How to Say The Most Difficult Spanish Sounds for Foreign Speakers

Are you having trouble with some Spanish sounds? Read this article to know how to pronounce the most difficult Spanish sounds for foreign speakers!

most difficult Spanish sounds - the R

Some Spanish sounds may prove diffcult for foreigners, like the R and the J.

 

‘Rrrrr’: the letter R and double ‘rr’.

Arguably, this is one of the most difficult Spanish sounds for foreign speakers. In fact, because we know that you’re probably struggling with it, we already dedicated a whole post explaining how make ‘la erre’ like a true native.

Although the famous rolled ‘r’ is not unique to Spanish, we feature it so prominently that it is one of our distinctive sounds. The trick is to produce it with the tip of your tongue and not with your throat.

When should you roll the ‘r’?

  • in the beginning of words (e.g: rico, ruso, rosa, ramo);
  • in the middle of words as ‘rr’ (e.g: perro, carro, tierra, arroz);
  • after an ‘n’ or an ‘l’ (.eg: alrededor, honrar).

A different, milder ‘r’ for all other instances (e.g.: pero, para, pirata).

 

J is ‘Jota’ and sometimes it’s ‘G’.

We call ‘jota’ to the letter ‘j’ and pronounce it in a completely different way. But pay attention: in Spanish, ‘G’ also sounds like ‘J’ when followed by ‘e’ or ‘i’ (e.g: Génova, genial, gitana)

The “j” is made with the back of the mouth, which can almost feel like you’re clearing your throat or spitting something out. The closest sound to it in English is an aspired ‘h’ or ‘kh’. Try reading it out loud:

baho, naraha, empuhar, caha, relahar > bajo, naraja, empujar, caja, relajar
henio, hitana, Hénova > génio, gitana, Génova

 

The letter ‘b’ and ‘v’ sound the same.

In Spanish, ‘b’ and ‘v’ sound the same. The only way to know when you should use each one is by memorizing the words. You may wonder why we have two letters that produce the same sound, but there’s a simple answer. It’s a remainder from Latin. Other Latin languages, however, have evolved in such a way that it’s still possible to understand the difference between the two.

Nonetheless, ‘b’ is still a little bit of a challenge for some foreign speakers. Even when it’s in the beginning of a word, like in barrio, burro, bala or bailar, it’s still somewhat weaker than the English ‘b’.

Only in parts of Argentina and Venezuela you can tell a difference between the ‘v’ and the ‘b’ sounds.

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