Learning to produce vowels accurately in Spanish–and to understand other speakers when they produce them–is one of the most important things you can do to improve your ability to speak and understand Spanish.
Studies have shown that native speakers of Spanish are most confused by imprecise vowel pronunciation. If you think about things like verb conjugation and the gender of nouns–two things that Spanish students spend a lot of time thinking about!–changing from an -e to an -o or an -o to an -a can radically change the meaning.
In all languages, vowels are speech sounds that are made with the air flowing freely through your mouth. This means that the air flow isn’t obstructed in any way by the lips, tongue, or jaw. We classify vowels by where they are produced in your mouth, which affects the sounds themselves.
Although both Spanish and English share the vowels a, e, i, o, u, each language does pretty different things with them.
If you’ve grown up speaking English, you’ve internalized the rules for reading and producing vowel sounds. As an English speaker learning Spanish, you have a tendency to use those same rules when you speak Spanish. This happens in predictable ways, which we’ll cover here.
Our goals with these materials are to help you identify areas where you’re likely to use the rules of English pronunciation and how you can overcome these patterns when you speak Spanish.