I recently had a few 'aha!' moments in my Catalan learning that I wanted to share with you.
I was getting frustrated that, when I heard the language being spoken, it didn't sound the same as when I tried to reproduce it.
When I spoke, it felt like every sentence was a tongue-twister. But from native speakers and proficient learners, words seemed to just flow - and I wanted to get closer to that more authentic sound.
So I focused on the pronunciation that was giving me the most trouble, and below is what I found. Once I discovered this, it was a mini-revelation.
1. An 's' sandwiched between 2 vowels should sound more like a 'z'. e.g. 'casa' sounds more like 'caza'.
2. Many words with an 'o' actually sound closer to an 'ooh'. Try the Catalan verb for 'to open' with each pronunciation - 'o-brir' vs. 'ooh-brir'. Doesn't the 2nd one just sound more authentic and easier to say?
3. Many words with an 'a' actually sound closer to a caveman 'uh'. Try the Catalan for 'goodbye' with each pronunciation - A-déu vs. Uh-déu. Again, doesn't the 2nd one just sound more authentic and easier to say?
4. Don't get hung up on those 'r' sounds. Maybe this problem was mine alone... but my tongue was getting twisted every time there was a word with an 'r', almost to the point where I was nearly rolling every one. I even had trouble with the name of my own baby son - Marcel - because my tongue would flick forward trying to enunciate that 'r' separately. Don't do it! Forget about it. Stretch the vowel that precedes it, and it'll sound just fine.
5. Similarly, I was being too literal when vowel sounds appeared next to each other, such as when a pronoun has another vowel sound just before it. e.g. the sentence 'Què em dius?' was coming out of my mouth a bit like: 'key-em-dius?' Awkward.
Try merging them together like this: 'kem dius?' That sounds more like what we hear on the street, doesn't it! The sound of the 2nd syllable basically disappears.
Here's one more: 'Ja ens veurem!' Try it like: 'jans veurem!'
I'll post again if I find any more useful tips.
t) Mathieu Marquer - La Rambla, Barcelona