Spanish to Mind has recently published a fantastic piece of tips from some of the most well known Spanish teachers online. If you would like to be speaking Spanish like a native, then this is your article!
Below we have reproduced the suggestions that were offered by LightSpeed Spanish, but be sure to read the entire article that contains some real gems!
The accent that we choose to use when we are learning Spanish has often been a fairly arbitrary decision. Many students choose the accent from Latin America because they find it easier to handle at the beginning. What’s more, frequently our students say that the accent is not their top priority and that they would rather focus on getting the structure and the grammar right.
In fact, as a rule of thumb and for whatever reason, pronouncing like a native seems to be last on the list.
In our experience, what this has led to is for many students have an exceptionally good level of spoken Spanish with great structures and well placed grammar and yet, virtually the same accent when speaking Spanish as they do in their mother tongue.
Is this a bad thing?
Not at all.
However, we want to highlight some of the downfalls to not choosing adopt an authentic Spanish accent.
Integration: Do you know that one of the best compliments that you can get from a Spanish speaker from Spain is that you speak without an accent. What does that mean? That means that when you speak, your mother tongue accent doesn’t bleed through. Your tonality is that of a Spanish speaker.
Certainly, for a native speaker from Spain, speaking without an accent far exceeds any grammatical prowess and is what Cynthia describes as the ‘WOW factor’. This is what impresses Spanish people.
Understanding: Clearly, the most important objective in any kind of communication is to be understood. As long as you do a reasonable job at enunciating your Spanish, then the accent you use really doesn’t matter. However, there have been many times when our students have tried to say something with such a heavy UK accent, that their listeners haven’t been able to understand them.
And example of this happened in a roadside restaurant when one of our students asked for ‘un bocadillo’ (a French stick sandwich). It was 9 o´clock in the morning he wanted to have a substantial breakfast before embarking on his long journey home. The waiter came to the table and gave him a vodka with ice. (vodka con hielo). Clearly, something had happened with his pronunciation that morphed the sandwich word into an alcoholic drink. Embarrassed, he drank it anyway and continued on his journey, slightly worse for wear and still very hungry.
But, is it possible to speak like a native?
We think that it is, with some reservations. We are not natives, so we shouldn’t expect to be able to attain a level that has taken native speakers their entire life to reach. We will not be perfect. Every now and again, our native tongue will ‘bleed through’. That said, we can get pretty close to it if we really focus on our pronunciation as an important part of our learning journey.
We have a few tips for you:
Remember that you are not native, and so you are just pretending to be native. This takes the pressure off. You simply have to pretend. Just like when someone asks you to put on an American accent, or a Scottish accent, or whatever. We know that we aren’t really from that place and that we are just pretending. This is what we do with our Spanish too. So, just ‘fake it until you make it’.
Don’t make your accent random. Spanish is the most widely spoken language in the world. There are more accents than you could every copy. Our advice is to choose to copy the accent from the region that you like to spend time in. It doesn’t make sense to use a Latin American accent if you like to holiday in Spain. If you are a traveller and visit lots of different places, then you want to choose what is called ‘received pronunciation’, the standard version and one that will be understood wherever you go.
To make your accent great, try shadowing. That is, listening to native speakers and repeating what they say, staying one or two words behind them as they speak. This can really help to give you the tonality and the emphasis that you need.
Make it fun. This journey is supposed to be a hobby and is should be fun. Don’t stress and make it hard for yourself. Laugh at your mistakes and celebrate your achievements. Learning to speak with a great accent is not life threatening. You can do it, but you need to have patience and keep it light.
We wish you every success in your learning journey and look forward to hearing the new wave of fantastic accents coming through to the Spanish speaking world!
Let’s get speaking Spanish like a native and finding that wow factor!
Gordon y Cynthia:)
Other resources that LightSpeed Spanish offers:
Free Videocasts Take a look at our range of 160 free podcasts and many other lessons all designed to take your Spanish forward at LightSpeed! Every videocast that we have produced comes with a comprehensive helpsheet to guide you through the grammar and to test your understanding.
Our Fantastic Books Check out our ever increasing range of high acclaimed, no-nonsense workbooks that explain Spanish grammar in easy-to-follow language. (Link to books)
Our Total Immersion Courses Set close to Madrid in Spain we offer week-long total immersion courses designed to boost your confidence levels sky high! Remember that as a Socio you have a 50 Euro discount from the cost of the course.
Online one-to-one and group lessons. Why not have a free, no obligation chat with Ana and find out more about what is available to really get your Spanish moving!
Gordon’s Diaries. Catch up on the 100s of free ‘Diarios de Gordon’ in which he talks about Spain, life and anything else that comes to his mind.
Cynthia’s Insights. Join Cynthia as she gives her take on life in Spain and on life in general in her free range of video diaries.
All of our Playlists. Come and browse through the hundreds of videos that we have for you to enjoy on Youtube. If you have any questions or want to know more, please feel free to write to firstname.lastname@example.org