Spanish Pronunciation: How to pronounce Spanish words

Looking for some quick tips on how to pronounce Spanish words or a free step-by-step Spanish pronunciation tutorial with audio? Well, you're in the right place!

By following the simple instructions below, you'll find that Spanish is such an easy language to speak. It's phonetic, which means that as long as you memorize the sounds of each letter in the Spanish alphabet, you can read ANY Spanish word!

If you're looking for a brief step-by-step tutorial on how to pronounce Spanish words, I suggest you start with the Spanish alphabet, and proceed through the lessons on Spanish vowels, Spanish consonants and then Spanish accents. Pronounce each Spanish word after listening carefully to our native speaker on the audio, and not only will you be on your way to speaking a foreign language, you'll be learning new vocabulary as well!

If you're in a hurry and you just need some quick tips, read on...

How to Pronounce Spanish words

Here are some of the most basic Spanish words to get you started. Further on in this lesson we will look at the pronunciation of these and more Spanish words.
 

  • Chocolate - Chocolate
  • Chile - Chile / Red pepper
  • Chofer - Driver
  • Llaga - Ulcer, sore
  • Lleno / Llena - Full, crowded (masc and fem)
  • Luvia - Rain
  • Araña - Spider
  • Muñeca - Doll
  • Otoño - Fall, Autumn
  • Carrera - Race

Below is a guide to the pronunciation of the letters of the alphabet. Listen to the audio to hear the pronunciation:

A

ah

B

beh

C

seh

D

deh

E

eh

F

ef-eh

G

heh

H

ah-che

I

ee

J

hotah

K

kah

L

el-eh

M

em-eh

N

en-eh

Ñ

en-yeh

O

oh

P

peh

Q

coo

R

air-eh

S

es-eh

T

teh

U

oo

V

veh

W

doh-vleh-veh

X

eh-keys

Y

jeh

Z

seh-tah

You can form almost every sound in Spanish using the English sounds that you already know. Here are some combinations that are a bit different from English:

  • The ch sound is pronounced just as it is pronounced in English, like Charles.
  • The ll sound is often pronounced like a y, as in yo-yo. (Please note that this sound is difficult to pin down, as it is pronounced in a variety of ways around Latin America.)
  • The ñ sound is pronounced like an n followed by a yay.
  • The rr sound is pronounced by trilling the r sound. Think of a purring cat!

Some audio examples with 'CH': 

Chocolate

Chocolate

Chile

Chile / Red pepper

Chofer

Driver

Audio examples using 'LL': 

Llaga

Ulcer, sore

Lleno / Llena

Full, crowded (masc and fem)

Luvia

Rain

Audio examples using 'Ñ': 

Araña

Spider

Muñeca

Doll

Otoño

Fall, Autumn

Audio examples using 'RR': 

Carrera

Race

Barril

Barrel

Guerra

War

Pronouncing B and V in Spanish

Notice that the letters ‘b’ and ‘v’ sound exactly alike. That’s because there is no difference between the two sounds in Spanish: ‘v’ is pronounced just like ‘b.’ This can make it difficult when you’re trying to spell an unfamiliar word that you’ve only heard before, like grabadora (tape recorder) or vago (lazy). If you ask someone to spell a word in Spanish for you, that person may differentiate ‘b’ and ‘v’ by talking about beh grande (big ‘b’) and beh pequeño (little ‘v’). 

Practice the following words with letters 'B' and 'V':

Bata

Robe, Dressing gown

Botar

To throw, bounce

Vestíbulo

Lobby, hall

Votar

To vote

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Pronouncing G, H and J in Spanish

You may also have difficulties with the Spanish sounds ‘g,’ ‘h,’ and ‘j.’ They sound rather different from their English counterparts! Both ‘g’ and ‘j’ can sound like the English ‘h’ (as in ‘hey’). The Spanish ‘h,’ on the other hand, is usually silent!

By the way... Did you know that the letter ‘w’ is only used in words of foreign origin, like ‘Washington’?

Let's practice some of these!: 

Gato

Cat

General

General

Girar

To spin

Golosina

Candy

Jirafa

Giraffe

Gusano

Worm

Hueso

Bone

Kiwi

Kiwi

Taiwanés

Taiwanese

Now it's time to practice your Spanish pronunciation...

See if you can pronounce the following Spanish words, now that you know how to pronounce Spanish letters.... not only will you be practicing HOW to speak Spanish (perhaps for the first time), you'll be learning some Spanish vocabulary as well!

A

avión

airplane

B

barra

bar

C

cabra

goat

D

dar

to give

E

edad

age

F

feliz

happy

G

gesto

gesture

H

hay

there is

hielo

ice

hora

hour

I

Idea

Idea

J

Jarabe

Syrup

Juventud

Youth

K

kilo

kilogram

L

lado

side

M

madre

mother

N

Noche

Night

Ñ

Ñoño

Dull

niño

child

O

oso

bear

P

prueba

test

Q

Queso

Cheese

R

rojo

red

S

sábado

Saturday

T

tener

to have

U

Urbano

Urban

V

Vocación

Calling, vocation

W

whisky

whisky

X

Xilófono

Xylophone

éxito

success

Y

yema

yolk

Z

zapato

shoe

How do I pronounce Spanish words with accent marks?

The final thing that you need to remember about pronouncing Spanish words is that accent marks will completely change the pronunciation AND meaning of a word.

Consider the following stressed vowels:

  • á é í ó ú

When you see one of the above vowels, stress that syllable. For example, the three words below have a different meaning and two of them are pronounced differently:

  • esta
  • ésta
  • está

Let's see if you can hear the difference:

Perdida

Lost (crazy)

Pérdida

Loss

Papá

Dad

Papa

Potato

Esta

This

Está

Is (conj v. 'to be' present tense)

Listen to how native-speakers speak Spanish!

These quick tips on how to pronounce Spanish words should be enough to get you started. Remember: the more you listen, the more you’ll be able to recognize words as they’re spoken.

And this is just the beginning! With these Spanish pronunciation lessons under your belt you are well on your way to speaking Spanish, but as you can imagine, there's a whole lot more to learn. Launch your language learning with my comprehensive learn Spanish course today! 

Adios
Mauricio Evlampieff 
Rocket Spanish


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