Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world.
It is also one of the richest languages: it has a wide variety of words, synonyms, antonyms and verb forms that makes it possible to define any object, sensation or action, even when we talk about the most difficult words to pronounce in Spanish.
However, some Spanish terms cannot even be translated literally into English or other languages, which is a challenge for students.
Another problem some of the students at our Spanish school in Valencia might face is pronunciation.
Most common Spanish pronunciation problems
Spanish is an essentially phonetic language.
This means that, if you know how to pronounce each letter or group of letters, you can pronounce the words correctly and without the need to know them beforehand.
In addition, most words are pronounced as they are written, so they do not require a great effort of articulation.
However, it is true that some learners encounter problems depending on their native language.
For example, English speakers have a hard time pronouncing vowels well, while many Arabic-speaking students have a hard time making a difference between b and p.
Some common pronunciation errors in Spanish are:
- Pronouncing the strong “R” correctly.
- Turning the letter “U” into an “O”.
- G” and “J” have the same sound.
- Confusing “C” with “Z”.
- Pronouncing “C” as if it were an “S”.
- Pronouncing “B” and “V” as different letters.
- Sound the “H”.
- Use the “LL” as if it were an individual “L”.
Discover Spanish alphabet and how to pronounce it.
Top 10 Most Difficult Words to Pronounce in Spanish
Spanish has words that are very hard to pronounce due to their length, the presence of several consonants in a row and their infrequent use.
If you are studying Spanish (and want to learn to speak Spanish fluently) and you find them complicated, don’t worry, even native speakers don’t know how to pronounce them correctly!
Here are some examples:
In English it can be translated as “sternocleidomastoid”. This Greek derived word is used to define a muscle located at the base of the neck and runs from the clavicle to the base of the ear. The Esternocleidomastoideo is essential for all rotational movements of the head.
In English, it means “electroencephalographer” and it refers to the doctor in charge of doing electroencephalograms by means of an electroencephalograph.
Otorrinolaringólogo is one of the hardest words to say in Spanish. Although its pronunciation seems simple, for many people, this word is a real tongue twister and, therefore, one of the most difficult words to pronounce in Spanish.
The combination of the v with several vowels makes the pronunciation of ovovivivíparo choking. The term translates to “ovoviviparous ” and according to the RAE, an ovoviviparous animal is one that retains its eggs in the genital tract until its embryonic development is well advanced.
Metacrilato is a word that may seem simple to pronounce. However, its consonant sum makes it difficult to say correctly.
“Methacrylate” in english, is a product of the polymerization of acrylic acid or its derivatives. It is a solid, transparent, rigid, and very resistant plastic material.
Another of the hardest words to say in Spanish for foreigners is “Ventrílocuo”, translated to “entriloquist”, this is a term used to talk about people with the ability to modify their voice, imitating other people’s voices or different sounds.
A commonly hard word to say in Spanish is Paralelepípedo: a six-sided polyhedron in which all faces are parallelograms, parallel and equal two by two.
In English, we call it “parallelepiped”, and is common in the field of geometry, although its use is not very common in colloquial conversation.
Do you like to talk about genetics? Then you should learn how to correctly say ácido desoxirribonucleico, a term abbreviated to “DNA” that refers to the acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of living organisms. It translates as “Deoxyribonucleic”.
The word Idiosincrasia (which means idiosyncrasy) is used with some frequency in political speeches and refers to the distinctive traits of an individual or a collective.
It is not difficult to pronounce, although the speaker often gets stuck if he must repeat it several times.
Esparadrapo is an adhesive tape, made of cloth or paper, used as a bandage. Its mispronunciation is very common, even among native Spanish speakers.
Other hard words to pronounce in Spanish for foreigners
8 Tips to improve your Spanish pronunciation
English pronunciation rules do not usually apply in Spanish.
- The repeated letter pairs “ll” and “rr” have different pronunciations than the individual letters.
- Listen a lot to how native speakers speak to improve your Spanish pronunciation. Watching movies or listening to podcasts in their original language will help you
toappreciate the subtleties of the spoken language and assimilate them into your pronunciation.
- Put into practice what you learn in your intensive Spanish classes. Don’t worry if you make mistakes and don’t be afraid of being ridicule or not being understood.
- Read out loud. This exercise will also help you lose your fear of public speaking and improve your Spanish pronunciation.
Discover the best books to learn Spanish.
- Do tongue twisters. You can take it as a fun pastime and, without realizing it, you will improve your Spanish pronunciation.
- Join a language exchange or summer camp to learn Spanish. In language exchanges you can meet native speakers and ask them to correct your pronunciation in a very practical way.
- Don’t try to lose your accent. The accent does not indicate that your pronunciation is incorrect, simply that your native language is not Spanish. If you focus your efforts on “hiding” it, you will lose naturalness and fluency in your conversation.
Learning a new language can be an exciting and rewarding challenge. By living in a Spanish-speaking country, all aspects of the language can be learned fast, and effectively. Your pronunciation, as we mentioned previously, will be especially improved when talking to natives.