Can you tell the difference between reading ‘I’m starving’ and ‘I’m ehstarving?’
What if you were to hear it? Do you think you could you tell the difference then?
This is a pronunciation error that repeatedly comes up for Spanish speakers learning English.
It’s hard to consistently use letters in English differently than how you’ve been using them your whole life in Spanish– and it’s nearly impossible when you can’t pinpoint these errors.
Below we outline some common mistakes for Spanish speakers, from Madrid to Monterrey, and tips on how to smooth out your speech.
Words Beginning With ‘S’:
‘I am from Spain’ vs ‘I am from Ehspain’ ; ‘I’m starving’ vs ‘I’m ehstarving’
Cause of error: As many words in Spanish begin with ‘es’, Spanish speakers sometimes unconsciously use the ‘eh’ sound before English words beginning with ‘s’ .
- Practice saying words beginning with ‘s’ by emphasising the ‘sss’ sound.
- Practice running the previous word into the ‘s’ word: ‘I’mssstarving’- Leave no room to come up for air in between the two words.
- With practice, you can shorten this ‘sss’ sound until it sounds natural.
The ‘Y’ Sound
‘I was there last year’ vs ‘I was there last jear’
Cause of error: Transferring from some dialects of the Latin American Spanish ‘y’ sound (also the English ‘j’ sound), to the English ‘y’ sound.
Helpful tip: Remember ‘y’ in English is a soft sound, made primarily using your lips.
Compare this to the ‘y’ sound in Latin American Spanish (Example: ‘Yo’) – here it is a sound made primarily with your tongue.
‘I love the mountay-ns’ vs ‘I love the mountains’, ‘Let’s get a drink at the fountay-n’ vs ‘Let’s get a drink at the fountain’
Cause of error: This is a tricky one– English pronunciation loves to twist and turn: some words in English have ‘silent vowels’. These are vowels and vowel combinations that don’t necessarily follow regular pronunciation rules. This is a very common error for Spanish speakers, as in Spanish nearly every letter is always pronounced.
Helpful tip: Words like ‘mountain’ and ‘fountain’ are pronounced more like ‘moun-tin’ ’ , and ‘foun-tin’
We do not pronounce the ‘a’, nor over pronounce the ‘i’. It’s a soft vowel sound.
But English loves to confuse: There are many other words ending with ‘ain’ (abstain, pain, refrain) which do not follow this soft vowel rule: which need full pronunciation of all vowels.
Cause of error: Over-pronunciation of the ‘h’: Directly transferring the ‘j: jota’ sound from Spanish to the ‘h’ sound in English.
Helpful tip: The ‘h’ in English is often very soft. Instead of the ‘h’ sound coming all the way from the back of your throat, concentrate on the sound coming from the middle of your tongue.
It’s the subtle common errors that make the difference between being perceived as an advanced English speaker, or as a Spanish speaker learning English. Book a lesson today with LingoLoop to get tailored tutoring in English pronunciation!