Spanish is a phonetic language and is fairly easy to pronounce, but there are some major sounds that differ from the way they are pronounced in French. Some of these sounds, such as the trilled rr sound, do not exist in French so present a challenge for French speakers to learn. Practice is the answer: by repeating new sounds, speaking at a normal conversational level your mouth will learn how to produce them correctly. Here are five useful tips to help you to master the basics of Spanish pronunciation.
Learn The Basics
In a Spanish word, you should nearly always pronounce every vowel and consonant.
Spanish vowels have only one sound each, which makes Spanish spelling simple to learn.
- a in the Spanish word casa sounds like the a in father
- e in mesa is short as in get
- i in partir is pronounced as in machine
- o in loco – as in open
- u in uso is pronounced as in spoon
Spanish also makes frequent use of diphthongs and triphthongs. The separate sounds must be pronounced quickly and correctly.
- [ai]or [ay], as in Spanish hay sounds like the English word ice
- [au] in aumento is pronounced as in cow
- [ei] or [ey] in the Spanish words veinte and rey sounds like the English may
- [oi] or [oy] in voy – as in toy
- [eu] in Spanish Europa, sounds as in Amadeus (two sounds in this case)
- Stress: In Spanish the stress usually falls on the next to last syllable. however some words are stressed on the third from last or last syllable. Sometimes an accent is placed on top of a vowel to indicate where the stress falls.
While many consonants sound the same in Spanish and English, some are pronounced quite differently.
- b and v as in bueno and vino are both pronounced as a bilabial v as in baby.
- d following l or n, or between vowels, is pronounced like th in that.
- h is silent in Spanish and is never aspirated as in hasta, helado, hospital
- j in jugar and Juanis pronounced like the English h as in hello.
- ñ as in caño, niño, is pronounced as in English canyon, onion
- r as in primero is pronounced with a soft trill with the tip of the tongue just touching the alveolar ridge.
- rr r at the beginning of a word or between vowels is pronounced rr with a strong trill as in radio
- q as in queso is pronounced as c as in cat – the u is always silent
- z as in calza is pronounced as s
Listen to Spanish being spoken as much as possible. Listen to Spanish radio programmes and download podcasts in the language. Listen to Spanish songs: video clips with lyrics are an excellent way of improving pronunciation as well as increasing vocabulary. Watch films in Spanish with subtitles in the same language and try to imitate the accent you hear.
Speak Spanish as much as possible. Try a language exchange to immerse yourself in the culture of the country. Find a native speaker of the language and ask them to correct your accent. Record yourself speaking Spanish and listen carefully to spot areas that need improvement.
A light-hearted way to speed up your Spanish conversation and improve your pronunciation is to practice trabalenguas or tongue twisters, for example:
¡Qué triste estás, Tristán, con tan tétrica trama teatral!
El niño está sosegado. ¿Quién lo desasosegará? El desasosegador que lo desasosiegue, buen desasosegador será.
En la población de Puebla, pueblo muy poblado, hay una plaza pública poblada de pueblerinos.
Learning Spanish may seem difficult at first but is an exciting challenging that can be extremely rewarding. if you are tempted to give up, remember that practice makes perfect so take every opportunity to speak and listen to Spanish and you will soon improve.