In Jared’s article Become Fluent Faster By Ignoring These 5 Spanish Fundamentals, he recommends that you forget about perfecting your Spanish pronunciation and ignore written accents altogether when you are trying to learn Spanish quickly. While in some ways I agree with this, I can also argue quite the opposite in some cases.
When it comes to speaking, getting your point across is the most important thing. I definitely agree with Jared about not stressing out about getting every word perfect. If you can make yourself understood, perfecting your pronunciation can wait.
As for the written accents, yeah, go ahead and forget them. Seriously, if you are not writing a formal paper, you do not need to worry about these. However, when it comes to speaking, they play into pronunciation and can often make a difference.
I experienced this when I was studying abroad. I was trying to ask my host mom where the pharmacy was. I kept saying “Dónde está la farmacía?” and putting the stress on the end, “farmaCIa”. My question was met with a blank stare from my host mom, who did not speak a word of English and was totally unfamiliar with foreign language students. After describing a pharmacy to her she said “oooooh! La farmacia!” putting the stress in the middle, “farMAcia”.
At first, I was thoroughly annoyed, thinking that the difference was so miniscule that it shouldn’t make a difference at all. However, when I thought about it later, I realized that if someone asked me where the “pharMAcy” was instead of the “PHARmacy”, I might be a little confused at first too.
The lesson to be learned is that if you are fairly certain you are saying the right word but still not being understood, you should focus on the pronunciation. Remember, with Spanish pronunciation you pronounce every single letter. Speak slowly, giving each letter the proper attention. If you are not sure if there are accents marks on the word, play around with where you are putting the emphasis. Sure, you will sound silly, but eventually you are going to be understood!
Check out these other articles about How to Speak Spanish.