By: Lindsay Brown
Exploring Spanish-Speaking Countries
Fascinating cultures and peoples.
Jaw-dropping snowy mountain peaks.
Salt flats that transform into mirrors of the night sky.
Given these points, it’s no wonder that South America is a top destination for travelers, explorers, and students the world over. If you are learning to speak Spanish, you can practice your skills by visiting some (or all!) of the nine Spanish-speaking countries in South America. Surely, this won’t prevent you from traveling to the four South American countries that do not officially speak Spanish. However, for the sake of language learning, let’s first dive into the countries that do. Together we’ll find out where Spanish fluency can take you in South America!
Which countries in South America are Spanish-speaking?
Of the thirteen countries in the South American continent, there are nine countries whose official language is Spanish. They are Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Where would you like to go to practice your Spanish skills?
Capital: Buenos Aires
Famous For: Natural wonders, unique dialect, tango
Argentina has an impressive number of natural wonders, from glacial lakes to dusty deserts. It is home to the highest peak of the Andes, a mountain range labeled the longest in the world. Uniquely, the Spanish spoken in Argentina is different from other Spanish-speaking countries because it is more similar to the pronunciation and rhythm of Italian. If you wish to study Spanish formally in Argentina, there are many Spanish immersion courses offered in big cities. For example, try places like the capital, Buenos Aires, or Mendoza, where you will learn the special dialect of Argentina. You can even learn to tango or to cook empanadas while you’re there!
Capital: La Paz
Famous For: Large indigenous population, diverse cultures, Spanish immersion
The rare treasures of Bolivia are found in its people. This is one of the Spanish-speaking countries with the largest percentage of indigenous groups. With this in mind, finding community-based tourism and local guides will allow you to learn about the customs, traditions, and native languages of over 30 indigenous groups. Interestingly, as a landlocked nation, Bolivia overcomes its blockage to the sea by positioning its navy forces in a base at the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. This lake is located along the western altiplano (“high plateau”) at 12,500 ft. above sea level. Given that English is not widely spoken in Bolivia, it is an excellent country to visit for deep Spanish immersion. You’ll be thrust into scenarios where only your Spanish skills can help you!
Famous For: Friendly, relaxed attitude, numerous beaches & ski resorts, wine culture
Chilean culture adopts rest and relaxation as foundations of a good life. As a result of this attitude and their world-famous wines, it is clear that Chile is the best place for slow travel among Spanish-speaking countries. Surprisingly, Chile only measures 175 km east to west while being flanked by the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. This gives the feeling of closeness even after a short stay in one area. Significantly, the famous Easter Island is a historical island off the coast where the longest cave system in the world exists. Rivers of lava carved out the caves that now lie under the rocky terrain. Take advantage of the homestay option if you choose to study Spanish in Chile! You can live temporarily with a local family who will show you the true meaning of Chilean culture, which is to create lasting friendships and enjoy every moment.
Government: Unitary Republic
Famous For: mysterious archaeology, clearly spoken Spanish
Colombia is the only South American country with coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. This scenic country features heaps of archaeological ruins, dating back 13,000 years. Whispers of a lost civilization amaze us even today with their mystery. Above all, the city of Ciudad Perdida and the underground tombs called Tierradentro are great examples of this. Even though the country has suffered political unrest and civil warfare, it has been gaining economic ground and a growing sense of stability for some time. Colombians would say that “Colombian Spanish” is the clearest of all Latin Spanish-speaking countries. Due to its slow pace and cautious spoken word, it is easy to understand. There are many options to continue your Spanish studies in the capital, Bogotá. This is where you will find plenty of private tutors, college professors, and professional teachers.
Population: 16.4 million
Government: Democratic Presidential Republic
Famous For: biodiversity, quality of life, The Amazon Rainforest
Ecuador, home of the Amazon Rainforest, is the most bio-diverse of the Spanish-speaking countries. Due to the multitude of diversified life in areas such as the Galápagos Islands, Charles Darwin was able to explore and create his theory of evolution. According to InterNations, Ecuador has been voted the “best country for expats” for two consecutive years due to the high quality of life and decent cost of living it provides. Moreover, Ecuador offers Spanish-learners affordable, fun, and professional education that promotes language learning in a lively environment.
Population: 7 million
Government: Representative Democratic Republic
Famous For: Atlantic Forest
Paraguay is the only country in South America that is not a big tourist destination. In fact, tourism is so rare here that hostels, public transport, and any other tourism supports are simply not offered. However, the country features the Atlantic Forest, which runs from Brazil to Argentina, passing through Paraguay. Due to wildlife conservation projects, it is a popular attraction for biologists and environmentalists. For the strong-willed, it’s a perfect place to immerse yourself in Spanish because there are very few English speakers.
Population: 32 million
Government: Unitary Presidential Republic
Famous For: Machu Picchu, Nazca Lines, Amazon Rainforest
Home to the famous Machu Picchu and Nazca lines, Peru has an aura of mystery, excitement, and adventure. Equally important, this country offers a foodie experience like no other. It has been nicknamed “the capital of Latin cooking” because its unique dishes combine influences from all over the world. Due to a lack of slang and regional accents in Peruvian Spanish, this is a great place to practice with locals. You can also explore one of the most interesting civilizations on the planet while you learn!
Population: 3.5 million
Famous For: Low corruption, excellent economy, beautiful beaches
In a country where cows outnumber people four to one, you may think this nation is a bit backward. On the contrary, Uruguay is one of the most progressive, stable, and prosperous Spanish-speaking countries in South America. Because of its booming middle class, responsive government, and powerful free press, this country provides a strong model for the rest of the world to follow. Additionally, the most popular destination for learning Spanish in Uruguay is in the capital, Montevideo. You can enjoy the city life or spend the day at the beach before you partake in evening Spanish classes.
Population: 32 million
Government: Constitutional Republic
Famous For: Diversity of natural beauty
Even with years of political and economic friction in this great country, Venezuela is still home to some of the most charming natural beauties. From the snow-covered Andean peaks to the sunny coast of the Caribbean, Venezuela holds great pride for its many distinct features. Grasslands, islands, and waterfalls are among the many unique gems that this country has to offer. Sadly, travel at present moment is not advised due to grave economic problems.
The Four “Don’t” Countries
Can you identify the four countries of South America that weren’t mentioned? The following countries are vital parts of the continent’s identity and culture. However, they do not consider Spanish to be their primary language of communication in society and/or official government business. These countries are Brazil (Portuguese), Guyana (English), Suriname (Dutch), French Guiana (French). You can visit these countries and use your Spanish to get by, but expect to say more with your hands than your mouth!
In summary, a great way to sharpen your Spanish skills outside of the classroom is to visit the nine Spanish-speaking countries in South America. By exploring what each country has to offer, you can find which one suits your personality and traveling style. Above all, studying Spanish online or in the classroom is an open door to new places and experiences that will boost your understanding of the world. ¡Hagámoslo!Read More
By: Lindsay Brown
Have you ever wished you could improve your Spanish accent so others could understand you better? Spoken Spanish has 39 elemental sounds, or individual speech sounds produced by vocal organs. You can easily master these through exposure and regular practice. Without forming this habit, however, we are doomed to repeat pronunciation mistakes for the rest of our lives! How can we sharpen our speaking skills, even if we only have five extra minutes a day? The answer lies in the power of Spanish tongue twisters, or trabalenguas.
*To see the tongue twisters, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Why are Spanish Tongue Twisters Useful?
Choosing a Spanish tongue twister that focuses on a particular pronunciation issue will give you the ultimate learning tool. First of all, you can practice it at any moment, anywhere, until you have mastered the sound. Furthermore, Spanish tongue twisters will train the muscles in your mouth to move correctly, creating authentic pronunciation. Once you have learned one sound, you can then move on to harder trabalenguas that combine different sounds. Before long, you’ll be able to speak Spanish without tripping over your tongue!
Quite often, pronunciation problems lie in the physical – where you place your tongue. In American English, for example, we are used to relaxing the tip of our tongue while the center is raised halfway up in the mouth. This creates that typical hard /r/ sound we find in the word ‘red.’ If we attempt to do the same exact movement when pronouncing a Spanish word, such as pero, we quickly hear a striking difference between our pronunciation and that of native speakers. This is because the phonetic usage of /r/ in Spanish is physically different from that of the English language. For correct pronunciation, you must “flick” your tongue against the roof of your mouth, producing a very quick and light sound similar to a soft /d/ in English. With continued practice, you will notice a drastic improvement when you pronounce Spanish words containing the single r.
To practice this tongue movement, try the following Spanish tongue twister:
Tres tristes trapecistas con tres trapos troceados hacen trampas truculentas porque suben al trapecio por trapos y no por cuerdas.
Build Muscle Memory to Improve Pronunciation
Think back to being young and wanting to learn how to ride that shiny new bike in the driveway. When you started out, you fumbled quite a bit and lost your balance. You may have even fallen over and ended up with a scraped knee or two. Likewise, learning how to pronounce words in a new language is a process of learning a new physical skill – without the scraped knees. Instead of simply copying what you hear and attempting to copy the sounds native speakers make, you can take the time to study the actual movement required by the tongue to produce such sounds. Once you isolate a certain sound and begin to practice it, you can look for an appropriate Spanish tongue twister. Search for one that forces you to repeatedly practice the desired sound, especially in conjunction with other sounds.
Some accents may be almost impossible to mimic at first due to weak facial muscles since not every language uses the same muscles to create sounds. However, you can overcome this through extensive practice and awareness of how to strengthen those specific muscles. Thankfully, Spanish tongue twisters are the perfect answer because they provide repeated practice with certain muscles and sounds. Do yourself the biggest favor by creating a daily routine of pronunciation practice. First, identify which sounds are the most difficult for you, then find the corresponding Spanish tongue twisters that work those muscles. In no time, you’ll see how easy and efficient it is using Spanish tongue twisters to enhance your pronunciation!
A Collection of Spanish Tongue Twisters
Here are some of the best Spanish tongue twisters that children giggle over and adults remember fondly from their school days. Many are fun to try and will certainly get you smiling over how hard – and silly – they can be.
For Practice with Vowels:
- Lado, ledo, lido, lodo, ludo, decirlo al revés lo dudo. Ludo, lodo, lido, ledo, lado, ¡Qué trabajo me ha costado!
- ‘A’ – Si Pancha plancha con 4 planchas, ¿con cuántas planchas plancha Pancha?
- ‘E’ – Esteban es escalador escala y escala, Esteban el escalador, de tanto escalar, en una cima quedó.
- ‘I’ – Tengo una gallina pinta pipiripinta gorda pipirigorda pipiripintiva y sorda que tiene tres pollitos pintos pipiripintos gordos pipirigordos pipiripintivos y sordos. Si la gallina no hubiera sido pinta pipiripinta gorda pipirigorda pipiripintiva y sorda Los pollitos no hubieran sido pintos pipiripintos gordos pipirigordos pipiripintivos y sordos.
- ‘O’ – Un dragón tragón tragó carbón y el carbón que tragó el dragón tragón le hizo salir barrigón.
- ‘U’ – Cuando cuentes cuentos, cuenta cuantos cuentos cuentas. Porque si no cuentas cuantos cuentos cuentas, nunca sabrás cuantos cuentos cuentas.
For Practice with ‘b/v:’
- Juan tuvo un tubo, y el tubo que tuvo se le rompió, y para recuperar el tubo que tuvo, tuvo que comprar un tubo, igual al tubo que tuvo.
- Nadie silba como Silvia, porque si alguien silba como Silvia, es porque Silvia le enseñó a silbar.
- Un ave pensaba mientras que volaba, que sentía el pez mientras que nadaba. Y pensaba un pez mientras que nadaba, que sentía el ave mientras que volaba.
For Practice with ‘c/ch:’
- La casa de Casique muy casicada es y si Casique no limpia la casa de Casique yo no la veré.
- Yo compré poca carne, poca carne yo compré, como la carnicería carne tenía al carnicero poca carne le compré.
- María Chucena techaba su choza y un techador que por allí pasaba le dijo: María Chucena, ¿techas tu choza o techas la ajena? Ni techo mi choza ni techo la ajena, que techo la choza de María Chucena.
For Practice with ‘p:’
- Pepe Pecas pica papas con un pico, con un pico pica papas Pepe Pecas.
- Compré pocas copas, pocas copas compré, como compré pocas copas, pocas copas pagué.
- Pedro Pablo Pérez Pereira pobre pintor portugués, pinta pinturas por poca plata para pasar por París.
For Practice with ‘q:’
- ¿Cómo quieres que te quiera si quien quiero que me quiera no me quiere como quiero que me quiera?
- Yo no quiero que tú me quiera porque yo te quiera a ti, quieréndome o sin quererme, yo te quiero porque sí.
- Quique Queco Quicas quiere quintales de queso para quesadillas quebradizas, así que quintales de queso para quesadillas quebradizas quiere Quique Queco Quicas.
For Practice with ‘r/rr:’
- Tres tristes tigres comen en tres tristes platos de trigo.
- El perro de Rita me irrita dile a Rita que cambie el perro por una perrita.
- Erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril, rápido corren los carros cargados de azúcar al ferrocarril.
For Practice with ‘s:’
- La sucesión sucesiva de sucesos sucede sucesivamente con la sucesión del tiempo.
- Si Sansón no sazona su salsa con sal, le sale sosa; le sale sosa su salsa a Sansón, si la sazona sin sal.
- La sucia Susana ensucia suficientemente el suéter de Sonia.
For Practice with ‘z:’
- Tengo un durazno muy desduraznador, el que me lo desdurazne, será un gran desduraznador.
- Un zapatero zambo, zapateaba zapateados de zapata, de zapata zapateaba zapateados un zapatero zambo.
- Baza, come calabaza. Baza, calza zapatas y come calabazas.
Advanced Spanish Tongue Twisters:
- Doña Panchívida se cortó un dévido con el cuchívido del zapatévido. Y su marívido se puso brávido porque el cuchívido estaba afilávido.
- El volcán de Parangaricutirimicuaro lo quieren desemparanguatizar y el que lo desemparangaritutimice, un buen desemparanguatizador será.
- El otorrinolaringólogo de parangaricutirimicuaro, se quiere desotorrinolaringaparangaricutirimicuarizar, el desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuador que logre desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuarizarlo, buen desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuador será.
How to Use Spanish Tongue Twisters
- To make the most of your experience with Spanish tongue twisters, try writing them down while memorizing them. Although native Spanish speakers likely learn these silly sayings verbally, it may be harder for you without writing them down. When learning any other language, it’s beneficial to practice both spelling and pronunciation. Not only is it important to train your tongue to pronounce words correctly, but it is good to know how to spell what you are saying.
- Do not waste your time trying to understand every word in a tongue twister! The words will often be from particular regions of the Spanish-speaking world and will not have a meaning outside of that area! They were also meant to be fun to say, not to have a deep meaning. Remember when you were a kid learning tongue twisters in your native language? You were not concerned about the meaning of what you learned, but instead tried saying it faster and faster! Keep this in mind as you expand your volume of memorized Spanish tongue twisters. What’s most important here is using it to enhance the quality of your pronunciation.
- If you are learning Spanish with a friend or classmate, turn the tongue twisters into a game. You can play telephone, where you say a tongue twister as fast as possible and your friend repeats what they heard. Similarly, you can also try playing Pictionary with Spanish tongue twisters both you and your friend know. One person draws the basic idea from a tongue twister with the other tries to guess it.
Most importantly, have fun! Learning a language can be hard, so don’t forget to take a step back and enjoy the process. ¡Disfrútalo!
Do you need help pronouncing these Spanish tongue twisters?
Check out our video to see our very own teachers pronounce some of the tongue twisters mentioned above! Comment with your favorite one.Read More
You’re learning Spanish – well done! Now it’s time to plan out how and when to study. Let’s take a moment to go over some good practices for studying your new Spanish vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension.
Students use flashcards for a reason; they work. Physical cards let you add notes, organize and practice like a pro. If you have good flashcards, (like these) for your new Spanish words, all you need is a regular study habit.
First, make them early. After you finish a chapter or section of class, sit down and make your new set right away.
Separate the cards into five groups and number them 1 through 5. They can be sorted by theme, type of verb or conjugation into boxes or pouches. Start with pile one and go through your cards. Every definition or conjugation you get right goes into pile two. An incorrect answer stays in pile one. Then move on to pile 2 and continue to put correct answers into the next pile while incorrect answers move back to one.
Keep going until you get to the bottom of pile five. Start again with the cards from pile one only and continue until you’re all out of flashcards.
Play a Vocabulary Game
Games are a great way to make studying fun! Take advantage of your goofy side with a great word game like ¡Basta! or Stop! This takes a little practice but it’s a great way to practice your new words and push yourself to learn new ones.
Here’s how to play. Print up a ¡Basta! Board for each player, (easy or hard, depending on students’ levels). Then, designate a game master to be in charge of how the game starts. The master says, “I’m thinking of the alphabet…” then goes through their ABC’s until the players yell ¡Basta! The master lets the group know what letter he or she stopped at. Players then use that letter to start each word in each category and write as fast as they can.
After a minute, the Master yells ¡Basta! and everyone puts their pen down. Players then read what they wrote. If another player wrote the same word, they have to cross it out. Go through each player to make sure final answers are original and not repeats. Each unique word gets 100 points. Use the final column to add up their points and the next round begins. The player with the most by the end of the game is the winner.
Listen to Spanish
Listening to Spanish is important for various reasons. It allows students to pick up on accents and pronunciations, but also offers another means of learning. If your child is an a strong auditory learner, listening to Spanish is a plus. Students have a few choices – they can make an audio recording of their lesson for review, record themselves speaking or find a radio show designed for Spanish learners.
A popular site with Spanish podcasts is Audiria. The site is free and designed to promote the Spanish language and culture. They post a new podcast each day and tag each with a level and a theme so students can easily navigate to the podcast that best suits them.
Take Advantage of Technology
If your child uses Facebook, Instagram or any other fun site, try changing their account settings so it functions in Spanish. This way they will see their second language every time they log in, even if they don’t type in Spanish. Students can also use their Instagram account to make short, digital stories to review new vocabulary or to show their comprehension from the latest lesson. Many other devices allow for this too. Have an iPhone or use Alexa around your home? Try changing the settings on your devices so practicing Spanish becomes inevitable.
Sing a Song
Have a learner in your house who can’t sit still or loves music? You’re in luck – there are tons of Spanish songs that work well for learners of all levels.
For a song with direct commands and tons of encouragement to dance, try Te Mueves Tú by Ha*ash, Reik and David Bisbal. This song has a lot of repetition, is kid-friendly and tells you how to dance along.
There are tons of songs about family that can aide your studying. Most of them are for young learners, (like this one from Peppa Pig), but some are more grown up. Try Mi Familia by Basho & Friends for older kids.
Songs are wonderful for more advanced review. Check out ¿Con Quién se Queda el Perro? by Jesse and Joy. The song looks at a couple’s tough decision of who gets their beloved dog once they break up. This version shows the lyrics to help you sing along.
Have some additional tips and tricks for effective studying? Share them with the HSA community in the comments below.
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What can you do to brave a new language class? Here are four common fears and how to face them head on.
Fear #1: “I don’t understand!”
Many students are certain they won’t understand a word in class, in the textbook or from their classmates once they step into a Spanish class. No one wants to be the only one in the room who feels lost.. However, there will be times when a word or phrase goes over our head and sets off a round of anxiety. How can we keep this fear in its place?
Solution: Find the right teacher for you
One of the best ways to get past this fear is to consider your options. The right teacher, environment and pace will help you relax. Once the stress is out of the picture, you can enjoy the moments when you don’t understand – that means there’s a chance to learn something new. Some teachers use music, props or actions to help with context while others use more images or texts. Look for a teaching style that inspires you and a teacher who can go at your pace and you’ll love every minute of class.
Fear #2: “I can’t say that word.”
Pronounce this word: Refrigerador. If you struggled to get the vowel sounds and accent right, you are one of many new speakers thrown by this and many other common words in Spanish.
Spanish vowels, stress, and accents on vocabulary vary. It’s easy to mispronounce words as we learn a new language, but there’s hope for you and anyone who struggles to open the mysteries of él refrigerador.
Solution: Sing a song
Singing is one of the best ways to learn how to pronounce new words. Look for songs that show their lyrics or come with a printable version of the words. If looking to master the language, join a Spanish choir, take guitar lessons in your new language or translate a popular song into Spanish.
A melody and a beat will help you hear the words in a new way. The added emotion of the song will seal the proper pronunciation into your memory.
Fear #3: “What if I freeze up?”
The fear of conversing with someone and suddenly forgetting an important word or how to properly place it in a sentence is one that many students express. It happens – one minute we know what to say, the next we don’t.
Solution – More practice in and out of class
The best way to face this fear is to let it happen, laugh at yourself, then try again. Learn some key phrases like, “I’m still learning; give me a second,” can be extremely helpful. Ask your teacher to give you a few ways to say that you are a Spanish learner to help you remind your new acquaintances you might need a moment to express yourself.
Keep in mind that even native speakers go blank or get distracted sometimes. It’s normal.
Fear #4: “What if I can’t do it?”
We all shiver at the thought of being the lowest in class, the last to learn something or the student who quits and walks away from something new. If you’re feeling this way, it’s a good thing. It means you’re being realistic about your schedule, your limitations, and prior commitments.
Solution – Set good goals for yourself
Sit down with your schedule and block out your free time. Do you have a window you can dedicate to a new class? If your answer is yes, think about what you might use as a reward for completing a semester of Spanish. Whether it’s as big as a trip to Mexico or as small as a new pair of shoes, grab a picture of your reward and hang it on the wall to remind yourself what you’re working towards.
Everyone gets intimidated by new things, but fear doesn’t have to be the decision maker. Take control of the situation, be realistic and reward yourself for learning new things and taking risks. You’re worth it!
Have something to add to this of common fears for learning a new language? Please feel free to share with the HSA community in the comments below!
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