European Spanish Pronunciation Guide

Spoken European Spanish differs in pronunciation from the various dialects spoken in Latin America. To speak Spanish confidently, it’s good to know how to pronounce words correctly.

Spanish is a phonetic language. This means that with a few exceptions, letters in Spanish are always pronounced the same, and unlike English, you usually pronounce all the letters in a word.

Pronunciation of Spanish consonants

Some few Spanish sounds require special explanation:

c - a Spanish c is pronounced th before i or e but k before other vowels. e.g. cinco is pronounced theenkoh (five)
h - in European Spanish, h is always silent: hola is pronounced o-lah (hello).
j (g) - a Spanish j (and g before i or e) is pronounced as a strong h, as if saying hat emphasizing the first letter.
ll - pronounced y as in yes.
ñ - pronounced ny like the sound in the middle of canyon.
r - a Spanish r is trilled like a Scottish r, especially at the beginning of a word and when doubled.
v - a Spanish v is halfway between an Englishv is halfway between an Englishv b and v.
z - a Spanish z is pronounced th.

Pronunciation of Spanish vowels

Spanish vowels are always pronounced the same way. If you know how to pronounce a vowel in one word, then you know how to pronounce it in all words. Additionally, Spanish vowels tend to be pronounced shorter than their English equivalents:

a - as the English father
e - as the English wet
i - as the English keep
o - as the English boat
u - as the English boot

Pronunciation of Spanish Words

After taking into account the pronunciation of the individual letters, bear in mind that when pronouncing the full Spanish words, they mostly have stress on the second-to-last syllable.

In Spanish, the accent mark tells you which part of the word is stressed (loudest, most stressed) and if the word doesn't have an accent mark then the penultimate syllable is most likely where the emphasis is.

Remember when looking how to pronounce European Spanish words, there is no substitute for listening to and mimicking native speakers.

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