Spanish instructors and students generally tend to ignore the phonology of the language, while concentrating more on grammar and vocabulary. Learning any language is not just limited to knowing vocabulary and grammar; it also includes the ability to achieve accurate and acceptable pronunciation.
Good pronunciation promotes communication
Incorrect pronunciation limits your ability to put your message across and will confuse people, while good pronunciation will make people understand you easily – remember, native Spanish speakers can understand you even if you make grammatical mistakes, but not when you pronounce the words incorrectly. Moreover, good pronunciation helps you to speak with confidence, which promotes friendly communication.
Here are a few tips for beginners that will help them improve their Spanish pronunciation skills.
Have a positive attitude towards Spanish
Many beginners get irritated when they are unable to understand the native Spanish accent – this creates aversion towards spoken Spanish in the students. It is therefore very important for beginners to have the right attitude, readiness and motivation for learning accurate pronunciation. Identifying the elements of the language that aid/hinder the learner’s effort to achieve native pronunciation will help a lot in improving the pronunciation.
Learn different accents/stresses on vowels and consonants
Understanding the sound system of Spanish language is an important part of improving pronunciation. As pronunciation mainly includes articulation of sounds, you need to be aware of the accents and stresses on Spanish vowels, occlusive consonants, fricative variations, liquid consonants, etc. Many native English speakers find these sounds difficult to reproduce. But, one good aspect of Spanish pronunciation is that the vowels have a single sound, hence, Spanish words are read exactly as they’re written.
Listen carefully to native Spanish speakers
The important aspect of learning Spanish pronunciation is to listen carefully to native Spanish speakers, their songs, radio shows, etc. It is imperative for you to develop your ability to understand what you are hearing before you start practicing pronunciation. Take advantage of audio drills and podcasts to increase your pronunciation potential by identifying the sounds, understanding the natural rhythm and getting used to the pace of native Spanish speakers.
Read aloud, record and listen your own voice
Read aloud for 15-30 minutes every day – this helps your mouth muscles (mouth, lips, tongue) and your breathing to articulate the Spanish-specific sounds. While doing this, make a list of frequently used words and practice pronouncing them – this will help you apply the acquired pronunciation in your day-to-day usage. Also, record and listen to your own voice – this will help you evaluate yourself and be conscious of your own mistakes in pronunciation.
Watch movies in Spanish
Movies are also a good way to improve your Spanish pronunciation. Moreover, they are more entertaining and engaging than any other learning medium. Movies allow you to easily compare your pronunciation with that of native Spanish speakers. In case you are not able to follow the native accent, you can often turn on subtitles that will help you match the spoken word with its respective pronunciation.
Oral proficiency is key to speaking Spanish fluently. It is the level of proficiency in speaking Spanish that gets you recognized immediately as a foreigner or native Spanish speaker, irrespective of how good your vocabulary and grammar is.