mispronounced Spanish food words

5 mispronounced Spanish food words

As a native Spanish speaker, I often get annoyed by people mispronouncing words, particularly food words. This is especially irritating when the person at fault is a waiter/waitress, restaurateur or food podcaster. Please don’t take this post as a rant, as its purpose is mainly to educate those who want to say things right. These are my top 5 mispronounced Spanish food words.

1. Tortilla

This word can refer to:

  • Flour or corn flat breads used for wrapping tacos, burritos, fajitas and other Mexican dishes
  • Tortilla española (Spanish omelette), a very popular dish made, in its simplest iteration, with eggs and potatoes
  • A plain omelette in Peruvian Spanish

Note that the double L in Spanish sounds like a J rather than a single L. Hear the right pronunciation here.

2. Tempranillo

Tempranillo is a type of grape that is mostly used for wine making in Rioja, Spain. It is one of my go-to wine styles because it tends to be lighter and less acidic than other varietals. Similar to tortilla, the double L in tempranillo should be pronounced like a J. Have a listen here.

5. Paella

Another double L word! Most people know and love paella, the Spanish dish featuring rice, saffron and many tasty fillings (my favourite paella has chicken, chorizo and seafood). Sadly, a lot of people do not know how to pronounce it. Again, the double L makes it hard for non-Spanish speakers to order correctly in a restaurant. Repeat after me: paella.

4. Jamón

Okay, we’ve moved from the double Ls into the Js. J in Spanish is pronounced more like an H than like an English J. Therefore, jamón sounds more like ham than like jam. Follow this clip for the right pronunciation.

5. Tamal

This is something I’ve heard from Americans and not Australians, mostly because Australians don’t know what tamales are. Every country has their own version of tamales, but in short, it’s a savoury dish made of spiced corn (or corn flour), often filled with one or more types of meat, wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves and steamed. The issue here is that most people say “tamale” as the singular for “tamales”, when in fact the singular is “tamal”. Hear the pronuciation here.

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