Spanish speakers – 5 things to avoid (not ‘aboid’)

Mar 4, 2018 | Blog

Georgie Taylor

Speech Pathologist

These 5 English pronunciation tips for Spanish speakers are a little introduction to improving your English pronunciation. We have many Spanish speaking students who take our courses to improve their spoken English for job interviews or to communicate better at work.

Please read on to find out what you should change so people understand your English easily!

[1] Speaking too fast

Yes -it’s true… Spanish speakers are infamous for speaking English too fast! The easiest thing you can do to make things better for your listener is to not speak English very fast. Practice slowing down your English. You will notice things improve – I promise! When Spanish speakers speak English very fast their English often becomes very flat  – by this I mean that they don’t use the correct syllable stress (emphasis) on the right syllables in words and sentences. This makes your English.

Remember that in the professional environment English speakers don’t tend to speak very fast. They use a good rate of speech that allows their listener to take in their message. Start controlling your rate of speech today.

Practise opening your mouth!

[2]  Making vowels too short

As you know, in Spanish there are only 5 vowels. Easy! Well, in English there are over 20 and there are 3 types – short vowels, long vowels and double (diphthong) vowels.

For a better English accent you should improve your pronunciation of these. The main ones you should correct are the long vowel /i:/ like in ‘week’, and the double vowels /oʊ/, like in ‘hope’ and /eɪ/, like in ‘main’. Correcting the long vowel /i:/ means that are not swearing when you say words like ‘sheet’ and ‘beach’ but it is also important for being clear.

I look at a pink pot and a rat on a mat

The double vowels /oʊ/ and /eɪ/ are very common in English and are very important for speaking clear English.  When you say ‘note’ does it sound more like ‘not’ or ‘naught’? When you say ‘coat’ does it sound more like ‘cot’ or ‘caught’? When you say words like ‘aim’ or ‘main’ in a sentence, do they sound shorter than a native speaker – so ‘aim’ sounds more like ’em’ and ‘main’ sounds more like ‘men’.

For many Spanish speakers distinguishing between the short vowel ‘o’ like in ‘not’, the long vowel ‘or’ like in ‘naught’ and the double vowel /oʊ/ like in ‘note’ is difficult. With the double vowel /eɪ/ most Spanish speakers make a vowel more like the short vowel /e/. Correcting these errors will improve your clarity in English.

[3] Making errors with consonants

Do you sometimes say ‘Nobember’ instead of ‘November’? Do you say ‘abailable’ instead of ‘available’. Do you sometimes say ‘yob’ instead of ‘job’ or have difficulty with the sounds ‘sh’ and ‘ch’.  These are all common problems for Spanish speakers. The first step is to hear and feel the difference between these sounds. Start to pay careful attention to your mouth movements when you speak English. Make sounds in front of the mirror. Listen carefully to how you sound when you speak English. Recording yourself can be a helpful first step – you need to hear the sounds before you can change them.

[4] Speaking flat English

Where do you put the syllable stress is words like ‘development’ and ‘product’? If your answer was ‘I don’t know’ then you need to become aware of the emphasis and stress in English multi-syllable words. If you think these words are flat, you also need to become aware of stress in English multi-syllable words – there are no multi-syllable words in English that have flat stress.  Many Spanish speakers use very flat stress in English words, this makes their pronunciation more difficult to understand so listeners have to concentrate more to catch their words.

The syllable stress should be on ‘VEL’ in deVELopment and ‘PRO’ in ‘PROduct’. If you put the stress on other syllables you need to work on improving this important area. Also, Spanish speakers often put the stress on the wrong syllables in words. This makes their speech unclear.

Research shows that it’s the most important area affecting how clear your English is. Flat English is unclear English. From today start to pay attention to way that native speakers go up and down with the pitch of their voice (the music).

Here’s another example – in the word ‘realise’ the stress is on the first part ‘REAlise’, many Spanish speakers pronounce it incorrectly and put the stress on the last part (reaLISE). Another example is the word ‘suburb’. Which part of ‘suburb’ do you stress? All the stress should be on the first part ‘SUburb’….it is not pronounced ‘suBURB’.

If you use flat stress or incorrect stress people will find you unclear, especially on the phone or in noisy environments.

For more help with syllable stress in English sign up to our 5 free lessons. Lesson number 5, the last lessons focuses on making the correct syllable stress and emphasis in English words.

Great – these English pronunciation tips for Spanish speakers are a starting point to get you thinking about your English pronunciation and how to improve it.

For specialised, step-by-step training for Spanish speakers enroll in our 15 week online course Clear, Confident English for Spanish Speakers. You will improve your pronunciation, listening skills, grammar, vocabulary, expression and confidence.

Please call us to chat about your English pronunciation.

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