Alphabet and Pronunciation

19.10.2016 |

Episode #2 of the course Spanish language basics by Nicole Joslin


Today, we’re going to talk all about the alphabet in Spanish so that you can understand how the pronunciation system works.

It’s actually not so complicated in Spanish, so let’s get through it together!

First, I’m going to list each letter of the Spanish alphabet and provide an example Spanish word. Then I’m going to provide an example word in English to show an approximation of how the letter is pronounced in English. See below:

• A – arte (like art)
• B – bebé (like baby)
• C – carta (like card)
• D – dato (like data)
• E – elefante (like elephant)
• F – fuego (like fire)
• G – gato (like gate)
• H – hola (silent letter)
• I – Internet (like see)
• J – Juan (like hot)
• K – kiwi (like kiwi)
• L – león (like lion)
• M – mamá (like mom)
• N – nene (like nice)
• Ñ – niño (like canyon)
• O – ocho (like old)
• P – pulpo (like puppy)
• Q – que (like Kay)
• R – raro (no similar sound in English)
• S – sol (like sun)
• T – todo (like tool)
• U – Lupe (like soup)
• V – varios (no similar sound in English)
• W – kiwi (like water)
• X – examen (like exam)
• Y – y (like see)
• Z – zoo (like so)

And that’s the alphabet! You’ll notice that it’s the same as the English alphabet, except for the ‘ñ’ letter. You’ll also notice that most of the letters have very similar sounds to their English counterparts. If you want to hear each letter in more detail, check out this video.

As a note on the letter ‘R,’ there is a trilled sound to this letter. Here’s a good video to hear the sound.

And as for the letter ‘V,’ the sound is not quite a ‘V’ sound like in English. It actually sounds more like a sound between ‘B’ and a ‘V.’ Here’s a good video to hear the sound.

Some other special sounds in Spanish that you’ll need to know about are the following:

• LL – llama (like yam)
• CH – chocolate (like chocolate)
• QU – quién, qué (like a ‘K’ sound)

Now let’s look at the special letter ‘G.’ The ‘G’ in Spanish is pronounced differently depending on what letters come after it.

The ‘G’ is pronounced like a hard ‘G’ sound (as in go) in these cases:

• GA (gato)
• GO (gol)
• GU (Gutierrez)

The ‘G’ is pronounced like a soft ‘G’ sound (like an English ‘H’) in these cases:

• GE (Gema – pronounced like “Hema”)
• GI (girafa – pronounced like “hirafa”)

The same rules apply to the letter ‘C.’ The ‘C’ is pronounced like a hard ‘C’ sound (like an English ‘K’) in these cases:

• CA (calma)
• CO (copa)
• CU (cuna)

The ‘C’ is pronounced like a soft ‘C’ sound (like an English ‘S’) in these cases:

• CE (centavo)
• CI (cinta)

Remember the first lesson when we talked about dialect differences in Spanish? Another few notes about dialect differences are that in Spain, the ‘CE’ and ‘CI’ combinations, plus the letter ‘Z,’ are pronounced like the English ‘TH’ sound.

In Rioplatense Spanish, the ‘LL’ combination is pronounced like the ‘SH’ combination in English.

Wow! You did it! You learned all about the Spanish alphabet and pronunciation system. There are more advanced aspects to learn, but this is a great foundation to start out with. Tomorrow, we’re going to learn more about pronunciation with accent marks.

¡Hasta entonces!


Recommended book by Highbrow

“See It and Say It in Spanish: Teach Yourself Spanish the Word-and-Picture Way” by Margarita Madrigal


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