Anil Mitra, September 15, 2010. Revised September 15, 2010


La Pronunciación

Emphasizes the fundamental sound. Details and shades of sounds requires further application

Compared to English, Spanish sounds are clearer, produced more quickly or snappily; and rules for pronunciation relatively simple. E.g. each vowel in Spanish has an essential or fundamental sound

Sonidos de las Vocales—Vowel Sounds

Example: la vocal “a”

Vowels are more closed than in English, do not slide, pronounced more to the front of the mouth

Words in ‘quotation’ marks are English

a—the first ‘a’ in ‘papa’; close to ‘ah’

e—as ‘a’ in ‘mate’

i—as ‘i’ in ‘police’

o—‘o’ in ‘moat’

u—‘oo’ in ‘boot’

Las Consonantes Españolas

Spanish consonants are not so explosive nor strongly pronounced as in English

They present less difficulty to the English speaker than the vowels

b—‘b’ except that it is fricative, lips barely touch

c—before “a,” “o,” and “u” like English ‘k.’ Before “e” and “i” like ‘th’ in ‘thin’ in Castillian Spanish; in Spanish America like English ‘s’ without a hiss

ch—‘ch’ in ‘chair’


d— except that it is a dental consonant: the tip of the tongue touches the back of the back of the upper front teeth. Roughly as ‘th’ in ‘than.’ Like Hindi



l—like ‘l’ but more rapid and fluid

ll—in Castillian, like the ‘ll’ in ‘million.’ In America, often like ‘y’ in ‘yes’



ñ—almost exactly like ‘ni’ in ‘onion’

x—like Spanish “j” between vowels; like “s” before a consonant; sometimes as in English ‘ks,’ ‘gs’

r—like “rr” when the initial letter. Otherwise it is one clear short trill (the danger is to not trill or to trill too much)

rr—a strong trill like the rrrring of a telefono; can be trilled too strongly

s—‘s’ but no hiss

g—as ‘g’ before “o,” “a,” and “u;” roughly like ‘h’ before “e” and “i”

h—always silent


j—aspirated “h;” similar to ‘g’



t—like ‘t’ except that it is a dental consonant—see “d.” Like Hindi

v—practically the same as Spanish “b.” Not explosive; lips barely come together, producing a slight vibration of the lips

z—as “th” in English “thin” in Castillian. In America, usually an unhissed “s”

El Acento

There are two simple rules for accent

  1. Words ending in a vowel or “n” or “s” are accented on the next to last syllable
  2. Words ending in consonants besides “n” and “s” are accented on the last syllable

All exceptions to these simple rules require the written accent

Diptongos y Triptongos—Dipththongs and Triphthongs

In Spanish, “a,” “e,” and “o” are strong vowels; “i” and “u” are weak

A combination of a strong and a weak vowel form a diphthong in Spanish: ai, ia, ie, oi, io, ua, eu, ue, ou, uo: these diphthongs are pronounced on one breath with stress on the strong vowel. However, if the weak vowel has a written accent the stress is on the weak vowel, e.g. “baúl”(trunk)

A combination of two weak vowels also forms a diphthong: e.g., “iu” in “viuda” (widow.) In such cases the main stress of the voice falls on the last vowel

Two strong vowels coming together do not form a diphthong and are pronounced separately as in “maestro” (teacher, master)

A combination of a strong vowel that is stressed standing between two weak vowels is a triphthong as in “uai,” “uei,” “iai,” and “iei”


For practical purposes there is a general rule: there are as many syllables in a Spanish word as there are vowel sounds

Usually, therefore, a syllable in Spanish consists of a consonant and a vowel as in:

“ma-sa” (mass,) “me-sa” (table,) “mi-sa” (prayer,) “mo-na” (cute,) and “mu-la” (mule)

Generally, a consonant between two vowels goes with the following vowel, e.g. “fru-ta” (fruit.) When combinations of consonants like “br,” “bl,” and “tr” occur in a word, the combination goes in the following syllable, as in “ha-blar” (to speak)

Sometimes when two consonants come together like “nt” in a word, the first goes to the preceding syllable and the second to the following syllable, as in “pin-tar”


a—a   |   b—be   |   c—ce   |   ch—che   |   q—cu   |   d—de   |   w—doble ve   |   e—e   |   f—efe   |   l—ele   |   ll—elle   |   m—eme   |   n—ene   |   ñ—eñe   |   x—equis   |   r—ere   |   rr—erre   |   s—ese   |   g—ge   |   h—hache   |   i—i   |   y—i griega   |   j—jota   |   k—ka   |   o—o   |   p—pe   |   t—te   |   u—u   |   v—ve   |   z—zeta