One of the biggest challenges for Spanish speakers when learning English is pronunciation. Often it’s a struggle to produce certain vowel sounds. Sometimes it’s a case of dropping consonants at the end of words. And for some people it’s mispronunciation of the letter ‘h’ – a lot like Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady (more about this later).

Whatever the problem, there’s an easy explanation for it.

In Spanish there’s a tendency to pronounce things the way that they’re written. There are also some big differences between English and Spanish phonetics. Improving your pronunciation is not about sounding native, it’s about making yourself understood. And let’s face it, sometimes the mistakes are so ingrained they sound okay to you.

To help you overcome these problems, we’ve made a list of six of the most common pronunciation mistakes Spanish speakers make in English. We’ve also given you some fun tips on how to fix them.

So relax your tongue. Loosen those lips. And let’s get practising your pronunciation!


1. Dropping consonant sounds at the end of words


When speaking English, Spanish speakers may drop consonants at the end of words. This is not a fatal mistake, but it is one that often falls through the net.

For example, instead of saying ‘text’, Spanish speakers may say ‘tex’ or ‘brefas’ rather than ‘breakfast’. Instead of ‘mind’ you might say ‘mine’.

This is because consonant clusters never appear at the ends of words in Spanish. As a result, you may drop the last consonant sound in English without even noticing.

Often this creates problems with ‘ed’ verb endings – meaning words like ‘worked’ or ‘loved’ may be pronounced ‘work’ or ‘love’.

Top Tip:

One way you can overcome this is by linking words in a sentence – just like a native would.

That way you’re not trying to hit every single sound.

Try saying a complete sentence and moving the consonant sound over to the next word:

  • ‘We worked on it’ – ‘we work don it’.
  • ‘Im having breakfast at the cafe’ – I’m having breakfas tat the cafe.’
  • ‘I don’t mind if we stay home’ – ‘I don’t min dif we stay home.’

Go on, practise it now and record yourself on your phone! How was it?


2.Short and long vowel sounds often sound the same


If Spanish is your mother tongue, you may have difficulties with vowel sounds. This is because there are around twenty distinct vowel sounds in English, whereas in Spanish there are only five. Catalan also only has eight.

As a result, Spanish speakers tend to stretch out the vowel sound too much to overcompensate, or merge it with the closest sound in Spanish.

This can lead to embarrassing misunderstandings such as “Miss, can I have a sheeet?” and “Are we going to the beeech?”

Top Tip:

There are both short and long vowel sounds in English. Have a go at practising these minimal pairs so all the words sound different:

i / i: | æ / ɑ: | e/ eɪ | ɒ / əʊ | ʊ / u:

Minimal Pairs - 6 pronunciation mistakes Spanish speakers make in English | Oxford House Barcelona

If you want to hear the pronunciation of any of these words – look them up on Cambridge Dictionary where you can hear both British and American pronunciation.


3. The V and the B are pronounced the same


“Have you seen the Voice?” Or “Have you seen the boys?”

Record yourself saying these sentences on your phone and play them back. Do they sound the same to you? If they do, you may need to work on your pronunciation of the /b/ and /v/ sounds.

In English, the /v/ is fricative, which means the teeth and lips must touch when you say it. The /b/ on the other hand, is plosive. This means both the lips touch together (imagine the motion you’d do when applying lipstick or blowing a kiss).

Mispronunciation of these sounds can cause some confusion. The word ‘very’ sounds more like ‘berry’, ‘van’ sounds like ‘ban’ and ‘vase’ sounds like ‘bars’.

Top Tip:

Practise saying both sets of words and check your pronunciation is different for each. Make sure that for the /v/ sound air passes between your teeth and lips with a vibration.

b / v

B and V pronunciation | 6 pronunciation mistakes Spanish speakers make in English | Oxford House Barcelona

4. Vowel sound added to words starting with ‘s’ and a consonant


Practise saying the word ‘Spain’ does it sound more like ‘Espain’? If so, then you’re guilty of this next one.

Spanish speakers sometimes add an ‘e’ to the beginning of words starting with ‘s’ and a consonant. As a result, you pronounce the words ‘street’ and ‘school’ as ‘estreet’ or ‘eschool’.

This happens because words in Spanish don’t normally begin with a consonant cluster – so sounds like sp, st, sk, sl, sm always have a vowel sound before.

Top Tip:

The way to practise is to start with an ‘sssssss’ sound and once you’ve mastered that, then move on to the next consonant. Try saying this tongue twister five times. First slowly. Then get quicker and quicker.

‘SpongeBob SquarePants speaks Spanish at school.’


5. Mispronunciation of the ‘h’ sound



It isn’t just Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady who has problems with this one. Many Spanish speakers also mispronounce the ‘h’ sound.

This happens normally for one of two reasons. People often omit the ‘h’ when it should be pronounced – because it is silent in Spanish. Take the words ‘hola’, ‘enhorabuena’ and ‘albahaca’ for example.

On the other hand, you may find yourself over pronouncing it – much like the ‘J’ sound in ‘jalepeño’ or ‘japon’.

In English, however the ‘h’ is much softer – more of a whisper. Think about the action you do when you want to warm your hands or steam up a mirror with your breath.

Top Tip:

Try saying these words which all have the letter ‘h’ in them:

he, her, home, help, happy, behind, behave.

As you’re saying them, hold a piece of paper in front of your mouth. It should move a little every time you say the ‘h’ sounds.


6.Sentence stress


Spanish is a syllable-timed language, which means you stress every syllable. English on the other hand, is a stress-timed language. This means that we don’t give the same emphasis to all the sounds that we make. Instead, we shorten unstressed syllables to fit the rhythm.

We often stress the important words. These are words that carry information – like nouns, adjectives and main verbs.

And we speed up on words with less importance – like articles ‘and’, ‘a’, and ‘the’ and auxiliary verbs ‘don’t’, ‘does,’ ‘will’ etc.

Confused? Have a go at this fun activity below.

Top Tip:

1. Say each line twice before moving on to the next.

2. Stress the main words.(*)

3. Speed up on the unimportant words.

4. Make sure the timing stays the same but the rhythm changes.

sentence stress |   6  pronunciation mistakes Spanish speakers make in English | Oxford House Barcelona

Practise makes perfect!


So there you have it! We’ve let you in on the little secrets of English pronunciation. Now, it’s your turn to go home and practise what you’ve learnt.

If you’d like more about phonetics in English, take a look at our articles:

Improving your English with the phonemic chart and 5 tools to perfect your pronunciation at home.

And if you really want to perfect your pronunciation, why not sign up for one of our private language classes?

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Struggle (v): to have difficulty in doing something.

Dropping (n): the loss of something.

Ingrained (adj): firmly fixed.

Falls through the net (exp): if something falls through the net you fail to notice it.

Clusters (n): a group.

Stretch out (v): to elongate.

Fricative (adj): a type of consonant made by the friction of the breath.

Plosive (adj): a consonant that is produced by stopping the airflow with the lips.

Steam sth up (v): when glass becomes covered in a thin layer of condensation.

Speed up (v): to get quicker.

let somebody in on something (pv): to consider something when making a decision.


v = verb

n = noun

adj = adjective

exp = expression

pv = phrasal verb

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