How to Pronounce the Spanish Alphabet

If you are an English speaker, you can form almost every sound in Spanish using the English sounds that you already know. In this article we show you the pronunciation of the Spanish alphabet, or abecedario.

Spanish is an easy language to speak. It is phonetic, which means that words are pronounced as they are written.


The Spanish alphabet consists of 27 letters, but in the traditional Spanish alphabet (called “abecedario”) there are 30 letters. There are 4 additional consonants that the English alphabet does not have (ch, ll, ñ, rr).


Like in English, there are a wide variety of accents and pronunciation differences.



Vowels


In Spanish, the vowels sounds remain the same always.

  • A . The Spanish “a” is pronounced like the “a” in the word “father”. Agua, mamá.

  • E. The Spanish “e” is most often pronounced like the “a” in the word “date”. Elefante, España.

  • I. The Spanish “i” is pronounced like the “ee” in the word “see”. Iglesia, isla.

  • O. The Spanish “o” is pronounced like the “o” in the word “so”. Ojo, oso.

  • U. The Spanish “u” is pronounced like the “oo” in the word “food”. Uva, uno.

When the “u” comes between “g/q” and “e/i”, it is silent. For example queso (cheese), quién (who), guerrero (warrior), guitarra (guitar). If the letter "u" should be pronounced, an umlaut is placed above. For example bilingüe (bilingual), pingüino (penguin).


Consonants


  • B. This letter sounds like an English “b”. Bebé, boca.

  • C. The Spanish “c” has two separate sounds, hard and soft. When appearing in the combinations “ca”, “co” and “cu”, is hard and the “c” closely resembles the English “k” sound. Casa, coche, cuna. When appearing in the combinations “ce” and “ci”, the “c” is softer. Latin Americans pronounce it like the “s”, while Spaniards pronounce this like the “z”. Ceja, cielo.

  • CH. “Ch” is not considered a letter anymore by the RAE (Royal Spanish Academy). It sounds like the “ch” in cheese. Charco, cheque.

  • D. This letter sounds much like an English “d” in the word “dog.” It often sounds like a whispery “th” sound, especially when it comes between two vowels. Diez, dado.

  • F. This letter sounds like the English “f” in the Word “fire”. Familia, fiesta.

  • G. This letter usually sounds much like an English “g” when followed by “a”, “o”, “u”. Gallina, gato. Before “e” or “i”, it sounds like a harsh English “h” in the word “hot”. In this case, the sound is very similar to the Spanish letter “j”. Gente, gimnasia.

  • H. This letter is silent, like the “h” in the English word “hour”, except in words adopted from other languages, for example, “Hawai”. Hada, alcohol.

  • J. This letter sounds close to the English “h” sound, like in the word “hot”. Jardín, mujer.

  • K. This letter is found only in foreign words, and sounds much like the English “k”. Karate, kilo.

  • L. This letter sounds close to the English “l”. Lápiz, lengua.

  • LL. Although this is not considered a letter anymore by the RAE, the pronunciation of the “ll” varies widely from region to region. Most commonly, it is pronounced like the “y” in the word “yes”. Llama, lluvia.

  • M. This letter sounds just like the English “m”. Mamá, mano.

  • N. This letter sounds just like the English “n”. Naranja, nube.

  • Ñ. The Spanish “ñ” is pronounced like the “ni” in “onion” or the “ny” in “canyon”. Año, niño.

  • P. This letter sounds close to the English “p”, but with less breath. Papá, pelota.

  • Q. This letter is always followed by the letter “u” and sounds like English “k”. Queso, Quijote.

  • R. The Spanish “r” has two different sounds, depending on whether or not it is the first letter of a word. When the “r” is the first letter of the word, it is trilled like the “rr”. Rana, reloj. On the other hand, the “r” sounds much like the “dd” of the word “caddy”; it's not exactly the same, but it’s much closer to this “dd” sound than to the English “r” sound. Ahora, cara.

  • RR. This is a very important sound in the Spanish language because some words completely change their meaning depending on whether or not the “r” sound is trilled. The Spanish “rr” is a vibrating, or trilling sound. To trill the “rr”, you can try to say in English “brr”, but instead of using your lips to make the “r”, use your tongue against the palate. When you exhale, the tongue should be raised and widened so it touches the upper teeth. Carro, perro, ferrocarril.

  • S. This letter sounds just like the English “s”. Sapo, sol.

  • T. In Spanish, this sound is softer than the English “t”. The tongue touches the teeth and there is no explosion of breath after moving the tongue away. Taza, teléfono.

  • V. This letter sounds much like the Spanish “b”. The vibrating “v” sound does not exist in Spanish. Instead, "v" is pronounced in a much softer way; the lips do not touch and there is less aspiration. Vaca, vaso.

  • W. This letter is not native to Spanish, but sounds similar to English “w”. Kiwi, waterpolo.

  • X. The Spanish “x” has four different sounds. The first is like the “ks” in the word “socks”: examen, taxi. The second is pronounced like the English letter “h” and is used with certain proper nouns and words: México, mexicano, Texas. The third sound is pronounced like the English “s” and it is reserved for certain proper nouns in the words of Nahuatl origin: Xochimilco. The fourth sound is pronounced like “sh” and it’s also reserved for certain words of Nahuatl origin: Xel-Ha.

  • Y. Most of the time, this letter sounds like the English “y” in “yes” or the “j” in the English word “joy”: hoyo, yegua. At the end of a word, it sounds like the letter “i”: hoy, rey.

  • Z. The Spanish “z” is pronounced differently in Spain than in Latin America. In Spain, it is pronounced like the “th” in the English word “think.” In Latin America, it is pronounced like the letter “s”. Zapato, zeta.


This material is part of our Spanish I Course. You can try it for free and learn the basic Spanish vocabulary that will let you understand simple phrases: personal pronouns, parts of the body, clothes, family members, food, numbers, days of the week, months, animals, professions, means of transportation, qualifying adjectives and the most usual verbs.



What is the most difficult sound for you in the Spanish alphabet?


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