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Learning to Read with the Spanish Alphabet
Think back, readers. Have you ever been in a situation where knowing Spanish would have helped you out? Maybe you were in a crowded subway and, my god, those two people must have been talking about you, but of course you couldn't understand them! Maybe you were in one of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries of our world, and you couldn't convey your need. Or maybe you tried, and even though you knew the words, they just didn't come out right. Believe me, anyone can look up a few phrases (Where is the bathroom?, Help me!, or A beer, please), but you are never going to sound like you know what you're doing unless you know how to pronounce the words!
Okay, so now you may be thinking about your experience with the English language, and how you are a slow reader, or how phonics or sight-reading just didn't work for you. I never had problems, but some of my students do. I am going to teach you what I teach them, with great success. Halleluiah, may I never hear Seenyor (Señor) again!
Fact: Spanish language sounds are easier than English language sounds. Really, how did we all master this language? There are so many different sounds for the letter A, for example. However, almost always in Spanish, each letter has one sound and one sound only. Also, there are not sound combinations, such as –tion. It is very important to know that each letter has a separate sound and they are never combined. That is the first thing that my students always want to do. Don’t give in to the urge.
Okay, on with the alpabet!
Our letter Letter pronunciation in Spanish Letter sound in Spanish
A ah ah
B bay soft B sound
C say ca, co, cu- hard c ce, ci- soft c
Ch chay CH sound
D day soft D sound
E A A
F F A F sound
G hay ga, go, gu- hard G ge- H sound
H hache always silent
I E E
J jota H sound
K kah K sound
L L A L sound, double L- Y sound
M M A M sound
N N A N sound
Ñ N yay the N sound in onion
O O O
P pay soft P sound
Q coo Q sound
R air A (roll your R!) rolled R sound
RR airrr A roll away!
S S A S sound
T tay soft T sound
U oooh in two, the –wo sound
V vay/bay combination v/b sound
W doblay vay or doblay oooh W sound
X eh keys X sound
Y E gree A ga Y sound
Z zeta combination S/Z sound
So, as you can see, it’s fairly easy. Most letters are pronounced as you would expect. The most difficult are the vowels.
Ah A E O oooh
Just channel your inner monkey and you’ve got it!
Now, lets talk about stress. In English we of course have a part of the word that is stressed. Take the word fabulous for example. We as native speakers know it is pronounced FAbulous, but a foreign speaker might say faBUlous. My English as a Second Language students struggle with this in English.
In Spanish, there are 3 rules.
1. If the word ends in a vowel, such as hola, the stress is on the second to last vowel. HOla. Also, amigo, taco and many more.
2. If the word ends in a consonant, such as papel, the stress in on the last vowel. PapEl.
3. If one of the vowels is accented, then that is the vowel that is stressed. Bolígrafo.
So, now you need to practice. Find a phrase or paragraph somewhere and practice. Practice makes perfect of course. Let’s go back to the phrases I gave you earlier.
Where is the bathroom?- ¿Dónde está el baño?
Help me!- ¡Ayúdame!
A beer, please.- Una cerveza, por favor.
See if you can pronounce these correctly! Be careful with your vowels.