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How to Pronounce Spanish Sounds and Letters

Updated on December 6, 2012
How do you pronounce letters and sounds in Spanish?
How do you pronounce letters and sounds in Spanish? | Source

Pronunciation in Spanish, as in any language, has different dialects and different accents which may vary by geographic location, culture and country. In this pronunciation guide, we will mostly be using Latin American Spanish. It is my wish to help you pronounce Spanish as correctly as possible so that you can communicate effectively.

The good news about learning how to pronounce Spanish letters and sounds is that sounds are pronounced consistently, so once you learn some basic rules, you will be able to sound out each letter as you read a word and correctly pronounce it. You will see what this means as we go along.

How to Pronounce Vowels in Spanish

Once you learn how to pronounce vowels in Spanish, it will become much easier to read words and to be able to pronounce them correctly. Unlike English, Spanish pronunciation is consistent. None of this, spelled the same but pronounced different stuff.

Vowel
Pronunciation
Approximate English
a
ah
father
e
eh
less
i
ee
see
o
oh
old
u
oo
told
y
ee
see
Note: When a word starts with y, it is pronounced like y in yes. When it is found in the word, like voy, it is pronounced like the Spanish i.

Now that you know how to pronounce the vowels in Spanish, you can have a pretty good idea by reading the word how to pronounce it. For example, the number 7 in Spanish is called siete. If you pronounce each letter, using what you learned about pronouncing vowels above, and by reading and pronouncing each word, you could figure out that siete is pronounce see-eh-t-eh.

Another good example to illustrate vowel pronunciation in Spanish is the Spanish word for meow. In Spanish a cat "meows" just like in English. However, you spell meow in Spanish as follows:

  • Miau - me-ah-oo

Now that you know how to pronounce vowels in Spanish, we'll continue to constants and some important rules when it comes to Spanish pronunciation.

The table below shows each consonant pronunciation in Spanish. You will see examples of the Spanish words and then the approximate English equivalent.

Learn How to Roll Your R's

Spanish Pronunciation Rules

Before going over the pronunciation table to follow, I will like to cover some pronunciation rules that will help clarify the guide.

  • English equivalents are approximate: Some sounds in Spanish do not have English equivalents. For example, r's in Spanish are rolled. I will point out these sounds when they occur and do my best to give a clear explanation of how to pronounce them.
  • R and RR: As mentioned before, r's are rolled in Spanish. With a single r, it is rolled less. With a double r, the trill is more significant. A good example are the words pero and perro. Pero means but and perro means dog. The words are differentiated by the
  • LL: Generally, a double l in Spanish (ll) is pronounced as y in English as in yes. If you pronounce ll in Spanish as the y in yes in English, you will be understood. However, there is a subtle difference in that it is pronounced more like a combo of the j and y sound in English. For example, the word llena in Spanish is pronounced like Jenna in English.
  • H: The h in Spanish is silent, as in hola.
  • G: When followed by an a, o or u (gato, goma, gusto), g is pronounced like g as in gas. When followed by an e or i (general, gigante), g is pronounced like h as in help.
  • J: J is pronounced as an h in English. For example, hahaha in Spanish is pronounced the same but written as jajaja.
  • Ñ: An n with a squiggle over it is called a tilde (til-day). It is sounds similar to the English "nio" in onion or the "nyo" in canyon.
  • Q: Q is always followed by a u, as in English, and is pronounced like c- as in cat. Q is an exception where you don't pronounce the u that follows it.
  • V: Except for some regions in Spain, the v in Spanish is pronounced more like a soft b in English, as in boy.
  • Y: Y is pronounced like the Spanish ll or y in English. Again, it is pronounced more like a soft j in English. For example, ya in Spanish might be pronounced like ja in English.
  • Z: Spanish does not have the z equivalent in English, as in zoo. Rather, z is pronounced like the English s. So, if we look at the word zoo again, in Spanish it is pronounced like sue.
  • Accents: Accents are written over vowels to distinguish which syllables are stressed. For example, the word árbol is pronounced ARbol. Without the accent, it would be pronounced arBOL. In some instances, accents can be used to distinguish the meaning between two words that are spelled the same. For example: means yes and si means if or él means he and el means the.

How to Pronounce Consonant Sounds in Spanish

Consonant
Spanish
Approximate English
b
bien
boy
c
cuatro
cat
c
cinco
sink
d
doy
dad
f
falda
father
g
gato, goma, gusto
gum
g
general, gigante
hello
h
hola
h is silent
j
juego
hello
k
kilo
cat
l
limón
lemon
ll
llamo
yes
m
mucho
much
n
nada
no
ñ
mañana
onion
p
perro
please
q
quiero
cat
r
rojo
red
rr
carro
rolling r, no English equivalent
s
sopa
soup
t
todo
too
v
voy
boy
w
Tiger Woods
good
x
xilófono
xylophone
y
ya
yes
z
zebra
smile
See the section above titled "Spanish Pronunciation Rules" for more specific pronunciation explanations.

Now you are well on your way speaking beautiful Spanish!

About the Author

I have experience speaking a few different languages, including French, Italian and Spanish. I studied French for four years and have been to France twice. I spent six months in Italy living with a native-speaking family. I have traveled to Mexico four times and on one occasion stayed there for six months. My husband is a native Spanish-speaker and has reviewed this guide to ensure accuracy.

I would be happy to answer any questions you might have!

Comments

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    • Jenna Estefan profile imageAUTHOR

      Jenna Estefan 

      5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I hope it helps! Let me know if you have any questions :-)

    • profile image

      Tim 

      5 years ago

      Thank you very much.

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