Yes, we already did the alphabet.  I realize this.  But just like the letter B in english isn’t pronounced “bee,” the Spanish B isn’t “bay.”  In this lesson I will use Spanish words, but as these lessons are intended for beginner Spanish students, most of the Spanish words will probably not be recognizable.

Vowels are always pronounced as the alphabet pronounces them.  To refresh, vowels are a, e, i, o, and u (ah, ay, ee, oh, and ooh).  There are no silent vowels in Spanish and these sounds will never change.  Remember, though, that a diphthong (two vowels strung together) is not a vowel.  I’ll cover diphthongs in the next lesson.

Consonants are every other letter in the alphabet.  The sounds of these letters can change depending on other letters in the word.  We’ll go in alphabetic order, skipping the vowels.

  • B is pronounced as a “buh” sound, but the “uh” is pretty much inaudible.  Bebé (bay-BAY) is a good example here.  The “ay” sound in this is not generated by the B, but by the following vowel, e.
  • C is a letter with dual pronunciation.  Like in English, it can have a soft “s” sound or a hard “k” sound.  In carro (Kah-RROH) the C is followed by an A; Whenever a C is followed by A, O, or U, it is pronounced as a hard C.  Rinoceronte (ree-noh-say-RON-tay) shows the C followed by an E; When C is followed by E or I, it is soft..
  • CH is one of the unique Spanish letters from lesson 1.  This is one of the letters removed from the alphabet.  The “chuh” sound is just like the English counterpart and, like the B, the “uh” should be virtually inaudible.  Charlar (CHAHR-lahr), meaning “to chat” is a fine example here.
  • D is also pronounced like the English D. Dolar (Doh-LAHR).
  • F is used far more often in Spanish than in English because we use the crazy “ph” to substitute for F rather frequently.  F is a regular letter and is the same as the English F.  Falta (FAL-tah).
  • G, like C, has two pronunciations and follows the same rules as C.  Gente (HEN-tay) follows the I/E rule and is soft, pronounced like the English H.  Ganar (Gan-AHR), following the A/O/U rule, is the same as the hard English G.
  • H is the only “silent” letter in Spanish, and is used primarily for spelling and gender purposes.  Helado (Ay-LAH-doh) would be written as “el helado,” not “la helado” because it is masculine and the ah sound followed immediately by the ay sound would be difficult to pronounce.  Remember that CH is one letter and not a C and an H!  Charlar doesn’t have a C or an H in it and if you tried to spell it aloud as “C-H-A-R-L-A-R” a Spanish speaker would likely be confused about the new word you had created.
  • J is the Spanish equivalent of English H.  Mujer (Moo-HAYR).  It’s hard to remember that if you hear an H it’s a J, but you will eventually get used to it.
  • K is the same as the hard C and is not used often.  K is seen most often in words borrowed from other languages.  Kárate (KAH-rah-tay), for example, is obviously not Spanish.
  • L is the same as English L.  Quelidón (Kay-lee-DOHN).
  • LL is one of the crazy double letters and one of the letters removed from the alphabet.  For beginning students, it will be most used in llamar (Yah-MAHR) and the forms of llamar.  Remember that the LL sound like the English Y, but the Spanish Y does not!  Like the J-H situation, the one that doesn’t look like it sounds like it!
  • M is the same as English M.  Tiempo (Tee-EHM-poh).
  • N is the same as English N.  Nunca (NOON-cah).
  • Ñ is another special letter.  The squiggle over the N is called a tilde.  The only tilde accented letters I have seen are Ñ in Spanish, Õ in Latin, and à in Portuguese.  It causes the N in Spanish to gain a Y sound at the end.  This can be tricky because the N sound and Y sound can actually be in separate syllables.  Niñeta (Neen-YEH-tah) is a perfect example.
  • P is the same as the English P.  Perfecto (Payr-FAYC-toh)
  • Q, like the English Q, is followed by a U and either an E or an I.  The only words having UA and UO are both borrowed words, and UU doesn’t exist.  Make sure you look at the next lesson, where I explain diphthongs, as Q is always followed by a diphthong.  The Q is pronounced as a K sound and, unlike the English Q, is not followed by a W sound.  Que (KAY).
  • R is the same as the English R, although many people are actually incapable of producing this sound.  If you have trouble with your R’s, you can substitute it with an L, just be careful not to emphasize the sound.  Rompar (Rom-PAR)
  • RR is the a rolled R.  The tip on rolling R’s can be found in the Tips category.  It is used some, but not with the frequency of other letters.  Erradicar (Ay-rrah[rolled]-di-CAHR).
  • S is, again, the same as the English S, and is similar to the R in that many people cannot produce S sounds.  It is not bad or wrong to replace an S sound with the English TH sound.  In fact, in Spain this is done very often.  All S sounds (the Z and the soft C) can be pronounced this way.  Estar (Ays [or th]-TAHR).
  • T is also the same as the English T.  Batalla (Bah-TAH-yah).
  • V, as I explained in lesson 1, has a sound that is really more of a combination of English B and V.  Just say a B sound instead of V.  Vengo (BAYN-goh)
  • W is used in words borrowed from other languages, like K.  It is pronounced exactly as the English W.  Windsurfista (Weend-soor-FEES-tah) is one of the few spanish words with a W in it.
  • X has dual pronunciation.  In some words, like Extraño (Eks-TRAHN-yoh), the X produces the same sound as the English X.  In others, such as México (MAY-hee-coh), it is pronounced as a Spanish J or English H.
  • Y is a strange letter that is an oft used word by itself.  I haven’t actually seen it used very often except by itself.  The word Y will be explained in later lessons.  Hoy (OYEE) is a good example of it used in a word.  The pronunciation is a bit hard to explain because it sometimes has a light English Y sound followed by a long E or Spanish I sound.  Both “parts” of the sound are together and don’t generate their own syllable like Ñ can.
  • Z is pronounced as an English S.  It never takes on the buzzing tone the English Z has.  Zapato (Sah-PAH-toh).

As you can see, the language can be tricky.  English FAR more difficult than Spanish.  This guide should help you pronounce words accurately the first time you see them and without needing to hear them aloud.  I will always put the pronunciation for a word the first time it’s used in a lesson until the lessons get more advanced.  The vocabulary lists will also always have pronunciations.  If anything in this doesn’t make sense, talk to me about it via email or comment and I will edit the lesson to clarify it if I can.

Remember! The key to learning a new language is to practice it!  It would be silly to pronounce all these letters as letters, so practice saying the example words.  Also, not everyone will need the explanations.  If you find them boring or pointless, just work on the words.  The words explain just as much as the explanations and are easy to see because the only bolded things in the list are the letters at the beginning and the example portion about the letter.