A proper "Spanish" accent

I live in Israel but born and raised in the U.S. I am currently learning Spanish and am gaining a variety of comprehensive input. The issue is that Spanish has 20 different countries each with their own distinct dialect. I listen to podcasts based in Spain as well as Mexico. In addition I have a teacher from Venezuela. I am currently at an A2 level (based on self assessment)and I think I can speak with a decent accent but it is probably some weird combination. What do you suggest? Should I pick one dialect to try to mimic?

Hi, adaynit!

“Should I pick one dialect to try to mimic?”
IMO, there’s no clear answer to this question because even in Spain there’s not “one” Spanish being spoken, but there are several regional variations of “castellano”. But, I think it’s a good idea to get used to a “variety” of Spanish accents as a kind of linguistic diversity training for your brain.

Should you worry about your “accent” yourself at the beginner stages?
It depends:

  • Do you want to study in Latin America or in Spain?
  • What is your likely travel destination?
  • Which region / culture is the most interesting to you (Spain, Mexico, Colombia, etc.)?

If this isn’t important at the moment, it might be better to focus on other things first.
For example:

  • an intelligible pronunciation without trying to mimic a particular native accent
  • conversational fluency
  • the ability to understand native speakers at their regular speaking pace
  • improving your reading comprehension
  • perhaps writing (short) texts
    If you then wish to acquire a specific regional accent of “castellano”, you can do so
    with the help of native speakers (you imitate), accent trainers, etc.

Just my 2 cents

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No, you shouldn’t. Don’t worry about mixing up accents. You would in fact probably be better off if you do so: if you try to “imitate” a particular accent too closely, that could in fact be detrimental because if you are perceived to come from a particular place and you choose a word or expression that doesn’t “fit in” with the accent or the perceived attitude that is associated with it, people might get disconcerted and even fail to understand, whereas if they suppose you’re a fluent speaker from “somewhere” they’ll be more open to accept a wide range of vocabulary and some quirks in your pronunciation or choice of words. Just concentrate on making yourself be understood. People will probably wonder where you’re from but that’s quite all right. Notice that even we, native speakers, can often fail to identify a particular accent. I myself am often asked where I come from :slight_smile: and some of the guesses are pretty wild. I suppose I have a particular “idiolect”. You can have your own, as well, it would make learning easier, on one hand, and more natural, on the other.

Por cierto, buena suerte en tu aprendizaje.

BTW, a tip from one of my university lecturers in French:
“At the beginning, orient yourself to the language spoken in news broadcasts
because this language register is understandable, clear and neutral”.


As with all languages, you will not actually develop a regional accent unless you live there. Most English speakers who don’t live in one of the countries speak with a mixed accent picked up from various resources conversing with various native speakers, etc… Spanish is probably the same.

Nobody cares. And worrying about it is a useless hinderance, since even if you were to “pick an accent” and only concentrate on one variety of pronunciation, input, and conversation, you’d need to be at a C2 level and above for it to even have an impact of how you use the language. And that impact would be minimal.

Also, as a foreigner, deliberately picking a regional accent could have some negative impact. Imagine, if an English student from, say, Italy decided to concentrate on speaking with an Alabama accent only, without knowing how that actually comes across in, say, New York or LA… (the SNL skit writes itself)

Anyway, just learn “standard” Spanish and you’ll be fine.

Absolutely! That reminds me of a radio skit by comic group “Goma Espuma” in which an alien was speaking in a strong Galician accent! He explained that it was because
It was really funny because of the mismatch, not because of any prejudice to the accent, which in fact I personally like very much. In general, if you speak in a non-descript accent that sounds native Spanish and then explain that you’re American/Israeli it would be very natural and you’ll get complimented by your excellent Spanish, whereas you’ll probably have to do a lot more explaining if you speak in a distinctive accent from a place you’ve never been to.
As a further example. I remember meeting a person when I was on a tour through the Venezuelan “Gran Sabana”. He explained to me that he didn’t speak any language with a “normal”/native accent. His parents spoke French but at least one of them came from an Arab country and he had been raised in Spain. He spoke all those languages fluently but his accent always sounded “foreign”. His Spanish, for example, was really funny because how coloquially and “slangish” he spoke, including a healthy dose of swearing, whereas his pronunciation was off. Needless to say, he had absolutely no problem communicating in the country.

*Sangenjo - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre

I would say do not worry about learning accents until you are fluent. I’ve been learning Spanish for over a year and people from here ask me where I was born, my ethnicity, although my accent is no where near perfect. I personally took a pause from learning a specific accent until I get to the two year mark.

Thank you Ftornay. What you said makes sense. If you heard my Spanish you would be able to tell that I wasn’t a native speaker, but it wouldnt be completely obvious that I am American.

Same here. Almost from the get-go, I adopted the “Castillian” way of speaking, even though of the 800 hour of native content I listened to,70 percent of it was Latin American telenovelas. I live in the US and speak with Latin Americans almost 100% of the time. It is rare for me to encounter a Spaniard.

What does that mean for me to speak the “Spanish Way?”

I pronounce the z and certain c letters differently. I use the Spain vocabulary words when I speak, the vosotros, and the leismo. I also sale “vale” sometimes. That’s all. As I’ve been doing this for a while, and I’m good enough to conceal my country of origin and even my native language from a Latin American and they will frequently asked me where I was born. When I say the US, they almost invaribaly ask where I learned Spanish (family from Spain, etc.). Similiarly, but not exactly, Spaniards just think of me as being “from somehwere,” as Francisco said, but they dont’ think that place is Spain.

Lastly, I should add that while I know what a “Spanish accent” sounds like, I have no idea what a Madrileno vs a Gallego vs. an Andaluz accent sound like without hearing them all together. Simillarly, the “King’s English” can be American or British. Foreigners don’t learn English with a Scottish accent anymore than they would a Texas drawl.

Great explanation! It’s great to get to know the experience of a dedicated Spanish learner.
Just a little note: I’m a native Spaniard but hate “leísmo”. It’s also not usual in my region, fortunately.