Improve your Spanish pronunciation | Getting the sounds right: vowels

When you start to learn a new language, mastering pronunciation is arguably one of the hardest tasks you face. Indeed, many students complain that, even after many years of studying, they feel their pronunciation is off. To improve your Spanish pronunciation, it is important to practice it daily, even if your level is low.  

That’s why, today, we will focus on how to improve one of the most important sounds in Spanish: vowels.   

Indeed, one of the easiest things in Spanish (and paradoxically one of the hardest for foreign speakers)  is the fact that we only have five vowels:

via GIPHY

You might think: Well that’s the same as English, right? Wrong.  Although the letters are the same, English counts at least 14 different vowel sounds. That’s nine more than Spanish. These are the Spanish vowels:

(mp3)

So how can something so simple become so difficult? Let’s take a look:

The basics

There are, as I said, 5 vowel letters in Spanish, which means 5 vowel sounds. If you want to practice them, just click in each letter below to hear how each word is pronounced. Try listening, recording yourself and repeating:

Letter a: pan – cama

Letter e: verde – leche

Letter i: crisis – imprimir

Letter o: loco  – como  

Letter u: plus – puf

The tongue twisters

Another good exercise to improve your pronunciation and overall diction is by repeating the same sentence with different vowel, try practicing with this, for example:

El español es un idioma muy bonito

Al aspañal as an adama ma banata

El espeñel es en edeme me benete

Il ispiñil is in idimi mi biniti

Ol ospoñol os on odomo mo bonoto

Ul uspuñul us un udumu mu bunutu

Watch out for the last vowel

Now, let’s take a closer look at the last letter of each word. Watch the video while paying attention to the vowels, can you see the difference in despacito, chicharrón, ceviche, chile verde, … ?

As you can see, speakers from the U.S. tend to add a diphthong at the end of each word (despacitoe, chicharrown, cevichay, chilay, verday and so on). Try practicing with these common words:

Difficult words to pronounce in Spanish: despacito, tamales, taco, chile, burrito, sombrero, caliente, gracias, tortilla

The challenge

Can you pronounce these words? Try and check by clicking on them… These audios were extracted from Forvo, a great site where you can find pronunciation for many Spanish words and sentences:

Wifi
Aficionado
Radio

Idea
Guacamole
Rodeo

I hope you enjoyed this post, comment below with more Spanish words that are difficult for you … y ¡nos vemos en clase!

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