4 common pronunciation errors when pronouncing the Spanish vowels -and how to avoid them

Avoid these 4 pronunciation errors by English natives when pronouncing the Spanish vowels and reduce your accent drastically.

Pronunciation error 1. Pronouncing Schwa

Error descriptionExamplesHow to fix it?

When the syllable isn’t strong, English natives tend to pronounce the schwa sound [ə] or one of the sounds which are closer to schwa, instead of the Spanish vowel sound.

persona → pərsona

por favor → pər favor

amigo → əmigo

Exaggerate. Exaggerate a lot when pronouncing Spanish vowels. Pretend you are making fun of a Spanish native, like Enrique Iglesias or Penélope Cruz, or simply imitate someone you like.

Fake it till you make it!

This error occurs because the pronunciation in English is generally more relaxed than in Spanish so English speakers have difficulties in placing the tongue correctly when pronouncing Spanish vowels. They tend to say them by putting the tongue close to the centre of the mouth.

In English, there are many vowels which are pronounced close to the centre of the mouth while in Spanish, the 5 vowel sounds are produced far away from the centre of the mouth.

Pronunciation error 2. Replacing the sequence -au-

Error descriptionExamplesHow to fix it?

English speakers tend to pronounce the sequence -au- as O.

Australia → Ostralia

aunque → onque

Claudia → Clodia

Pronounce slowly. They say Spanish is a very fast language, but you don’t need to speak that fast. It’s better to pronounce slowly and clearly.

Pronunciation error 3. Not shaping your mouth

Error descriptionExamplesHow to fix it?

Pronouncing Rounded vowels (o,u) as more open vowels.

To Spanish ears, the U becomes O, and the O becomes schwa or something else.

univesidad → oniversidad

puedo → poedo

un → on

por → pər

You should tense your tongue and lips more. Remember that your mouth is never relaxed when pronouncing these 2 vowels. To say rounded vowels clearly -above all the U sound- you need to form a very tight circle with your mouth.

Pronunciation error 4. Pronouncing diphthongs where they don’t exist. 

Error descriptionExamplesHow to fix it?
Pronouncing the letter O as /ou/ and the letter E as /ei/ at the end of the word.

este → estei

le → lei

no → nou

This is something that comes automatically. You just need a lot of practice to fix it. Remember that in Spanish, 1 vowel equals 1 sound.

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