As a college sophomore and a novice Spanish-speaker studying in Spain, I once asked my madrileño friends, “¿Todos van al cine?” Or so I thought.
Someone placed their thumbs and pinky fingers above the head and smiled as I wondered (but didn’t ask) what’s up with the bull horns? All I wanted to know is if everybody was going to the movies. But nobody explained the inside joke to me, not that day or during the rest of my semester in Spain.
I returned to school in the States and continued learning Spanish from native and non-native speakers for another two and a half years. Nobody made the bull sign as I broadened my vocabulary and knowledge of history and culture. I got great grades in Spanish.
I loved learning Spanish so much that I decided to teach it. After graduation, I enrolled in a secondary education licensing program. A Spanish pronunciation assessment was required to teach, but I had nothing to fear and had all but forgotten about the bull horns.
My pronunciation, I was told, was wrong and I needed to correct it. What mistakes was I making? Why hadn’t anyone mentioned anything before?
Disheartened but undeterred, I then spent a whole semester dedicated to diphthongs, phonemes and alveolar consonants, such as those tricksters: the letters R and D—the crux of the bull horn mystery.
Aha. I had intended to ask if all (todos) my Spanish friends were going to the movies but what came off my tongue and then bounding off my alveolar ridge was the word was bulls (toros).
Only after several months of corrective action in an advanced and expensive pronunciation class did I rectify the problem. It was a lesson that I want you to learn about today, and at an affordable price.
Though native Spanish speakers may be able to discern the intention clouded by what I call R-D™ confusion (and other pronunciation errors), it’s not always amusing. Your errors can confuse, distract or even lose your audience.
It’s a problem that Rosetta Stone and every other language tool I’ve reviewed has yet to address: For those of us who may hear a word’s correct pronunciation a million times but don’t have the benefit of seeing the phonetic representation that makes sense to us, there hasn’t been an easier-than-pie solution than ¡Buenas Erres!™