Beginners Spanish Pronunciation 31 LL, Y, B, V. Let’s clear this up!

megaphone scaleThe confusion around Spanish Pronunciation

One of the most confusing issues with Spanish pronunciation is knowing how we should pronounce the Y and the LL, closely followed by the B and the V.

In this podcast we cover the correct way to pronounce these letters according to what is called ‘Received Pronunciation’. For those not familiar with this expression, it simply means the way that we should speak if we were to use standard Spanish. (That’s free of regional accent.)

Of course, the issue is that very few people have an accent free pronunciation. And this is where the problem starts.

That’s not what I hear in my village…

The danger with offering pronunciation guidelines is that invariably, we get emails and comments from people saying: “Well, where I go in Spain they pronounce the V as a V and not as a B as you suggest.”

And what can we say to that? Of course they do! Language is not a solid, unmovable concept. It’s fluid, plastic, and it changes from place to place, from region to region, from north to south, from country to country and even from person to person.

We are just saying that…

Faced with the massive variations that surround us, the very best that we can offer is the ‘standard’ Spanish way. But, why bother? If it’s all so different, why should we even try to follow one way?

The best way to answer that question is to say that everyone understands standard Spanish. Wherever you go in the Spanish speaking world you have more chance of being understood if you aim to speak in standard Spanish.

Remember, for us non-natives, we have the added challenge of achieving a decent pronunciation. Imagine if we spend our efforts copying a really difficult Spanish accent and do a terrible job of it! We are going to have a lot of problems getting Spanish speakers from other areas to understand us.

It’s the best way…

Really, our advice is to work on creating our own standard Spanish pronunciation. Some people say that they don’t want to sound strange. Don’t worry, we do anyway! We are foreign. Spanish speakers will know that we aren’t from their country.

Your challenge…

The very best we can do is to develop such a standard accent that, although Spanish speakers know we are foreign, they can’t tell where we are from! Now, that is ‘un logro’. (An achievement.)

The reason we say that is that it’s normally quite easy to identify the nationality of a Spanish speaking foreigner, especially if they’re French or English because of the R.

So, why not take up the challenge to get your accent as close to neutral as possible. Watch this video podcast as the first step in getting there!


Gordon y Cynthia 🙂

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32 Abs Beginners Spanish Test your Level The Mónica Naranjo Concert

monica-naranjo-scaleYour Listening Spanish Test.

In this Podcast we offer you a story about a concert that we went to in Barcelona. It was a show put on by Mónica Naranjo to celebrate her 40th birthday.  Mónica has probably the best, strongest voice in the whole of Spain and yet during her career her music has maintained a cult status in the world of pop. Her fans adore her and she has gained a massive gay following which is palpably visible in the audience of her concerts. Mónica’s style is theatrical, avantgarde and at times almost operatic and Cynthia and I love her.

Our short story with which we give you a Spanish test is centred around our journey to the concert, the poor directions that the hotel receptionist gave us and our subsequent 30 minute walk up what seemed to be a cliff face. Finally, after a great deal of stress, questions to passers by and about two pints of sweat, we finally made it to the Club San Jordi.

The concert was fabulous and Mónica sang all of the songs that we had hoped to hear. The only downside was the pain in our backs that both Cynthia and I were suffering due to having walked around Barcelona all day only to then have to scale a mountain in order to reach the event.  Still, it was worth it and the concert will remain in our memories as one of the highlights of 2014.

Once we move to Madrid in Spain we will undoubtedly have the opportunity to see many more of our favourite Spanish artists. ¡Qué ilusión!

Why have a Spanish test?

It’s good to make a Spanish test of your listening abilities as often as you can to give you a good gauge on how well tuned in you are to the language. However, it’s not always the level of the Spanish that’s being used that trips us up. More often than not it’s the person that is speaking that makes it easy or very difficult  for us to understand.

In any language, the effort that the person puts into their speech to make themselves understood is paramount to the listener. In my view, the speaker has a more important job to do than the listener. The reason I say that is that I have learnt that there is a certain kind of person that exists in every place in the world that cannot be understood and, at the same time, there are those that can be understood perfectly.

This is why:

Good communicators:

Enunciate all words fully.

Use generous gestures and facial expressions.

Observe their listeners closely, ensuring they are getting all the right signs of understanding.

Speak with a musical, expressive tone neither too high nor too low.

Maintain eye contact and speak toward their audience.

Speak in a measured, medium to slow pace.

Poor communicators:

Swallow their words or barely open their mouths.

Have minimal or non-existent body moments.

Speak in a monotone fashion with little or no expression.

Pay little attention to their listeners.

Often speak down to the floor or away from their audience.

Speak quickly or with a mixed rhythm, trailing off and speeding up toward the end of each sentence.

 Where do you fit in?

So, the question is: Which category does your speaking style fit into? Do you consider yourself to be a good communicator?

Like everything, it’s all about intention. If you really want your audience to understand what you are saying, then good communication comes naturally. However, it doesn’t do any harm to work on the above points so that you can become a master communicator.

After all, if no one understands what you are saying, it’s hardly worth talking. Ha ha.


Enjoy the podcast.

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33 Abs Beginners Saying ANY in Spanish Algunos/Unos

Let’s help you to know how to say ANY in scale


What’s really interesting is the fact that in English we use ANY in a couple of ways. We have this way:

1, Do you have any glue in your workshop?

and then there’s this kind of ‘any’:

2, I don’t want just any!

This difference causes Spanish speakers no end of confusion because in their language they have two distinct words to express these sentiments.

In example number 1, the ‘any’ is translated as ‘algún pegamento’

(Other options are: alguno/alguna/algunos/algunas)

In example 2, the ‘any’ is translated as ‘cualquiera’.

So, to say ANY in Spanish, you have a few options, something which can cause us problems too. Especially when we are faced with the strange ‘cualquier’ word.


Why is this strange? Well, it’s because this adjective doesn’t behave like normal Spanish adjectives. Rather, it has only two options, regardless of the noun it describes.

Look at this:

No quiero cualquier cosa. = I don’t want just anything.

Yo estaría contento con cualquier coche. = I’d be happy with any car.

Mándame un hombre cualquiera. = Send me any man.

¿Cuál quieres?…Cualquiera. = Which one do you want? …Any.


Have you noticed that no matter what the gender of the noun that it describes, when it is used before the noun it is always ‘cualquier’?

Then, if it is a stand-alone word with no noun after it, it turns into ‘cualquiera’ regardless of the gender of the noun it is referring to.

This was always a confusion for me as I began learning Spanish. And so, when I wanted to say ‘any’ in Spanish I would avoid ‘cualquier’ like the plague. Clearly, as you can now see,  you must be able to ‘dominar’ both ‘alguno’ and family as well as ‘cualquier/a’ if you really want to be able to express yourself properly.

In this podcast we help you to do this by way of live examples and simple descriptions that will guide you through this tricky ‘puzzle español’.

Where to go for help.

For more information and guidance on virtually every grammar subject in Spanish all you need do is to use the search bar on our website and you will find what you need along with some simple, easy to understand explanations. Every podcast is backed up by comprehensive Helpsheets and a Transcription/Translation of the spoken Spanish used during the podcast.

LightSpeed Spanish also provides online tuition and is soon to begin offering online group classes on predetermined subjects on a weekly basis.



Gordon y Cynthia 🙂

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34 Abs Beginners Spanish Culture Gestures

Spanish Culture and Gestures.fingers

I recall one of the very first times I went to Spain to visit my wife’s family and was introduced to her ‘tía Maribel’. Maribel was chatting animatedly with me and mid flow, without any warning she stuck her two fingers up at me.

My immediate reaction was one of shocked surprise. Why? Because in the U.K., that gesture can have three meanings. Two are wonderful, one is terrible and it all depends on which way your hand is facing.

Peace/Victory or Vete a la Mi…da.

If the palm of the hand is facing the listener, then the gesture can mean Peace or Victory. In the U.K. you could go around all day sticking your fingers up at people that way and no one would take offence. However, turn your hand around with your palm facing you and the gesture is the same as ‘flipping the bird’ and in essence you are saying: ‘Go away in jerky movements’.

The Big Difference.

In Spain, and in the Spanish culture, the self same gesture simply refers to the number ‘two’.  So, all Maribel was doing was explaining that there were two of whatever it was that she was describing.

What struck me about that moment was that I realised that my own British culture had inbuilt into my psyche an unconscious reaction to that gesture. Even though I knew that Maribel wasn’t telling me to get lost, so to speak, I couldn’t help feeling quite put out about it all.

Andar con mucho cuidado. Proceed with caution.

It was that experience that partially inspired this blog. You see, if you are in Spain, or any other country for that matter, and you get the gesture wrong, using something that is very negative or rude without knowing it, you can cause quite an unconscious reaction. And that can happen even if the people know you are not doing it on purpose!

Because of our conditioning, we can’t help but to take offence.

This Podcast.

So, with that in mind, it really is worthwhile learning these insights into the Spanish culture and understanding which gestures are the most offensive. That way, if you have a similar kind of gesture in your culture that means something else, you can avoid using it whilst in Spain.

Flipping the Bird.

What is interesting is that raising the middle finger has exactly the same meaning in Spain as it does in the USA and other European countries. So, if someone is rude to you or cuts you up in traffic, this is the perfect one to show them your displeasure. Jaja.


Gordon 🙂

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35 Beginners Spanish Prepositions The small, important words.

question-marks-2215Spanish Prepositions….What the devil are they?

Basically, these words are the glue that sticks sentences together. They are words like: with, without, for, from, between, to, along with many, many more.

They are the words we use in our own mother tongue with grace, heightened ability and class. However, when it comes to using them in Spanish, everything seems to go a bit ‘patas arriba’.

They are the little words.

Without even knowing that they were talking about Spanish prepositions, so many of my students have said to me at one time or another: “I’m okay with conjugating verbs. it’s those damn little words that cause me the most trouble.”

What they really meant was that it was those damn Spanish prepositions that were causing them the problem.

But why are Spanish prepositions so troublesome?

Really, it’s their behaviour that catches us on the hop a little. You see, they don’t always behave like English prepositions. That’s to say, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.

What is more, many, many Spanish prepositions are attached to verbs and most times, there’s no real pattern that we can see and follow.

For example: The verb Aprender has the preposition ‘a’. So, when we want to say: I learn to swim. we have to say:

Aprendo a nadar.

Yet, when we use Querer to say ‘to want to’ we don’t use any Spanish preposition. For example:

Quiero nadar. = I want to swim.

Why? I have no idea….because….that’s just what they do…(or, you can spend hours looking through forums to find out why).

That’s just the way it is.

Basically, this is the real answer: Because they do. so, our suggestion is that you to set about learning the melody of the language so that you ‘just know’ when a verb has a preposition. Is it a big job? Yes!! Is it possible to do? Yes!!!!!!

One of the best ways to learn when you should use a Spanish preposition is by listening to spoken Spanish or to read Spanish books.  That’s how you will learn, through dogged repetition, just how to use Spanish prepositions well.

Can I just miss them out?

Absolutely! You do not need to use Spanish prepositions if you don’t want to. However, your Spanish will be stilted, tarzanesque and difficult to follow at times. Like anything in life, you can choose to do it a different way and you will be certain to get a different result. However, as we have said, Spanish prepositions are the glue that holds your sentences together and so, if you made a model aeroplane without any glue, it would probably fall apart on its first flight (if it flew at all).

So, our best advice is to get on to learn them well. Be patient with yourself, however, it’s a long job with many variations. The end result, though, will give you and your listeners great comfort, so it’s really worth going for it. You can make a great start on this by watching our Podcast on this very subject.


Buena suerte,

Gordon y Cynthia:)

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