The Spanish Alphabet and Stress Rules:
Fortunately the sounds of Spanish letters are very similar to sounds of English letters. It is important to study and memorize the differences between what sound you would expect to hear and say in English and what sound you need to say and hear in Spanish.
Below are noted the differences we find in the Spanish alphabet, if there is nothing noted, then the sound is the same in our language and Spanish.
A sounds like ah
C has two sounds: soft = s (cereal), hard (cat) = k
E sounds like ay or eh
G has two sounds: soft = h (hot), hard (gate) = g *note that the soft sound is different
from the English j sound (Georgia)
we use for soft g
H is silent. Just skip over it in a word.
I sounds like ee (bee)
J sounds like an h all the time (hot)
K is not a letter used in standard Spanish words, but sounds the same
LL sounds like a consonant y (yellow)
Ñ sounds like the combination ny (California)
Q sounds like a k (kick) *note this is different from the kw sound we use in English (quick)
and the vowel u does follow the q in Spanish but is not spoken
U sounds like oo (room)
V sounds like b
W is not a letter used in standard Spanish words, but sounds the same
X *sometimes has a h sound (Mexico)
Y has the same consonant sound (yellow), and the vowel sound ee (beet)
Z sounds like s
We can predict that the letters c and g will use their soft sound when followed by the vowels
e or i.
hard soft hard soft
(gue) ge (que) ce
(gui) gi (qui) ci
Whenever you hear the hard sound of g or c in front of e or i, the spelling will have to change.
When you the gu spelling with a dieresis (ü) in front of e or i, the u will speak. When c is followed
by u and another vowel, you will hear the sound that q makes in English (kw as in quick).
güe (gway) cua (kwa)
güi (gwee) cue (kway)
Knowing the sounds of the letters is only half the battle when pronouncing Spanish words.
We need to know the stress rules also. Then we can say the right sounds and emphasize
the right syllable in the word. There are three simple rules for stress in the Spanish language:
1. If a word ends in a vowel, n or s it will be stressed on the next to the last syllable.
manzana trabajan alumnos
2. If a word ends in a consonant other than n or s it will be stressed on the last syllable.
3. If the pronunciation of the word does not follow normal stress rules 1 and 2 there will
be a written accent in the word to show how to pronounce it correctly. The examples
below are highlighted where the stress should be, but the accent shows where the
stress actually is.
ejército águila crepúsculo
Armed with the sounds of the letters and your stress rules, you can hear how to spell a word
in Spanish and you can automatically tell if an accent is on the word. When the word is not
stressed as it is supposed to be, it has an accent.