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JP: I want to do the top 5 pronunciation tips so you don’t sound gringo-fabulous. Now this is a way to improve your Spanish accent so you sound a little bit more like a native speaker, like you Fernando.
Fernando: If you are a non-American English speaker…
JP: Which many of you are, I know
Fernando: …you will basically learn how to improve your Spanish accent
JP: This hold for everybody. But some of the pitfalls that I’m going to talk about today are specifically pitfalls that Americans do and I know because I hear them all the time as a Spanish teacher.
One of them is that the vowels are always the same. You see a letter /a/ it’s always an [long-a] It’s never an [short-a] or an /i/ or an /e/. It’s always an [long-a]. Ok so what’s a word with a lot of [long-a]? How about the word for illiterate.
Fernando: Analfabeta
JP: Analfabeta. All of those are the same. An-al-fa-bet-a. So all those /a/ make the [long-a] sound. They never make the [uh] sound. If I saw the word and I wanted to sound gringo-fabulous I might say: an-el-fe-bet-a
Fernando: You sound a little tired
JP: Is that what gringo-fabulous sounds like to you, a little lazy?
Fernando: Maybe a little lazy, not too much spunk.
JP: Ok so Spanish has spunky vowels. Let’s do one with an /o/
Fernando: Osmosis
JP: Osmosis. In English if you see that word, it is an English word… osmosis. And when we say it in English those /o/s make different sounds. Os-mo-sis, [long-o] and [short-o]. In Spanish when you see that word you’re going to say
Fernando: osmosis
JP: Osmosis so [short-o] and [short-o]
Fernando: You don’t hear any change in the two /o/s that are pronounced
JP: Now that hold true with /a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ and /u/
The next thing you can do to improve your pronunciation in Spanish is get the /r/s and the /d/s straight, especially if you’re American like me.
Fernando: Sí por favor
JP: So as Fernando just demonstrated that /r/ is going to make that [rolling-r] sound. Now to illustrate the point I am going to use a word with a /r/. Give me a word with a /r/
Fernando: Toro
JP: Ok this is the word for the bull right? You scream it at the bullfight when you’re tired of the matador.
Fernando: You can do that
JP: Ok so toro. That’s /t-o-r-o/, toro. Now there’s another word in Spanish that means “all”
Fernando: Todo
JP: Todo. This is with a /d/ right? /t-o-d-o/. Now some of us, including me when I first started, when I saw the word /t-o-d-o/ I said “todo”
Fernando: Sounds just like “toro”
JP: It sounds just like the word for bull. The reason why is that I was doing an American thing to that /d/. The American thing I was doing was flapping it. So I was going “todo,” that’s the word for bull. So if you do American things to that /d/ it’s going to end up sounding like a Spanish /r/. So you want to do Spanish things to that /d/ and in Spanish it’s called la /d/ and it’s a lighter /d/ and when I say it my tongue is between my teeth. So that word that means “all” is “todo.” “Todo” to a Spanish-speaker’s ears sounds totally different than “toro”
Fernando: Yes it sounds different, it sounds correct
JP: Ok, that’s the second tip I’ve got three more to go. The next one is all about aspiration, linguistic aspiration.
Fernando: I’m not familiar with that
JP: What happens is English speakers add a puff of air after certain consonants when we begin a word. So in English when I say the word /p-o-t/ I say “pot” and if I say it slow you can hear a little bit of a puff of air behind my /p/, “pot.” If that /p/ is not at the beginning I don’t have to have that puff of air. So if I start the word with an /s/ I can say “spot.” “Spot” doesn’t have any kind of aspiration on that /p/
Fernando: No, not that I’m aware of
JP: So when you start speaking Spanish you can’t use any aspiration at all otherwise you start sounding gringo-fabulous. So let’s take Spanish words that start with /p/
Fernando: How about “pasado”
JP: “Pasado.” That’s the word for “past” right?
Fernando: Yes
JP: Now if I did aspiration like in English it would be “pasado”
Fernando: “Pasado”
JP: And that sounds super gringo-fabulous. This point I’m making about aspiration holds with /p/s. It also holds with /t/s. In English I can say the opposite of bottom is top and you hear me aspirating “top.” If I put an /s/ in front of that word, “stop,” I don’t aspirate the /t/. Now let’s take a word in Spanish that starts with a /t/
Fernando: Tomas
JP: Tomas, this is a dude’s name right?
Fernando: This is a dude’s name, yes
JP: Ok so “Tomas,” you can hear that I’m not aspirating it. If I say it in a gringo-fabulous accent, “Tomas,” you can clearly hear the difference. So it’s /p/s, it’s /t/s, it’s also /k/s, like the /k/ sound, even if it’s the letter /c/
Fernando: So “Carla”
JP: “Carla.” So Carla in Spanish is…
Fernando: is “Carla”
JP: “Carla,” right. Now if I say the English version, “Carla,” you can hear the aspiration, right?
Fernando: Right
JP: In Spanish, “Carla”
Fernando: What about /q/ JP?
JP: What about /q/? If it has that /k/ sound, if it has the [k] sound, then it counts
Fernando: Yeah, kind of like a delicious quesadilla
JP: Quesadilla. Ok so if you say it in English, you can hear the aspiration in that initial sound. So you hear, “quesadilla.” If you say it in Spanish…
Fernando: Quesadilla
JP: Quesadilla. There’s no aspiration. Ok so that’s the tip. The tip is: English aspirates, Spanish never aspirates.
Fernando: JP, we do have aspirations
JP: Ok, everybody has their dreams
Fernando: So, we’ve gone through three JP?
JP: Yes, we have two more to go.
Fernando: Two more, alright bring it on.
JP: Ok, my fourth tip of how to not sound gringo-fabulous when you’re speaking Spanish is to keep your /l/s consistent
Fernando: /l/
JP: /l/, this is the letter /l/. Now in English we have the same /l/ when it begins a word. So for example the words “light” and “lamb” right? They sound exactly like when you start a word in Spanish with an /l/
Fernando: Lampara
JP: Lampara right? Luz. It’s that same [l] sound right?
Fernando: Or lago
JP: Lago, which is the word for “lake”
Fernando: Yes
JP: Now in Spanish that same /l/ sound is used at the end of a word. So if I want to say the word for “bad”
Fernando: Mal
JP: Mal. Ok, it’s “mal.” Now because of my gringo-fabulous tendencies I might try to say “mal.” Because in English if an /l/ is at the end of a syllable it will be [long-l] and you don’t have that at all in Spanish, right?
Fernando: No
JP: So what’s that cactus that you eat in Mexico?
Fernando: Nopal
JP: Nopal, right?
Fernando: Wow I am hungry
JP: Okay so it’s “nopal,” and it’s not “nopal”
Fernando: No it is not
JP: Ok I have one last tip to improve your pronunciation so you don’t sound gringo-fabulous
Fernando: This is gonna be awesome
JP: Now this of course is the rolled /r/. [rrrrrrr]
Fernando: [rrrrrrr]
JP: Now we already kind of talked about /r/s in the /r/ vs. /d/ tip, which was the second tip, but here I want to talk about the rolled /r/ [rrrrrr]. Now this is an important sound in Spanish right?
Fernando: It is
JP: But not all /r/s are rolled
Fernando: That is true. Now listeners this is very important. JP please explain.
JP: So for example if you see a single /r/ in the middle of a word, it’s not gonna roll. Alright so the word for “but,” like however “but”
Fernando: Pero
JP: Pero, right? You don’t hear any [rrrrr]ing that, no?
Fernando: No, because if you did that would be a dog.
JP: Perro.
Fernando: Yes
JP: Ok, perro is a double /r/. Single /r/, by itself in a word: pero
Fernando: Yes
JP: Ok so not all /r/s roll
Fernando: Not all /r/s are rolled
JP: Ok now some of you are probably thinking, “JP I can’t roll my /r/”
Fernando: What do you say to that JP?
JP: Ok there’s a couple things you can say to that. First of all, nobody’s gonna kill you, nobody’s gonna come after you with pitchforks and torches if you can’t roll your /r/
Fernando: Wait so I should put down the knife?
JP: Put it down
Fernando: Ok
JP: If you end up saying “pero” for however, I mean, Latinos are probably just gonna let it go, right?
Fernando: Yes
JP: And they’re going to understand what you’re saying. The other thing, if you can’t roll the /r/, you should keep trying. It’s a skill that takes a long time, it takes a lot of practice.
Fernando: It does
JP: If you can’t make the /r/ don’t despair, just keep practicing. Ok, you’ve got five tips: vowels are always the same, keep /r/s and /d/s different, there’s no aspiration, keep your /l/s consistent, and work on your /r/s
Fernando: Yes, that sums it up. These are all great, valuable lessons. Thank you very much JP.
JP: Thank you Fernando
Fernando: Yes, it’s been a pleasure. Listeners, thank you so much for tuning in and we will catch you on the flip side. Have a good one.
JP: Hasta luego.
Fernando: Bye bye!

22 Comments

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SpanishPod101.comVerified
Tuesday at 6:30 pm
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In this podcast, I said that the Spanish vowel /a/ isn't used in English. For example when I say "ahh" for the dentist or say the word "father," the English vowel that I use is not the same as the Spanish /a/. However, I was walking in downtown New York the other day, and I heard a man talking into his cell phone... I think he had a Long Island accent, and he said the word "hospital" with a Spanish /a/! So to me it sounded like "haspital." So my point is that although the Spanish /a/ is not present in Standard American English pronunciation, it can be heard in some regional pronunciation! So if you speak with a Long Island accent, you already know how to make the Spanish /a/! Please let us know if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions regarding this lesson. We always love to see what you have to say! jp@spanishpod101.com

SpanishPod101.comVerified
Thursday at 7:46 pm
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Hola KWay,


Thank you for posting.


Glad to know that you could overcome that difficulty and improve your Spanish pronunciation!


By the way, this lesson gives a few tips on the trilled [r] sound:

https://www.spanishpod101.com/lesson/ultimate-spanish-pronunciation-guide-7-new-consonants-2/?lp=189


In case of any questions, please feel free to contact us!


Saludos,

Cristiane

Team SpanishPod101.com

KWay
Thursday at 6:47 pm
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My Spanish teacher said he was talking to a fellow Spanish teacher from Chile who said Australians have a hard time saying the vowels correctly as we tend to shorten and sometimes skip them entirely when we speak English. Something to look out for.


Regarding the rolled R, I find that you need to be strong and confident in speaking to be able to do it. When I was shy at my atrocious Spanish when in class, and hence spoke a bit quieter, I couldn't do it. Once I remembered we were all in the same boat and had less than a month experience, I spoke louder and was suddenly able to do it easier. That would be my advice for people struggling with it.

SpanishPod101.comVerified
Tuesday at 12:03 pm
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Hola Rahul,


Thank you for your comment.

Could you try again, seem to be working fine.

Please let me know if you still have this issue.


Saludos,

Carla

Team SpanishPod101.com

Rahul
Sunday at 3:24 pm
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I'd like to listen audio no 4 ,but I don't what is the problem is there why it is not playing?

Rahul Jai'jaan alias Romie,

Rahul
Sunday at 3:21 pm
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I'd liketo listen audio no 4, but it isn't play. I don't know why it has problem.

Rahul Jai'jaan,alias Romie

SpanishPod101.comVerified
Tuesday at 1:53 pm
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Hola James,


Thank you for your comment.

We will consider this for future lessons, we really appreciate your help.

Sigamos practicando!


Saludos,

Carla

Team SpanishPod101.com

James Czekaj
Thursday at 10:55 pm
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It would be more convenient to have buttons to hear the pronunciation of the words and letters in the lesson notes. Because it's hard to find the proper pronunciation for some words.

SpanishPod101.comVerified
Sunday at 10:21 am
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Hola Gabi Farias,


Thank you for your comment.

Estamos felices de saber que disfrutas de las lecciones.

If you have any question please don't hesitate to comment here.

Sigamos practicando!


Saludos,

Carla

Team SpanishPod101.com

Gabi Farias
Thursday at 11:38 am
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❤️️ Hello, so It is the first time that I am leaving my comment, I just wanna say that I am really loving the podcasts, and the way that those guys are teaching spanish feels easy and funny! I'm from Brazil, and for me, It's a litlle bit easier haha But I'm taking step by step like everyone else! So, this is it, thank you very much!

SpanishPod101.comVerified
Monday at 1:56 am
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Hola Seth,


Thank you for your comment!

Please stay tuned, we have a new lessons for you every week.


Suerte,

Carla

Team SpanishPod101.com