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Pronunciation Guide

Spanish pronunciation is easy once you become aware of the few sounds which are particular to Spanish. This section is designed to walk you through the sounds of the language. Wav files have been provided so you can actually hear what sounds the letters make instead of merely guessing. Click on the example words to hear them.

Spanish is a very phonetic language; words are pronounced as they are spelt. There are a few small differences between the way Castillian Spanish (the Spanish of Spain) is pronounced and how Latin American Spanish is pronounced. I have noted these differences in the guide, however all wavs use the Castillian pronunciation. The letters which have the same sounds as in English have been left out. All the learner needs to do is become familiar with a few pronunciation rules. And here they are...

b like the ‘b’ is ‘boy’. boda / bomba
c before an 'a 'o' or 'u': like the ‘c’ in ‘cat’. casa / como
ce / ci before an 'e' or an 'i': like the ‘th’ sound in ‘thin’ (in Spain) and like the ‘s’ in ‘sin’ in Latin America. cero / cinco
d at the beginning of a word or after an l or n: as in English. In any other position it almost sounds like the ‘th’ in ‘the’. danés / ciudad
g unless before an 'e' or an 'i' as in the English ‘gap’. gafas / guerra
ge / gi before an 'e' or an 'i' it makes a gutteral sound similar to the ‘ch’ in the Scottish ‘loch’. gente / gira
h is always silent in Spanish hola / haber
j a;ways like the 'ch' in the Scottish 'loch' (see 'ge / gi'). jefe / jugar
ll like the 'll' in 'million'. llamo / calle
ñ like the 'ni' sound in 'onion'. año / España
q like the 'k' in 'king'. que / quien
r / rr is always pronounced in Spanish and is trilled. It is stronger when at the start of a word or when there are two together. perro / robar
v pronounced something like a ‘b’. At the beginning of a word or after ‘m’ or ‘n’: as in ‘boy’. In any other position it is pronounced with the lips in the position to say the ‘b’ of ‘boy’ but not meeting. vía / navidad
w pronounced sometimes almost like a 'b' and others as in English. This letter is not very common in Spanish. wáter / windsurf
x as in 'toxic'. exacto / excelente
z pronounced like the 'th' in 'thin' in Spain and like the 's' in 'sin' in Latin America. zapato / izquierda

a short sound like in 'bat'. gato / pata / amor
e almost like the sound in 'pet'. me / él / pelo
i like the 'ee' in 'leek'. vino / isla / tía
o very close to the 'o' in 'hot'. lo / ocho / boca
u like the ‘oo’ in ‘hoot’. It is silent after ‘q’ and in words with ‘gui‘ or ‘gue’ unless it is marked (güi- / güe-) then it is pronounced. uva / que / guisante / antigüedad
y this is considered a semi-vowel. It sounds like a Spanish 'i' when it is on its own (y = and in Spanish) and like the 'y' in 'yes' the rest of the time. y / yunta / mayo

Dipthongs are the sounds made by two vowels combined.

ai / ay like the ‘i’ in ‘ride’. baile
au like the 'ou' in 'shout'. auto
ei / ey like the 'ey' in 'grey'. buey
eu both vowels are pronounced separately. Europa
oi / oy like the 'oy' in 'toy'. hoy

The Rules of Spanish Stress

How do you know where to stress a word in Spanish? Stress is when the emphasis falls on a particular syllable. Here are the rules:

1. When a word ends in a vowel or in ‘n’ or ‘s’, the second to last syllable is stressed.

patata, come, estantes

2. When a word ends in a consonant other than ‘n’ or ‘s’, the stress falls on the last syllable.

pared, hablar, nacionalidad

3. When rules one and two do not apply, an acute accent appears over the stressed vowel.

inglés, geografía, común

That’s it. It might seem like a lot to take onboard all at once, but don’t worry. All of the new words in the course have wav files so you can hear how they are said. You can come back to this section throughout the course as a point of reference.