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Spanish-Influenced English: Spotlight on Pronunciation

Posted on May 20, 2017 at 2:55 PM

Many of us can often discern when someone has an accent from another country, but may not know exactly what causes the accent. Because Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the U.S., this post will highlight the articulation and phonology of Spanish speakers. The purpose of this post is to describe common speech patterns of Spanish and how these patterns may affect a Spanish-speaker’s pronunciation of English words. It’s important to note, however, that this post serves to describe an overview of key differences between Spanish and English and is not a comprehensive list of all potential differences between the languages. Additionally, it should not be assumed that all second-language learners will present with the patterns described in this post. This post is the first of three in a series on Spanish-Influenced English, so be sure to check back to learn more about Spanish vocabulary, culture, and sentence structure.

The Spanish phonological system is smaller and more concise than that of English, containing fewer vowels and consonants. In Spanish, there are only 5 pure sounds: a, e, i, o, u, as well as some diphthongs (Salcedo, 2010) causing many second-language learners to make vowel substitutions. Common vowel substitutions include: /ɪ/ → [i], /æ/ → [ɛ], and /æ/ → [ɑ] (Roseberry-McKibbin, 2002).

The following consonants do not exist in Spanish: /ɹ/, /z/, /ð/, /dʒ/, /ʃ/, /ŋ/, and /ʒ/ (Goldstein, Fabiano, & Iglesias, 2004). Additionally, words cannot begin with s-clusters and can only end with the /s/, /n/, /ɾ/, /l/, and /d/ consonant phonemes (Goldstein, Fabiano, & Washington, 2005; Roseberry-McKibbin, 2002). /θ/ and /v/ also don’t exist in many Spanish dialects, but there are some that do utilize these sounds (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, n.d.). The differences between the consonant phonemes of English and Spanish often result in the following sound substitutions: /v/ → [b], /ʃ/ → [tʃ], /dʒ/ → [j], and /θ/ → [d] (Roseberry-McKibbin, 2002).

Other characteristics of Spanish-Influenced English can include deleting final consonants, removing aspiration from stop consonants, and devoicing final consonants. The /t/, /d/, and /n/ phonemes may be dentalized, /r/ may be tapped or trilled, /s/ may be produced in a more anterior position, the schwa may be inserted before word initial consonant clusters and /h/ in the initial position of words may not be produced (Roseberry-McKibbin, 2002).

Another key impact on a Spanish speaker’s ability to pronounce English is stress pattern (Shoebottom, n.d.). Spanish is syllable-timed and English is stress-timed, which results in the stress, pitch, and rhythm of English sentences to be flattened when produced by a Spanish speaker. When stress patterns deviate from what we’re used to, a speaker may become unintelligible or difficult for us to understand (Shoebottom, n.d.).

This concludes my post on pronunciation in Spanish-Influenced English. Don’t forget to check back soon for the next post in this series. Also, please leave a comment if English is your second language to let me know what types of struggles (if any) you experience when pronouncing English.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Facts on Spanish phonology. Retrieved July 4, 2012, from

Goldstein, B., Fabiano, L., & Iglesias, A. (2004). Spontaneous and imitated productions in Spanish-speaking children with phonological disorders. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 35, 5-15.

Goldstein, B. A., Fabiano, L., & Washington, P. S. (2005). Phonological skills in predominantly English-speaking, predominantly Spanish-speaking, and predominantly Spanish-English bilingual children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 36, 201-218.

Roseberry-McKibbin, C. (2002). Multicultural students with special language needs: Practical strategies for assessment and intervention (2nd ed.). Oceanside, CA: Academic Communication Associates, Inc.

Salcedo, C. S. (2010). The phonological system of Spanish. Revista de Lingüistica y Lenguas Aplicadas, 5, 195-209.

Shoebottom, P. (n.d.). The differences between English and Spanish. Retrieved July 10, 2012, from the Frankfurt International School website:

About the Author:

Courtney Caruso is the owner of Liberty Speech Associates LLC and is a bilingual speech-language pathologist in Northern NJ. She works with children and adults in their homes so they can work on their skills in a natural environment where they are most comfortable.

Interested in speech or language therapy or accent modification services? Contact us at 201-658-4400 or

Categories: Accent Modification, Cultural & Linguistic Diversity, Bilingualism

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