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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PP4KQXfsPBE?fs=1]

The Spanish “Z” is pronounced in exactly the same way as the Spanish “C” (as discussed in a previous lesson) when the “C” is located before an “E” or an “I”. This pronunciation varies depending on whether the speaker is Spanish or Latin American.
In most of Latin America the “Z”, like the “C”, has an English “S” sound and in most of Spain it is pronounced like the soft English “TH” in “through” or “think.” Contrary to common belief, this is not a lisp, but simply the way the letter is pronounced.
We should also note that the “Z” never appears before an “E” or an “I” and if we need to make a plural of a word ending in “Z” we replace the “Z” with a “C”. For example: the plural of “lápiz” (pencil) is spelled “lápices” rather than “lápizes” and the plural of “faz” (face, surface) is spelled “faces” rather than “fazes”. This is only a change in spelling and does not affect the pronunciation. With words of foreign origin, such as “zigzaguear” (to zigzag), it is possible to find a “Z” before an “E” or an “I”.
I will now give you some examples of Spanish words featuring the “Z” pronunciation and I would like you to repeat each word after me paying attention to the distinct “Z” 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 how the Spanish “Z” is pronounced in Spain.

Listen and repeat:

Zapato: shoe
Zorro: fox
Zueco: clog
Marzo: March
Ajedrez: chess
Zafiro: sapphire
Abrazo: hug
Actriz: actress
Acidez: acidity
Adivinanza: riddle

Now, we will practice the same words with a Latin American pronunciation of the “Z”.

Listen and repeat:

Zapato: shoe
Zorro: fox
Zueco: clog
Marzo: March
Ajedrez: chess
Zafiro: sapphire
Abrazo: hug
Actriz: actress
Acidez: acidity
Adivinanza: riddle

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