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Learning the Spanish alphabet

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Learn the Spanish alphabet

When you first start learning Spanish, one of the best things you can do is to learn the alphabet in Spanish. You need to learn the letters and how they differ from English but also you need to be able to properly pronounce each letter, like a Native. The sounds of Spanish letters are very consistent so once you know them, as well as some simple rules about which parts of the words to stress, you should be able to pronounce every Spanish word perfectly.

It is worth taking your time with this because you want to make sure that you are speaking every letter properly. That way, when you start to learn words and practice them, you will be doing it correctly rather than just practising BAD pronunciation a lot! Also, even when you are reading, you are probably saying the words to yourself in your head and you want to be saying them properly. This speeds up your ability to speak Spanish hugely and avoids a lot of wasted time “unlearning” your bad pronunciation later.

In EnglisIn English we have our “ABC” song that we use to teach the alphabet to children (and we all still sing to ourselves as adults when we are trying to remember the letter sequences). If you have forgotten, you can see a video of it here (sorry about the “zee”).

Well, Spanish has the same thing, but it is a different tune and an extra letter (ñ – see more on this below). This video is a good example of how it works:

And here is a fun one Sesame Street style:

The Spanish Alphabet – Details

There is only one extra letter in the official Spanish alphabet – ñ (pronounced by saying “n” as in English and adding “yay”). There used to be separate letters for CH, LL, RR which have different sounds to the standard C, L and R but the extra letters were removed from the official alphabet by the Royal Spanish Academy in 2010.

Our Speed Spanish course has a good section on all of the Spanish letters and how to pronounce them with English equivalent sounds and we have included it below (with the additional letter variants as well) to help you out. Also see further down for more help with pronouncing some of the more tricky letters.

AlphabetPronouncedExamples
Aa[ah]/ah/ as in English other, shut, sonalto ‘tall’ [al-to]
Bb[beh]/b/ as in English boy, about, cribbien ‘good’[byen]
Cc[theh]/k/ as in English cup, rocky, milkcuatro ‘four’[kwat-ro]
when followed by the vowels a, o, u
 /th/ as in English thin, Catherine, mathcinco ‘five’[thing-ko]
when followed by the vowels e, I
Chch[cheh]/ch/ as in English child, Richard, beachchica ‘girl’[chi-ka]
Dd[deh]/d/ as is English doll, idea, gladdonde ‘where’[don-de]
when used in the start of a word or syllable
/th/ as is then, mother, breathenada ‘nothing’[na-dha]
when placed in between vowels in a word
Ee[eh]/eh/ as in English enter, let, saidestado ‘state’[es-ta-dho]
Ff[eh-feh]/f/ as in English fan, raffle, wifefalso ‘false’[fal-so]
Gg[keh]/g/ as in English gift, beagle, doggordo ‘fat’[gor-do]
when followed by the vowels a, o, u
gargled /k/ as in German Bach whengente ‘person’[khen-te]
followed by the vowels e, I
Hh[ah-cheh]the letter h is not pronounced in Spanishhasta ‘until’[as-ta]
words making it a silent letter
II[i]/i/ as in English income, hit, pityídolo ‘idol’[i-do-lo]
Jj[hoh-tah]gargled /k/ as in German Bachjabón ‘soap’[kha-bon]
Kk[kah]/k/ as in English kite, wacky, silkkilo ‘kilo’[ki-lo]
Ll[eh-leh]/l/ as in English light, blame, balllapiz ‘pencil’[la-piz]
Llll[eh-lyeh]/ly/ as in English galleonllover ‘rain’[lyo-ver]
Mm[eh-meh]/m/ as in English money, summit, tamemal ‘bad’[mal]
Nn[eh-neh]/n/ as in English net, tiny, greennorte ‘north’[nor-te]
Ññ[eh-nyeh]/ny/ as in English canyon, onion ñaque ‘junk’[nya-ke]
Oo[oh]/o/ as in English Auckland, saw, decorobra ‘work’[ob-ra]
Pp[peh]/p/ as in English party, happy, leappato ‘duck’[pa-to]
Qq[kuh]/k/ as in English kite, wacky, silkquema ‘fire’[ke-ma]
Rr[eh-reh]/r/ as in English roll, mark, lyrerobo ‘robbery’[ro-bo]
Rrrr[ehr-reh]/r/ with a roll of the tongue; hard /r/correr ‘to run’[kor-rer]
Ss[eh-seh]/s/ as in English son, daisy, officesalsa ‘sauce’[sal-sa]
Tt[teh]/t/ as in English time, later, belttaza ‘cup’[ta-za]
Uu[uh]/u/ as in English put, book, pushúnico ‘single’[u-ni-ko]
Vv[uh-veh]/v/ as in English vase, lava, havevaca ‘cow’[va-ka]
when used in the start of a word or syllable
soft /b/ when placed in between vowelsave ‘bird’[a-be]
Ww[uh-veh do-ble]/w/ as in English whale, lower, showwáter ‘toilet’[wa-ter]
Xx[eh-kis]gargled /k/ as in German Bach whenXavier (name)[khav-yer]
used in the start of a word
/ks/ as in English taxi, box, fix whensexto ‘sixth’[seks-to]
placed inside a word
Yy[i-gri-yeh-gah] /y/ as in English yoyo, boy, Sundayyate ‘yacht’[ya-te]
/i/ as in English receive, cream, ski when
used as the conjunction y ‘and’
Zz[zeh-tah]/z/ as in English zebra, lazy, buzzzona ‘zone’[zo-na]

Tricky Spanish pronunciations

Olly Richards from Fluent Spanish Academy has done some really good videos on some of the more difficult letters with detailed help on how to position your lips and tongue to make the various sounds.

You can see the playlist for all the videos here

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