Spanish Pronunciation & Alphabet

Summary:

Spanish pronunciation guide with a complete breakdown of how to sound out each letter, and an alphabet chart to help you completely understand each letter.

Spanish, or español in its own language, is sometimes referred to as Castilian, or castellano. It is the third most spoken language in the world, with over a half-billion speakers.

For English speakers, Spanish shouldn’t be so difficult to learn, as it about one-third of its words resemble their English counterparts due to their Latin roots. Likewise, pronunciation of Spanish for English speakers is usually not a problem; Spanish is quite a phonetic language, and rules for pronunciation almost never have exceptions.

It is important to keep in mind that Spanish sounds are spoken in a short clip, unlike in English where sounds tend to be drawn out.

The Alphabet

A a | B b | C c | D d | E e| F f | G g | H h | I i | J j | K k| L l | Ll ll | M m | N n | Ñ ñ | O o | P p | Q q | R r | S s | T t | U u | V v | W w | X x | Y y | Z z

Below are the pronunciations for each letter: first the Spanish letter in bold, followed by the English phonetic approximate pronunciation, and finishing with an example and any notes. 

Vowels

A a (ah) – as in the ‘a’ in ‘father’

E e (eh) – as in the ‘e’ in ‘deck’

I i (ee) – as in the ‘i’ in ‘spaghetti’

O o (oh) – as in the ‘ou’ in ‘course’ (short, just like that, not drawn out like in English ‘soap’)

U u (ooh) – as in the ‘ou’ in ‘soup’

Y y (ee) – as in the ‘i’ in ‘spaghetti’ (same like ‘i’ usually)

Consonants

B b (b) – as in the ‘b’ in ‘bear’

C c [usually] (k) – as in the ‘c’ in ‘constant’

C c [when followed by ‘i’ or ‘e’] (ts) – long, sharp ‘s’ sound, as in the ‘c’ in ‘cinema’

D d (d) – as in the ‘d’ in ‘daughter’

F f (f) – as in the ‘f’ in ‘frank’

G g [usually] (g) – as in the ‘g’ in ‘gate’

G g [when followed by ‘i’ or ‘e’] (hh) – guttural, throaty ‘h’ sound, such as in genial (hen-nee-AHL, and you are clearing your throat like for the first syllable)

H h (-) silent

J j (hh) – guttural, throaty ‘h’ sound, such as in genial (hen-nee-AHL, and you are clearing your throat like for the first syllable)

K k (k) – as in the ‘c’ in ‘constant’ (not an original Spanish letter, but used mostly in words of foreign origin)

L l (l) – as in the ‘l’ in ‘look’

Ll ll (yy) – as in the ‘y’ in ‘layer’ (sometimes pronounced in some Latin American countries more like a ‘j’ sound, such as the ‘j’ in ‘ninja’

M m (m) – as in the ‘m’ in ‘mouth’

N n (n) – as in the ‘n’ in ‘naughty’

Ñ ñ (ny) – like the ‘ny’ in ‘canyon’

P p (p) – like the ‘p’ in ‘pie’

Q q (k) – usually with a ‘u’ after it, pronounced like ‘k’ as in ‘kite’

R r (r) – typical ‘r’ sound, yet shorter/more abrupt; if at beginning of a word or doubled, the sound is rolled

S s (s) – as in the ‘s’ in ‘stall’

T t (t) – as in the ‘t’ in ‘total’

V v (v) – standard ‘v’ sound, sometimes nearly a ‘b’ sound

W w (w) – as in the ‘w’ in ‘went’

X x (hh) – often nearly silent; words like ‘Mexico’ are pronounced ‘MEH-hee-coh’

Z z (z) – hard ‘z’ sound, as in ‘zebra’

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