English Pronunciation Issues Specific to Spanish Speakers: Part Two

Welcome to part two of my series of English pronunciation tips for Spanish speakers:


Spanish speakers tend to pronounce “b” and “v” identically. Further, their language does not distinguish between the first sounds in “yacht” and “jot”. This varies depending on the type of Spanish the English learner speaks. The first sound in "cheap" also causes lots of problems even though it is a common sound in Spanish. Another difficult sound is often the "sh" in "she" since that sound does not have an equivalent in Spanish. Here, it is important to keep in mind that "ch" is a much more plosive sound than "sh". The trick is to first form a "t" and then the "sh" sound.

Another typical mistake is the pronunciation of the "s" sound at the beginning of a word in combinations such as "st" and "sp". Spanish words never start with an "s" so Spanish-speaking English learners tend to pronounce words like "strategy" more like "estrategy".

Spanish is one of the only languages that has the "th" sound as in "thing". However, it is often pronounced as a mix between a mid or final "d". Here, the focus should be put on grasping the difference between the initial "th" and the initial "d". The distinction between "sing" and "thing" only causes problems for some Spanish speakers depending on the type of Spanish they speak. My tip: Put the tip of you tongue up at the front roof of your mouth for the "s" sound and softly behind your teeth for the "th" sound.

Another problematic sound is the "w" even though it exists in Spanish, it is spelled differently: "gu" and might be pronounced as "gw" which can cause comprehension issues.

The voiced "z" sound does not exist in Spanish and is often pronounced as "s" or "th" as in "Barcelona". The difference between "s" und the "z" sound as in "zoo" is that the latter sound vibrates and tickles the tip of your tongue when you produce it.

The American "r" might need some practice just like the Spanish "j" in Juan and the English "h" as in "hungry". Practice the English "h" in front of your mirror. If you need to polish your mirror afterwards, you are on the right track.

Another sound to work on is the soft sound in the middle of "television" and "pleasure".

This wonderful website has many videos that will help you practice the sounds listed above: http://rachelsenglish.com

(photo via ted conference flickr)

Marike Korn