One of the steps in reducing your accent is becoming aware of your problem areas. People  use the speaking patterns and style of communication from their native language when speaking in a second. This is called first language transfer.

These are typical accent errors that Spanish speakers make when speaking English, that are due to first language transfer.

1. Vowels: Spanish has 5 vowels and 5 vowel sounds. That is part of the reason reading in Spanish is so easy. English also has 5 vowels, but 18 possible pronunciations (depending on region). English lax vowels, like the schwa, are difficult for Spanish speakers to discern and reproduce. Spanish speakers need to expand their range of vowel sounds.

2. S at the start of a word: Words that start with s- in English are difficult for Spanish speakers, who start words with es- instead. For example, a Spanish speaker would mispronounce spoon as espoon. To stop this habit, start the s with your teeth touching but your lips slightly open. When you start with your mouth open, it adds the extra vowel sound.

3. Stress: Correct stress is very important in English, and using the wrong stress gives you an accent.  Spanish stresses the penultimate syllable and speakers transfer this stress pattern over to English. For example:

  • English: I want to eat something.(stressing the main verb)
  • Spanish: I want to eat something (stressing penultimate syllable)

4. Sh/Ch: Spanish speakers confuse these sounds, and often replace ch with sh when speaking (your coworker is not named Rishard).

  • Sh is a smooth stream of air. It is unbroken sssshhhh!
  • Ch stops and blocks the air flow, which is then forcefully released. Like a sneeze:  a-choo!

5. /ɪ/ and /i/:  These are two distinct sounds in English and can change the meaning of  words, such as ship/sheep; been/bean; fit/feet.  Short /ɪ/ does not exist in Spanish, and speakers use the long sound /i/ instead.

  • /ɪ/ – is short and lax. Tongue and mouth are relaxed.  Sit with Tim
  • /i/ – is long and tense, and held longer than /ɪ/. Lips are spread.  Seat with team

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