h, v, z
- h (hache): the letter h is always silent. So, hola (“hello”) sounds exactly like ola (“wave”).
- v (uve): unlike in english and many other languages, in spanish the letter v must be pronounced exactly like the letter b (bilabial, not labiodental). So, yes: vaca (“cow”) should sound exactly like baca (“roof rack”).
- z (zeta): depending of the dialect, it is pronounced:
- as th in thin (central and northern Spain): voz [boz] (“voice”).
- as s in sin (pretty much everywhere else): voz [bos].
The sound of the letter j may be somewhat familiar to you. It is pronounced:
- like the ch in the Scottish word “loch“.
- like the ch in “yech!” (exclamation of disgust).
If you don’t know how to pronounce it, try this: say the word “key” several times, each time stretching the sound /k/ a bit more:
key, kkkey, kkkkkkkey.
In fact you’d be pronouncing something like:
key, kjjey, kjjjjjjey
That’s because the sounds /k/ and /j/ are articulated in the same place (the soft palate). the difference is that the /k/ sound is produced by obstructing the airflow (and then releasing it), and the /j/ sound is produced by simply constricting it. The less you constrict it, the more it becomes the English /h/ sound (as in hat).
In fact, there are places where the letter j is pronounced precisely as the h in hat. These places are mainly Colombia, Venezuela, all Central America and some areas of Peru, Bolivia and Spain.
To be continued in The alphabet. Letter ñ…
This post is a preview of an upcoming free interactive Spanish course (with audio, practice and more). If you want to be notified when the course is ready, please use the form below (I promise zero spam):
If you follow this blog, by now you have learned a bunch of new words and expressions. Well, you learned how to write them, but… How on Earth are they pronounced? Why didn’t I provide some kind of phonetic transcription for each of them?
Here comes the good news: Once you’ve learned some simple rules, the pronunciation of any Spanish word becomes predictable. Furthermore, most of the letters of the Spanish alphabet have only one possible pronunciation, regardless of their position in a word. Continue reading
Again a new post in the series dedicated to Spanish videos with Spanish subtitles (in my opinion, one of the best ways to “train the ear”). This time, I present to you a new video from the Spanish TV program Cuarto Milenio (many thanks for pointing out your preferences in this respect in you comments!).
The topic of this video is the ancient philosophical, proto-scientific practice known as “alchemy” (in Spanish:
alquimia). What is alchemy? What is its relationship with modern chemistry? What were the alchemists looking for? Continue reading
Mojama (Spanish salt-cured tuna)
You traveled to Spain for the holidays. You are at a Spanish Restaurant, trying to remember what is the Spanish word for “salt-cured ham”, but you can hardly remember even how to say “fork”. Too bad, Spanish cuisine is world renowned and you end up ordering “meat and potatoes”
Never again! Here you have all the Spanish food vocabulary your stomach will ever need, dished out in digestible chunks! Continue reading
Here’s another short video with Spanish subtitles. This time it’s Mexican Spanish: a short piece from Mexican TV about dolphins and their special relationship with humans.
Spanish Learning Hacks comes back to life with yet another Spanish subtitled video. This time I have chosen an interesting one: Scientists have found new evidence that the extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by a meteorite impact. But I won’t give more clues: listen and discover yourself! Continue reading
Months ago (sorry for that) a reader asked me to subtitle more videos from “Cuarto Milenio”, like that about the “Misterios de la Casa Blanca“. Well, that is a good idea. So here you are, I hope you enjoy it (and I really hope I will be able to find time to subtitle more videos from now on…) Continue reading
Here you are another subtitled video. It is from a Spanish TV program called
Cuarto Milenio. Cuarto Milenio is a program about mysteries and paranormal phenomena. In this case, they talk about mysterious incidents and coincidences in the history of the White House. Continue reading
Looking for a good free Spanish-English dictionary online? Well, I have done the search for you, and I am glad to say that there are some really good free Spanish dictionaries out there. But I didn’t only want to write a list of links, I also wanted to answer a simple question: What is the best free Spanish dictionary online? Continue reading
Well, it seems that Spanish subtitled videos are very welcome (thanks for your comments!), so I think I should make them more frequently.
So, here you are a new one. Short but funny. It is a gag from the Andreu Buenafuente’s Spanish TV show. Here I propose you an exercise: First, turn off the sound and try to read aloud the subtitles. Then turn it on and check if your pronunciation is correct. You may want to bear in mind that Buenafuente has Spaniard accent (more precisely, Catalan accent). Continue reading