Read these 12 Speaking Spanish Correctly Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Spanish tips and hundreds of other topics.
There are a few issues of pronunciation in Spanish that non native speakers frequently mess up, which can lead to rather embarrassing mistakes. Take the letter ‘ñ' for example, this letter is pronounced like the ‘ny' in ‘canyon'. In Spanish the word for year is ‘año.' However, there is another word, ‘ano', with a very different meaning. (It means anus.) If you fail to pronounce the ‘ñ' (or fail to write it) in a given sentence it could be a very grave mistake. You could, in fact, confuse “I am thirty years old.” = “Tengo trienta años.” With “I have thirty butt holes.” = “Tengo treinta anos.” A mistake you probably don't want to make. There are a number of other mistakes like this you don't want to make. I give you the ‘ll' pronounced like the ‘y' in ‘your'. Many people introduce themselves with the following phrase in Spanish “Me llamo Virginia.” The ‘ll' pronounced correctly makes this sentence mean “I call myself Virginia.” However, if you pronounce this sentence “Me lamo Virginia.” Thus, using the ‘l' pronounciation instead of ‘y' it means “I lick myself, Virginia.” Again, something to be avoided. And finally we come to the ‘rr' not nearly as amusing an example as the first two, but certainly not a mistake you want to make. The ‘rr' is pronounced as a trill (like the noise you make when you're a little kid and you're trying to imitate machine gun fire). However, a single ‘r' is just pronounced almost like an American ‘r' (the difference can't really be demonstrated in writing). However, mispronouncing the ‘rr' can still change the meaning of a word. For example the word ‘perro' meaning dog vs. the word ‘pero' meaning but (as in however.) These are not the only mistakes that can be made simply by mispronouncing a letter, but they are some of the most common and the first two are definitely some of the most amusing.
Who would have thought that gender confusion would spread to linguistics? But the truth is, a common mistake among non native speakers is getting the gender of a word wrong. Since in English our words don't have a noticeable gender (aside from words that represent things that actually are one gender or the other), and our articles don't represent gender differences at all, it is hard for us to make the change to a language with gender distinctions. However, it is an important distinction in Spanish and mistaking it can be a serious error. A large number of nouns end in either 'a' or 'o' the ones ending in 'a' are generally feminine and the ones ending in 'o' are generally masculine. So, their article will typically agree with them. For example, 'la bicicleta' the bicycle, and el libro 'the book'. 'La' is the feminine article, thus accompanying 'bicicleta' and 'el' is the masculine article thus accompanying 'libro'. This is true for the majority of words, however there are exceptions to this rule. For example 'el mapa' the map, and la mano 'the hand'. Most of these exceptions are Latin derivatives that came from a neuter word and then assumed either a masculine or feminine mantel based on associations with the word or the gender of a synonym. For the most part mixing up the gender of a word will only make you sound like a non native speaker. The most common mistake is putting the wrong article with a word. For example saying 'el bicicleta'. You sound a bit confused, but you haven't said anything untoward. However, another fairly common error is mixing up the vowel on the end of a word, which can lead to trouble as this will frequently change the meaning of a word. For example: the word 'pollo' means chicken. 'El pollo', the chicken. However, 'polla' rather than meaning female chicken (which it does literally mean, but has fallen out of usage) means penis. Hence, confusing the gender of this word can make for awkward conversation. A favorite example of mine was provided by a friend of mine while we were studying abroad. Apparently, she was at a restaurant and wanted to order chicken with pineapple. However, she confused the gender. Rather than ordering 'pollo con piña' she asked for ‘polla con piña'. Needless to say this conjured up a rather amusing image for her host family and her waiter and got a good laugh out of everyone.
The written accent is very important in speaking Spanish correctly. The written accent indicates where the stress on a word falls if that stress doesn't follow the conventional rules of Spanish pronunciation. The stress accent is always on a vowel with one exception. Sometimes the accent is needed to distinguish between nouns that are spelled identically, such as 'papa' (potato) and 'papá' (father). It can also be used to distinguish between past and present tenses of verbs, such as 'compro' (I buy) and 'compró' (he bought). Accents can also be used to indicate questioning, such as with the word 'que' which is unaccented in statements, but accented in questions. The exception to the rule above is the tilde. A tilde is a diacritical mark (an accent) that is placed over a letter to change its pronunciation. In Spanish, it is used over the letter 'n' to indicate an 'ny' sound, as in mañana. It is important to be able to pronounce this sound to speak Spanish correctly. The tilde is also used in other languages, such as Portuguese and Vietnamese, though it is used with different letters in those languages. Tildes can also be seen in some web addresses.
Those who want to learn to speak Spanish correctly need to learn how to pronounce Spanish vowels. The good news is that Spanish vowels are pronounced the same way every time. Once you've learned them, you'll never have to worry about it again. Pronunciation of Spanish vowels is as follows: * a - this sounds like the 'a' in cat (example: papa, which means 'father') * e - this sounds like the 'ay' in day (example: pelo, which means 'hair') * i - this sounds like the 'ee' in feet (example: listo, which means 'ready') * o - this sounds like the 'o' in bone, but is shorter (example: caro, which means 'dear') * u - this sounds like the 'oo' in zoo, but is shorter (example: tu, which means 'you') Vowels can also be combined with each other to form diphthongs. Diphthongs combine weak and strong vowels to form a new sound. An example of this is founed in the word 'bueno', meaning 'good', in which the 'ue' diphthong sounds similar to the English word 'way'.
Most Spanish consonants are softer than their English equivalents, with the exception of the strong 'r' and 'rr' sounds. Online educational websites include both easy consonants (the ones that are pronounced similarly to English) and difficult consonants (the ones where Spanish pronunciation has to be learned). Some sites have audio that web users can hear when listening for the correct pronunciation of words. Some of the consonants that differ from English include: * 'b' and 'v', which are identical in Spanish and are similar in pronunciation to the 'b' in 'belly' * 'd' is pronounced like the 'th' in that when it falls between vowels * 'r' is pronounced a bit like the 'dd' in 'bedding' * 'rr' is a purring sound, where the tongue flaps against the roof of the mouth.
According the Royal Spanish Academy, the Spanish alphabet has 27 letters. The additional letter is 'ñ', pronounced 'ny', as in piñata. This letter follows the letter 'n' in the alphabet, which otherwise is the same as the English alphabet. Until recently, the Spanish alphabet had 29 letters, including 'll' and 'ch', which have distinctive pronunciations when you speak Spanish. These are now treated as ordinary pairs of letters by Unesco. The 'rr' combination, which has been thought to be a letter, is not actually part of the Spanish alphabet.
If you want to learn to speak Spanish correctly it is essential to learn the gender of Spanish nouns. Every noun in Spanish is either masculine (el chico - the boy) or feminine (la chica - the girl). In some cases this is denoted by a change in ending as in the example given. However, not every noun that ends in 'a' is feminine. Many words of Greek or Latin origin, such as 'el sistema - system' are masculine. Similarly, words such as 'la radio - radio' are feminine even if they end in 'o'. It is easiest to learn Spanish gender as you learn each noun. However, there are a few rules that will make it easier: * Most nouns that end in 'o' are masculine' and most nouns that end in 'a' are feminine. * Nouns ending in -sión, -ción, -dad, -tad, -tud, -umbre are feminine. * Gender in Spanish is also shown by use of the definite article. This is 'el' for masculine nouns and 'la' for feminine nouns.
If you don't know how to speak Spanish, or speak only a little, there are five phrases that will really help you. If you don't speak Spanish at all, try to learn the following phrases: * I don't speak Spanish. - No hablo español. * Is there someone here who speaks English? - ¿Hay alguien aquí que hable inglés? For those who speak some Spanish, try the following to make sure you have grasped what someone else is saying: * Can you repeat, please? - Repite, por favor. * Please speak slowly. - Lentamente, por favor. Finally, if you speak a great deal of Spanish, but are missing a few vital Spanish words, you can ask: * How do you say ... in Spanish? - ¿Cómo se dice ... en español? These phrases will get you out of difficulty or keep conversation flowing, depending on how well you speak Spanish. If you don't speak Spanish at all or need some help with pronunciation, there are many websites with MP3 files so you can hear the correct pronunciation.
When you learn to speak Spanish, it is important to know how to pronounce Spanish words correctly. The rules of emphasis in Spanish are: - If a word ends in 'n', 's' or a vowel, the stress is on the next to last syllable (cuenta, burro, muchachos) - With other words the stress is on the final syllable (tener, parasol) - If there are any exceptions to this rule, there is an accent over the stressed syllable (ladrón, inglés) Learning these rules will make it easy to read and speak Spanish correctly.
There are three important pronunciation differences between Castilian Spanish (castellano) and Latin American Spanish. * The first is the pronunciation of 'z' and 'c' before 'i' and 'e'. In Castilian Spanish, they have a 'th' sound similar to the sound at the start of 'thing'. In Latin American Spanish, they have an 's' sound, similar to the first letter of 'Spanish'. * In Castilian Spanish, the 'll' and 'y' sounds are pronounced like the sound at the start of 'yellow'. In Latin American Spanish, they are pronounced more like the sound at the start of 'jug'. * In Castilian Spanish, the 'x' is pronounced as a 'sh' or 'th' sound, while in Latin American Spanish it is generally pronounced 'ks' as in English. There are also two important grammatical differences between Latin American Spanish and Castilian Spanish. It is important for those who wish to learn to speak Spanish correctly to learn these. * The first is the use of 'vosotros' as the plural form of the informal 'tu' (you) in Spain. In Latin America 'ustedes' is used. * The second is 'leismo'. This means the use of 'le' instead of 'lo' for the direct object. This is common in some parts of Spain, but is unusual in Latin America. Don't worry if you learn to speak Spanish with a Castilian accent but are traveling in South America. Despite these differences speakers of Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish can easily be understood by each other.
To learn to speak Spanish correctly, it is important to have: * a good dictionary with a phonetic pronunciation guide and extensive vocabulary * regular practice in speaking Spanish correctly (with native speakers if possible) * access to audio and video resources to enhance your understanding of Spanish * help with pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary through classes, free online classes, DVDs or immersion courses. * reading material in Spanish.
In Spanish, the 'h' is always silent. However, an equivalent to the 'h' sound does exist. Words that begin with 'j' in Spanish are pronounced as if they began with an 'h' in English. Examples are 'jota' and . The letter 'g' when it precedes 'e' or 'i' is also pronounced like an 'h' as in 'Geronimo'. To learn to speak Spanish correctly it is essential to get to grips with this sound. There are also other silent letters in words of Greek origin, such as psicoanalizar (to psychoanalyze). The double 'l is pronounced differently depending on which Spanish dialect is being spoken. In some dialects 'll' is pronounced 'ly' as in llorar - to cry, while in others it is almost a guttural 'j'.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|