¡Hola, mis amigos!
It’s an honor to be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month once again with my Latino friends and followers across the country and the world! It’s a time to recognize the rich traditions and culture that have brought so much joy and unique perspective to the United States.
I have a couple questions to think about as you celebrate your heritage: Is it possible to improve English pronunciation while holding onto your culture? Will you lose part of your heritage if you decide to work on your American accent?
This can be a worrisome topic for anyone with an accent: You worry your family will think you’re letting go of your culture, or that changing your speech will somehow change you. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way, and that you really can have the best of both worlds! When we talk about reducing your accent, we’re really talking about changing the parts of your pronunciation that make your English difficult for others to understand. You will still have your culture, your heritage, and your accent… just an accent more easily understood by native English speakers.
In fact, I was just featured in an article for El Sentinel, the Spanish-language version of The Orlando Sentinel newspaper, on this very topic. The article highlights how Latino workers are seeing their career prospects improve after their company offered them accent reduction training… not to eliminate their accent, but to make it more easily understood.
So which sounds are difficult for Latino speakers?
Most of the pronunciation issues for Latinos have to do with voiced and unvoiced sounds. Check out my video below to learn more about this concept, and use it to practice these most commonly mispronounced sounds.
S and Z use the exact same tongue and mouth shape; the difference is in the voicing. The S sound is produced without the voice, but the Z sound requires the voice. To feel the difference, put your hand on your throat and try saying S-s-s-s. You should not feel anything. Now try saying Z-z-z-z. You should feel a vibration in your throat. Practice saying words like “Sue” and “zoo.”
K and G sound are both produced in the back of the throat, but the K is unvoiced and the G is voiced. Try saying K-k-k and then G-g-g-g. You should feel the tickle or vibration on your throat when you say the G sound. Practice saying “coat” and “goat.”
P and B are both made by pushing the lips together and releasing them. P is made without using the voice while B uses the voice. It’s important to hear the difference, because one letter sound can change your entire meaning, as with the words “cap” and “cab.”
The V sound is made by placing the top teeth on the lower lip, turning on the voice, and blowing. If you put both lips together and blow, you get a B sound instead of the V. Practice with words like “very” and “berry.”
If you put the top teeth on the lower lip and blow without turning on the voice, you will make an F sound. To make the V sound, you need to turn on your voice. Practice by saying “fine” and “vine.”
Again, the goal here isn’t accent elimination, the goal is to be understood… and I think that’s a goal that you, and your friends and family who love you, can get behind!
¡Hasta la próxima, amigos!
If this article and video helped you, check out my free pronunciation guide and accent screening to further explore personalized accent reduction.
My corporate accent reduction and professional presence training engage communication issues to increase productivity, create stronger client relationships, and improve clarity of internal and external presentations and processes.
Learn more and contact us today at AccentuateCommunication.com.