Mark Hancock

Top Six Pronunciation Issues for Spanish learners

What are the main pronunciation difficulties which Spanish learners have with English? In this practical session, I will suggest my top six, along with some fun ideas for dealing with them in class. Bearing in mind that the purpose of pronunciation teaching is to help learners become more intelligible, we also consider which features of Spanish-accented English are not problematic.


In this talk I will describe the typical pronunciation features of Spanish learners of English which are most problematic in terms of intelligibility. I have chosen six features which I will present in reverse order of importance:

6. Adding an extra syllable on initial consonant clusters

5. The semi vowels /y/ and /w/, especially before certain vowel sounds

4. Voicing of consonants in word-final position, especially /s/ and /z/.

3. Central vowels, especially /3:/, as in ‘bird’

2. Stop consonants which become fricative between vowels in Spanish

1. Elision of word-final consonants

For each of these, I will describe the problem and its causes in some detail, including a contrastive analysis of English and Spanish for the feature in question. I will go on to give suggestions as to how we might deal with them in class, either face to face or online. I will make sure that a handout is available online including any activities demonstrated in this session so that participants can make immediate use of them in their own lessons.

In the final part of the session, I will discuss pronunciation teaching in relation to English as a Lingua Franca, and suggest features of Spanish-accented English which are not necessarily important in terms of international intelligibility. I will suggest features such as schwa and connected speech are important receptively, but not productively. I will also suggest that it is not important to replicate features of pronunciation which are specific to a given variety of English but not others, such as the non-rhoticity of English English. This will hopefully lead into a question and answer session in which participants might query such suggestions or make suggestions of their own.


Mark Hancock is a teacher, trainer, and author of a number of pronunciation books including Pronunciation Games, English Pronunciation in Use Intermediate, and Mark Hancock’s 50 Tips for Teaching Pronunciation (all CUP) and his award-winning self-published collection PronPack 1-4. His latest book is PronPack: Pronunciation for Spanish Speakers (Hancock McDonald ELT)