The alphabet. Letters h, v, z… and j.

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].

j (jota)

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.

Next: The alphabet.  Letter ñ and the digraph ll.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.