Spanish is the third most widely spoken language in the world. It’s the official language of 20 countries, with an estimated 470 million native speakers and many millions more who speak it as a second or third language. If you’re planning a trip to Latin America, learning to speak a few basic Spanish words and phrases will go a long way, and locals will appreciate the effort. Here are some fundamentals to get you started.
SPANISH ALPHABET & PRONUNCIATION TIPS
The Spanish alphabet has 27 letters. Most letters carry the same sound as in English, with a few exceptions explained below. Unlike in English, vowels in Spanish are always pronounced the same.
The letter combination “ch” (which was once considered a separate letter) is pronounced like the “ch” in chin. Also, the letter combination “ll” is pronounced with a “ya” or “ja” sound. For example, pollo (chicken) would be “poy-o” or “poj-o.”
A: a (pronounced like “a” as in arc)
C: ce (before “e” or “i” pronounced like “s” as in sun; otherwise pronounced like “c” as in cow)
E: e (pronounced like “e” as in hen)
G: ge (before “e” or “i” pronounced like “h” as in hello; otherwise pronounced like “g” as in good)
H: hache (always silent)
I: i (pronounced like “ee” as in seen)
J: jota (pronounced like “h” as in hello)
Ñ: eñe (pronounced like “ny” as in Kenya)
O: o (pronounced like “o” as in home)
Q: cu (pronounced like “k” as in key)
R: erre (note the letter combination “rr” is pronounced like the normal ‘r’ with a roll of the tongue)
U: u (pronounced like “u” as in tune)
V: uve (pronounced like “b” as in boy)
W: uve doble
Z: zeta (pronounced like “s” as in sun)
Stay tuned for part 2 to learn some greetings and questions that might be helpful during your trip!