Which Spanish accent is the best?
Throughout my career of teaching Spanish at Tres Culturas and elsewhere, I have often been asked by my students about what accent should be the best for them to use in their spoken Spanish. Without any hesitation I usually reply that they can use any accent they fancy as long as what they’re saying is properly pronounced following the Spanish particular sounds and stress conventions on words, as well as natural speech patterns (i.e. the way that the majority of people normally speak).
The accents people use in their speech respond to a range of linguistic features far too broad to explain briefly. In general terms, accents don’t make any difference to the main role of language, namely to communicate and exchange ideas. A factor contributing to the existence of accents is connected with the intrinsic characteristic of language to differ even within itself, which can happen very often regardless of aspects such as the size of the territory that it’s being considered.
In Spanish, there are a vast amount of accents depending on the country or the particular region a group of its speakers come from. Countries as small as El Salvador, for example, have enough range of accents to keep a linguist studying them, busy for years.
Accents make a language varied and contribute to its ‘charms’ – or ‘detracting’ features – which are very important for the cultural study of the people that use it. However, the aesthetics of the spoken language doesn’t represent a defining factor for its effectiveness; nor does it make the accent used by a group of Spanish speakers better or worse than the accent used by another group in the language. As an accent does not provide any particular objective feature to consider it either good or bad, all accents used by Spanish speakers constitute cultural and mostly natural features that are legitimate by their own nature.
It’s practically impossible for a student to learn or for a teacher to teach all the accents that exist within the Spanish language. So whatever accent the student ends up learning, is always a good accent as long as it’s understood by other native and non-native speakers of the language.
How many varieties of Spanish accents do you know?