Spanish Pronunciation Guide

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I wrote this for an american friend who is starting to learn Spanish, and I thought someone else may find it useful. :D
It's not very serious, in fact it's rather informal (it's form friend to friend), but maybe the no-so-technical tone will help to understand better.
Comments are welcome. If I forgot something, or an explanation isn't clear, whatever, I want to hear it so I can improve it.

Enjoy!
A practical guide to Spanish pronunciation by Andy-sensei XD
Spanish isn't that hard to learn -at least the reading part isn't. Basically, we read what we write (like Japanese). It's not like English, where a letter has so many possible readings. An example of our system in your language would be the word "not", you pronounce the sound of each letter.
The only words in Spanish that are read different than written are because they come from a different language. For example, we also call "mouse" to the thing in our pc's, and we pronounce it just like you do. But if we have to read it with our rules, it would be something like "moh-uh-seh".

Let's start with the vowels. English have long and short sounds for them, we only have five, and they aren't exactly alike with yours. :p So I'll give you examples of the most similar sounds available. Each vowel is read as the explanation says, no exceptions (note the especial rules for the letter "u" with the letters "g" and "q" in their corresponding sections).

A as the "oo" in "blood"​
E as the "e" in "egg"​
I as the "i" in "pin"​
O as the "o" in "clock"​
U as the "u" in "bull"​
Now the consonants. First, the sounds that are exactly as in English:

B as in "bug" S as in "soul"
D as in "duck" T as in "toad"
F as in "forget" V as in "virgin"
K as in "kink" W as in "water"
M as in "mother" X as in "experience"
N as in "nun" Z as in "zipper"
P as in "police"

The rest of the consonants have some especial rules. It may look troublesome, but it's easier that it seems.
-C
This letter is divided in two: With vowels A, O and U is pronounced like a K. With vowels E and I is pronounced like a S.
Examples:
casa (house)= "ka-sa"
cielo (sky)= "sie-lo"
Exception: when it's together with the H. See that letter for an explanation.

-G
A problematic letter for non-natives. The first rule is similar to the previous letter. With vowels A, O and U is pronounced like the "g" in "get". With vowels E and I is pronounced like the "h" in "ham".
However, you can also read the "e" and "i" with the "g" from "get". To do that you must add an "u" in the middle which is not pronounced, like happens in "guest" and "guitar".
But what happens when the "u" is not there for modifying th "g"? What if I need to pronounce "gu-e"? Well, then we add this symbol: ¨ . If those little things are on top of the "u", then the vowel must be pronounced.
Spanish examples for you to understand better:
Girasol (sunflower) = "gi-ra-sol" That "g" is the "h" from "ham".
Guitarra (guitar) = "gi-ta-rra" That's the g from "get".
Pingüino (penguin) = "pin-gu-i-no" The "u" is pronounced, separating it from the "i" in two different syllables.

-H
That's a problematic letter for us: children at school hate it with all their hearts. ^^U To put it simply, the H for us is mute, we never pronounce it. Why is there at the beginning of some words like "hada" (fairy)? We have no idea. And there aren't rules either, one just has to learn the words that have it and the words that don't. It's a classic mistake for kids to forget to write the "h" in the corresponding words, no matter if it's at the beginning (hielo - ice) or in the middle (almohada - pillow).
The exception to this is the combination with the letter C, forming the "CH". There was a time when it was taught like a different letter altogether (earning its own space in the alphabet), but that's not used anymore. However, there are some dictionaries that still have a separated section for this "consonant". It's pronounced just like the "ch" in "children".

-J
This letter doesn't change with the vowels, but I didn't put it with the basic list because it's not pronounced like in English. For us, the J is always pronounced like the "h" in "history". Example: jamón (ham)= "ha-mon"

-L
This letter is pronounced just like in English, the "l" in "light". I made a section for it because there's a big exception, what we call the "doble ele" (double l). That means, the LL.Like the CH, there was a time when it was taught like a different letter altogether (earning its own space in the alphabet), but that's not used anymore. However, there are some dictionaries that still have a separated section for this "consonant". The pronunciation changes according to the place. In Spain and 90% of the Spanish-speaking Latin America countries, it's pronounced something similar to a "ly-" (llama= "lia-ma"). In Argentina and some random little towns in the continent, it's pronounced like the "sh" in "shower" (llama= "sha-ma").


English alphabet has 26 letters. Ours has 27! It's hard to explain the sound; the closest thing I can give you is like I did with the LL: is pronounced something like a "ny-". For example, niño (kid)= "ni-nyo"

-Q
I still don't know why the heck it exists. XD It's pronounced like a K. But we only use it with the vowels "e" and "i", and always with the letter "u" in the middle, which is not pronounced (like it happens with the G - but no exceptions in this case). Examples:
Qué (what)= "ke"
Quién (who)= "ki-en"

-R
Another problematic one :p. Let's go step by step. First, you have to understand we have two ways of pronouncing the R: what we call the soft R and the strong R. The strong R is easy for you (but not for Japanese people XD), it's the one at the beginning of "rose", or the one in the onomatopoeia "grrrr". Now, the problem with the soft one is, it's the one you English speakers tend to omit at the end of words and instead make longer the corresponding vowel (like in car= /ka:/). If you ever heard a Japanese person you'll know which one I'm talking about, it's the one that gets confused with the L. I think the one in "arid" it's the one I refer to.
Now, how to know which way to pronounce the R? Three rules:
-All R's at the beginning of words are strong, no exceptions. Ex: rocío (dew).
-If we have just one R in the middle of a word, it's soft, no exceptions. Ex: perezoso (lazy).
-To make a R in the middle strong, we write it double: RR, no exceptions. Ex: perro (dog).
 
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  • -Y
    In English it's a semivowel, for us it's a consonant. There are some exceptions, because globalization changed our language, so you could see it nowadays as a vowel after a consonant, and it's pronounced just like our "i". It's specially used that way to make the short forms of names. Ex: Andrea=Andy. ;)
    When it's used like a consonant, it happens the same as the LL, the pronunciation changes according to the place. In Spain and 90% of the Spanish-speaking Latin America countries, it's pronounced something similar to a "i-". Ex: yerno (son-in-law)= "ier-no". In Argentina and some random little towns in the continent, it's pronounced like the "sh" in "shower" Ex: yerno= "sher-no".

    The symbol ´ on top of the vowels.
    That little thing indicates where to stress a word. Now, I could teach you how to use it, but for that you need to know about our diphthongs and ours system to separate words in syllables, which it would take forever. This guide is for pronunciation, and that I'll teach, how to read the words. Rules:
    -Of course, if the symbol is already there on a vowel, that's the one you must stress. Examples: pén-du-lo (pendulum), bas-tón (cane), -bil (skillful).
    What happens with the words with no symbol on it?
    -If the word finishes with a n, s (a "s" that already comes with the word, no the one added to make the plural) or a vowel, you must stress the syllable before last. Examples: tris-te-za (sadness), pa-ra-guas (umbrella), i-ma-gen (image).
    -If the word doesn't finish with a n, s or a vowel, then you must stress the last syllable. Examples: can-tar (to sing), ca-li-dad (quality), es-ca-sez (shortage), pa-pel (paper).
    It's a common mistake, even among adults, to forget to write the symbol (called "tilde") in the corresponding words. If I forget the tilde in "preparación" (preparation), it's a spelling mistake, no matter if they tell you "oh, I just forgot the stupid thing". It's part of the word, like it or not. Now, be careful, because some words can be written with or without tilde, and that also means that the meaning change (and separated entries in the dictionary). Examples:
    papa= potatoe
    pa= daddy
    El Papa= The Pope
    When it comes to one-syllable words, of course the rules say no tilde (why indicate the stress if there's no other syllable not to stress?). But there are exceptions, again, to indicate the change of meaning. Examples:
    mi= my de= of el= the
    mí= me dé= conjugation of the verb "dar" (to give) él= he

    ~*~
    And to finish with this, a quick note about certain other symbols. Nothing big, and they don't change much. I want to explain them because some people think they change intonation or something. Not at all. ;D

    ? and !
    Remember that in Spanish we also "open" the sentences with ¿ and ¡. Though, nowadays it's common of people to forget them (especially the ¡) because of the English influence.
    Examples:
    Who are you? = ¿Quién eres?
    Great! = ¡Genial!

    "
    We share the uses that English has (like quotations, for example) except for one: dialogues. In a text, we don't indicate spoken words with ", we use -. Example:
    "Hello, how are you?" she asked. -Hola, ¿cómo estás?- preguntó ella.
    "Fine, thanks" -Bien, gracias.
     
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