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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQleAoHR-S0?fs=1]

The Spanish “Y” acts as both a consonant and a vowel. 
As a vowel, it is pronounced in exactly the same way as the Spanish letter “I” when it is not followed by a vowel. For example: “rey” (king). 
As a consonant, the Spanish “Y” is pronounced differently around the Spanish speaking world. The most common sound and the one that you will hear throughout the majority of Spain is very similar to the English “Y” heard in words such as “yes” or “yellow”. In Argentina, however, you might hear this same “Y” pronounced as more of an “SH”.
I will now give you some examples of Spanish words featuring the “Y” pronunciation and I would like you to repeat each word after me paying attention to the distinct “Y” sound. If you would like to see the meaning of any words you are unsure of please see the lesson notes.
Let´s practice first the pronunciation of the “Y” as a vowel.

Listen and repeat:

Rey: king
Hay: there is, there are
Buey: ox, bullock
Hoy: today
Voy: I go

Next, let´s practice the most common pronunciation of the “Y” as a consonant, where the “Y” sounds much like an English “Y”:

Listen and repeat:

Yo: I
Ayer: yesterday
Arroyo: stream, gully
Payaso: clown
Bayeta: cleaning cloth
Yate: yacht
Mayo: May
Yeso: plaster
Yema: yolk
Yolanda: female name
Apoyar: to lean
Ya: already
Yuca: yucca, manioc
Cayetano: male name
Mayor: older

Finally, let´s practice a few of the same words pronounced with the “Y” consonant sounding more like an “SH” as you might hear in Argentina:

Listen and repeat:

Yo: I
Ayer: yesterday
Arroyo: stream
Payaso: clown
Bayeta: cleaning cloth

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