Nailing the Basics of Spanish Pronunciation
Before you start a new language, you should learn which sounds are entirely new to you. There are a few simple rules that can help you to improve your pronunciation and to avoid repeating the old Same mistakes all over again.
Luckily in Spanish, what you see is what you pronounce. So just remember to pronounce every letter you see, because there are no silent letters (with some exception you will see after in this article: the ‘h’ , and the ‘u‘ after q and between g and i,e (gue,gui)). So, in this post we are going to see the most problematic Spanish sounds and how to pronounce everything correctly.
JUST ONE SOUND PER VOWEL.
Spanish vowels are pronounced the same every time. Pay attention to the length of the vowel sound. Spanish vowels are pronounced shorter, a bit more abruptly, compared to English.
Another advantage of Spanish is that, unlike in English, there are only 5 vowel sounds. English speakers often make mistakes with the Spanish ‘i’, as it sounds more like the English ‘ee’ and the Spanish ‘e’ sounds like the English ‘ay’.
Consonant sounds are generally similar as they are in English, with a few smaller exceptions, but there aren’t as many combinations and irregularities as there are with English sounds.
The difference between “b” and “v” in English is obvious. In spoken Spanish,b and v are indistinguishable, and they both sound exactly like the English letter “b” in most situations.
In fact, many native Spanish speakers confuse them, particularly speakers who haven’t received extensive education regarding reading and writing.
The letter c will be pronounced like the Spanish letter s (but with our tongue between our teeth) when followed by the vowels e and i. You can try the pronounce the words you see in the image: cereza and circo.
When the letter c is followed by the vowels a, o, u or a consonant, you’ll use a hard c. You will find the same sound in Q and K. Just take care with Q, because is always followed by u but that u is always silent. And words with K are loan words from another languages.
Now, let’s take a look at the Spanish letter j. The letter j has a breathy “h” sound, like the “h” in “hospital.” You may already know this thanks to Spanish loan words in English—for example, how do you pronounce jalapeño? Exactly: ha-la-payn-yoh.
And how do you pronounce the g in guacamole?
When the Spanish letter g precedes u, a or a consonant, it’s a bit like the hard English “g” found in “golden” or “goal”. The only difference from this English letter “g” sound is, as with any Spanish consonants, the Spanish g is pronounced a bit softer.
The pair gu comes with its own set of rules. When gu is followed by an i, e, that "u "in the middle is silent as you can see in guerra (war) or guitarra (guitar) We would only pronounce that "u" when you find two dots over it, like in pingüino (penguin).
When g precedes i or e, it’s a soft g and pronounced like the Spanish letter j. That means that the same breathy g sound is used in the words gente (people) and gimnasio (gym).
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, h is silent, even if you find it in the middle of the word. However, this is commonly forgotten by learners when speaking Spanish.
When you see h in a word, pretend it doesn’t exist. For example, alcohol, you just need to pronounce a longer o (alcool). The only exceptions are when you see it in a "ch" combo (chocolate) or when it’s in a loan word like hámster.
This ll letter it’s pronounced like the English letter “y” in “yell.” So, the Spanish word pollo (chicken) sounds like poy-yoh. In Argentina and other Latin America regions,ll sounds like sh or ch. For example, lluvia (rain) would sound like (sshuvia).
Change the stress
One essential key to speak correctly is to use the correct word emphasis. This can improve your ability to be understood by native speakers dramatically. And in Spanish it is especially important because English tends to have exactly the opposite pronunciation emphasis.
In Spanish, 2-3 sylable words (without written accents) generally put the stress on the last or second to last syllable, while in English it’s typically on the first. When you see an accent in Spanish however, this tells you to put the emphasis on the syllable with the accent.
Consider the following words which are the same in English and Spanish, but have different pronunciations and stress. Now, try to say them out loud:
English stress and Spanish stress
Note where you normally put the stress in English. Then note the difference in placement of the stress for the same word in Spanish
So, if you can master all the above points, your Spanish will start to sound much better.