Spanish Alphabet and Pronunciation Rules
The following is the Spanish alphabet which has 29 letters. Five of them are vocals (a, e, i, o, u).
The name of each letter is given in the brackets.
a (a) e(e) i(i) o(o) u(u)
Vowels can be written with accents in Spanish.
Like papá, médico, radío, millón, tú.
b (be) c (ce) ch (che) d (de) f (efe)
g (ge) h (hache) j (jota) k (ka) l (ele)
ll (elle) m (eme) n (ene) ñ (eñe)
p (pe) q (cu) r (erre) s (ese) t (te) v (uve)
w (uve doble) x (equis) y (i griega) z (zeta)
As one can easily see, Spanish alphabet is basically the same as English alphabet with the addition of the consonants ñ, ll and ch.
The Spanish pronunciation is rather easy. Because there are some rules which are valid almost all the time, one can be sure about how to pronounce a Spanish word.
As we see above, the alphabet is also very similar to English, hence, especially for English speakers, it is easy to overcome the pronunciation of Spanish words. Once you know how a letter is pronounced, you can pronounce almost every word with confidence. In addition, many letters are pronounced as in English. You need to pay special attention to only some of the letters.
As far as the pronunciation is concerned, from an English speaker point of view, the only letters that need special attention are j, h, b, v, g, c, ch, ll and ñ.
Let us discuss these letters one by one.
The letter h is not pronounced at all in Spanish. Examples: hola, ahora, hablar, hermano, hijo.
B and V:
Perhaps the strangest thing for a beginning student is to learn that b and v sounds are the same in Spanish.
There is no v sound in Spanish which is similar to English v. One basically pronounces the letters b and v as “b”. But, one needs to differentiate between two situations.
- If the letter b or v is at the beginning of the word, its pronunciation is very close to that of the “English b”.
- If b or v is not the first letter of the word, make a sound as if you are going to say b but don't touch the lips with each other.
To pronounce j, make an h sound which comes from throat.
Spanish “g” can be pronounced in two ways.
- If it is followed by “e” or “”i”, as in general and gigante, then it is pronounced as the Spanish “j” (see above).
- If “g” is followed by “a” or “u”, then it is pronounced as guitar is pronounced in English.
The Spanish words gorilla and guitarra fall into this category.
Spanish “c” can be pronounced in two ways as well:
- If it is followed by “e” or “i”, it is pronounced as “z”. Examples: cinco, cero.
- If it is followed by “a”, “o” or “u”, it is pronounced as “k” as in kilo in English. Examples: casa, coche.
It is pronounced as one pronounces “chair” in English.
To pronounce “ll”, make a y sound.
One makes an “ny” sound to pronounce ñ.
! The letter “x” is pronounced as in English. The exceptional words are: Mexico and mexicano/a. Here, x is pronounced as the Spanish “j”.
(el) Alphabeto (alphabet)
(la) Letra (letter)
- ¿Cómo se escribe? (How is it spelled?)
- ¿Cómo se pronuncia? (How is it pronounced?)
Did you notice how the two sentences above begin? These two question sentences begin with an inverted question mark ¿. This point is peculiar to Spanish language: every question sentences start with inverted question mark.
A similar thing is the following, if a sentence ends with an exclamation mark, it needs to start with an inverted exclamation mark as well. Such as ¡a practicar! (let’s practice).
Some languages have letters which Spanish alphabet does not include. If you happen to need spelling them, the following information can be useful.
Ö: o con puntos
Ü: u con puntos
A more formal way of saying “con puntos” is to say “con diéresis".
Ç: c con cedilla
Ş: s con cedilla
I: i sin punto