Spanish is an incredibly phonetic language. What does this mean? It means the words sound the way they’re spelled, and they’re spelled the way they sound. And thank goodness! Imagine the grief of all those poor people trying to learn English, wrangling with our silent g’s or k’s, our mish-mash vowel sounds, and the glut of words that are spelled similarly and yet mysteriously pronounced completely differently. In Spanish, if you can write a word, you can pronounce it, and if you can pronounce a word, you can figure out how to write it! But first, you still have to know how each letter sounds. That’s what this page is for. We explain the way that every letter sounds, so you can safely read anything in Spanish (even if you can’t understand it all yet!)
Consonants & Vowels
Listen to the consonants & vowels:
A – is pronounced similarly to the “a” in father: casa (house).
B – same sound as English “b”: beso (kiss).
C – when the letter C is before the vowels a, o or u, the C sounds like a “k”: casa (house), cosa (thing), cuna (crib). When the letter C is before the vowels e or i, the C sounds like “s”: cena (dinner), cita (appointment).
D – same sound as English “d”: dedo (finger).
E – is pronounced similarly to the “e” in egg: elefante (elephant).
F – is pronounced like the “ph” in photo: foto (photo).
G – when the letter G is before the vowels a, o or u, the G sounds like the letter “g” in go: gato (cat), goma (glue), Gustavo. When G is before the vowels e or i, the G sounds like the “h” in hi: gelatina (jelly), girasol (sunflower). When you have the following combinations: “gue” or “gui,” the G has a hard sound again: guitarra (guitar), guerra (war).
H – is always silent: hola (hi).
I – is pronounced like the “ee” in feet: sí (yes).
J – sounds like “h” in hi: Jose, Juan.
K – same sound as the English “k”: kilo (kilogram).
L – same sound as the English “l”: leche (milk).
LL – is pronounced like the “y” in yes: llama.
M – same sound as the English “m”: mamá (mother).
N – same sound as the English “n”: nada (nothing).
Ñ – sounds like “gn” in lasagna: España (Spain), pequeño (small).
O – is pronounced like the “o” in ocre: oso (bear).
P – same sound as the English “p”: plátano (banana).
Q – same sound as the English “q”: when there is a “u” after the “q” (almost always), the “u” is silent: que (what), queso (cheese).
R – At the beginning of a word, the “r” is rolled and sounds like “RR”: Roberto, ratón (mouse). In the middle of a word, the “r” has a soft sound like in _______: caro (expensive), para (for).
RR – you need to roll your tongue to make this sound: carro (car).
S – same sound as the English “s”: sapo (frog).
T – same sound as the English “t”: tú (you).
U – is pronounced like the “oo” in boot: tú.
V – sounds like “b”: vaca (cow).
W – same sound as the English “w”: wafle (waffle).
X – it has 3 sounds: “ks” when _________: examen (test); “s” when ________: Xiomara; “h” in English or “j” in Spanish: Mexicano.
Y – same sound as the English “y”: yo (I).
Z – sounds like “s”: zapato (shoe).