Spanish Accents

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If Spanish is your native language, you may be using the Spanish “sound system” when you speak English.  You may not be stretching and shrinking your English vowels to shape each word. You may be using a Spanish melody for your English words, but English has it’s own melody.

If you're a Spanish speaker, you may not be stretching & shrinking English vowels enough. Click To Tweet

You may not have learned much about this if you studied English as a foreign language. Some of these differences won’t have great impact; some may give you a charming accent, but others can interfere with your ability to communicate.

You may get feedback that listeners can’t understand you, that you talk too fast, especially if you are from Mexico. If you are from Spain, you may sound bored, condescending, or unmotivated to English ears. Perhaps you’ve gotten feedback at work to slow down and personalize your presentation style, or reorganize your presentations because they digress. These and other problems result from applying what you know and use successfully in Spanish, to English, where it doesn’t work as well.  You are applying a set of Spanish “sound rules” to English, which has its own rules of sound.

Some common interference points between Spanish and English:

  • Vowel system differences (English has many more vowels that must be differentiated)
  • Consonant voicing, especially at word ends
  • Clusters of 3 or more consonants are difficult for Spanish speakers to pronounce
  • Speaking pace differences greatly
  • Pitch and intonation ranges are different
  • Stress-timing in English is difficult for syllable-timed Spanish speakers
  • English has more sentence intonation patterns than Spanish

Another potential source of interference may be that your presentation design, pace or organization doesn’t meet your audience’s needs.  Furthermore, intonation and sentence stress carry layers of meaning or speaker attitudes that are not conveyed in the words themselves, and Spanish stress laid over English words can send the wrong message.

In our work together, we will diagnose your current pronunciation habits, define your goals, determine your skills and knowledge in target areas, and create a plan that guides your accent reduction practice and leads you to a better sound in English.

Contact me to talk about your customized private English pronunciation classes.

Peggy Tharpe teaches, coaches, and publishes about English pronunciation and intonation. She believes that if you understand why something is happening, you're better able to address it and change it. She teaches the "why" of pronunciation as well as the "what" and "how".