Correct Spanish pronunciation is something that Spanish language learners often struggle with. It is all very well knowing all the words and how to make sentences but not much use if Spanish people can’t understand you! A lot of the Spanish letters DO sound very different to the way we pronounce them in English and if you are talking Spanish with a strong English accent, not only will you stand out as a “foreigner” but it is likely that people really won’t understand you.
They are not just being difficult and they will be very happy that you are speaking in Spanish at all, but if they cannot understand your Spanish pronunciation, to them it can be the same as Basil Fawlty struggling to understand Manuel in Fawlty Towers! (If you haven’t seen the hilarious BBC series Fawlty Tower you really should, but not for Basil’s Spanish – there is a good example here).
The trick is to focus on learning correct Spanish pronunciation from the very start. That way you can practice and start to think with the correct sounds. It is much more difficult if you practice a bad accent for years and then try to change it! It is quite difficult to copy someone else making the correct sounds unless you know how they are doing it. To get a natural-sounding Spanish accent you need to understand the different ways in which the sounds are made – the physical changes to the position of your tongue and lips and how the airflow works. It is a lot easier than it sounds if it is explained properly.
This approach of learning correct pronunciation early is a key part of the Spanish Uncovered course for beginners by I Will Teach You A Language. In the very first lesson, there is a pronunciation video where teacher and accent expert Angela Moreno shows you how to correctly pronounce the Spanish “H” (it is actually silent in most usage, but that is the point!).
For more advanced Spanish pronunciation and different Spanish country and regional accents, there are video lessons in the Fluent Spanish Academy course and here is an example of Olly Richards explaining the different usage and pronunciation of the letter “C” in Spanish.
Spanish pronunciation and accents in different countries
Once you understand more about Spanish pronunciation and how the various sounds are made, it is fascinating to look at how the sounds vary in different countries and even regions. In English, the accent between, say, London and Cornwall is very different, as it is also very different in England, Scotland, America or Australia and it is the same with Spanish in different countries.
There is a good Spanish pronuncation guide with audio examples from Rocket Spanish here.