How to learn an accent in Spanish

“…But, you’re from here, right? … ” – that was the question a lady in the airport asked me the first time I went to visit the states. As a language learner, I can tell you that there’s no better time than when people hear your accent and they think you are a native speaker. Actually, this confusion means that you’re doing an awesome job learning a new language.

Yes, I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. We were at JFK airportand a nice lady who worked there, came up to us to help us out with the bags and some papers that we had to fill.

As we were walking through the airport hallways, she started a conversation with my dad who struggled a little to understand and to talk back to the lady, I tried to help my dad answering the lady’s questions.

After a little chat with the lady, she said: “so, your dad lives abroad, but you’re from here, right?” I replied that I was Colombian too and she said, she had thought I was from there because of my accent, and then she started telling great things about the awesome teacherthat I must have had.

Just as it happened to me when I learned English, mastering an accent in Spanish will make a huge difference between you and the rest of the Spanish learners. Imagine yourself being confused with a native Spanish speaker whenever someone asks you a question.

Some people say that it’s impossible to sound like a native speaker in a foreign language, but I disagree with that.

Honestly, I think you are the only one who makes it possibleor not because, in my case, I was successful developing an accent in English. I believed I could do it and I did it, and I’m happy to share with you what I did to get it.

Select the accent you want

A good thing about learning a language as an adult is that you can pick your accent, it’s not the one that you grew up in, or the one who you never thought about, but the one you want.

Spanish has a very big number of accents: Colombian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Argentinian, Bolivian, Spanish (from Spain), etc. The best part about this is that every country has many cities and every city can have its own accent.

The first step is to pick the accent you want to learn, you can do this based on anything you want: Maybe because you have family in a certain country, or because you go to some Spanish country and live there, or just because you like that accent, but choose.

The key to learn the accent

The key to learn your target accent is to listen to it infinitely, you need to listen as much as you can in order to get it. Pay especial attention to how the intonation goes, which means to hear when the voice goes up and when it goes down.

You could listento your target accent by traveling to the specific area with this way of speaking, or you could listen to audios or podcasts with the kind of accent you aim to have.

Learn unique words used in that accent

Every country, region or city have their own words and idioms that are used only in those places, for example, in Mexico people use the word “carnal” as to say brother, like to your very close friends, but in Colombiawe never use that word, instead, most people here use the word “parcero”, to refer to the same thing: “bro”.

Some filler words also go along with accents, for instance, in some cities, people use the word “este…” just to say something when they’re thinking what to say, here’s a clearer example:

-“¿Qué hiciste anoche?”

-“¿Anoche?… este… estuve en casa viendo películas solo”.

In other parts of the world people could use “pues”, to express the same thing, for example:

-“¿Qué hiciste anoche?”

-“¿Anoche?… pues… estuve en casa viendo películas solo”.

What you need to do is to identify which fillers are used in the accent you want to learn and start using them. These words as well as idioms will help you sound more like a native speaker.

In fact, native speakers use idioms all the time without realizing it, just imagine if someone comes up to you and says: “esta lloviendo a cantaros”, to express that it’s raining dogs and cats, it wouldn’t be very easy to figure out, so to speak.

Play the role of a native speaker

When I was in school, I used to make fun of my teachers by imitating them with my friends (of course, never in front of the teachers). We used to imitate the way they walk, the way they explain things with their arms and body, and the way they talk, it was very fun back in the day.

I know it sounds disrespectful, but you know, boys will always be boys, the thing is that we imitated the teachers so well that anyone cracked up by just watching us play our little roles of teachers nagging students, or advising others to sit down and think about their future.

Later, when learning English, I used to imitate native speakers too, not only the way the sound, but the way they walk and how they use their body language.

This tip is extremely useful: Just turn on a TV Show you like, watch a scene of your favorite character and do exactly what he or she does.

Remember, imitate every single detail, the way they look at other people, how they walk, their facial expressions, their walking style, repeat the words and expressions they use with the same intonation and energy they display.

Of course, learning an accent doesn’t happen overnight, as I always say, it requires timeand effort. Convince yourself of the fact that there are no limits; you can learn any language or any accent, and you will certainly get it.

What accent would you like to learn? Do you already have a Spanish accent? How did you get it? Just let us know in the comments below!

Summary: Steps to get a Spanish accent

  • Believe you can do it.
  • Select the accent you want.
  • Listen to the accent infinitely.
  • Get to know specific vocabulary from that accent.
  • Use fillers from that accent.
  • Learn idioms.
  • Imitate every aspect of native speakers (tone, sounds, facial expressions, body language, etc.)

Diego Cuadros is a blogger and a Spanish online teacher. He uses stories to help Spanish lovers understand fast-speaking native speakers, so they don't freeze and panic in conversations.

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