Easy Spanish Lesson 10: Pronunciation

Easy Spanish Lesson 10 Pronunciation: Sounds of Spanish

The easiest Spanish pronunciation is

SPANISH PRONUNCIATION YOU KNOW FROM ENGLISH

The main purpose of all the previous nine Easy Spanish Lessons has been to show you the similarities between English and written Spanish that will enable you to read some Spanish.

The secondary purpose is to prepare you for the next steps in learning this foreign language: listening to and then speaking Spanish.

Sound similarities are far fewer than spelling similarities between Spanish and English.

This lesson will help prepare you for a logical next step of learning: listening to Spanish words on audio and pronouncing them.

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SPANISH PRONUNCIATION EASIEST

Spanish pronunciation is the easiest of the European foreign languages.

The reason is that Spanish vowels are always consistently pronounced the same in all words, for example, and so are the consonants.

It took the Spanish language academy 150 years to make the Spanish language fully phonetic.

French and English are more difficult for foreigners to learn to pronounce because their spellings are more etymological than phonetic, meaning that their spellings are tied not to the present sounds of the words but rather originated from the way words were originally spelled historically, back when many were pronounced differently.

And so in English, as Bill Bryson points out in The Mother Tongue, in English the sound “sh” is spelled fourteen different ways. Phonetically, ‘sure’ would be spelled ‘shur’ and ‘attention’ would be spelled ‘atenshun’.

But even Spanish is not quite that strictly phonetic.

The single Spanish vowels each have only one pronunciation.

But some of the Spanish consonants are pronounced two ways, like the letter –c- in the example below, the first –c- is pronounced “s” and the second is pronounced “k”, just as they are pronounced in English:

English -- Spanish -- Pronounce

cycling -- ciclismo -- [See-Klees-moh]

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SPANISH WORDS YOU KNOW HOW TO PRONOUNCE

From all the Spanish words in English, you actually know a lot about Spanish pronunciation, but you’re probably not aware of it.

Some words in English may sound to you like they might be pronounced in a Spanish way, but most adopted Spanish words have been in English so long that you and other English speakers think of these words as English.

So some of the Spanish words you already know how to pronounce in English.

You know much more about Spanish pronunciation than you realize -- just because you know English.

This lesson will show you how much you already know about pronouncing Spanish words.

Spanish words that sound similar to English are the focus of this lesson.

Just as Spanish words that look similar to English were the focus of all the previous nine Easy Spanish Lessons.

If you live in the United States with its large Spanish-speaking minority, you may have heard these Spanish words pronounced -- but perhaps have never seen some of them in print. So the Spanish spelling of some of these words may come as a surprise -- with letters pronounced differently than you are used to in English.

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Learning About English While Learning Spanish

Knowing how Spanish words in English are pronounced will primarily help you begin to learn Spanish more easily.

But this will also increase your understanding of your native language. You will see how many English words are pronounced the way they are because of their Spanish origin.

You also learn more about words in English that still seem Spanish, especially ones you may have seen or heard before but aren’t sure how to pronounce or spell. You may also find some useful new words in English.

So while using this lesson about cognates as the best way to begin learning Spanish, you will also learn more about English as a side benefit. Just as when you learned English, you were unwittingly learning quite a bit about Spanish also.

At the bottom of this web page is a link to a list of Spanish words in English that still sound Spanish.

During this lesson you could consult the list on Wikipedia, which includes meanings, if you come across any Spanish words in English whose meaning you are unsure of.

In the list on Wikipedia you will also find many more Spanish words in English that still sound Spanish, because this lesson includes only Spanish words that demonstrate Spanish pronunciation you know from English, but other ones are not covered in this lesson.

From this list you could also learn more about English as a side benefit.

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SPANISH WORDS YOU KNOW HOW TO SAY

Some of the obviously Spanish words used in English, like “tortilla”and “quesadilla”, you will recognize as Spanish words you already know how to pronounce. As used in English, they retain their Spanish pronunciation, more or less.

These Spanish words in English can serve you as a good introduction to speaking Spanish, because they are somewhat familiar words you already may know how to pronounce in the Spanish way.

This Easy Spanish Lesson focuses on pronunciation -- specifically on the pronunciation of Spanish words that you already know how to say in English.

All the previous Easy Spanish Lessons focused on the spelling of Spanish words similar to English.

All the previous Easy Spanish Lessons included the pronunciation of each of these Spanish words that similar to English words.

But Spanish pronunciations were included only in case you would naturally try to pronounce these Spanish words similar to English -- so that you could pronounce them the Spanish way right from the beginning, rather than pronounce them as you always have said some in English, or mis-pronounce unfamiliar words using English pronunciation patterns rather than Spanish pronunciation.

So this lesson will show you how much you already know about pronouncing Spanish words, but may not fully realize.

You may know many of these Spanish words in English.

Or you may not know some of these Spanish words in English.

If you do not immediately recognize some of these Spanish words in English, simply skip over them and go on to the next Spanish word that you do know from English.

So in the following lists, concentrate on the Spanish words you do already know how to pronounce in the Spanish way.

That way these Spanish words in English that you know can serve as a good introduction to speaking Spanish.

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WORDS THAT SOUND SPANISH IN ENGLISH

You may have noticed that words that sound Spanish in English do not follow the usual English patterns of pronunciation.

Or on the other hand, you may be so used to some of these adopted Spanish words in English that you may not have noticed that they do not follow the usual English patterns of pronunciation.

In the pronunciation guides for this lesson on Spanish pronunciation, the phonetic pronunciations of all the Spanish words are listed, even though they may be pronounced in Spanish as they are in English (which elsewhere on this web site are put in quotation marks to indicate similar pronunciation in Spanish as in English).

For this lesson on pronunciation of adopted Spanish words in English, the pronunciation guides sometimes list the familiar English pronunciation of each Spanish word, rather than the authentic Spanish pronunciation, which may be the same or different from the English pronunciation of the Spanish words.

In the United States, authentic Spanish pronunciation is often heard because of the large population of Mexican-Americans, the numerous Mexican restaurants, and the proximity of Latin America to the United States for travel.

In the United States, authentic Spanish pronunciation is also heard in the names of Mexican-Americans.

Also in the western United States, authentic Spanish pronunciation is often heard in place names dating from when the western United States was a Spanish territory.

All of the above kinds of Spanish words and Spanish names will be found in the lists below.

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SPANISH CONSONANTS YOU KNOW HOW TO PRONOUNCE IN ENGLISH

The good news is that some letters in Spanish are pronounced as they are in English, about half of all the letters.

So let’s start this lesson on Spanish pronunciation the easiest way -- with letters pronounced in Spanish the same way as in English!

Consonants:

B, CH, D, F, K, L, M, N, P, Q, S, T.

C is pronounced ‘s’ or ‘k’, as in English in the words ‘city’ or ‘cut’.

The other half of the letters in Spanish are pronounced somewhat differently than in English, so those are a little more difficult, because of that natural tendency to pronounce the letters as you would in English.

Some of the differences in pronunciation are easier than others, because although the sounds of some Spanish letters are different than in English, they are still sounds you make in English.

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of the Spanish letters in question are put in CAPITAL LETTERS to draw your attention to them.

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SPANISH CONSONANTS

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Q- pronounced K-

As in English, Q- is always followed by the letter -U-.

As in these Spanish Words heard in English:

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of “-K- “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

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QUE

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

quesadilla -- [Keh-sah-dee-yah]

Albuquerque (New Mexico city) -- [ahl-boo-Ker-kee]

Enrique -- [ehn-ree-Keh]

Que? (What?) -- [Keh]

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QUI

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

tequila -- [teh-Kee-lah]

mosquito -- [mohs-Kee-toh]

mesquite -- [mehs-Keet]

conquistador -- [kohn-Kees-tah-dohr]

Quito (Ecuador) -- [Kee-toh]

Dos Equis (beer brand) -- [dohs eh-Kees]

La Quinta (California town) -- [lah Keen-tah]

Joaquín - [hwah-Keen]

San Joaquin -- [sahn hwah-Keen]

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Like the Spanish Q- pronounced K- some English words borrowed from French and beginning QU- are pronounced “K” as in: queue, quiche, Quebec, liqueur. These are more foreign words you know how to pronounce in English that many help you with Spanish words.

[Unlike the Spanish Q- pronounced K- almost all English words beginning QU- are pronounced “KW” as in: ‘quake’, ‘quart’, ‘quality’, ‘queer’, ‘queen’, ‘question’, ‘quick’, ‘quiet’, ‘quit’, ‘quiz’, ‘quota’, ‘quote’]

But in Spanish after QUE and QUI- the letter -U- is silent, so there is no sound of -W- heard in Spanish pronunciation of QUE and QUI-.

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-LL- is usually pronounced "Y",

As in these Spanish words and names heard in English:

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of LL as “Y “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

tortilla -- [tor-tee-Yah]

quesadilla -- [keh-sah-dee-Yah]

paella -- [pah-eh-Yah]

chile relleno -- [chee-leh reh-Yeh-noh]

caballero -- [kah-bah-Yeh-roh]

chollo -- [choh-Yoh]

ocatillo -- [oh-kah-tee-Yoh]

bougainvillea -- [boo-gahn-vee-Yah / -vihl-Yah]

amontillado -- [ah-mohn-tee-Yah-doh]

mantilla -- [mahn-tee-Yah][sometimes man-tih-lah in English]

pico de gallo -- [pee-koh duh gah-Yoh]

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Guillermo -- [gee-Yehr-moh]

Pancho Villa -- [pahn-choh vee-Yah]

La Jolla -- [lah-hoh-Yah]

Camarillo -- [kah-mah-ree-Yoh]

Manzanillo -- [mahn-zah-nee-Yoh]

Medellin (Colombia) -- [meh-deh-Yeen]

Hermosillo -- [hehr-moh-see-Yah]

Mallorca -- [mah-Yohr-kah]

Marbella [Spain] -- [mahr-beh-Yah]

Puerto Vallarta -- [pwehr-toh vah-Yahr-tah]

Cordillera -- [kohr-dee-Yeh-rah]

Salvador Allende -- [ah-Yehn-deh]

Mogollon [mountains in Arizona] -- [moh-goh-Yohn] is Spanish [muggy-Yohn] is local

Costilla (Colorado) -- [kohs-tee-Yoh]

Cebolla (Colorado) -- [seh-voh-Yah]

Trujillo -- [troo-hee-Yoh]

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N in Spanish is Usually Pronounced as in English / Spanish word “no”

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of “N “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

no -- [Noh]

nachos -- [Nah-chohs]

nada -- [Nah-dah]

Nevada -- [Neh-vah-dah]

Nogales -- [Noh-gah-lehs]

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-ñ- with a wavy accent mark over it is pronounced "NY"

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of -ñ- as “NY” are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

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In English some of these words are anglicized in spelling, using the letter -n- instead of the Spanish letter -ñ- but retaining the Spanish pronunciation “NY”, as in the following words:

SPANISH -- ENGLISH -- [SAY]

jalapeño (pepper) -- jalapeno -- [hah-lah-peh-NYoh]

piña colada -- pina colada -- [pee-NYah koh-lah-dah]

piñata -- pinata -- [pee-NYah-tah]

mañana -- manana -- [mah-NYah-nah]

señor (Mr.) -- senor -- [seh-NYohr]

señorita (Miss) -- senorita -- [seh-NYoh-ree-tah]

señora (Mrs.) -- senora -- [seh-NYoh-rah]

español (Spanish) -- espanol -- [eh-spah-NYohl]

El Niño (weather) -- El Nino -- [ehl nee-NYoh]

cañon -- Canon City (Colorado) -- [kah-NYohn]

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In English a few of these words in the Western United States in the past were anglicized in spelling, using the letters -ny- instead of the Spanish letter -ñ- to better retain the Spanish pronunciation “NY” as in the following:

SPANISH -- ENGLISH -- [SAY]

cañon -- canyon -- [kah-NYohn]

piñon (pine) -- pinyon -- [peen-NYohn]

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In English a few of these words are anglicized in spelling, using the letter -n- instead of the Spanish letter -ñ- and also are anglicized in pronunciation, changing the Spanish pronunciation “NY” to a simple “N” as in the following:

SPANISH -- [SAY] -- ENGLISH -- [SAY]

vicuña -- [vee-koo-NYah] -- vicuna -- [vai-koo-nah]

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G pronounced G or H in Spanish

Unlike cases where Spanish -G- is pronounced "-H-" in adopted Spanish words, otherwise in English -G- is usually pronounced in several ways:

Like Spanish, English -G- is often pronounced as in: ‘game’, ‘gas’, ‘get’, ‘girl’, ‘give’, ‘glass’, ’go’, ‘gold’, ‘golf’, ‘good’, ‘gray’, ‘green’, ‘group’, ‘guide’.

Unlike Spanish, English -G- is often pronounced “dj” as in: ‘gin’, ‘gel’, ‘gem’, ‘general’, ‘gentleman’, ‘genuine’, ‘geology’, ‘Germany’, ‘gym’.

In the Spanish pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of G as hard G or H are put in capital letters “G” or “H” to draw your attention to them.

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G usually a ‘hard G’ , as in

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

gazpacho -- [Gahz-pah-choh]

garbanzo -- [Gahr-bahn-zoh]

gracias -- [Grah-see-ahs ]

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GUA pronounced GWAH

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

guacamole -- [GWAH-kah-moh-leh]

Guatemala -- [GWAH-teh-mah-lah]

Guadalajara -- [GWAH-dah-lah-hah-rah]

Guadelupe -- [GWAH-deh-loo-peh]

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GUE pronounced GEH

The letter ‘u’ is silent in ‘gue’.

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

Miguel -- [mee-GEHl]

dengue (fever) -- [dehn-GEH]

Guillermo -- [Gee-yehr-moh]

guerrilla -- [GEH-ree-yah] is Spanish [GEH-rih-lah] is English

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BUT

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G pronounced H before E or I

The letter G is pronounced with an “H” sound but only before E or I, as in the words below:

G pronounced H before E

As in these Spanish names:

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

Geraldo [Rivera, etc.] -- [Heh-rahl-doh]

Gerardo -- [Heh-rahr-doh]

Jorge -- [hohr-Heh]

Caratagena -- [kahr-tah-Heh-nah]

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G pronounced H before I

As in this Spanish American name:

SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

Gila (River) -- [Hee-lah]

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J pronounced H

The letter J is pronounced “H” in Spanish.

[Unlike this Spanish -J- pronounced "-H-" in adopted Spanish words, otherwise in English -J- is usually pronounced as in: ‘jam’, ‘jet’, ‘jib’, ‘job’, ‘just’]

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of J as “ H “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

jalapeno -- [Hah-lah-pehn-yoh]

jicama -- [Hee-kah-mah]

junta -- [Hoon-tah]

marijuana -- [mah-ree-Hwah-nah]

fajita -- [fah-Hee-tah]

mojito -- [moh-Hee-toh]

frijoles -- [free-Hoh-lehs]

cojones -- [coh-Hoh-nehs]

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José -- [Hoh-seh]

Julio -- [Hoo-lee-oh]

Javier -- [Hah-vee-ehr]

Jorge -- [Hohr-heh]

Jesús (person name) -- [Heh-soos]

Juan -- [Hwahn]

Don Juan -- [dohn Hwahn]

Juanita -- [Hwah-nee-tah]

Joaquín - [Hwah-keen]

Jaime (person name) -- [Hai-meh]

Alejandro -- [ah-leh-Hahn-droh]

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La Jolla -- [lah Hoy-ah]

San Jose -- [sahn Hoh-zeh]

Mojave [Desert] -- [moh-Hah-veh]

La Junta -- [lah Hoon-tah]

Jalapa -- [Hah-lah-pah]

Baja -- [bah-Hah]

Ojai -- [oh-Hai]

El Cajon -- [ehl kah-Hohn]

Navajo -- [nah-vah-Hoh]

Guadalajara -- [gwah-dah-lah-Hah-rah]

Zihuatanejo -- [zee-whah-tah-neh-Hoh]

Vallejo -- [vah-leh-Hoh, in English]

Tijuana -- [tee-Hwah-nah] or [tee-ah-Hwah-nah]

Juarez -- [Hwah-rehz]

San Juan -- [sahn Hwahn]

San Joaquin -- [sahn Hwah-keen]

Jaroso (Colorado) -- [Hah-roh-soh]

La Jara (Colorado) -- [lah Hah-rah]

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Sometimes the sound of J as H makes a Spanish word sound something like an English one even when it doesn’t look like one;

ENGLISH -- SPANISH -- [SAY]

ham -- jamón -- [Hah-mohn]

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X is pronounced H

in a few special cases

In certain Spanish words that you may have heard in English as pronounced by Mexican-Americans, X is pronounced H:

ENGLISH -- SPANISH -- [SAY]

Mexico -- México -- [meh-Hee-koh]

mexican -- mexicano -- [meh-Hee-kah-noh]

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Next is an easy one, a letter that is NOT pronounced in Spanish: the letter H.

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Letter H is NOT Pronounced in Spanish

You may be familiar with the silent initial H- from some familiar English words, like "heir", and , for some people, "herb" (most people pronounce herb as erb, but some pronounce the "H").

You are also familiar with the silent initial H- from some familiar names, like "Thomas", “Theresa”, and “Esther”.

Similarly the H- is not pronounced in the authentic pronunciation of the following Spanish words adopted into English.

So these are more Spanish words you will know how to pronounce from English, as long as you remember not to pronounce the letter ‘H’.

In this section, to better indicate the silent letters in the following Spanish words, the silent letters are in lower case, while the rest of the word is in upper case.

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

hUEVOS (rancheros) -- [weh-vohs]

hOMBRE -- hombre -- [ohm-breh]

hOLA -- [oh-lah]

hABLA (español?) -- [ah-blah]

hASTA (luego) -- [ah-stah]

hECHO (en México) -- [eh-choh]

hIDALGO (Spanish nobleman) -- [ee-dahl-goh]

So the letter H is not pronounced when you see it printed.

However, several other letters are pronounced with an “H” sound.

The letter J is pronounced “H” in Spanish.

The letter G is sometimes pronounced with an “H” sound -- but only before E or I

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SPANISH VOWELS HEARD IN ENGLISH

Vowels in Spanish are pronounced only one way.

Spanish words end with vowels more frequently than English words [except for the frequent final –E in English and the vowel sound of the final –Y in English].

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A is pronounced ‘AH’, [as in British English]

(Unlike American English where -a- is also pronounced in various other ways, often as "-ay-" as in: ‘ace’, ‘brace’, ‘face’, ‘grace’, ‘lace’, place’, ‘race’, ‘trace’.)

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations “-AH- “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

adiós -- [AH-dee-yohs]

avocado -- [AH-voh-kAH-doh]

salsa -- [sAHL-sAH]

nada -- [nAH-dAH]

plaza -- [pLAH-zAH]

playa -- [pLAH-yAH]

papaya -- [pAH-pAH-yAH]

mañana -- [mAHn-yAH-nAH]

caramba -- [kAH-rAHm-bAH]

margarita -- [mAHr-gAH-ree-tAH]

tamale -- [tAH-mAH-leh]

gazpacho -- [gAHz-pAH-choh]

garbanzo -- [gAHr-bAHn-zoh]

guacamole -- [gWAH-kAH-moh-leh]

jalapeño -- [hAH-LAH-pehn-yoh]

taco -- [tAH-koh]

nachos -- [nAH-chohs]

macho -- [mAH-choh]

pancho -- [pAHn-choh]

fajita -- [fAH-hee-tAH]

gracias -- [grAH-see-AHs]

barrio -- [bAH-rree-yoh]

tostada -- [tohs-tAH-dAH]

piñata -- [pee-nyAH-tAH]

piña colada -- [pee-nyAH koh-LAH-dAH]

jicama -- [hee-kAH-mAH]

chimichanga -- [chee-mee-chAHn-gAH]

tortilla -- [tor-tee-yAH]

quesadilla -- [keh-sAH-dee-yAH]

paella -- [pAH-eh-yAH]

siesta -- [see-ehs-tAH]

señorita (Miss) -- [seh-nyoh-ree-tAH]

señora (Mrs.) -- [seh-nyoh-rAH]

junta -- [hoon-tAH]

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Guadalajara -- [gwAH-dAH-LAH-hAH-rAH]

Jalapa -- [hAH-LAH-pAH ]

Baja -- [bAH-hAH]

Guatemala -- [gwAH-teh-mAH-LAH]

Catalina -- [kAH-tAH-lee-nAH]

La Jolla -- [LAH hoy-AH]

La Quinta [hotel] -- [LAH keen-tAH]

La Junta -- [LAH hoon-tAH]

Navajo -- [nAH-vAH-hoh]

Tijuana -- [tee-hwAH-nAH] or [tee-AH-hwAH-nAH]

Mojave [Desert] -- [moh-hAH-veh]

Pancho Villa -- [pAHn-choh vee-yAH]

Puerto Vallarta -- [pwehr-toh vAH-yAHr-tAH]

Juanita -- [hwAH-nee-tAH]

Nevada -- [neh-vAH-dAH]

Sierra Nevada -- [see-eh-rrAH neh-vAH-dAH]

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E is pronounced ‘EH’

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of “ EH “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

espagñol (Spanish) -- [EH-spah-nyohl]

embarcadero -- [EHm-bahr-kah-dEH-roh]

embargo -- [EHm-bahr-goh]

tequila -- [tEH-kee-lah]

mescal -- [mEHs-kahl]

mesquite -- [mEHs-keet]

mestizo -- [mEHs-tee-zoh]

desperado -- [dEHs-pEH-rah-doh]

quesadilla -- [kEH-sah-dee-yah]

fiesta -- [fee-yEHs-tah]

siesta -- [see-yEHs-tah]

bodega -- [boh-dEH-gah]

paella -- [pah-EH-yah]

chile rellenos -- [chee-LEH rEH-yEH-nohs]

oregano -- [oh-rEH-gah-noh]

caballero -- [kah-bah-yEH-roh]

telenovella --[tEH-LEH-noh-vEH-lah]

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El Salvador -- [EHL sahl-vah-dohr]

El Dorado -- [EHL doh-rah-doh]

El Niño -- [EHL nee-nyoh]

El Cajon -- [EHL kah-hohn]

Enrique -- [EHn-ree-kEH]

Nevada -- [nEH-vah-dah]

Medellin -- [mEH-dEH-yeen]

Tempe -- [tEHm-pee]

San Clemente -- [sahn kLEH-mEHn-tEH]

Manuel -- [mahn-wEHL]

Juarez -- [hwah-rEHz]

Sierra Nevada -- [see-Eh-rrah nEH-vah-dah]

Palos Verdes -- [pah-lohs vEHr-dEHs]

Guadelupe -- [gwah-dEH-loo-pEH]

Que? (What?) -- [kEH ]

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Final -E is Pronounced “EH” in Spanish:

[Otherwise the final E on many other English words is silent.]

As in these Spanish words and names heard in English:

Sometimes in English this Spanish final –E sound of “EH” is drawn out to sound more like “AY” when the final syllable is stressed in English. But authentic Spanish pronunciation of this Spanish final –E sound is a shorter unstressed “EH” sound.

There is a slight tendency in English to drop the pronunciation of the final –E sound from Spanish to bring it more in line with usual English pronunciations. So with 'coyote', both pronunciations are heard in English: [koh-yoh-tEH] or [koh-yoht].

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of “ EH “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

olé -- [oh-LEH]

mole [sauce] -- [moh-LEH]

padre -- [pah-drEH]

chile -- [chee-LEH]

chile verde -- [chee-LEH vehr-dEH]

guacamole -- [gwah-kah-moh-LEH]

tamale -- [tah-mah-LEH]

chipotle -- [chee-poht-LEH]

peyote -- [peh-yoh-tEH]

vigilante -- [vee-gee-lahn-tEH]

coyote -- [koh-yoh-tEH] [sometimes koh-yoht in English]

palo verde -- [pah-loh vehr-dEH]

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Chile -- [chee-LEH]

Enrique -- [ehn-ree-kEH]

Guadelupe -- [gwah-deh-loo-pEH]

Yosemite -- [yoh-seh-mih-tEH]

Mojave [Desert] -- [moh-hah-vEH]

Sierra Madre -- [see-eh-rrah mahd-rEH]

Monte Vista -- [mohn-tEH vees-tah]

San Filipe -- [sahn fee-lee-pEH]

Kaiser Permanente -- [kai-sehr pehr-mah-nehn-tEH]

Tecate -- [teh-kah-tEH]

Campeche -- [kahm-peh-chEH]

Arroyo Grande -- [ah-rroh-yoh grahn-dEH]

Del Norte -- [dehl nohr-tEH]

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O is pronounced ‘OH’

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations “-OH- “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

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SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

olé -- [OH-leh]

oregano -- [OH-reh-gah-nOH]

no -- [nOH]

loco -- [LOH-kOH]

pronto -- [prOHn-tOH]

bronco -- [brOHn-kOH]

cocoa -- [kOH-kOH]

tobacco -- [tOH-bah-kOH]

sombrero -- [sOHm-breh-rOH]

bolero -- [bOH-leh-rOH]

chorizo -- [chOH-ree-zOH]

mojito -- [mOH-hee-tOH]

corral -- [kOH-rrahl]

tostada -- [tOHs-tah-dah]

bodega -- [bOH-deh-gah]

politico -- [pOH-lee-tee-kOH]

taco -- [tah-kOH]

nachos -- [nah-chOHs]

pancho -- [pahn-chOH]

macho -- [mah-chOH]

tango -- [tahn-gOH]

negro -- [neh-grOH]

pueblo -- [pwehb-LOH]

avocado -- [ah-vOH-kah-dOH]

arroyo -- [ah-rrOH-yOH]

amigo -- [ah-mee-gOH]

burrito -- [boo-rree-tOH]

burro -- [boo-rrOH]

churro-- [choo-rrOH]

lasso -- [lah-sOH]

mosquito -- [mOHs-kee-tOH]

cilantro -- [see-lahn-trOH]

pimento / pimiento -- [pee-mehn-tOH]

mulatto -- [moo-lah-tOH]

desperado -- [dehs-peh-rah-dOH]

adiós -- [ah-dee-yOHs]

camino -- [kah-mee-nOH]

palmetto -- [pahl-meh-tOH]

espagñol (Spanish) -- [eh-spahn-yOHL]

frijoles -- [free-hOH-lehs]

cojones -- [kOH-hOH-nehs]

mestizo -- [mehs-tee-zOH]

embarcadero -- [ehm-bahr-kah-deh-rOH]

incommunicado -- [een-koh-moo-nee-kah-dOH]

chile rellenos -- [chee-lee reh-yeh-nOHs]

caballero -- [kah-bah-yeh-rOH]

-------

Zoro -- [zOH-rOH]

José -- [hOH-seh]

San Jose -- [sahn hOH-seh]

Mojave [Desert] -- [mOH-hah-veh]

Nogales -- [nOH-gah-lehs]

Colorado -- [kOH-LOH-rah-dOH]

El Dorado -- [ehL dOH-rah-dOH]

Antonio -- [ahn-tOH-nee-yOH]

San Antonio -- [sahn ahn-tOH-nee-yOH]

Lolita -- [LOH-lee-tah]

Pedro -- [peh-drOH]

Julio -- [hoo-lee-OH]

Ricardo -- [ree-kahr-dOH]

Roberto -- [roh-behr-tOH]

San Diego -- [sahn dee-yeh-gOH]

El Niño -- [ehl neen-yOH]

Navajo -- [nah-vah-hOH]

El Cajon -- [ehl kah-hOHn]

======

U is pronounced ‘oo’ --

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of U as “ OO “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

as in

-------

SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

burrito -- [bOO-rree-toh]

burro -- [bOO-rroh]

churro-- [chOO-rroh]

mucho (much) -- [mOO-choh]

muchas gracias -- [mOO-chahs grah-see-yahs]

puma -- [pOO-mah]

turista -- [tOO-rees-tah]

muchacho/a -- mOO-chah-choh/chah]

Luis -- [LOO-ees]

Julio -- [hOO-lee-oh]

junta -- [hOOn-tah]

La Junta -- [lah hOOn-tah]

Raúl -- [rah-OOl]

Jesús -- [heh-sOOs]

pachuco -- [pah-chOO-koh]

Guadelupe -- [gwah-deh-LOO-peh]

======

-i- pronounced “EE”

In Spanish -i- is usually pronounced "-EE-" as in ‘burrito’, ‘tortilla’, and ‘frijoles’ (originally Spanish words).

Unlike this Spanish -i- pronounced "-EE -" in adopted Spanish words, otherwise in English -i- is usually pronounced in several ways:

English -i- often pronounced "-ih-" as in: “bit”, “fit”, “kit”, “lit”, “mitt”, “nits”, “pit”, “quit”, “sit”, “writ”, “zit.”

English -i- often pronounced "-eye-" as in: “bite”, “fight”, “kite”, “light”, “might”, “night”, “plight”, “quite”, “rite”, “site”, “tight”, “write.”

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of -i- as "-EE-" are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

As in these Spanish words in English:

-------

SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

amigo -- [ah-mEE-goh]

burrito -- [boo-rEE-toh]

tortilla -- [tohr-tEE-yah ]

frijoles -- [frEE-hoh-lehs]

frito -- [frEE-toh]

vino -- [vEE-noh]

piñata -- [pEE-nyah-tah]

piña colada -- [pEE-nyah koh-lah-dah]

chorizo -- [choh-rEE-zoh]

camino -- [kah-mEE-noh]

mojito -- [moh-hEE-toh]

mesquite -- [mehs-kEEt]

turista -- [too-rEEs-tah]

mestizo -- [mehs-tEE-zoh]

quesadilla -- [keh-sah-dEE-yah]

señorita (Miss) -- [sehn-yoh-rEE-tah]

--------

Tijuana -- [tEE-hwah-nah] or [tEE-ah-hwah-nah]

Zihuatanejo -- [zEE-whah-tah-neh-hoh]

Quito (Ecuador) -- [kEE-toh]

Manzanillo -- [mahn-zah-nEE-yoh]

Medellin -- [meh-deh-yEEn]

San Diego -- [sahn dEE-yeh-goh]

La Quinta (California town) -- [lah kEEn-tah]

Pancho Villa -- [pahn-choh vEE-yah]

El Niño -- [ehl nEEn-yoh]

Dos Equis (beer brand) -- [dohs eh-kEEs]

--------

ia pronounced EE-YAH

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of –ia– as “ EE-YAH “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

As in these Spanish words and names heard in English:

-------

SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

María -- [mah-rEE-YAH]

buenos dias -- [bweh-nohs dEE-YAHs]

Bolivia -- [boh-lee-vEE-YAH]

Victoria -- [veek-toh-rEE-YAH]

Santiago -- [sahn-tEE-YAH-goh]

Luciano -- [loo-sEE-YAH-noh]

Oriana -- [oh-rEE-YAH-nah]

pronunciamento -- [proh-noon-sEE-YAH-mehn-toh]

---------

ie pronounced EE-YEH

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of –ie– as “ EE-YEH “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

As in these Spanish words and names heard in English:

-------

SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

fiesta -- [fEE-YEHs-tah]

siesta -- [sEE-YEHs-tah]

hacienda -- [ah-sEE-YEHn-dah]

San Diego -- [sahn dEE-YEH-goh]

Sierra [Nevada] -- [sEE-YEH-rrah]

Tierra del Fuego -- [tEE-YEH-rah dehl fweh-goh]

---------

io pronounced EE-YOH

In the pronunciation guide here, the pronunciations of –io– as “ EE-YOH “ are put in capital letters to draw your attention to them.

As in these names, esp. in the Southwest and Central / South America:

-------

SPANISH / ENGLISH -- [SAY]

adiós -- [ah-dEE-YOHs]

barrio -- [bah-rrEE-YOH]

patio -- [pah-tEE-YOH]

tapioca -- tah-pEE-YOH-kah]

aficionado -- [ah-fee-sEE-YOH-nah-doh]

Mario -- [mah-rEE-YOH]

Rio Grande -- [rEE-YOH grahn-deh]

Rio [de Janeiro] -- [rEE-YOH]

Antonio -- [ahn-toh-nEE-YOH]

San Antonio -- [sahn ahn-toh-nEE-YOH]

Patricio -- [pah-tree-sEE-YOH]

Concepción -- [kohn-sehp-sEE-YOHn]

=========

SUMMARY OF SPANISH PRONUNCIATION HEARD IN ENGLISH

From the examples above of familiar Italian words in English, you already are familiar with some Spanish pronunciation, as summarized below:

---------

Spanish Consonants

Some Spanish Consonants Are Pronounced As In English

B, CH, D, F, K, L, M, N, P, Q, S, T.

Other Consonants pronounced differently in Spanish than in English:

Q -- Spanish Q pronounced “K” as in ‘quesadilla’

LL -- Spanish LL pronounced "Y" as in ‘tortilla’

ñ -- Spanish ñ with a wavy accent mark over it is pronounced "NY" as in mañana

-----

Silent Letter H in Spanish

H -- Spanish H- is always silent as in ‘hola’ -- [oh-lah]

However, several other letters are pronounced with an “H” sound.

J -- Spanish J is pronounced “H” as in ‘José’, ‘fajita’, ‘frijoles’

G -- Spanish G is sometimes pronounced “H” as in Geraldo [Rivera, etc.]

--------

Vowels pronounced in Spanish the same way as sometimes in English:

A -- Spanish A pronounced “AH” as in ‘nachos’

E -- Spanish E pronounced “EH” as in ‘El Niño’

O -- Spanish O pronounced “OH” as in ‘frijoles’, ‘nachos’

U -- Spanish U pronounced “OO” as in ‘junta’

I -- Spanish I pronounced “EE” as in ‘burrito’, ‘tortilla’

-------

-------

So Spanish pronunciation is fairly easy in that it either uses mostly the same sounds as English for some letters, or uses familiar English sounds for different letters.

And the easiest way you can become familiar with Spanish pronunciation is simply by pronouncing all the Spanish cognates that resemble English words.

After that you will be prepared to pronounce many unfamiliar Spanish words.

========

SPANISH PRONUNCIATION VERSUS STRESS IN SPANISH

The lists above focus on the pronunciation of consonants and vowels in Spanish.

The lists below focus on stress put on syllables as they are spoken.

STRESS means that a syllable is spoken louder or longer to give it more emphasis than the rest of the word.

A word can sound quite different depending on which syllable is stressed.

------------

SPANISH STRESS IS OFTEN DIFFERENT THAN ENGLISH

Any look-alike word longer than one syllable in Spanish may be stressed differently than in English.

English often stresses the first syllable:

The English pronunciation of ‘rodeo’ is "ROH-dee-oh"

Compared to:

The Spanish pronunciation of ‘rodeo’ is "roh-DEH-oh"

You may be familiar with this Spanish pronunciation of ‘rodeo’ as "roh-DEH-oh" as heard in Beverley Hills California in the pronunciation of ‘Rodeo Drive’, memorializing California’s Spanish heritage.

So comparing English to Spanish pronunciation, one difference of stress is illustrated by the difference in pronunciation of the Americanized word ‘rodeo’ (“ROH-dee-oh”) versus the Spanish pronunciation of (“roh-DEH-oh”).

------------------

STRESS IN SPANISH

Stress in Spanish follows three simple rules.

1. The LAST SYLLABLE of a word is often stressed in Spanish.

UNLESS

2. The SECOND-TO-LAST SYLLABLE is stressed in Spanish IF a word:

ENDS WITH A VOWEL (A -- E -- I -- O -- U) eg enchilada

OR

ENDS WITH LETTERS N or S

OTHERWISE

3. An ACCENT MARK over a vowel indicates the syllable to be stressed, eg

á -- é -- í -- ó -- ú

The accent mark indicating stress in Spanish is always what’s called an ‘acute accent mark’, like the ones over these vowels.

--------------

SUMMARY OF STRESS IN SPANISH

If there is no accent mark, say the last part of the word louder,

except if words end a,e,i,o,u, n,s -- then second-to-last part of the word is stressed.

Stress in Spanish is as simple as that.

-------------

SPANISH SLIGHT STRESS ON THE LAST SYLLABLE

The last syllable of a word group is slightly emphasized by making it a little longer or saying it louder.

With some adopted Spanish words, English kept the Spanish pronunciation. Use these to accustom yourself to Spanish stress:

In the following pronunciation guides, CAPITAL LETTERS indicate spoken stress on that syllable.

---------------

SPANISH STRESS YOU KNOW IN ENGLISH

In the following pronunciation guides, CAPITAL LETTERS indicate spoken stress on that syllable.

---------------

1. Stress On the LAST SYLLABLE

ENGLISH -- SPANISH -- [SAY]

corral -- corral -- [koh-RAHL]

mescal -- mescal -- [mes-KAL]

chaparral -- chaparral -- [shah-pah-RAL]

mister -- señor -- [sehn-YOHR]

Spanish -- español -- [ehs-pahn-YOHL]

please -- por favor -- [por fah-VOR]

Merry Christmas -- Feliz Navidad -- [feh-leez nah-vee-DAHD]

---------------

2. Stress On the SECOND-TO-LAST SYLLABLE

When words end a,e,i,o,u, n,s

ENGLISH -- SPANISH -- [SAY]

enchilada -- enchilada -- [ehn-chee-LAH-dah]

margarita -- margarita -- [mar-gah-REE-tah]

beer -- cerveza -- [ser-VEH-zah]

bandit -- bandido -- [bahn-DEE-doh]

---------------

3. Stress On the ACCENT MARK SYLLABLE

ENGLISH -- SPANISH -- [SAY]

goodby -- adiós -- [ah-dee-OHS]

olé -- olé -- [oh-LAY]

English -- inglés -- [een-GLAYS]

----------------

STRESS IN ENGLISH WORDS IN SPANISH

The acute accent mark [é] over a letter is used on English words in Spanish to indicate stress that does not follow the two rules of Spanish pronunciation.

Often the acute accent mark over a letter in English words in Spanish indicates stress similar to the English pronunciation.

ENGLISH -- SPANISH -- [SAY]

duplex -- el dúplex -- [‘duplex’]

hamster -- el hámster -- [‘hamster’]

laser -- el láser -- [‘laser’]

starter -- el stárter -- [ehs-TAR-ter]

super (great) -- súper -- [‘super’]

telex -- el télex -- [‘telex’]

video -- el vídeo -- [‘video’]

---------

Sometimes the acute accent mark over a letter in English words in Spanish indicates stress different from the English pronunciation.

ENGLISH -- SPANISH -- [SAY]

piston -- el pistón -- [pees-TOHN]

sofa -- el sofá -- [soh-FAH]

television -- el televisión -- [teh-leh-vee-SYOHN]

========

SOUND SIMILAR but SPELLED DIFFERENT in ENGLISH and SPANISH

ENGLISH -- SPANISH -- [SAY LIKE ENGLISH]

me -- mí -- [“me”]

peel [rind] -- piel -- [“peel”]

crawl [swim stroke] -- crol -- [“crawl”]

asthma -- asma -- [“asthma”]

canyon -- cañon -- [“canyon”]

attack [n.] -- ataque -- [“attack”]

sweater -- suéter -- [“sweater”]

bamboo [shoots] -- bambú -- [“bamboo”]

camera -- cámara -- [“camera”]

basketball -- básquetbol -- [“basketball”]

soccer -- fútbol -- [“football”]

Pronounced Slightly Differently

ENGLISH -- SPANISH -- [SAY]

automobile -- automóvil -- [ow-toh-moh-beel]

roast beef -- rosbíf -- [rrohs-beef]

shampoo -- [champú -- [chahm-poo]

==========

SPANISH PRONUNCIATION YOU DO NOT KNOW FROM ENGLISH

Some Common English Cognates Are Pronounced Differently in Spanish

Of the many words in Spanish that look like English words, only some are pronounced like their English counterparts, usually ones that still sound and seem somewhat Spanish.

So you will not recognize as many cognates in listening when you hear Spanish being spoken.

For example, on a first visit to Spain or Latin America you may be surprised to hear the way many familiar English cognates are pronounced in Spanish.

The phonetic guide will help you understand the ways some Spanish words spelled like English have different pronunciation in Spanish than English.

------

SPELLED SIMILAR BUT SOUND DIFFERENT

To demonstrate what you know about Spanish pronunciation, all the Spanish Words earlier in this lesson were pronounced the same in both languages and spelled the same in both languages.

But many of the words in Spanish spelled like English are pronounced differently than English.

The following Spanish words follow the principles of Spanish pronunciation outlined above -- but with surprising pronunciations quite different from English for the following Spanish words spelled like English.

In the following pronunciation guides, CAPITAL LETTERS indicate spoken stress on that syllable.

ENGLISH -- SPANISH -- [SAY]

menu -- el menú -- [meh-NOO]

melon -- el melón -- [meh-LOHN]

chocolate -- el chocolate -- [choh-koh-LAH-teh]

Rio Grande -- Rio Grande -- [REE-oh GRAHN-deh]

An easiest introduction to Spanish pronunciation is to pronounce each of these Spanish words spelled somewhat like English.

By hearing how the Spanish pronunciation is somewhat similar to and somewhat different from the English pronunciation you are familiar with, you will begin to get an understanding of the Spanish pronunciation system.

Differences in pronunciation are important because all languages are systems of differences, specifically differences in sound, differences in spelling, and differences in meaning. For example, PAT, PET, PIT, POT, PUT. Differences in sound prevent one word from being confused with a different word that has a different sound – and should be made to sound different by speakers.

So if you mispronounce a Spanish word, you might be pronouncing a different Spanish word by mistake, and be misunderstood. This could happen with short words, but usually long words have enough syllables to make their meaning unmistakable. Usually you will not be misunderstood, and instead you will merely sound like you have an American or British etc. accent in Spanish.

========

PRONOUNCING UNFAMILIAR SPANISH WORDS

This lesson has shown you how much you already know about pronouncing Spanish words -- just because you know English.

From all the Spanish words in English, you actually know a lot about Spanish pronunciation, and this lesson has been designed to help you become aware of it.

Now you know much more about Spanish pronunciation than you realized before you read this lesson.

So many Spanish words you already know how to pronounce from English.

----

This lesson has been designed to give you a basic understanding of the Spanish system of pronunciation.

So on a trip to Spain or Latin America, you are prepared to encounter totally unfamiliar Spanish words, because now you should be able to sound out unfamiliar Spanish words syllable by syllable, based on what you now know about pronouncing Spanish words -- just because you know English.

And you can feel confident that your attempts to sound out unfamiliar Spanish words will be understood by Spanish speakers.

Because you don't need perfect pronunciation to make yourself understood in Spain or Latin America. As a tourists you need not be concerned with perfect pronunciation -- just good enough to communicate your needs.

=====


LIST OF SPANISH WORDS IN ENGLISH


LIST OF SPANISH PLACE NAMES IN ENGLISH


LIST OF SPANISH PLACE NAMES IN COLORADO


EASIEST SPANISH PRONUNCIATION LISTS ALPHABETICALLY


NEXT STEPS IN SPANISH



Return to Easy Spanish




For a similar approach to French, see Easy French Lesson Ten: French Words You Know How To Pronounce From English



For a similar approach in Italian, see Easy Italian Lesson 10 -- Pronunciation of Italian You Know From English.




If you have finished these Easy Spanish Lessons, you will find Easy Italian Lessons even easier, because they are similar to Easy Spanish Lessons.



If you have finished these Easy Spanish Lessons, you will find Easy French Lessons even easier, because they are similar to Easy Spanish Lessons




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