Spanish Pronunciation

Learning Spanish pronunciation is easy as it is a phonetic language, so what you read is what you say.

This makes Spanish pronunciation a lot more straight forward to learn than English where some sounds have several different spellings, and some spellings have several different sounds!

Of course, there are variations in Spanish pronounciation, accents and vocabulary used, according to country, region and background, so these are guidelines only.

Having said this, Castillian Spanish from Madrid is the widely-accepted standard Spanish. It is a little bit like the Queen's English in England, and is characterised by the lispy 'th' sound.

It is important to get the vowels sounds correct.

You pronounce Spanish vowels clearly, even when they are not stressed.

  • a - as in father
  • e - as in pet
  • i – as in ‘ee’ in seen
  • o – as in not
  • u – as ‘oo’ sound in rule.

There are 26 letters in the Spanish alphabet, the same as in English.New symbols for English speakers are:

ñ - The tilde (~) placed over the letter n
Spanish pronunciation is ni, as in English opinion.
Accented vowels - á, é, í, ó, ú
- The acute accent (´) tells you which syllable in a word is stressed.

This applies when there is an exception to the normal word stress rules.

- If there are two vowels together (a dipthong), it indicates which one is stressed.
- The acute accent is also used to differentiate between homonyms (words spelt the same, but with different meanings), for example: tu (your) and tú (you, familiar singular).
ü as in güe and güi.
These are pronounced gwe and gwi, e.g. el agüero (omen).
Other new sounds include - ll, rr and che
ll as in million. Often pronounced like a y as in young.
Some Latin American countries pronounce it as a j as in jelly.
rr - a trilled double r.
che - sounds like the che in cheddar.

A couple of other interesting points to note:

ce, ci and z
The lispy th sound used in Castillian Spanish is made by ci, ce and z.
In Latin America, these are pronounced as an s.
e.g. la ciudad, el centro
ca, co, cu and c before consonants
pronounced with a hard k sound, e.g. cambiar, con.
The gutteral j as the ch in the English loch.
Ge and gi sound the same as the letter j.
Ga, go, gu sound like the English g as in girl.
v and b
both sound the same, like a soft b in English.
h is silent, so el hambre (hunger) sounds like el amber.
ch is the same as the English sound - as in chair.
cu as the qu sound in Queen.
qu is a hard k sound, like in kind.
s usually sounds like the English s.
However, in some parts of Spain, mostly in the south and in some parts of south America, it is dropped sounds sort of like a soft h.

Spanish LettersSpanish NamesSpanish Pronunciation
a a a as father
b be b & v sound the same
before a consonant or at beginning of a word.
like b as in bed,
Otherwise, sounds like a combination of b & v
c ce k sound before a, o, u or consonant
th sound before e or i in Spain
s sound before e or i in LAM
ch che ch as in ‘church’
cu - like 'qu in queen'
dde d as in damp at start of word and after l or n
th between vowels and after other consonants
Often left unpronounced at end of words
e e similar to e as in wet
f efe same as in English
g ge ch pronounced gutturally
before e or i
as in English loch e.g. gente.
g as in get, at start of word, and after n
otherwise, like g (girl) but softer
h hache always silent
i i similar to ee has in seen
j jota gutteral - similar to English ch as in loch
k ka same as in English
l ele same as in English
ll elle as ll in ‘million’ in Spain
as y’ or j’ in Latin America
m eme same as in English
n ene same as in English
Note: nv pronounced mb as in ‘imbecile’
ñ eñe ny like in ‘onion’
o o similar to o as in not
p pe similar to English, but without
aspiration (puff of breath)
q cu always followed by a silent ‘u’,
pronounced k as in ‘keep’
r ere short trill when beginning letter of a word,
and also after l, n, s.
rr erre always trilled
s ese z before consonants
b, d, g, l, m, n.
Otherwise like an s
t te same as in English
t as in tea.
u u oo as in ‘rule’
v ve or uve b & v sound the same
before a consonant or at beginning of a word.
like b as in bed,
Otherwise, sounds like a combination of b & v
w uve doble often like v, only found in foreign words
Also called;
doble ve, doble uve, doble u
x equis x as in exit,
and also s as in ‘sand’
y ye or i griega y as in ‘yes’
In Latin America,
sh as in ‘sheep’
z zeta In Castilian th, as in ‘thick’
In Latin America, s as in ‘sour’
© exceltra
Spanish Pronunciation Lesson

Word stress is an important part of Spanish pronunciation. Click on the following link for further information on Spanish word stress.

Spanish Pronunciation - Spanish Word Stress

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