A Spanish pronunciation online guide must be clear and on one printable page to be useful. Often Spanish language pronunciation guides are spread out over several pages or are not clear. This is why I wanted to create a one page summary of Spanish pronunciation for the normal person but some expert in Spanish phonology, orthography.
Spanish pronunciation is easy, once you know a few simple rules. There are many languages which have complex sounds which are not present in English. However Spanish is not one of those languages. An English speaker can approximate Spanish sounds fairly easily. This is because English and Spanish have a common that is the Latin language.
Further, most of the Latino languages are pronounced just like it is written, that is phonetic (phonemic orthography), not tricky combinations like in English. This makes Spanish spelling easy, and you do not have to depend on a dictionary or spell checker as much once you learn pronunciations of Spanish letters.
I personally was lost when I tried to learn some Eastern European languages as many of the words are tongue twisters. However, to pronounce any Spanish word you will be understood if you are an English speaker. Even if you make a mistake in Latin America or Spain as the linguistic roots of English and Spanish are similar. Of course Spanish has dialect and accents but to not worry about this now.
Spanish or Hispanic pronunciation from Radio
The secret to master Spanish pronunciation is this, learn the alphabet and the rules, however, you do not have to obsess over them. Next, listened to Spanish radio.
For me the best way to speak Spanish with proper pronunciation is to listen to the radio. This is because radio announcers have very clear voices and unlike TV you are not distracted by images, rather it is only sound. From a radio you hear rapid, clear Spanish sounds.
You have to hear Spanish over and over until it resonates in your brain. Do not worry if your pronunciation is not perfect at first. It will gravitate towards proper pronunciation as you listen to more Spanish radio, music or TV. I prefer Spanish radio for pronunciation, there are many online stations.
It is interesting to note that the sound of the Spanish language as well as all languages are gravitating toward uniformity with mass media. Regional Spanish accents are less pronounced and people now have what I call TV Spanish.
Do not worry about people say they have a musical ear or perfect pitch. I know musics who have poor pronunciation. It is more a matter of focusing on the language.
With training and practice your Spanish pronunciation can be improved. The listened to audio files and try to imitate these files. But born in easier method used as a listen to Spanish music a bench early the pronunciation will start to sink in your brain.
Spanish alphabet with English pronunciation in parentheses.
K (ka) (only foreign words)
W (doble ve) (only foreign words)
Y (y griega or ye)
Pronunciation of Spanish vowels
a in Spanish is like English a in father
e in Spanish is like English a in fate
i in Spanish is as the English i in magazine
o in Spanish is as the English o in note
u in Spanish is as the English u in rule
The pronunciation of these 5 Spanish vowel sounds do not ever change.
That is it. Commit to memory these 5 sounds and you will have little problem with Spanish pronunciation. Why? Pronunciation and accent in a foreign language is mostly dependent on vowel sounds. I teach languages and if my students have an accent it is on the vowels. However, not always. But to start focus on the pronunciation of these five Spanish vowel sounds.
When Spanish vowels pronunciation changes
Spanish vowel pronunciation is a little longer when they are stressed and shorter when they are not.
Some example of these Spanish vowel stress are:
Yo amo (I love)
El cielo (heaven)
Un recibo (a receipt)
Yo como (I eat)
Contar (to count)
Un buque (a ship)
Una butaca (an armchair).
The Spanish letter Y is a vowel in the conjunction y (and), and at the end
of a word, as Rey (king) or in the Spanish word Hoy (to-day).
E and O sounded a little more open when they form
a diphthong with i and when they precede r followed by a consonant
or r or l final, as Fernando (Ferdinand), Un tercio (a third), El
tercer año (the third year), Porfiar (to insist), Amor (love), Español
Blending two vowel sounds in Spanish
In Spanish there are no diphthongs or triphthongs in the English sense of two or
three vowels meeting in one syllable and blending into a different
sound, as “pause,” “plough.”
Every vowel is pronounced separately. For me this was very hard to get used to. However, think of it like a phonetic language, once you master the sounds spelling and pronunciation in Spanish is easy.
Here are some examples of Spanish words with with two or three vowels together. Every sounds is pronounced, although perhaps a little faster than if it was a single vowel:
Pausa (pause), Reino (kingdom), Cuenta (account), Buey (ox).
Again the vowels are the letters which you should focus on to articulate Spanish words. The following section on consonants are once you master the vowels and not a critical as you can almost use the English reading of these letters in most cases.
Spanish pronunciation of consonants
Spanish consonants are pronounced pretty much as in the English language. However there are some slight exceptions. No need to get crazy about memorizing these, however, it will help a lot if you can. I make Spanish flashcards for these and commit them to memory. However, with exposure to the Spanish language the pronunciation will become more easy even without memorizing these at first.
The Spanish consonant B is pronounced much more lightly than in English, with no pressure of
the lips, as Libro (book), Brevedad (brevity).
The Spanish consonant pronunciation C before E and I–th in “theatre,” as La Cena (the supper), La
Cerveza (the beer). Otherwise pronounced K as in English, as Caja
(case, box), Color (colour), Cúbico (cubic).
The Spanish language consonant Ch always as ch in “church” (never hard as in “monarch”), as
Chocolate (chocolate), Charla (prattle).
The Spanish consonant D at the end of a word or after a vowel is pronounced very softly and
lightly, with a tinge of th in “they,” as Madrid, Amado (loved),
The Spanish consonant pronunciation G before E and I is pronounced guttural, as El general (the
general), El giro (the draft, bill). This sound is equal to ch in the
Scotch word “loch.” In all other cases G is pronounced hard, as in the
English word “gay”; as Gato (cat), Gobierno (government), Gusto
The Spanish language consonant H is a not pronounced like in many European languages (mute letter). (Although in Andalusia it is aspirated in certain
The Spanish consonant J is always guttural, as Juan (John), Jornalero (day labourer), Junio
(June), Reloj (watch, clock).
The Spanish consonant Ll–ly, stronger than li in “pavilion,” as Belleza (beauty), Folleto
The Spanish language consonant Ñ–ny, stronger than ni in “pinion,” as Niño (child), Caña (cane), El
I know Spanish auto pronunciations are very popular online when trying to learn Spanish. However, I teach languages and adults think in abstractions, unlike children learning a language. Therefore, adults need to understand Spanish pronunciation on an abstract level and it will make it much easier to approximate Spanish sounds when you speak the Hispanic language.
How are you learning Spanish pronunciation? I would be very interested in your experiences and what ideas you might have to make it beneficial.
The Spanish consonant Q is only used before ue and ui (and the u is then mute), as
Querido (dear, beloved), Yo quiero (I want).
The Spanish consonant R as in English, but it is always rolled, as Caro (dear, expensive),
Pérdida (loss). At the beginning of a word or when preceded by a
consonant it is rolled more strongly, as La rosa (the rose), Deshonra
The Spanish language consonant Rr always rolled strongly (if you have watched American films portraying Russians rolling their Rs this is how the Spanish should sound, as Carro (cart), El ferrocarril (the
The Spanish consonant S always pronounced as s in “salad or Spanish salad,” and never as in “as” or “sure.”
The Spanish consonant T as in “time,” but never as t in “nation.” It must be pronounced
softly, not explosive, as Fortuna (fortune), Cuatro (four).
The following letters are always exceptions in most European languages.
The Spanish language pronunciation consonant V is pronounced much more lightly than in English, as Vino (wine), Vivir
(to live). By the common people V is often confounded with B, but
educated Spaniards will always make the proper distinction.
The Spanish consonant Y–Spanish I.
The Spanish consonant Z–th in “theatre,” as Zarazas (cotton prints), Zorra (fox).
Please note. -In modern Spanish Z is not used before E or I, its place
being supplied by C.
How to learn Spanish pronunciation
- Print out this lesson.
- Listen to Spanish radio.
That is it. Please let me know if you think Spanish pronunciation is hard or your experiences with trying to learn Spanish. I am sincerely interested or if you can offer ways to improve this online guide. I am not a native Spanish speaker but rather a person who loves the Spanish language, so please let me hear from you.