There isn’t anything wrong with having an accent when you’re speaking your second (or third, fourth, etc.) language. It’s actually extremely rare for someone to speak multiple languages and not have an accent in any of them! However, when it comes to pronunciation, sometimes that can make it harder to be understood. We’ll show you some tips to take your pronunciation to the next level.
Pronunciation vs. Accent
There’s a difference between your pronunciation and your accent. Pronunciation has to do with stressing the correct syllable, and using the correct sounds in each syllable. In short, “pronunciation” can have a right and a wrong way. On the other hand, your accent has to do with the regional way to say certain words or phrases. You can have perfect pronunciation with an “foreign accent”, or mispronounce words with a “perfect Spanish accent.”
Today, our focus is on pronunciation, not necessarily your accent. However, when you improve your pronunciation, your accent will likely improve as well! Practice the following tips to see a noticeable difference in your Spanish, even from day 1.
Tips to Improve Pronunciation
- Learn the rules of stressing words in Spanish. Spanish has clear rules that show which syllable has stress in a word. To make it even clearer, if a word breaks that rule, it will have an accent mark! If a word has an accent mark, that’s the syllable you want to stress. It actually makes a huge difference when it comes to words that look similar, but have different stresses. For example, “hablo” means “I speak,” but “habló” means “he/she spoke“.
- Listen to the Spanish alphabet. You most likely learned the alphabet in your native language to help learn letter sounds, and it’s helpful to learn them in Spanish too. Did you know that Spanish is a phonetic language, meaning that there’s a direct connection between how a letter is written and how it sounds? Knowing how each letter sounds with surely help you improve pronunciation.
- Read aloud. Reading is a crucial skill to work on speaking, listening and writing because it exposes you to lots of vocabulary. Reading aloud helps you work on your pronunciation and speed. A great tool is to play the text you’re reading out loud, then read it yourself so you can hear your pronunciation.
- Focus on vowels. Spanish vowels only have one sound, which can actually be challenging for native speakers of English. We’re used to the English vowel rules, and we aren’t used to using the same vowel sound. Think about the word “banana” and how you say it in English. The “a” actually makes 2 different sounds. In Spanish, the same word “banana” is pronounced with the exact same vowel sound for each “a.”
Focusing on your pronunciation instead of worrying about your accent will be much more helpful for you as a speaker. The best part is that these are strategies you can start right away! If you’ve already been studying for a little while, there’s no time like the present to put them in place.