This week’s tip for better Spanish pronunciation is about SMILING ! As you may have seen in my Instagram video on my Reels (link here), this is a great way to improve your pronunciation when learning to speak Spanish. This tip is especially useful for native speakers of languages like English because of the influence we experience from pronunciation and phonetics of our mother tongue. It’s also a fantastic tip because smiling makes us happier people in general! That’s #science.
When we are young children and we learn language, we quickly become accustomed to engaging certain mouth muscles (also known as “articulators”) to pronounce our native languages. As long as we speak only that language, we engage only the articulators required for that language. If you don’t learn any other languages, then you never engage and build up other articulators, so they become lazy; like me on the couch in lockdown, or like when you are a righty and your left hand never builds up the same abilities.
When learning a more phonetically frontal language like Spanish, smiling helps to wake up your articulators so you can teach them to learn new positions and be able to build the strength necessary to eventually pronounce new sounds with more ease. It’s just like any kind of strength training for muscles in your body! With time and practice, the muscles get stronger and work in the ways you want them to.
Smiling is particularly helpful for correctly pronouncing the E and I vowels in Spanish. In Spanish Pronunciation: The Ultimate Guide we get some very detailed information on the subject. Spanish language learners are reminded “to keep your I vowel short and crisp. It helps to smile wide when creating this I vowel.” In another helpful article on speechling.com, the writer brings up her experience with Spanish and mentions that “the ‘e’ sound is more challenging than most people realize. It’s a familiar sound, as it’s like the ‘ay’ in hey in English. Where most people, myself included get tripped up is not smiling when we pronounce the Spanish vowel ‘e’. When we don’t smile, it becomes more like a ‘uh’ rather than ‘ay.’”
And there you have it! I hope this helps you along your journey and please feel free to contact me at any time for follow up questions or to try a Spanish lesson. Get on my schedule here for a free 20-minute consultation. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to smile!