When it comes to learning languages, nothing is impossible. But some words that get stuck in our throats no matter how hard we try to pronounce them correctly. Today, Mirari is showing you 10 hard words to say in Spanish and pointing out some mistakes that most learners make. Ready to train your muscles?
Common Spanish Pronunciation Mistakes: 10 Hard Words to Say in Spanish
Before revealing our list of the 10 hard Spanish words that most people pronounce incorrectly, we should mention that this list is based on European Spanish and not on Latin American Spanish, where some of these sounds don’t cause people any trouble. For this list, we put together some of the most common words that Spanish learners hear often when they start learning the language, and the Spanish pronunciation mistakes they make when they are trying to say them. There are even some mistakes in the list that natives make, too! We’ve also got some handy tips for you to avoid making these mistakes when you are speaking Spanish. Ready to begin?
“An orange juice, please!”
If you visit Spain, you will probably need to say this word when you order breakfast at a café. Even though it’s a common word, it’s still on our list of hard words to say in Spanish! Because naranja contains a sound that causes trouble for a lot of Spanish learners. Many foreigners usually pronounce the /j/ as a /k/ (/naranka/), and it’s easy to see why. The /j/ sound in naranja isn’t a sound that we use a lot in the English language. It sounds a little bit like an h mixed with a k, but actually, it’s neither of those sounds. Spanish sounds that aren’t common in our native language make it pretty easy to make mistakes when pronouncing these hard Spanish words.
The /j/ also comes from the same place in your mouth as the /k/, but in this case, you have to let air circulate throughout your mouth the whole time you pronounce it. Watch Mirari’s video below to see how she pronounces the word, and see if you can replicate it yourself.
Do you live in a house with an “ascensor”?
The combination of the /s/ and /c/ make this word difficult. To make it even harder, once you have made the “sc” sound, your tongue has to skip back in your mouth to pronounce the “s”. So this word is quite literally a mouthful. I’ll let you in on a secret: many native Spanish speakers pronounce this word wrong too. So how can you avoid this common Spanish pronunciation mistake? The trick is to pronounce the /c/ in a position that is similar to that of the /t/ sound. Try pronouncing “ascensor” (elevator) or “piscina” (pool) with Mirari.
Everyone understands this word because it’s similar in a lot of languages. Like ascensor, the combination of the /c/ and /s/ sounds make this word hard to get out. But in this case, they are in different syllables. Many people say “desisión” or “decición” and even “desición.” Remember that this word comes from the verb “decidir” and I’m sure you’ll find it a lot easier to pronounce! It can be hard to understand the difference between these pronunciations, so scroll down to check how Mirari pronounces it, and practice with her.
By the way, if you’re having trouble with these words and want to learn more about Spanish pronunciation, download our free Spanish Pronunciation Guide:
I’m sure you’ve said this word before! We chose to include this one because many foreigners have trouble pronouncing the “ñ,” a sound that is particular to Spanish and some other languages like Italian and French. Like the “j’ we saw earlier, this sound doesn’t occur much in English, so it makes for an easy Spanish pronunciation mistake amongst beginners. Many Spanish learners usually replace it with “ni” and say “espaniol” instead of “español.” One trick is to put your entire tongue against the roof of your mouth and try to pronounce an “n.” Try practicing this at home to get your tongue used to the position.
Even though it means rare, this word is very common in Spanish! It’s used a lot to say that something is weird in expressions like “¡Qué raro!” (how weird!) The main thing that makes this word difficult is the two /r/ sounds: the double /r/ and the single /r/. The rolled r is a notoriously difficult sound for English speakers, so any words with this sound are hard words to say in Spanish. It’s important to relax your tongue for this consonant, to vibrate it against the roof of your mouth, and to place it in a similar position as for the /d/ or /t/ sounds. If you are still struggling, check out this article on how to pronounce the rolled Spanish r, or head over to our YouTube channel to watch Mirari explain on video how to make the sound.
This word is a proper noun that has equivalents in a lot of languages: George, Giorgio, Georges… As you can imagine, the thing that makes this word difficult is the combination of the “j” and “g” sounds, which are pronounced the same way. Many foreigners exhale when they say this sound and say something like “horhe” and others aren’t able to pronounce it at all. The Spanish /j/ is stronger than in other languages and comes from the very bottom of your throat.
This word is important as it refers to a very common member of the family, “son.” Not all foreigners have trouble pronouncing this word, but it does contain one of the common Spanish pronunciation mistakes we saw before. You just have to remember that the “h” is silent in Spanish and you shouldn’t pronounce it at all. We already talked about the /j/ when we looked at naranja, so just remember not to mix it up with the /k/ sound. “Hijo,” not “hiko.”
Now, we aren’t going to pretend that this is an easy word. Actually, this word is really for experts. If you speak a little Spanish, I’m sure that you’ve said goodbye to someone with “¡Hasta luego!” It seems like an easy word, right. Well… not quite. In fact, it’s one of our sneakiest hard words to say in Spanish, because many people don’t realize they’re saying it incorrectly. In Spanish, when the /g/ sound appears between vowels it is more “relaxed” than when you find it at the beginning of a word. Imagine it as if the air has escaped from your throat. In Spanish, they say “hasta luego” and not “hasta lueko,” as many foreigners say.
This Spanish slang word is widely used among native speakers. It means many things, but it is mainly used when something is boring or when we believe that someone is telling a lie. “¡Qué rollo!” (What a drag/bore!) Or “Nos soltó el rollo de siempre” (He gave us the usual spiel). There’s the “ll” sound and also our beloved “r” sound, so it’s twice as hard. Remember that you shouldn’t pronounce an /i/ instead of a /ll/. We don’t say “roio” but “rollo.” To make this sound, place the back of your tongue just in front of your throat and block the air.
That’s right, we left the most difficult word for last! We saved this one for the top of our list of hard words to say in Spanish because it contains many of the sounds we’ve already talked about. This one has a huge total of three /r/ sounds. Yikes! It also has our beloved “g,” which when combined with “e” and “i” is pronounced like a /j/. Try to say it 3 times in a row: “Refrigerador, refrigerador, refrigerador.” Even Mirari struggles with this one!
Hard Words to Say in Spanish, and How You Should Pronounce Them [VIDEO]
Rooting out the common Spanish pronunciation mistakes you are making can be hard when you are reading. To help you out, Mirari has put together a video explaining all of the tips we mentioned above. Watch it on your YouTube channel, or simply click play below and watch it in this window.
This video is in Spanish, but don’t worry! You can turn on the subtitles in English or Spanish by clicking on CC or the gear symbol.
Well, that’s all for today. We hope you found this article and video useful for learning new sounds, and maybe even some new words. Take some time to watch the video if you haven’t already. And practice pronouncing these hard words to say in Spanish with Mirari as many times as you need to. Remember that you can also use your MosaLingua app to practice your Spanish pronunciation whenever you want.
See you soon and happy learning!
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