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How to Describe Speech Disorders in Spanish

evaluating speech disorders in Spanish

It’s one thing to speak Spanish, it’s another thing to have field-specific vocabulary to talk about speech disorders in Spanish. Whether you are a fluent Spanish speaker, a novice Spanish speaker, or a non-Spanish speaker, as a speech-language pathologist you will need to be able to describe speech disorders in Spanish at some point in your career.

Below you’ll find several lists of words used to talk about communication development and communication disorders in Spanish. We’ve included a list of phonological processes in English and Spanish. You will also find English terms and their Spanish translations to describe articulation skills and articulation goals. These will come in handy during IEP meetings and when reviewing evaluations and progress with families.

Talking about Phonological Processes in Spanish

Let’s start with Spanish phonological processes. When talking about phonological processes in English we might share with a parent that,

Phonological processes are normal patterns that occur in developing speech due to motor constraints. Children stop using some patterns around age three and other patterns are used longer. It’s when these patterns are used past the point at which most children stop using them that they are considered a problem.

And for our Spanish-speaking parents, we might share that,

Los procesos fonológicos son patrones normales que ocurren en el desarrollo del habla  mientras que el sistema de articulación madura. Los niños dejan de usar algunos patrones alrededor de los tres años y otros patrones se usan por más tiempo. Es cuando estos patrones se usan más de lo normal que se consideran un problema.

Final consonant deletionSupresión de consonantes finales
Initial consonant deletionSupresión de consonantes iniciales
Medial consonant deletionSupresión de consonantes mediales
Weak syllable deletionSupresión de sílabas átonas
Consonant Cluster ReductionReducción de grupos consonánticos
Gliding of liquidsDeslizamiento de consonantes líquidas
Syllable ReductionReducción de sílabas
Nasalization of vowelsNasalización de vocales

And here’s a great chart with English and Spanish developmental norms that you can include in your reports.

This chart provides examples of different processes in English and Spanish and some guidelines for when phonological processes are suppressed. Remember that with any charts of development, there is a lot of variation in children and studies. Use them as guidelines to inform your evaluation and to guide your dynamic assessment process and evaluation of stimulability.

Phonological Processes Chart

Suppressed by: Pattern English Example Spanish Example
Spanish * English* Syllabic Patterns    
Age 3 (rare) Age 3 (rare) Initial Consonant Deletion “at” for “cat” “an” for “pan”
Age 3 Age 3 Final Consonant Deletion “ca” for “cat” “lapi” for “lapiz”
Age 3 Age 4 Medial Consonant Deletion “ki-y” for “kitty” “la-iz” for “lapis”
Age 5 Age 4 Cluster Reduction “fat” for “flat” “faco” for “flaco”
Age 3 Age 4 Weak Syllable Deletion “telphone” for “telephone” “tefono” for “telefono”
    Substitution Patterns    
Age 5 Age 3 Stopping “bat” for “fat” “cape” for “café”
Age 3 Age 4 Fronting “bat” for “kat” “teso” for “queso”
Age 3 Age 3 Assimilation “tato” for “taco” “tato” for “taco”
Age 3 Age 3 Backing “kat” for “bat” “kos” for “dos”
Age 5 Age 7 Liquid Simplification “wake” for “lake” “wapiz” for “lapis”
NA Age 7 Vocalization “powah” for “power” NA
Age 5 NA Flap/Trill Deviation NA “daton” for “raton”
Age 5 Age 7 Gliding “bwack” for “black” “pwato” for “plato”

* Based on the work of Goldstein (Spanish) and Shriberg (English).

For more information about phonological processes in Spanish and speech disorders in Spanish, check out this ASHA article and this great resource.

Let’s talk about how we describe articulation disorders in Spanish.

With articulation, we are often describing where a sound is made and how a sound is made. In speech lingo, that’s place and manner of production. Below is a table of frequent terminology we use to talk about articulation disorders in English and Spanish.

When we talk to parents about articulation disorders we might say,

Articulation deals with the way we use our lips, tongue, and teeth to produce different sounds. When we evaluate articulation skills, we look to see if there is a particular sound or type of sound that is difficult to produce. We talk about these sounds by the place they are articulated and by the way we make them.

In Spanish, that would sound like this:

La articulación se trate de la forma en que usamos los labios, la lengua, y los dientes para producir diferentes sonidos. Cuando evaluamos las habilidades de articulación, investigamos si hay un sonido espicífico o un tipo de sonido que es difícil de producir. Hablamos de estos sonidos por el lugar en que se articulan y por la forma en que los hacen.

Chart of Articulation Terms in Spanish and English


Talking about Speech Goals in Spanish

After we talk to parents about our concerns about their child’s speech development, we talk about goals and how we are going to work on the areas of need. Here are some of the ways we talk about speech goals in Spanish.

In English, our conversation with parents might sound like this:

Your child is currently demonstrating articulation/phonology skills that are below average compared to other children his/her age. We have selected goals to address his/her areas of difficulty.

And in Spanish…

Su hijo actualmente está demostrando habilidades de articulación/fonología que están bajo del promedio en comparación con otros niños de su edad. Hemos seleccionado objetivos para ayudar con sus areas de necesidad.

Terms for articulation goals in Spanish and English

Articulation GoalsMetas de articulación
Discriminate correct and incorrect soundsDistinguir los sonidos correctos e incorrectos
Produce in isolationProducir en aislamiento
Produce in syllablesProducir en sílabas
Produce in word initial positionProducir en posición inicial de palabras
Produce in word medial positionProducir en posición medial de palabras
Produce in word final positionProducir en posición final de palabras
Produce in consonant clustersProducir en grupos consonánticos
Use in phrases and sentencesUsar en frases y oraciones
Use consistently in conversationUsar consistentemente durante la conversación

And to wrap this up, here are a few more great resources.

Talking to Spanish-speaking parents about speech disorders

The Goal Bank with Goals Written in English and Spanish

Spanish Wording for Parent Conferences

Articulation Self-Rating Charts

Communication Disorder

Written by: Ellen Kester

4 Comments on “How to Describe Speech Disorders in Spanish”

  1. April 24, 2018 at 7:20 am #

    Thank you for providing these!

    • April 24, 2018 at 8:20 am #

      Glad they helped!

  2. April 2, 2020 at 4:17 am #

    This is awesome. I appreciate the translations. The only one I feel needs to be corrected for incorrect spelling in the Spanish form is: Devoiced to Ensordecimiento (with a c, instead of an s as written here).

    • April 2, 2020 at 7:43 am #

      Thanks! I made the change. It takes a village…

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