Reading in Spanish is easier than you might think, most words are written and spelt the way that they sound, with very few exceptions. Below, we give some tips to help you pronounce Spanish naturally.
Spanish language has five vowels: a, e, i, o, u, which always correspond to the five sounds or phonemes / a /, / e /, / i /, / o / and / u /.
A sounds like the “A” in the English words FATHER, PAD, HAT. Examples: andar (to walk), hablar (to talk), comprar (to buy), mirar (to look/watch)
E sounds like the “E” in the English words TEN, PEN, END. Examples: ser (to be), tener (to have), leer (to read), perder (to lose).
I sound like the “EE” in the English words SEE, BEE, TREE. Examples: vivir (to live), ir (go), insistir (to insist), dimitir (to resign).
O sounds like the “O” in the English words SPOT, NO, POT. Examples: opinar (to believe/think), oír (to hear), coger (to take), mostrar (to show).
U sounds like the “OO” in the English word GOOD, BOOK, MOON. Examples: buscar (to look for), surgir (to come up), unir (to join/connect).
Some tips that would help you to pronounce the vowels in Spanish:
- In Spanish vowels are always clearly pronounced, with a single sound.
- They always have the same duration, whether they have an accent or not.
- When you read a word in Spanish, say all the vowels and always in the same way.
- When a vowel follows another vowel, for example, “adiós “, which means “goodbye”, their sounds tend to blend. However, their sounds are still quite distinctive (a-dee-os).
B/V: In Spain both B and V sound the same and resemble the B in the English words BOY and BIG but, pronounced softer. Examples: bar (bar), vino (wine), bueno (good), vale (OK).
In Latin American countries V sounds rather more like in English, the V of the word VICTORY.
C: When combined with E and I, sounds like the TH in the English words THEATER and THIN. Examples: cine (cinema), cenar (dine), celeste (light blue), ceniza (ash).
In Latin America countries and also in parts of Spain, “ce”, “ci” and “z” are pronounced like the “s” sound, so “cine” sounds like “sine”, “centro” sounds like “sentro”, “cerveza” sounds like “cervesa”.
The letter “C” combined with A, O and U, sounds like KA/KO/KU. Examples: casa (house), carta (letter), coche (car), cuando (when), camino (path).
CH: When C is combined with H, it sounds the same as the English words CHEESE CHURCH or CHAIR. Examples: churro (churro), champiñón (mushroom), coche (car).
D: Can have two sounds, hard and soft. Hard: at the beginning of a word and after “n” or “l”. The hard Spanish “d” closely resembles the “d” in the word DEEP. Examples of hard sound:
– At the beginning of a word: dar (to give), dos (two), día (day);
– After “n” : cuando (when);
– After “l” : falda (skirt).
Soft sound “D”: In other situations (particularly between vowels) the “D” is weaker, closely resembling in English the “TH” sound in the word “this”. Examples: madera (wood), edificio (building), salida (exit).
F: The Spanish “f” is pronounced like the “f” in the word FIRE. Examples: febrero (February), falda (skirt), defender (to defend), bufanda (scarf), refresco (soft drink).
G: When G is combined with “E” and “I”, it sounds the same as the Spanish J, e.g. the CH in the word LOCH. Examples: genial (great), gente (people), girar (spin), imaginar (imagine).
When A, O or U follow the letter G, it sounds like the English words GAP, GOAL and GOOD. Examples: garaje (garage), agosto (August), gustar (to like).
GU: The “GUE” sounds like the English word GUEST. The “GUI” sounds like the English word GEE. Remember, that in this case, the “U” is always silent. Examples: guitarra (guitar), guisante (pea), guepardo (cheetah), guerra (war).
GÜ: There are some words in Spanish which sound like in English “GWE”, and these are written “GÜE”, “GÜI”, known as diaeresis: This will make the “U” and the “E/I” both to be pronounced, without the diaeresis the “U” would be silent, like on Miguel or guitarra. Examples: bilingüe (bilingual), pingüino (penguin), antigüedad (antiquity).
H: In Spanish is silent and is never pronounced. Examples: hola (hello), ahora (now), helado (ice cream).
J: Sounds like the “CH” in the Scottish LOCH. The “CH” is a guttural sound. It also relates the “H” of the English word HAM, but is pronounced at the back of the throat. Examples: jefe (boss), junio (June), jabón (soap), joven (young), jugar (to play).
K: In Spanish, the letter “K” is pronounced like an English “K”. Examples: kiosko (kiosk), kilómetro (kilometer), kárate (karate).
L/LL: The Spanish “L” is similar to the English sound. Examples: col (cabbage), tal (such), filo (edge), fútbol (soccer), listo (ready), árbol (tree).
The pronunciation of the Spanish “LL” can vary widely from region to region. Most commonly, it is pronounced like the “Y” in the word YES. Examples: apellido (surname), llover (to rain), llave (key), llegar (to arrive), cabelludo (hairy).
M: The Spanish “M” is the same as an English “M”. Examples: madre (mother), mejor (better), mirar (look), mostrar (to show), muestra (sample).
N: Is pronounced like the “N” in the word NOT. Examples: nada (nothing), con (with), ratón (mouse), buzón (postbox ).
Ñ: The Spanish “Ñ” is pronounced like the “NY” in the word CANYON. Examples: niño (boy), España (Spain), ceñir (narrow), añejo (mature).
P: Is pronounced like the “P” in the English word SPOT except that there is no puff of air. Example: papa (father), tiempo (time, weather), pero (but), perro (dog), pera (pear).
Q: The Spanish “Q” which always appears in combination with the letter “U”, where the “U” is silent. “QUE” sounds like the “KE” in the English word KETTLE. “QUI” sounds like the KEE in the English word KEY. Example: queso (cheese), quince (fifteen), que (that), aquí (here), quién (who), aquel (that).
R: When the “R” is the first letter of the word, it is trilled like the “RR” (rolled slightly like a Scottish “R”), like in the world ROUND. The “R” is also strong after “N”, “L” or “S”. Examples: robo (robbery), rojo (red), alrededor (around), sonreir (to smile).
Otherwise, the “R” sounds much like in the English words RANG, MARRIED, WRONG. Examples of soft sound “R”: pero (but), caro (expensive), cero (zero), triste (sad), comer (to eat), hablar (to speak).
RR: Sounds like the Spanish single “R” when it is the first letter of a word. Examples: perro (dog), zorro (fox), cerro (hill), aburrido, (bored), arriba (above).
(Note: The sound of the R is created by flicking the front of the tongue against the inside of the top gum which creates a rolling “R” sound. Tongue exercises might be helpful, such as sticking out the tongue and moving the tip to the right, left, up and down. It takes time!)
S: Is pronounced like the “S” in the word SAY, except that it is a bit shorter. Examples: si (yes), chicas (girls), especial (special), básico (basic), ser (to be).
T: Is pronounced quite differently than in English, with the tongue actually touching the back of the front teeth, and without the puff of air that characterizes the English “t”. Examples: total (total), entre (between), triste (sad), interesante (interesting), té (tea).
W: is very rare. Only appears in words of foreign origin. It can be pronounced in several different ways, but the most common is to say it as “GU”, that in English sound like “GOO” like in the word GOOD. Examples: wifi, web, waterpolo.
X: The Spanish “X” has three separate sounds:
– The first is like the “KS” in the word TALKS or like the word EXCITED. Examples: examen (exam) or sexto (sixth).
– The second is pronounced like the English letter “H” (or “J” in Spanish) and is reserved for specific proper nouns and words that are derived from them. Examples: México (Méjico) or Ximena (Jimena).
– The third is pronounced like the English “CH” and is used for specific proper nouns like Xitle, Xela.
Y: When alone, the “Y” sounds like the English “EE” and means “AND”. When combined with a vowel, it sounds the same as the English “Y” like YET. Examples: Yo (I), ya (already), mayo (May), mayor (older).
Z: In Spain, it sounds like the “TH” in the English words THEATER or THIN. Examples: zona (space/area), zapato (shoe), zumo (juice). In Latin American countries and some areas of Spain, it sounds like the “S” sound.
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🤗 Saludos, Nuria 🇪🇸NSC🇪🇸