8 Video Tutorials to Perfect Your Spanish Pronunciation Posted by Jakob Gibbons on Jan 18, 2016 in Pronunciation, Videos
As we mentioned in a recent blog post, pronouncing Spanish can be a lot harder than people think.
Maybe you’ve been learning for years, even living abroad in a Spanish-speaking country, and are still struggling with the stigma of speaking too gringo, so you’re striving for spectacular Spanish speech sounds. Or maybe you’re just starting out learning and you’re making sure your pronunciation is on point to avoid giving the locals any indication they should speak English to you.
Whatever your reason, there are plenty of concrete ways to improve your pronunciation in Spanish or any other language.
In our recent post on the 5 sounds that are making you sound super gringo in Spanish, we identified five of the key suspects. To continue working on these sounds, we’ll go through some practical instructional videos, all of them showing you what your mouth needs to be doing differently to make these sounds properly. If you like some or all of these videos, consider subscribing to their Youtube channels and incorporating them into your language learning routine!
Here are five of the trouble-making Spanish speech sounds we looked at last week, and 8 videos to help you pronounce them better.
1) La v y la b
The pronunciation of /b/ and /v/ don’t make a whole lot of sense to non-native speakers of Spanish. Even worse — most learners don’t realize that the English v sound doesn’t exist in Spanish at all.
These two seemingly unrelated letters actually make the same sound, and the details of that sound depend on where it occurs in a word. This video looks at how the /b/ and the /v/ are distributed in Spanish, how to pronounce them, and when.
2) La l
The /l/ is similar in Spanish and English, but the subtle difference between its English pronunciation and the Spanish one is the difference between speaking good Spanish and sounding like a native. In the video, listen especially to how sharp and precise the letter sounds after a vowel, unlike its softer English equivalent.
3) La d
The /d/ in Spanish can’t seem to make up its mind what it wants to do. Sometimes it sounds sort of like its English cousin, other times it slips between the teeth to sound more like the English sound in words with a ‘th’, and still others you can hardly tell it’s there at all.
Don’t be intimidated by the technical linguistic terminology at the beginning — it’s not necessary for understanding the point of the video, and thankfully, big words like these in Spanish usually sound and look a lot like their English equivalents.
4) Las vocales
As the speaker mentions at the beginning of the video, he actually used this trick to better pronounce German, but it’s applicable to the vowels of many languages, Spanish included. This video zeros in on the thing that gives most English speakers problems in pronouncing vowels in Spanish or any language, which is the tendency of English speakers to make a ‘diphthong’ or longer, two-part vowel out of a short and simple one.
Pay close attention to the difference between the longer English vowels that leave your lips and jaw moving around at the end and the shorter, purer vowels, like the ones in Spanish, that he contrasts them with.
5) La r
This is probably the single most physically difficult to pronounce sound, even for some natives. A good rolled R is most native English speakers’ badge of pride in their Spanish pronunciation, and rightfully so: it’s a totally unnatural tongue movement for a native speaker of a language like English.
Everyone has their own trick for finally figuring it out. For that reason, we’ll look at three different videos with different approaches to rolling the /r/. Figure out which one makes the most sense to you, bookmark it, and practice it, because it’s probably not coming to you within your first couple tries.
The speakers in all the above videos list some very detailed, specific points on how to physically articulate these sounds, which can be super helpful, but don’t take any of them as law: these details differ between region, especially between Spain and Latin America, and often between two cities in the same country. If you’re pronouncing these sounds a different way, it might not be wrong, it could just be from another regional dialect.
Bonus video: Qué Dificil es Hablar el Español
If you’d rather take a holistic approach and just listen to natural native Spanish, rather than isolating and practicing certain speech sounds, then Juan and Nicolás of Inténtalo Carito might be for you. These two brothers from Colombia are not only musicians, but also experts at making fun of Spanish speakers across the world and getting a laugh out of you as they do it.
Qué dificil es hablar el español, with nearly 9 million views on YouTube, is a song about how difficult it is to speak Spanish. The brothers sing about the many multiple meanings of simple words across the entire Spanish-speaking world, pointing out the absurdity of the slang (and sometimes pronunciation) of different parts of the Spanish-speaking world.
Give it a watch, and if you can follow it, check out some of their other hilarious videos like Feisbu, which might illuminate some of the finer points of Spanish pronunciation in its gentle teasing of Spanish speakers’ attempts at pronouncing English words.
What are your biggest Spanish pronunciation challenges? Tell us about it in the comments below!