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Before you start . . .

A few hints about Spanish pronunciation

In the Destinos TV series you will have the opportunity to imitate Raquel’s and the other characters’ pronunciation. Nevertheless, in these notes we give you some clues about Spanish pronunciation of letters that could cause some confusion because of their difference with English. These notes should be a valuable help for you when preparing for oral and written exercises and exams. Let’s begin with the basic Spanish phonetics to help you with your pronunciation

Spanish vowel sounds

  • a  (similar to “a” as in cart - yard)

        casa - mamá - papá - papa

  • e  (like “e” in pet - net)

        Pepe - pero - Perú - Argentina

  • i   (Ian - tea - me - he)

        Inés - María - Martínez - sí

  • o  (hot - dog)

        no - febrero - oso - yo - color - doctor - señor

  • u  (guru - book)

        uno - universidad - unión - tú - Uruguay


  • ue  (as “u” sound in vowel)

          cuesco - puerto - puerta - nuestro

  • ui   (guitar)

          guitarra - aguijón - Guillermo - Guinea - guisar -

Spanish consonant sounds

  • b and v have the same sound in Spanish, unlike English.

    vino blanco - viva Bolivia!

  • c in front of a, o, and u vowels has a hard pronunciation as in the English words:

    [car - cart - chocolate - cook]

    [k] casa - chocolate - Cuba - Cuzco

    c in front of e and i vowels has a soft sound (as [c] in Ceylon - city)

    (s) cemento - celeste - cien - cielo

  • f always sounds as f in father:

    fantasía - felicidad - fiscal - foca - funeral - flores - Francisco

  • g in front of a, o, and u vowels sounds like guy - gospel - good:

    gata - gorila - gusto

    g in front of e and i vowels sounds like “h” in Helen and he

    gemelos - general - gitano - gigante

    g with the combination ue and ui has a soft sound like in guest, guess, and guitar.... It becomes as soft as in “ga” “go” or “gu

    guerrero - guerra - guerrilla - guitarra - guisante - guinda

    Note that in the examples above the “u” vowel is silent: guitarra (like in guitar).

    There are certain occasions when the “u” in the combination “gu + e” or “gu + i ” is not silent: it must be pronounced. We must pronounce the “u”, by recognizing the “cremilla” (¨) the “u” bears on top.

    Examples: verenza - bilingüe - coligüe - agüita - Camagüey - güelfo - güemul güimba - güiro - güillín

  • h is always silent in Spanish when it is the first letter of a word, as well as when between two vowel sounds:

    hospital - hotel - ahora - ahí

    almohada - zanahoria - ahorrar

  • j is always a strong sound like in happy - hem - hip - hot - hurray

    Jalisco - jefe - jirafa - José - Juan

  • ll sounds like the English y in yellow, or j in jello: both sounds (soft and strong) are okay for the Spanish ll

    ella - llave - lleno - mallita - callo - ellos - lluvia - elle

  • ñ is an n with a tilde ~ on top and it sounds like the English words: canyon, onion, Bunyan

    añil - caña - cabaña - cañería - paño- Mañungo (short for Manuel)

  • q is always followed by ue, ui, or uie, queque (cake) - qué - quizá (maybe, perhaps) quién - quiénes

    In the combinations “gu + e” and “gu + i” the “u” is always silent.

  • r is soft between two vowel sounds as in around - aromático - Perú

    It is a strong sound at the beginning of a word (as in Richard)

    rosa - rico - Rubén - ruinas

  • rr has a stronger sound than r: rr sounds like English “r” in rice - rich - rate

    arroz - arriba - garra - Rogelio - zamarra

    (Spanish “rr” is never found as a first letter of a word.)

  • y sounds like the English y, in yes, or j in joke.

    ya - yo - vaya - sayo - rayón

With these examples above, you should encounter no problem in the Spanish pronunciation exercises you are expected to do in the Spanish courses.