Spanish Consonants

Consonants that pose problems for English speakers include:

  1. b and v
  2. ñ
  3. rr
  4. ll

1. The letters b and v

In English, the letters b and v are clearly differentiated. They’re not so clear in Spanish. Ask a native Spanish speaker to say the English word very and he may well end up saying berry.

The vibrating v sound doesn’t exist in Spanish. Instead, v is pronounced in a much softer way. Listen to the following words that start with v and repeat each of them.

Voy a...

I'm going to...

Vamos

Let's go

Ver

To see

Vaca

Cow

When the v sound comes in the middle of a word, it becomes less distinguishable from b. Try these words aloud.

Avión

Plane

Mi novia

My girlfriend

Cerveza

Beer

Llaves

Keys

Acabar

To finish / To end

Cabaña

Cabin / Hut

Spanish speakers themselves often have a hard time distinguishing the two sounds and may write b as v and vice versa. One way they distinguish the two is to talk about b grande (big b) and v pequeño (little v). You may also hear the pronunciations beh for "b" and uve (oo-veh) for "v".

2. The letter ñ

The ñ sound is pronounced a little bit like an n with a hum. Think of it as an “ny” sound, like “canyon.” Practice with these words.

Señor

Sir / Mr.

Señora

Ma’am / Mrs (a married woman)

Niño

Boy

3. The letter rr

The double-R sound can be incredibly difficult for English speakers. Yet it is a very important sound in the Spanish language, because some words can completely change their meaning depending on whether or not the r sound is trilled (caroexpensive versus carrocar, perobut versus perrodog).

To pronounce the double-R sound properly, you need to learn to trill your r’s. Try making a purring sound like a cat. Feel your tongue vibrate. Practice rolling your r’s with the following words.

Correr

Run

Guitarra

Guitar

Aburrido

Boring

Now, practice the difference between a rolled and unrolled r with the following words.

Caro

Expensive

Carro

Car / Cart

4. The letter ll

The double-L sound in Spanish is pronounced in a variety of ways across the Spanish-speaking world. In many parts of South America, it is pronounced like a j. In much of Spain, it’s pronounced like a y. In still other regions, it is pronounced just like a regular l.

Practice a South American pronunciation of ll with the following words.

Ella

She

Pantalla

Screen

Caballo

Horse

Here are a few recommended Spanish lessons to try next!

See you soon!  ¡Hasta pronto!

Mauricio
Mauricio Evlampieff
Rocket Spanish