How to deal with strong accents in Spanish!

Regional accents are certainly one of the beauties of any language. They are a part of a person’s identity and the community they belong to. They show how rich a culture is because it is in the language that we can see elements of its past, the local customs and the people’s character... 


And a country as culturally diverse as Spain could not be otherwise and you can find completely different accents from North to South, East to West. 


However, as learners of another language, it can be hard to understand people with strong accents and can even make us wonder whether they are in fact speaking the same language! 🤔


In Spain, for example, people living in areas where they have their own native language (Catalonia, Basque Country, Galicia, Comunidad Valenciana, The Balearics...) will often find themselves speaking Spanish with the corresponding accent and intonation resembling their own languages...


So no wonder it can initially feel like they are speaking another language indeed!


But there are also other regions where Spanish is the only official language and people speak with strong accents too. For example, in Andalusia.


Here, accents vary from province to province and even though it is generally much softer in cities than in rural areas, it will take some adjusting if you’re used to more standard Spanish.


So, what can you do to improve your understanding if the area where you are has a strong accent?


  • Immerse yourself in the area’s accent (even before you visit!)

    For example, find videos with people speaking the regional accent, research about the characteristics and specific sounds, find local tv channels or radio stations or programmes where you can become accustomed to it in a non-pressure situation. 


  • Write words that you hear (and surprise you!) in standard Spanish first and next to them the way you heard them and repeat them a few times so your ear becomes more familiar with the accent.

    Ex. Hasta luego > “Ah-ta lego” or even… “ta-lego” in Andalucía! 😂


  • Don't be afraid of asking people "hablar más despacio" or "repetir". Most people will slow down and make an effort to speak more clearly.


It's like when you hear different accents in English. It may take you a few minutes to adjust, particularly with some strong ones, but in the end, your ear attunes and as you listen more, the same will happen in Spanish.


And remember that, in general, people will always try to help you when they see you making an effort, so throw yourself in the deep end and have fun with it! 😃

Hasta pronto,


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