This is the last article of the series English Pronunciation Challenges: What a Latina Learned in an Accent Reduction Class where I share some of the resources I used during my class. These “tools” includes books, apps and web pages that will help you during this process.
Posts in this series:
- English Pronunciation Challenges for Latinos [this post]
- 10 Most Shocking Things I Learned About English Pronunciation
- 8 Tools I Used to Improve My English Pronunciation
English Pronunciation Challenges for Latinos
NOTE: Everything written in blue italics is pronounced like Spanish.
FIREFOX USERS: This post includes short audio clips. The best way to listen to the audios is by right-clicking the play button. A regular mouse click will open the audio in a new window.
English is my second language and I learned it at school in Puerto Rico. I can understand, read and write it without any problem, but when it comes to speaking… mmm, it’s complicated.
There are a lot of times that my husband Jared, who is a native American (not to be confused with Native American), will ask me to repeat something I say. Correcting what I’ve just said drives me crazy! What’s wrong with me?! Well, there is nothing wrong, I am a Latina and I share the same language issues with others that speak English as a second language.
My biggest struggle was to get the right pronunciation of the following set of words: sheet, cheat, shit and chit. I pronounce all of them like “shit”; that’s embarrassing! I always prefer to say a “piece of paper” instead of a sheet and “bed linens” instead of bed sheets.
But there were more weird things about this language. How could the town near where my in-laws live be spelled Callao and end up pronounced caleo? Why don’t you pronounce the U in biscuits and the L in half? What about clean and cleanser? It’s so crazy that the “ea” vowel sound in the word clean is like “clin” and in cleanser change to “clenser” . And what’s the deal with cucumber? There’s no I to pronounce it ciucumber!
But I though I had a huge advantage to my side. I married an American (who’s also fluent in Spanish) and he can teach me. I can learn from him, right? Wrong!! I remember that one time we made a New Year’s resolution and the deal was that both of us will communicate to each other only and exclusively in English. That deal lasted only a day. He started correcting me, and then I started to fire him back with a lot of questions. “Why you pronounce it like that? Is there a rule I can learn? Why is that letter there if it is silent?” The problem was that he is a native English speaker and couldn’t guide me through the reasons why the words that I got wrong are pronounced in a different way. The exact same thing happened to me when he asked me something about Spanish… “I don’t know the reason; I just learned it like that and you have to believe me.”
So I decided to take a formal class to help me decipher this no matter what. I sign up in a twice a week, three hours a day Accent Reduction class at the Miami Dade College. There I met other students, most of them latinos, and the English pronunciation issues were out of control. My fellow students had trouble with the words beach and bitch. Fifteen and fifty sounded almost the same. Tuesday and Thursday can be mixed up too. I even heard a story that in New York City some Apple Store employees struggle when latinos ask for an iPod or an iPad. But after a total of 42 class hours and 15 book chapters later, I got some answers to my questions.
In tomorrow’s post I will share with you the 10 most shocking things I learned about English pronunciation. You will witness what a Latina learned in an accent reduction class.
Check out these other articles about Spanish English.