Tamara So, I think in general that the “b” in Spanish is a little bit softer than the “b” in English. So we’re used to sound sort of “v” and we really pressed our lips together, kind of with more force, whereas the “v” in Spanish is more of a soft sound. So, you touch your lips together, but you don’t press them together. So, hard.
    11:57- 12:26 Tamara So it’s [bɔ:tɜ:ʳ] instead of [boʊtɜ:ʳ]. But just to illustrate the point, that’s kind of what you’re doing with your lips. It’s a soft touch. And I think in general as English speakers, what would really fix our accent a lot is just being a little bit softer with most of the letters because I think, just in general, English tends to have stronger sounds, especially for some of the continents.
    12:26- 13:34 Tamara So even when we look at the letters and we say: -Oh, “b” in Spanish, the same as “b” in English. And then we listen to a native speaker and we go, but why don’t I sound like them? Well it’s because the letter really isn’t exactly the same, even though we might recognize it because we’re using a very similar alphabet, the sound is really very different when we pay attention. So that [b] sound in English is really [b]; it’s a much softer than in Spanish. Yeah, that’s just a good general tip if you’re trying to improve your pronunciation. So I think we’ve talked about every letter in the name Hugo Chávez. So let’s move on to another mistake that you mentioned earlier. And this is with what we call an English, a double “l” and the”y”. So, can you explain a little bit about first, what do we call those letters in Spanish and then explain how we pronounce them correctly. Because I think as English speakers we tend to think of both of these letters like the English letter “y”. So we would tend to pronounce it more like [i:eɪ]. Which I think is incorrect. So can you explain a little bit about how to pronounce the double “l” and the “y”?
    13:34- 13:43 Andrea Yeah, it will be the double “l” “doble ele” and the “y” will be “i griega” o “ye’.
    13:43- 13:51 Tamara And are there certain countries where they call it “ye” versus “i griega” or are both just correct?
    13:51- 14:05 Andrea Both are correct. That’s a good question cause I don’t know if in some country that it’s just, they just call it sort of way, but, both are correct. It will be “ye” or “i griega”.
    14:05- 14:21 Tamara This letter can also be confusing, because I know in different regions the pronunciation can be a little bit different. But if you can just give us the most, neutral approach to how we would pronounce the “doble ele” and the “ye”.
    14:21- 15:03 Andrea “Doble ele”, for example, en “calle”: “calle”, is C-A-L-L-E. (And I’m just talking English and Spanish now) C-A-L-L-E. so it will be “calle” the Y for example “Yo”. It sounds the same, but if we are using it in the word “voy”, it sounds like an “i”. So it depends on what words using it makes a difference on that pronunciation. Because the “y” can be like a “double L”, but in some words it can be like an “i”.
    15:03- 15:17 Tamara You mentioned the word “voy” and you said that “ye” sounds more like the letter “i” in the, in the word “voy”. But can you give us some examples of where it sounds more like “doble ele”
    15:17- 15:24 Andrea “Yo”, “yoyo”, “yegua” “yerno”.
    15:24- 15:56 Tamara So let’s take the most common word that I think most people already would use day to day and that’s “yo”. So I think as English speakers we would have the tendency to pronounce this, [joʊ] We would simply say [jɔ:], so help us with that: How do we correct that pronunciation to get it from [i:oʊ] which is how we would say it in English to say it the way a Spanish speaker would say it, the way I’ve heard it explained before is like the “j” in the word “jeans”.
    15:56- 16:03 Andrea It’s like say “jeans” and then say “yo”: “jeans”- “yo”. It’s like a “j” in English.
    16:03- 16:16 Tamara So using the letter “j” in the word “jeans” will get us a little bit closer to sounding more like a native Spanish speaker. So, does that also go for the “doble ele” as well is it the same sound?
    16:16- 16:30 Andrea Yes, it will be the same like “calle” that means “street” and also the word “lluvia”, that means “rain”. It sounds the same.
    16:30- 17:22 Tamara So anytime you see the “doble ele” or the “ye” or “i griega”, just think about the letter “j” and the word “jeans” and you’ll be a lot closer in your pronunciation than using the English “y” sound. Okay, and the other example that you mentioned, Andrea, is the letter “l”, so I noticed in English that, even though, again, this is one of those letters that we look at and we think that: Hey, that’s the exact same as it is in English! I know how to pronounce that! We really don’t pronounce the “l” the same way. I think it can be a dead giveaway when we go to greet someone and we say, [oʊlɑ:]. And the reason why is because we’re not pronouncing the “l” the same way a native Spanish speaker would. So Andrea, can you pronounce that word for us so we can hear the difference between how a native Spanish speaker would say it and saying “hola”?.
    17:22- 17:26 Andrea Instead of [oʊlɑ:] will be [ɔ:lɑ:].
    17:26- 17:33 Tamara How do we make that sound? Can you explain sort of what’s the position of your tongue in your mouth? How is it different than saying [oʊlɑ:]
    17:33- 17:57 Andrea Instead of [oʊlɑ:] will be [ɔ:lɑ:] like “lola”, “libro”. So you put your tongue on the roof of your mouth just for a second; don’t live it there to make it like, [ɔ:lɑ:] just like “cola” if you do it fast. Okay.
    17:57- 19:06 Tamara So it’s a much quicker sound than I think in English. And it’s also like you mentioned, your tongue goes a little more on the roof of your mouth instead of in English. I think our tongue tends to be more relaxed when we say the, the letter “r” and it’s a longer sound. So just kind of switching your tongue position and shortening the sound, you can go from sounding like a “gringo” saying [oʊlɑ:] to saying, [ɔ:lɑ:] and you also open up your mouth a little bit more when you say that, because it really allows you to get your tongue in the correct position. So think about kind of smiling as you say “hello”. That might also help you get your tongue where it needs to be. And just remember it’s a quicker sound. So don’t drag it out, make it a quicker sound, and just that one little tiny tweak will make your pronunciation sound a lot more natural. So, I hope that these tips helped you improve your pronunciation just a bit. I want to thank Andrea for joining us to give us a native Spanish speaker’s perspective on how to pronounce some of these letters that give us trouble. So gracias, Andrea.
    19:06- 19:11 Andrea De nada, Tamara, un gusto.
    19:11 -20:08 Tamara I hope you found this conversation helpful. It can be very difficult to keep in mind all of the things that we need to remember when we’re learning Spanish, but just with some of the small tweaks that we talked about in this episode, you can really begin to improve your accent. If you want to get deeper into this and really work on focusing on improving your Spanish pronunciation, you can enroll in the Spanish pronunciation mastery course. Now, this is a video course that goes letter by letter, sound by sound, through the entire Spanish alphabet, and it gives you tips on how to pronounce each consonant and vowel properly. We also get into some of the pronunciation rules as it relates to syllables, connecting words together, accent. So we really go letter by letter through the alphabet, and we also help you have different letter combinations so you know exactly how to pronounce any word that you come across in Spanish and pronounce it properly.
    20:08-21:04 Tamara And one of the great things about this course is not only do we give you practice drills, but we also give you personalized feedback so you’re able to record yourself and send it to our team of Spanish coaches and we will give you feedback on how to improve your pronunciation and also tell you what you’re doing right. Now, this is critical because oftentimes when we’re talking to our friends that speak Spanish or in a language exchange or even talking to a tutor, they generally don’t give us this type of feedback. Mainly because they’re usually focusing on our grammar or vocabulary or word usage, but they’re really not focused on the particulars of our pronunciation. And usually it’s because they just accept that we’re going to have an accent because we’re native English speakers. But you can improve your accent if you focus on it. We make it super easy in the Spanish pronunciation mastery course because we give you specific exercises to practice for each sound in the Spanish language.
    21:04- 21:57 Tamara And as you know, I’m always looking out for the listeners of the Learn Spanish Con Salsa podcast. So if you go to the show note’s page, you’ll get a special discount that’s only available to podcast listeners. Just go to learnspanishconsalsa.com/fixmyaccent that’s learnspanishconsalsa.com/fixmyaccent, and you’ll be able to get a special discount code for the Spanish pronunciation mastery course. I’d love to hear your feedback about this episode. Feel free to leave a comment on the show note’s page, or you can reach us on Instagram @learnspanishconsalsa. I really hope you learned something in this episode that will take you one step further from being a Spanish beginner to bilingual. Adios.

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