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Unlike English, Spanish is a phonetic language and for precisely this reason Spanish pronunciation can be seen as relatively easy. Words are pronounced exactly as they are spelled, so by knowing the spelling of a word, you can almost always know how it’s pronounced. The key is to learn and remember exactly how each letter is pronounced. In this course we have already looked into the pronunciation of the Spanish vowels and we will now analyse the pronunciation of the Spanish consonants.
While many Spanish consonants have sounds that are similar to those in English, many are also quite different and the Spanish consonants are generally softer and less distinct than their English equivalents. There are some Spanish consonant sounds that correspond exactly with the English consonants, such as the “g” in the verb “ganar” (to win). There are also instances when one consonant is pronounced in different ways. Again with the “g”, there is a “g” that sounds more like an English “h”, with for example “gente” (people). There are various Spanish consonants whose sounds correspond to other English consonants, but not the ones you might expect. For example, the Spanish “j” in “jardin” (garden) which sounds more like an English “h” than an English ”j”.
Another significant difference between Spanish and English consonants is that Spanish consonants are rarely doubled. In English, letters such as “t”, “s”, and “f” are used singly or doubly to produce the same sound (bottle, coffee). The Spanish “ll” and “rr” appear to be doubled consonants, but they are actually specific letters of the Spanish alphabet in their own right. A true double consonant does exist, however, in the double “c”. When pronouncing words with “cc” such as “calefacción” (heating) or “adicción” (addiction), the first “c” is pronounced hard like an English “k” and the second “c” is soft like an English “th” or “s”.
It is important to remember that there are regional variations in pronunciation. People in Latin America, for example, pronounce the consonant “c” when followed by an “e” more like an English “s” (for example: “cerveza”) when someone in Spain will pronounce it more like an English “th”. This is also true within Spain itself. For example, Andalusians usually do not pronounce the final “s” in a word such as “ojos” – “ojoh” (eyes) when a speaker in Madrid would say “ojos”. Latin American Spanish and Castellano (Spanish from Spain) are almost identical. There are some differences in pronunciation and vocabulary, but the differences are similar to those between American and British English: nothing to worry about basically. Both parties can be easily understood.