Spanish Pronunciation Lesson

Having correct Spanish pronunciation gives you the best chance of being understood when you are communicating in Spanish. Fortunately for Spanish learners, the pronunciation of Spanish words is relatively easy to understand (much easier than English!) so all you really need to work on is perfecting your accent to sound like a local!

Characteristics of Spanish Pronunciation

The main difference between English pronunciation and that in Spanish is that Spanish is a lot more consistent. Think for a minute about the different ways that the English words “through”, “though” and “rough” are pronounced. In these words, the sounds made by the letters “ough” are completely different in each case.

This doesn’t happen in Spanish. Each letter is always pronounced in the same way. This is one area where learning Spanish is much easier than learning English. If you see a word written in Spanish, you will always know how it is pronounced (even if you don’t know what it means!)

Using Spanish Pronunciation

Let’s now look at examples of the way that some Spanish letters are pronounced.

First, the vowels:

 

Letter Sounds like: Spanish example:
A “a” in father Mapa (map)
E “e” in met Enero (January)
I “ee” in see Idioma (language)
O “o” in bone Teléfono (telephone)
U “u” in tune Rubio (blond)

 

Many Spanish consonants have the same pronunciation as in English, but there are also some important differences. For example:

The letter “C” changes sounds depending on the letter that follows it. If it comes before the letter “E” or “I” then it has a soft sound like in “cereal”. An example of this is the word “cerro” (hill). When a “C” comes before any other letter then it has a hard sound like in “car”. An example of this Spanish pronunciation is the word “caro” (expensive).

The letters “B” and “V” are pronounced exactly the same way in Spanish. The sound is similar to the “B” in the English word “beach”.

The letter “H” is always silent in Spanish pronunciation. An example of this is the word “hermano” (brother), which is pronounced er-mahn-oh.The letter “J” is pronounced like breathy “H” sound, as in the English word “house”. An example is “jardín” which is pronounced haar-din.

The Spanish letter “LL” is usually pronounced similar to the English “Y”, as in the word “yellow”. An example of this is the verb “llamar” (to call) which is pronounced yam-ar.

Exceptions

When the letter “U” appears after a “G” and before an “I” or “E” (“GUI” or “GUE”) then it is silent. For example, “guía” (guide) is pronounced like gee-ah.

Differences between European Spanish and Latin American pronunciation

There are several differences in Spanish pronunciation and accents throughout the Spanish speaking world. One of the most obvious of these is the distinctive sound of the letter “C” in some regions of Spain. Some Spanish people pronounce the soft “C” sound (that is, when it appears before an “I” or “E”) similar to the English “TH” sound. For example, they pronounce Barcelona like Bar-the-lone-ah.

You can pick up a free Spanish language course here.