Spanish Pronunciation

Spanish is such an easy language to speak. It is phonetic, which means that as long as you memorize the sounds of each letter in the alphabet, you can read ANY word!

The Spanish Alphabet

You can form almost every sound in Spanish using the English sounds that you already know. Look at the Spanish alphabet below. See if you can’t pick out the letters that do NOT occur in the English alphabet:

a, b, c, ch, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, ll, m, n, ñ, o, p, q, r, rr, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z If you said ch, ll, ñ, and rr, you’d be right!

The ch sound is pronounced just as it is pronounced in English, like Charles.
The ll sound is often pronounced like a y, as in yo-yo.
Please note that this sound is difficult to pin down, as it is prounced in a variety of ways around Latin America.
The ñ sound is pronounced like an n followed by a yay.
The rr sound is pronounced by trilling the r sound. Think of a purring cat!

Below is a guide to the pronunciation of the letters of the alphabet. Just remember to pronounce the letter combination “ay” as in “day” and the letter combination “ah” like you were opening your mouth for the dentist, and you’ll be fine!




CH 









LL 


Ñ 




RR 

T





Z

ah
beh
say
chay
day
ay
ef-ay
hay
ah-chay
ee
hotah
kah
el-ay
ay-yay
em-ay
en-ay
en-yay
oh
peh
coo
air-ay
airrr-ay (roll those Rs!)
es-ay (like ‘S’-ay)
teh
oo
beh
doh-bleh-beh 
eh-keys
ee-gree-ay-gah
say-tah

Notice that the letters ‘b’ and ‘v’ sound exactly alike. That’s because there is no difference between the two sounds in Spanish: ‘v’ is pronounced just like ‘b.’ This can make it difficult when you’re trying to spell an unfamiliar word that you’ve only heard before, like grabadora (tape recorder) or vago (lazy). If you ask someone to spell a word in Spanish for you, that person may differentiate ‘b’ and ‘v’ by talking about beh grande (big ‘b’) and beh pequeño (little ‘v’).

You may also have difficulties with the Spanish sounds ‘g,’ ‘h,’ and ‘j.’ They sound rather different from their English counterparts! Both ‘g’ and ‘j’ can sound like the English ‘h’ (as in ‘hey’). The Spanish ‘h,’ on the other hand, is usually silent!

By the way ... Did you know that the letter ‘w’ is only used in words of foreign origin, like ‘Washington’?

Pronuncation Practice

Now, see if you can pronounce the following words:




CH 









LL 


Ñ 




RR 

T





Z

gata (cat)
barra (bar)
cabra (goat)
chancho (pig)
dar (to give) 
edad (age)
feliz (happy)
gafas (glasses)
hay (there is), hielo (ice), hora (hour)
ida (trip)
ja-ja (ha-ha), joya (jewel)
kilo (kilogram)
lado (side)
pollo (chicken), bello (beautiful)
madre (mother)
no (no)
Ñ: niño (child), extraño (strange, foreign)
color (color)
prueba (test)
que (what, that)
rojo (red)
perro (dog)
sábado (Saturday)
tener (to have)
tú (you)
vosotros (you)
wáter (toilet) 
éxito (success)
ya (already)
zapato (shoe)

Accent Marks

The final thing that you need to remember about pronouncing Spanish words is that accent marks will completely change the pronunciation AND meaning of a word.

Consider the following stressed vowels:

á é í ó ú

When you see one of the above vowels, stress that syllable. For example, the three words below all sound different.


esta
ésta
está
 

Each of these three words has a different meaning, as well as different sound. You’ll learn more about them in the "Spanish Demonstrative Adjectives" Section .

Listen!

That’s enough pronunciation practice for now. Remember: the more you listen, the more you’ll be able to recognize words as they’re spoken!

In the next section we’ll work on nouns: words for people, places, and things

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