The letter ñ is commonly described as the n in “onion” or in “canyon”. Unfortunately, that’s only partially true. It depends on exactly how you pronounce those words. Following that advice, chances are you end up pronouncing Begoña (female proper name) as begonia (“begonia”), with unpredictable consequences.
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:
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.