Are you making these mistakes?
In this video, you’ll learn what the 10 most common pronunciation mistakes are, how to pronounce the sounds correctly, and how to practice your accent effectively. 3-in-1! 🙂
Pronunciation mistakes happen when a sound in the target language, in this case, English, doesn’t exist in the speaker’s native tongue (Spanish). It can also be a certain sequence of sounds or a specific position of a sound in a word that never occurs in the speaker’s native tongue. When this happens, speakers tend to pronounce a different (but somewhat similar) sound that does exist in their language.
Scroll down to download the FREE American accent guide for Spanish Speakers
Watch: the 10 most common pronunciation mistakes Spanish speakers make:
Download the American accent guide for Spanish speakers
Get a FREE list of the 10 most common pronunciation mistakes, words for practice and audio!
Of course, not every Spanish speaker will make all of these mistakes (it depends on the background, dialect, and many other things), and these are not ALL the possible pronunciation challenges Spanish speakers face, but rather, the most common ones.
Dropping final consonants at the end of words
In Spanish, words never end in a consonant cluster (when two or more consonants are pronounced together with no vowels between them, for example, strength, loved, texts).
While clusters may appear at the beginning or middle of words in Spanish (español, hombre, crédito) they never appear at the end of words and are almost impossible for Spanish speakers to pronounce.
Therefore, it is very likely for Spanish speakers to unintentionally drop one or two consonant sounds if they are part of a final consonant sequence in order to bring the pronunciation closer to what’s possible in Spanish – a single consonant.
Min instead of mind
Work instead of worked (pronounced workt)
Tess instead of test.
Substituting a final M with N
The M consonant sound exists in Spanish, but it never appears at the end of words.
Therefore, while it’s not at all difficult for Spanish speakers to pronounce the M alone, it can be quite challenging for them to pronounce it at the end of words.
This is why when a word ends with M in English (some, ham, cream)
Spanish speakers may substitute it with the closest sound available that does show up at the end of words in Spanish – N (or NG).
This substitution usually happens subconsciously, and awareness is the number one factor in improving this pronunciation challenge.
The word ‘game’ is pronounced as ‘gain’
The word ‘seem’ is pronounced as ‘seen’
The word ‘foam’ is pronounced as ‘phone’
Z is pronounced as an S
Since there’s no Z (as in zoo) in Spanish, the Z sound is often misplaced with an S, especially when it appears in the middle or end of words.
The Z is the voiced pair of the S consonant sound. Basically, they are pronounced the same, except that for the fact that with the Z sound, the vocal cords are vibrating.
It’s very easy to make this mistake since both sounds look and feel the same, except for the vibrations of the vocal cords.
This is also a result of the orthography (the way words are written and the spelling). Since English, unlike Spanish, is not a phonetic language, many times the Z sound is represented by the letter ‘s’. In Spanish, the letter ‘s’ always represents an S sound. That creates an additional challenge and confusion related to how the word should sound (unfortunately, most speakers learn English by reading and writing first and their listening skills are compromised).
To practice words with Z scroll down download the free American accent audio guide.
The /y/ (as in ‘yes’) consonant sound and the /j/ (as in ‘job) switch places.
Oftentimes, Spanish speakers may pronounce the /y/ consonant sound as in ‘yes’ ‘years’ and ‘yellow’ as a /j/ sound, pronouncing it as jes, jears, and jello (by the way, this is not the same /j/ as in ‘jalapeno’).
Also, quite often the substitution will be reversed too.
A word that begins with ‘j’ will be pronounced with a /y/
Yob instead of job
Yust instead of just.
Different vowels are pronounced the same:
In Spanish, there are 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u) while in English there are about 16; none of them really correspond with the English sounds.
Since most Spanish speakers are not familiar or comfortable with the pronunciation of vowels in English, they tend to merge similar vowels into the closest vowel sound in Spanish.
Example of different words that are usually pronounced the same:
sheep-ship, reach-rich, leave- live (watch a video tutorial about the sheep-ship vowel pair)
pool-pull, food-foot, fool-full (watch a video tutorial about the pool-pull vowel pair).
The /v/ consonant is pronounced as /b/
Since the pronunciation of the letter ‘v’ in Spanish is more similar to the pronunciation of /b/ in English, this pronunciation carries over to English as well.
The V is a fricative and to pronounce it, the bottom lip has to touch the top teeth, and air passes between the teeth and the lips (it’s a voiced sound).
The B is created as both lips close and touch each other.
If a B is pronounced in place of a ‘v’, words may change meaning:
‘very’ will sound like ‘bury’ and ‘vote’ will sound like ‘boat’.
The American R is replaced with a Spanish R
The Spanish R and American R are pronounced differently.
In Spanish, there are two R’s (pero, perro) and for both sounds, the tip of the tongue touches the upper palate.
For the R in English, the tip of the tongue doesn’t touch the upper palate, but curls back a bit as the lips round (click to watch a video tutorial about the R).
Spanish speakers often pronounce the American R as they would pronounce the Spanish R, bringing the tip of the tongue to touch the upper palate.
Watch a video lesson about the R
Mispronouncing the H
Since the letter H is silent in Spanish, and in American English it is generally pronounced (not always, you can learn more about the H here), some speakers mispronounce the H and create a velar fricative instead (just like the ‘j’ sound in ‘jalapeno’).
While the H in English is soft and sounds like a whisper, the substitution is more dominant – the back of the tongue is high and close to the soft palate.
Watch a video lesson about the H
Download the American accent guide to practice more.
A vowel is added to words beginning with /st/
In Spanish, a word will never begin in a consonant cluster. To simplify the ‘impossible’ pronunciation of words that begin with ‘st’ in English, Spanish speakers add the /e/ vowel sound to words that begin with ‘st’.
‘estreet’ instead of ‘street’, ‘estrange’ instead of ‘strange’.
The /th/ consonant sound is substituted with /t/ or /d/.
For the TH, the tongue has to stick out from between the teeth.
Since Spanish speakers don’t have the TH consonant sound in their language,
they tend to keep the tongue inside for words with TH.
It is a common mispronunciation and sometimes will result in pronouncing different words the same.
The /th/ in ‘thanks’ (soft, voiceless TH) will be replaced with a /t/ and the word will sound like ‘tanks’. The /th/ in ‘they’ (voiced) will be replaced with a /d/ and the word will sound like ‘day’.
Interestingly enough, the voiced TH does occur in Spanish, unintentionally, when the d appears between two vowels, (for example in ‘pedir’, ‘estado’, ‘lodo’). It’s called an allophone.
Watch TH video lesson
I am so glad I found this article. I’m interested for a completely different reason – I am a native English speaker who is teaching Spanish-speaking students how to speak, read, and spell in English. I noticed that my students were having trouble pronouncing the word “name” (just like you said, they were dropping the final /m/ sound). And it occurred to me that Spanish words don’t end in ‘m’. I had noticed the /th/ challenge as well, but I hadn’t thought of the other examples you wrote about. This is so helpful for me – I am trying to support my students by learning more about their native language.
I love the way you teach. I am from Colombia and even though My English pronunciation had improved it is still sometimes very strong.
I would love to get rid off as much as I can my accent.
I like to know more about better pronunciation.
Hi Hadar Shemesh, I hope you are well. I would like to subscribe/join to Beyond program. And I need to know if I could pay a monthly plan with a Visa/Debit card. Sincerely. Teresa Ixcot Pérez.
I would like to improve my pronunciation.
I am from the Dominican Republic and came to the United States when I was 13 years old. Even though I attended school here I still struggle with the “sh” . This is a great video, thank you!!
Native spanish speaker here, the letter “Z” does exist in spanish and it’s used quite often. Just pointing that out.
The letter exists, but it is pronounced as a sibilant s (the same as Spanish s), not like the English buzzing z sound.
I love your videos, You’re very good at it! This one, I find especially useful since my mother tongue and the one of my students is Spanish…I haven’t been able to find the list of words to practice with that you mentioned in the video… it would be great to have it!!! Thanks for your amazing videos!
You have done a good job in presenting this information. You are easy to watch, and you speak clearly. I, myself, am a native American English speaker with training in linguistics and pronunciation. I was looking for potential students that I could work with, to help them with accent reduction, which is how I came across your site. Just wanted to say that I agree with everything you have shared here. Good job.
This video is actually really helpful in trying to understand spoken Spanish vs written Spanish (subtitles, for example.) especially knowing why so many consonants seem to be dropped at the end of some Spanish words (I’ll be listening for a consonant from a word and it won’t be there, then we are 6 words ahead and I have to rewind.) I think I’ve also realized learning English from Spanish must feel as unnatural as an English speaker trying to learn Russian… so many sounds feel ridiculously excessive!. … And! I’m grateful that new Spanish speakers speak English at all, especially when they are beginning, because some of the common “mistakes” made in English by Spanish speakers are immensely helpful my Spanish reading and pronunciation.
I am helping a man from Mexico with English conversation. He needs some work on pronounciation and this lesson looks perfect. I will suggest that he watch it and others. And then perhaps we can spend a little time each week on pronouciation.
I am interested to improve my english accents and pronunciation. I speak French, few words are similar to French. I would be happy to receive further information about your online workshop. I am from French Polynesia.
8 pronunciation mistakes out from those 10 are the same we Brazilian tend to make . Thanks a lot !
Mistake #1,3 ,5 and 8. I believe those are my major problems. I noticed that we, Spanish speakers make this mistake too : the short “i ” sound. We tend to make this sound longer then it is. Thank you Hadar for this awesome video 🙂
I’m a native Russian speaker, but my in-laws are Spanish . We speak English and now I understand them much better, it’s great! It’s exactly what they are doing with “ our” Language!
Very good and exact notes!!! Thanks Hadar!