Have you spent years learning Spanish and still have a strong foreign accent? This situation is relatively common as traditional Spanish classes focus on conjugating and grammar, instead of sounding conversationally fluent. While a solid base of grammar concepts is important, you should focus on being conversationally fluid once you’re proficient with the main grammar concepts. Below, you’ll find the biggest Spanish mistakes that foreigners, or gringos commonly make.
Gender Confusion with Noun Style)
I’m not talking about that kind of gender confusion. Spanish, like all romance languages have either masculine or feminie nouns. English nouns don’t have a gender, so it’s tough to determine whether an inanimate object is “el” (masculine) or “la” (feminine.) A general rule to know is that words than end in “a” are feminine while the rest are masculine, but there are exceptions to the rule. For example, words that end in “ma” (with the exception of mamá) are usually masculine despite ending in the letter a. Some other patterns you should know are that words that end with -dad and -tión are feminine.
More Gender Confusion (Adjective Style)
Gender in Spanish can be quite tricky, which can lead to many Spanish mistakes! Another common gender mistake when it comes to gender is forgetting that an adjective must agree with the subject it is modifying. For example, la bufanda rojo (“the red scarf”) would be incorrect because the adjective (rojo) should agree with the subject (la bufanda.) Thus, the correct way to describe the scarf would be la bufanda roja. Luckily, there aren’t as many tricky exceptions with adjectives. While el dia largo may appear incorrect, it’s actually correct becasue dia is masculine.
Fortunately, Spanish is a phonetic language meaning you generally pronounce words as they appear. However, there are several rules to be aware such as pronouncing the h and j. When words in Spanish begin with an “h”, it’s never pronounced. For example, hoyo (hole) is pronounced “o-yo.” Also, the “j” is pronounced like the “h” in English (as in Baja California.) Meanwhile, the “z” in words like “cazar” is pronounced like an “s.” While these may seem tricky. Unlike in English, vowels in Spanish are always pronounced the same way. As soon as you’ve mastered the 5 vowels, you should be good to go!
Another common Spanish mistake, relates to the letter “g”. When “g” is followed by an “i” or an “e”, it sounds similar to a strong “h” sound. So “gemelos” or twins, would be pronounced He- melos. If a “g” isn’t followed by an “i” or an “e”, you would pronounce it similar to english.
Shying Away from Double Negatives
Double and even triple negatives are common in Spanish, but English speakers avoid them due to due to long conditioning. While, “I don’t have nothing” is a horrible error in English, the literal Spanish translation, “No tengo nada” is correct.
Many English native speakers are accustomed to sharply pronouncing the “R”. In Spanish, it’s common to softly pronounce the Rs especially at the end of a word. For example, English speakers pronounce bailar (dance), as BailaR, while native speakers say Baila- hr. Another “R” trick to know is rolling your “R”s. Since many English speakers pronounce the Rs harshly, they struggle rolling the “R”s and thus sounding fluid. Rolling the “R”s can be tricky and this guide can help you!
Feeling brave? Try this trabalengua (tongue twister):
ERRE CON ERRE
Erre con erre cigarro,
erre con erre barril.
Rápido corren los carros,
cargados de azúcar del ferrocarril.
While classrooms can help you learn Spanish, they can only teach you so much. Many longtime Spanish scholars still struggle with their accents, make tons of Spanish mistakes, and sound like foreigners. Gender awareness, the main pronunciation rules, double negatives and mastering the “r”s will enable you to sound like a native in no time. What other pronunciation hacks have you tried? Please feel free to share below!