10 Pronunciation mistakes Spanish speakers make

Are you making these mistakes?

In this video, you’ll learn what the 10 most common pronunciation mistakes are, how to pronounce the sounds correctly, and how to practice your accent effectively. 3-in-1! 🙂

Pronunciation mistakes happen when a sound in the target language, in this case, English, doesn’t exist in the speaker’s native tongue (Spanish). It can also be a certain sequence of sounds or a specific position of a sound in a word that never occurs in the speaker’s native tongue. When this happens, speakers tend to pronounce a different (but somewhat similar) sound that does exist in their language.

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Watch: the 10 most common pronunciation mistakes Spanish speakers make:

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Of course, not every Spanish speaker will make all of these mistakes (it depends on the background, dialect, and many other things), and these are not ALL the possible pronunciation challenges Spanish speakers face, but rather, the most common ones.

Mistake #1:
Dropping final consonants at the end of words

In Spanish, words never end in a consonant cluster (when two or more consonants are pronounced together with no vowels between them, for example, strength, loved, texts).
While clusters may appear at the beginning or middle of words in Spanish (español, hombre, crédito) they never appear at the end of words and are almost impossible for Spanish speakers to pronounce.
Therefore, it is very likely for Spanish speakers to unintentionally drop one or two consonant sounds if they are part of a final consonant sequence in order to bring the pronunciation closer to what’s possible in Spanish – a single consonant.

Min instead of mind
Work instead of worked (pronounced workt)
Tess instead of test.

Mistake #2:
Substituting a final M with N

The M consonant sound exists in Spanish, but it never appears at the end of words.
Therefore, while it’s not at all difficult for Spanish speakers to pronounce the M alone, it can be quite challenging for them to pronounce it at the end of words.
This is why when a word ends with M in English (some, ham, cream)
Spanish speakers may substitute it with the closest sound available that does show up at the end of words in Spanish – N (or NG).
This substitution usually happens subconsciously, and awareness is the number one factor in improving this pronunciation challenge.

The word ‘game’ is pronounced as ‘gain’
The word ‘seem’ is pronounced as ‘seen’
The word ‘foam’ is pronounced as ‘phone’

Mistake #3
Z is pronounced as an S

Since there’s no Z (as in zoo) in Spanish, the Z sound is often misplaced with an S, especially when it appears in the middle or end of words.
The Z is the voiced pair of the S consonant sound. Basically, they are pronounced the same, except that for the fact that with the Z sound, the vocal cords are vibrating.
It’s very easy to make this mistake since both sounds look and feel the same, except for the vibrations of the vocal cords.

This is also a result of the orthography (the way words are written and the spelling). Since English, unlike Spanish, is not a phonetic language, many times the Z sound is represented by the letter ‘s’. In Spanish, the letter ‘s’ always represents an S sound. That creates an additional challenge and confusion related to how the word should sound (unfortunately, most speakers learn English by reading and writing first and their listening skills are compromised).

To practice words with Z scroll down download the free American accent audio guide.

Mistake #4
The /y/ (as in ‘yes’) consonant sound and the /j/ (as in ‘job) switch places.

Oftentimes, Spanish speakers may pronounce the /y/ consonant sound as in ‘yes’ ‘years’ and ‘yellow’ as a /j/ sound, pronouncing it as jes, jears, and jello (by the way, this is not the same /j/ as in ‘jalapeno’).
Also, quite often the substitution will be reversed too.
A word that begins with ‘j’ will be pronounced with a /y/
Yob instead of job
Yust instead of just.

Mistake #5
Different vowels are pronounced the same:

In Spanish, there are 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u) while in English there are about 16; none of them really correspond with the English sounds.

Since most Spanish speakers are not familiar or comfortable with the pronunciation of vowels in English, they tend to merge similar vowels into the closest vowel sound in Spanish.

Example of different words that are usually pronounced the same:
sheep-ship, reach-rich, leave- live (watch a video tutorial about the sheep-ship vowel pair)
pool-pull, food-foot, fool-full (watch a video tutorial about the pool-pull vowel pair).

Mistake #6
The /v/ consonant is pronounced as /b/

Since the pronunciation of the letter ‘v’ in Spanish is more similar to the pronunciation of /b/ in English, this pronunciation carries over to English as well.
The V is a fricative and to pronounce it, the bottom lip has to touch the top teeth, and air passes between the teeth and the lips (it’s a voiced sound).
The B is created as both lips close and touch each other.
If a B is pronounced in place of a ‘v’, words may change meaning:
‘very’ will sound like ‘bury’ and ‘vote’ will sound like ‘boat’.

Mistake #7
The American R is replaced with a Spanish R

The Spanish R and American R are pronounced differently.
In Spanish, there are two R’s (pero, perro) and for both sounds, the tip of the tongue touches the upper palate.
For the R in English, the tip of the tongue doesn’t touch the upper palate, but curls back a bit as the lips round (click to watch a video tutorial about the R).
Spanish speakers often pronounce the American R as they would pronounce the Spanish R, bringing the tip of the tongue to touch the upper palate.
Watch a video lesson about the R


Mistake #8:
Mispronouncing the H

Since the letter H is silent in Spanish, and in American English it is generally pronounced (not always, you can learn more about the H here), some speakers mispronounce the H and create a velar fricative instead (just like the ‘j’ sound in ‘jalapeno’).
While the H in English is soft and sounds like a whisper, the substitution is more dominant – the back of the tongue is high and close to the soft palate.
Watch a video lesson about the H
Download the American accent guide to practice more.


Mistake #9:
A vowel is added to words beginning with /st/

In Spanish, a word will never begin in a consonant cluster. To simplify the ‘impossible’ pronunciation of words that begin with ‘st’ in English, Spanish speakers add the /e/ vowel sound to words that begin with ‘st’.

‘estreet’ instead of ‘street’, ‘estrange’ instead of ‘strange’.

Mistake #10:
The /th/ consonant sound is substituted with /t/ or /d/.

For the TH, the tongue has to stick out from between the teeth.
Since Spanish speakers don’t have the TH consonant sound in their language,
they tend to keep the tongue inside for words with TH.
It is a common mispronunciation and sometimes will result in pronouncing different words the same.
The /th/ in ‘thanks’ (soft, voiceless TH) will be replaced with a /t/ and the word will sound like ‘tanks’. The /th/ in ‘they’ (voiced) will be replaced with a /d/ and the word will sound like ‘day’.
Interestingly enough, the voiced TH does occur in Spanish, unintentionally, when the d appears between two vowels, (for example in ‘pedir’, ‘estado’, ‘lodo’). It’s called an allophone.
Watch TH video lesson

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3 Comments on “10 Pronunciation mistakes Spanish speakers make”

  1. Hi Hadar,
    8 pronunciation mistakes out from those 10 are the same we Brazilian tend to make . Thanks a lot !

  2. Mistake #1,3 ,5 and 8. I believe those are my major problems. I noticed that we, Spanish speakers make this mistake too : the short “i ” sound. We tend to make this sound longer then it is. Thank you Hadar for this awesome video 🙂

  3. I’m a native Russian speaker, but my in-laws are Spanish . We speak English and now I understand them much better, it’s great! It’s exactly what they are doing with “ our” Language!
    Just kidding!
    Very good and exact notes!!! Thanks Hadar!

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