Is it possible to learn to speak Spanish words with a proper accent?

Is it possible to learn to speak Spanish words with a proper accent?


i want to learn to speak fluent spanish. how can one learn to speak fluent spanish without traces of a foreign accent? and how can one practice speaking spanish?

updated OCT 22, 2011
edited by --Mariana--
posted by aakanksha_monga

7 Answers


is it possible? Yes it is. Can everyone do it? I'm not so sure. And what's the "proper accent" anyway?

I met a woman from New York, once, who spoke Spanish with a flawless Madrid accent - that's where she learned and practiced. And when she spoke Spanish, you had to have a really sharp ear in order to detect that she was not from Spain. She had a "proper" accent for Spanish from Madrid, definitely. But she could never pass for South American, even if she wanted to!

If you listen to one of Heidita's recordings, now, you'll find that when she speaks English, she does so with a very "proper" British accent! But unless she's a very good mimic (I don't know), she could not pass as a New Yorker, or as an Indian.

There are people who are very good indeed at imitating accents. Several comedians are famous for this. Maybe thy can't really speak another language, but they can perfectly imitate the way people from different origins pronounce their speech!

And finally, there are people who can learn another language, but cannot figure out the local accent, no matter what. So they always speak with a "heavy foreign accent". That applies even if you are speaking the same language! I knew people in Venezuela who had migrated there from other countries: Chile or Ecuador, for example, and have been there for many decades. And they still spoke exactly as if they had just arrived from their country of origin.

So in the end, I think how accurately you can reproduce a given accent depends both on the effort you put into it, and some sort of natural ability to do so.

updated OCT 22, 2011
posted by Gekkosan
I don't understand why this was flagged... - bmancornelious, JUL 1, 2010
Gekko excellent points made ! I really don't understand why your post was flagged ???? - FELIZ77, JUL 2, 2010
Nor do I, I'm giving it a vote! - galsally, JUL 2, 2010
This message has been incorrectly flagged as spam for no obvious reason (???) - FELIZ77, JUL 2, 2010
Oh well - I suppose I was due for a spiteful flag. Just a couple of days ago I was thinking that I had been lucky so far. So it's out of the way now. :-p :-) - Gekkosan, JUL 2, 2010
gekko, this person got a warning, sorry - 00494d19, JUL 2, 2010
No problem. Gracias, Heidita. :-) - Gekkosan, JUL 2, 2010
Gekko at lesat some good came out of it the publicity of the flag may have given you more votes lol - FELIZ77, JUL 2, 2010
at leasst I mean - FELIZ77, JUL 2, 2010

I agree with all of the comments above/previously mentioned and would like to add that it can also help to become aware of how to pronounce all the different sounds of the Spanish alphabet and notice how they change when combined in different ways within various words.

However, nothing can compare with:

listening to native speakers and Imitating the way they pronounce the Spanish words and phrases as you interact with them

The more time you spend and the more effectively you can train your ear to distinguish between the different sounds of the words the more likely you are to develop an authentic accent like that of a native speaker.
In my experience how difficult this is for you will vary according to: how strong your accent is, your innate talent for learning languages, how much time and effort you are prepared to put in to develop your existing skills and above all: the opportunities you have/will have for learning langauges among the native Spanish speakers.

One of the best compliments I have received from a native Spanish speaker about 5 years ago, was when he told me, with some surprise in his voice:

"No hablas español como un Inglés" "You don't speak Spanish like an Englishman"

(when using a bank to exchange travellers cheques - while on holiday in Pineda* de Mar,-- about 1 hour away from Barcelona*)

I hope this helps

updated JUL 2, 2010
edited by FELIZ77
posted by FELIZ77
Muchas gracias amiga Luisa. Yo sé que es verdad ahora pero hablaba de una experiencía que pasado por lo menos hace cinco años - FELIZ77, JUL 1, 2010
Fui a España el año que pasado y pasaba tiempo en Calella y usé mi tarjeta de débito en lugares de cheques de viajero - FELIZ77, JUL 1, 2010
Luisa lo siento pero no he entendido lo que ha pasado con tu respuesta para mi - FELIZ77, JUL 1, 2010
Te mandé un PM. Je je je, uno nunca sabe cómo van a responder las personas... - LuisaGomezBartle, JUL 1, 2010

Is it possible to speak your native language without an accent? I assure you, you have an accent in your native language, it is the accent of where you come from.

With regards to speaking another language as the natives speak it, yes, it is possible if you are willing to put the work into training your ear to hear how it is spoken and training your tongue to mimic the sounds that native speakers make when they speak.

Good luck, and welcome to Span¡shD!ct.com

updated JUL 2, 2010
posted by Nathaniel

My opinion is that it's very unlikely you won't be detected, no matter how hard you try! However, I'm sure with lots of effort and listening you will be able to speak well.

I believe accents are even more subtle than I originally realised - something that contributed to my belief was talking to some friends from the USA recently.

Ok, one was born and grew up in the US, her husband is English but lived in the States with her for many years.

When I first met him, I thought he was American. No doubts at all. A new friend more recently arrived from the States says he sounds totally English....and so does his wife!! There is no way either of them sound English to me or any of my friends.

My new acquantaince also regularly deletes emails from our group because she doesn't have a clue what we are talking about! Fete, Sports Day, and other expressions left her bewildered.

I find it fascinating. smile

I was once asked if I was from Syria, that was my greatest compliment on accent when speaking Arabic. Not by a native Syrian I hasten to add....

A slight digression - sometimes I worry that if I keep on trying to pick up Spanish pronunciation and idioms etc from all the countries where it's spoken, I will end up sounding more than a little exotic (as Samdie might say). I don't want my spoken spanish to sound like the equivalent of a mix of English(es), Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cockney etc etc.

Wotcha mate: Hi y'all: Good morning: G'day: Top of the morning to ya: Hi hen.

updated JUL 2, 2010
posted by galsally

Well, the obvious answer is to live in a Spanish speaking country and try to imitate the natives exactly.

Failing that, record yourself speaking and try to pick out where you sound different to how a native does and correct yourself.

Good luck and welcome to the forum smile.

updated JUL 1, 2010
edited by --Jen--
posted by --Jen--

Yes, it's very possible to minimize your "foreign" accent. I'm not sure if you can do away with it altogether unless you actually live in a Spanish-speaking culture, but you can certainly make it less obvious.

A lot of people compliment me on how my accent does not sound "horrible like some other people from the U.S." because I work on my pronunciation.

I simply studied the alphabet and practiced the pronunciation of each letter. Especially the vowels!! Here’s a link to an article in the Reference section on how Spanish letters sound.

You should also listen to as much TV, radio, podcasts, etc. that you can to pick up the native accents and use them with your own speech.

updated JUL 3, 2010
posted by --Mariana--

As already suggested, a number of factors can affect your results. A simple talent for language (particularly mimicry, in this context) is obviously important. Exposure to the spoken (live/recorded) language is crucial. Possible disadvantages/disappointments with native speakers, as models, can arise for a variety of reasons 1) they may be reluctant to correct your pronunciation (because they think it's rude / because they "understand" you (what you're trying to say) 2) because, even when they want to correct you, they don't know how to explain the difference (at best, they can only say "no not that way, this way ...") so although they can serve as role models, you have to figure out the difference between what they and you say.* There are, of course, books written on the subject of the phonemics/phonetics of Spanish (and many other languages). Their advantage is that they usually provide much more accurate/detailed descriptions of the sounds (and how they are produced) that what one can get from the typical "native speaker". The disadvantage is that that they employ technical terms which may not be familiar to you;.

Some sounds cause different kinds of problems. For example, the multi-tap 'r' ('rr' or initial 'r') sounds noticeably different to English speakers (even if they can't reproduce it, they hear the difference and they know that they are not saying it correctly). More subtle distinctions (the 'b/v' or the 'd' of Spanish) cause more problems because they resemble (but are different) the English sounds. The "English trained ear" simply ignores the differences (because they are irrelevant for English) while the "Spanish trained ear hears the difference as "foreign" (or hears the difference but makes allowances for the foreigner).

updated JUL 3, 2010
posted by samdie
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