You can study Spanish for years and still maintain that pesky gringo accent. Even if your grammar is perfect, if your accent is off, you’re going to have problems. The best-case scenario is that the gringo accent will be distracting, while the worst case is that it will be so off that native speakers will not be able to understand you. Here’s 5 ways to work on losing that accent.
1. Work that RR
This is one of the very hardest things for non-native Spanish speakers to master. Whenever you see an RR in a word, you’re got to roll it. It may not seem important, but it can change the meaning of a word. For example, carro is a car, while caro means expensive.
Some people believe that if you can’t roll your R’s, you never will be able to. I am living proof that this is not true! I struggled with this for years. It was so frustrating to have perfect grammar and then mess it up with that cursed double R. You know what finally cured me? Using it every single day. When I moved to Argentina, I had to learn it. Partially because I wanted to assimilate so badly, and partially because my name is Rease and if I didn’t roll that R, no one knew what I was talking about. They still didn’t, but the rolling R sound really helped.
2. Do not ignore the LL
You learn that the double L is pronounced like a Y in Spanish 1, yet it still seems to be an issue for many foreigners. Just like the double R, the double L is very important. It’s not as big as an issue when it comes to word confusion, but you just sound like such an amateur when you say “me lamo” or “cale” instead of “me YA-mo” and “Cai-YE.” Don’t let yourself slip up.
3. Pronounce every letter
This isn’t English. With the exception of the H, Spanish doesn’t have silent letters. You need to make sure you hit every single letter in every word. That doesn’t mean speaking at a snail’s pace, it just means not skipping over letters. If you do not enunciate, you sound sloppy, and you could also end up saying the wrong word. For example, cargar means to charge, while cagar means to shit. You skip that R, and you’ve just significantly altered the meaning of your sentence.
4. Mind the accent marks
When you first start learning Spanish, you may have ignored those funny little dashes above letters. That’s fine for a beginner, but if you really want to lose that gringo accent, you need to pay attention to the accent marks. It’s not VA-cio, it’s va-CI-o (empty). A prime example is the word papa versus papá. The first meaning potato, the latter meaning Dad. For more meanings and usages of the word papa read PAPA: 4 Letters Mean 7 Different Words.
5. Remember you are speaking Spanish, no matter how similar the word is to English
You’d think words that look very similar to their English translation would be a blessing, but when it comes to pronunciation, they can cause problems. For example, the word educación. Those who are plagued by the gringo accent would probably pronounce it more like “education” in English rather than the proper Spanish pronunciation, e-du-ca-see-OHN. Don’t let yourself get lazy and slip into an English pronunciation. No matter how close the word may be, it needs to be pronounced according to the Spanish pronunciation rules.
If you follow these 5 rules, you will be well on your way to kissing that gringo accent goodbye. ¡Buena Suerte!
Other Speaking Latino suggestions to help improve your accent:
• Why are accents important in Spanish?
• 6 Tongue Twisters to Improve Your Spanish Pronunciation
• How Locals Perceive a Foreign Accent in Spanish
Check out these other articles about How to Speak Spanish.