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
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!
Ready to take the first step? Schedule your first class today with HSA and start learning Spanish!Read More
Choosing a language program presents parents with a barrage of choices. The good news is there is no need to panic – researchers, teachers and students the world over have found language is best acquired and retained in an immersion class.
What is immersion?
Immersion is actually a balance between what teachers call ‘L1’, the student’s native language, and ‘L2’, the new language. A good program will use the student’s mastery of English to support and encourage the acquisition of new words and phrases in Spanish.
There are a few ways teachers and programs achieve this. One is with a lot of visuals. This includes gestures, modelling, real-life objects to help illustrate a theme or situation and lots of pictures or videos. Another is open-ended questions that encourage conversation as opposed to inquiries that only garner a basic “yes” or “no”.
Students new to a program will use some English to start, but over time will depend on their new language to build their fluency.
The Problem with Non-Immersion Classes
Automated programs like Rosetta Stone make the claim that a student can learn their second language the same way they learned their first. In other words, tap into your former, baby brain and use it to acquire a whole new set of vocabulary.
There is a major issue with this approach – a brain grows up. And by growing, a brain makes significant changes in its connections and processes from year to year. While a three-month old brain can perceive any number of phonemes or distinct sounds within words, a one-year old brain is no longer able to do this. By that age, babies only respond to words and sounds they already know.
Young children also get the opportunity to guess at a lot of words. A small child of three might call a spoon a fork, for example. Parents are there to correct them over time and steer them towards the right answers.
Some programs have copied this, allowing language students to guess at which word matches which picture. While this technique works for babies, it’s ineffective for everyone else. After all, a student can accidentally guess the right answer any number of times, but getting lucky isn’t an effective way to learn.
Benefits of Immersion
Immersion style learning helps a lot because it shifts a learner’s first language into something new without allowing for a lot guesses. It’s a more natural and instinctive approach.
Most of us need to know some basic things with language like how to ask “What’s your name?” or “How much for milk?” With immersion, a learner takes the phrase he or she already knows and transforms it into “¿Cómo te llamas?” or “¿Cuánto cuesto el leche?”
Yes, the grammar and structure is a bit different, but the idea is the same. This crossover helps make for better understanding and retention.
Students who learn in an immersive style have a lot more confidence in their new language and feel much better entering a conversation with new people who might not speak any English. Most importantly, it means your son or daughter will actually speak a language, not a smattering of words or random phrases, and that is real bilingualism.
Ready to give HSA’s immersive program a try? Sign up for a free class today.Read More
The search for a good Spanish program can be lengthy and difficult, especially if you’re not sure what kind of program you or your child will respond to best. Do you want to spend the money on a private instructor and hope the teacher knows what they’re doing? Or should the two of you navigate a set of textbooks or a software-based curriculum at the kitchen table and hope for the best?
Weighing your options is always a good idea. Here are three different approaches you can use to guide your learning and help you speak Español excelente.
Rosetta Stone Online Program
Developed in 1992 in Virginia, this is a Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) software. Like HSA, it encourages users to go at their own pace and enjoy the process. Unlike HSA, it’s taught by an automated program, not a teacher that speaks and connects with the student.
Rosetta Stone uses images, text, sound and repetition to help the user learn Spanish. It offers a chance to analyze things like how many questions the student answered correctly, how accurate their pronunciation is with the help of visual sound graphs and how long each lesson is taking. There is no text book and no instructor attached to each learner.
- Easy to get started – a visit to their website and a payment gets you started
- Very analytical and practical
- Image heavy – the screen never looks like a test, even when it is
- No book or instructor. Each learner is truly on their own
- Every learner gets the same presentation, so if they get bored or lost, there’s no adjusting the curriculum
- No free trial, you have to buy it
- No instructor to guide you through the program
Pimsleur Online Program
The Pimsleur program has taken language learning and done some reevaluating in how we learn and why we may not acquire new vocabulary and structure as we might hope. This program claims to have an entirely new approach they’ve termed “Graduated Interval Recall.” Basically, students remember by being asked to recall specific phrases and then wait to see how they did. This makes for active listening in a program that is purely audio.
Users have reviewed the program as usable, yet overly formal. It was originally created for the standard travelling businessman who needs to talk about his wife and kids, not a young person visiting family or a student on break.Again, there’s no book or teacher – the student interacts with the program itself and it can’t be tailored.
- Audio based and highly interactive, students want to guess the right phrase and feel elated when they succeed.
- No reading or note taking, just a conversation
- Students learn a formal version of each language and may sound a little old-fashioned as speakers
- The program focuses on a married, male perspective, making this less than ideal for young learners
- No teacher or textbook
The Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA) Online Learning Program
Easily one of the best options around. The program not only has its own, highly refined curriculum, it’s also entirely up to you when your child starts and how often he or she takes classes. Instruction happens one-on-one with a real live instructor, meaning each student has their teacher’s full attention throughout the lesson. Your son or daughter will be speaking introductory Spanish after just one lesson and can do review with you in the program’s textbook.
Best of all, HSA offers a free, no-risk trial for one or two students at a time before you commit. You don’t give your credit card information or make any decisions until you are positive this program is perfect for your little learner.
- Personal, tailored instruction with a human teacher and printable textbook
- A free, no-commitment trial class prior to any purchase
- Siblings can take classes together
- Classes encourage speaking, interaction and true language acquisition
- Online only – this isn’t really a hindrance as students can access the classes on any device
Is your little learner ready to start learning Spanish? Click here to sign up for a free class today.Read More
Learning a foreign language has many benefits, but like many purchases, cost can be an important factor. Is software a good fit? Are you going to teach the lessons yourself? Can you really afford a private, online tutor for your child?
Here’s a closer look at some popular programs, their highlights, and what they cost.
Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA)
Homeschool Spanish Academy classes are taught live (online) by accredited instructors and the classes can be scheduled at your convenience. The program focuses on effectiveness, achievement, and retention while helping your child learn as authentically as possible. There is an option to take accredited classes or do the course as a fun extra curricular.
As a parent, you choose if you want a 25 minute or 50 minute class. Each class includes a review section, live instruction and assigned homework to help your child practice their new language. Longer classes will earn your child high school credit.
Your price per class goes down the more classes you sign up for at a time. Also, if you’re uncertain, you can try a free class to make sure HSA is the right program for your independent learner.
50 Minute Sessions
- 15 classes – $219 total or $14.60 per class
- 30 classes – $369 total or $12.30 per class
- 60 classes – $599 total or $9.98 per class
25 Minute Sessions
- 15 classes – $149 total or $9.93 per class
- 30 classes – $249 total or $8.30 per class
- 60 classes – $399 total or $6.65 per class
Have two kids ready to speak Spanish? They also offer HSA+1 at a lower cost for students wanting to take classes together.
Rosetta Stone Online Classes
Rosetta Stone, formerly a set of CD-Roms and now an easily downloadable program, also offers online learning. However, the popular program falls short when it comes to instruction.
All lessons are automated and not monitored by a teacher. There is some review, but it is also automated and not tailored to the student. The program is favored by adults who do a lot of travelling because it’s not built with students in mind. Rosetta Stone does not offer high school credit directly, however they are amenable to helping students earn language credits. Contact the company directly for more information.
Geared towards those who prefer to learn on their own and via the internet, Rosetta Stone is a predictable program that charges per level. While the site offers a quick demonstration video, there is no free trial available.
- Level 1 Spanish: $94
- Levels 2 – 5: $124 per level (customers can choose to buy one level at a time)
- Total cost of a complete course: $590
TakeLessons Live Spanish
Takelessons.com is also a live instructor course offering a varied curriculum for students. While some classes are appropriate for kids, others focus on themes like Spanish for Customer Service or Vacation Spanish. Helpful, but not accredited and not fun for the little ones.
TakeLessons has a program that asks you to choose a time that works for you and then your child joins a group class. Each lesson has a set price and there is no textbook or homework assigned. The program also does not contribute to a student’s school credits.
While the program is a good fit for the right person, the price is a reflection of its rigidity and the fact that students learn in a digital group as opposed to one-on-one. A month-long free trial is available, though classes only happen once a week.
- One class: $19.95
- $319.20 per semester
Private (in-person) Tutoring
There’s no question that in-person private tutoring has a long list of advantages. Being able to work through homework, study for tests or even just practice Spanish in person with a private tutor allows students to comfortably ask questions and get live feedback (corrections and assurance). Also, private tutoring sessions allow tutors to cater to the needs of each student unlike group tutoring and being in-person makes for a more personal connection that can help the tutor identify and fill learning gaps. Just one session (typically 60 minutes) per week can have a big impact for students.
Unfortunately, one-on-one private tutoring can be very expensive. Private Spanish tutors typically base their pricing on the curriculum level and it is common for those with more experience to charge more. Like most services, location can certainly play into the pricing as well.
- One hour: $30-85 (varies based on location, curriculum level, tutor’s experience)
- $450 – $1275 per semester (one session per week / 15 weeks per semester)
Ready to give Spanish a try? Click here to sign up for a free class today.Read More