The Alphabet

In this lesson you will get lots of practice of the alphabet to help you memorize it in Spanish!  No quiz attached to this lesson as it is meant to be interactive.  Make sure to read this lesson at a time when you will be able to say a lot of things out loud to practice your pronunciation, and safely be able to do a little bit of singing!  😉


Reviewing Your Vowel Sounds

Before we study our alphabet in Spanish, let’s make sure you are confident with the vowel sounds.  Try reciting them on your own, then listen to the audio file to confirm that you are accurately pronouncing them.

  1. Try on your own:  a, e, i, o, u.  Try a couple of times!
  2. Confirm your pronunciation by listening to the audio file:

 

Now on to learning your abecedario – your ABCs in Spanish!


The Alphabet En Español

I think there is huge value  in training your brain to recognize the Spanish sounds when you see the Spanish letters.  This is because the sounds of Spanish are so predictable based on how the words are written.  Once you learn the patterns, you will be able to accurately read anything in Spanish!  I highly encourage you to carefully study and practice the alphabet sounds as a beginning learner of Spanish.

We’ll look at this lesson in two steps:  First, by learning the names for each letter in Spanish, and second, by looking at the sound each letter typically makes.  (We’ll go over this even further in later lessons.)


Learn the Letter Names in Spanish

(And sing a little bit too!)

Let’s go over the alphabet in chunks.  I’ll teach you a group of letters at a time so you an more effectively memorize the alphabet.  I do encourage you to memorize it!

For each group of letters, I’ll include an audio file (about a minute and a half each) where I go over the pronunciations of the groups of letters and work up to teaching you the ABC song that I sing with my kids.


a, b, c, d, e, f, g

Who plays scrabble?  I would always try to powergame my Scrabble by making weird combinations of words using the English phonetic spellings.  Well, I would love for you to learn the phonetic spelling of the Spanish alphabet letters because it’s a great first step in cementing understanding in your brain of the connection between the Spanish sounds and the Spanish written letters.  So, I encourage you to listen to the following audio file and following along with the following phonetic spellings of the letters a-g in Spanish.  When I sing the whole alphabet song, just listen this first time through – you’ll hear it four times by the end of this lesson so towards the end you may want to start to sing along!

 

Letter Spellings:

  • a – a
  • b – be
  • c – ce
  • d – de
  • e – e
  • f – efe
  • g – ge

Things to Notice:

  1. Remember your vocales a, e, i, o u?  Notice that a lot of the vowels end in the Spanish “e” sound.  That pattern will continue!
  2. How did you do on the g?  Did you hear that it sounds like the English  h?  FYI, just as in English the Spanish g can make a hard g sound as in “goat” also.
  3. So also the c, can sound like an s or a k.  More on these differences later.

While not included because it’s no longer officially a letter, the letter combination ‘ch’ used to be considered a separate letter of the Spanish alphabet and some old dictionaries will include all ‘ch’ words after the regular ‘c’ words in their ordering.  This makes the same sound as in English, example: chico (boy), chica (girl).

I encourage you to say the above letters until you feel comfortable with them before moving on to the next set.


h, i, j, k, l, m, n

Are you more of an auditory learner or a visual learner?  You may benefit from listening to the audio file while closing your eyes and perhaps visualizing the letters.  Something to try if you want to switch it up 🙂

 

Letter Spellings:

  • h – hache
  • i – i
  • j – jota
  • k – k
  • l – l
  • ll – ll
  • m – eme
  • – ene

Things to Notice:

  • Did you notice the differences?  The Spanish h is silent, so it is pronounced ah-chay.
  • Also, the j also sounds like a stronger version of the English h.  It always makes that sound!
  • The double l is not technically a letter, but I’m listing it on this page because it’s included in textbooks and it makes a different sound than the single l.  Did you hear it?  It makes a sound between the y in yeah and the j in jump.  How strongly it is pronounced between these sounds varies based on where the speaker is from.

A note about regional dialects, my accent, and the accent you want to develop:  I learned Spanish in American classrooms, and my pronunciation as I was a beginning student was strongly influenced by teachers from both Spain and Columbia.  Later I spent time in Spain and Ecuador and my pronunciation was further influenced by friends from Mexico and Argentina.  I tend to pronounce my double l like a y, but I also hear it pronounced more strongly as a ‘j’ in Spanish speakers from Mexico.  Ultimately, you will be understood whether you pronounce your ‘ll’ closer to a y or a j, and I recommend that you choose the pronunciation that you like for it based on the speakers you are interacting with.

Also, did you catch the end of the alphabet song?  There are a couple of different ways the alphabet song can end in Spanish but this one goes:  “La canción del ABC, si la sabes cántala también.”  What we’re saying is:

  • La canción del ABC …= The ABC song…
  • ...si la sabes… = …if you know it…
  • ...cántala también. = …sing it too.

On to the next group of letras (letters)! 🙂


ñ, o, p, q, r, rr, s, t

We are half-way through the alphabet!  Can you say the letters a-n by yourself yet?  It’s okay if you can’t, but now would be a good time to try before moving on.  It takes practice!

You know how in the English alphabet song “L-M-N-O-P” is said really fast?  In this version it’s the Ñ-O-P-Q that sounds speedy so be prepared for that!

 

Letter Spellings:

  • ñ – eñe
  • o –  o
  • p – pe
  • q – cu
  • – ere
  • rr – erre
  • – ese
  • – te

Things to Notice:

  • The squiggly line above the ñ is called the “tilde”, and this isn’t just a different version of the n.  It’s an actual separate letter in Spanish.  The ñ is pronounced like the “ny” in the word “canyon” – say canyon out loud, then see if you can isolate the ny sound.  Go ahead, try it!  Try it with some Spanish vowels: nya, nyo, nye.
  • The q in Spanish makes a “k” sound even when paired with  a “u”, so the common combination “que” sounds like “kay” (quesadilla) and “qui” sounds like “key” (quince-“keen-say”-15).
  • The r can be a tricky letter to pronounce for English speakers.  An “r” at the beginning of a word or sometimes in the middle of a word – if it follows an n – is rolled.  Same for the double r.  This is a vibration sound caused by the tongue flapping quickly against the roof of your mouth a couple of times.  A single r isn’t rolled but it is tapped.  This is very similar to the sound that happens in the American pronunciation of the middle of the words “bitter” and “ladder.”  Try saying the words bitter, ladder several times quickly.  Then, can you isolate the middle sound?  The double d, the double t?  That’s very similar to the tapped r in Spanish.  If you can’t roll your r’s, you can probably tap them, so just go with that and it will get you by in most situations.

u, v, w, x, y z

We’ve almost got the whole alphabet!  When I taught high school Spanish, the last few letters were the biggest point where students would mess up.  Try listening to the following audio files and then to help you get the last few letters, I’ll help you sound out the last few letters in the Letter Spellings section…

 

Letter Spellings:

  • u – u —————– sounds like “oo”
  • v – uve ————— sounds like “OO-bay”
  • w – doble u ———- sounds like “DOH-blay OO”
  • x – equis ————- sounds like “EH-kees”
  • y – i griega ———– sounds like “ee – gree-AY-gah”
  • z – seta ————— sounds like “SAY-tah”

Things to Notice:

  • The Spanish “v” sounds like … you got it … a “b”!  In standard Spanish the v and the b are pronounced the same and based on pronunciation, you can’t tell them apart.  Neither of them are as strong as a typical American b.  However, because of the influence of English I’ve noticed that many Spanish speakers in the U.S. will pronounce their “v’s” like the American v.  Also, in some Spanish language songs I’ll hear the singers pronounce their Spanish v’s like the American v.  My recommendation?  First of all, try to pronounce the v like a b in class, but if you mess up and pronounce it like the American v, no big deal.  Secondly, listen to the pronounciation of different native speakers and choose the one to imitate that you like the best!
  • The Spanish “x” usually makes the same “ks” sound that it does in English, but sometimes it will make an “h” sound in proper names or nationalities such as México, mexicano, but sometimes it can make a “ch” or an “s” words of indigineous language origin, such as “Xela” or “Xochitl.”  My recommendation?  If you’re unsure how to pronounce someone’s name, just ask them!  ¿Cómo se pronuncia su nombre?  How do you pronounce your name?
  • The Spanish “y” can be pronounced in two different ways:  by itself, y, it means “and” and is pronounced EE.  It’s also pronounced EE when it is at the end of a word.  At the beginning or in the middle of a word, however, it acts like a consonant and is pronounced the same as the ll.
  • The Spanish “z” is unvoiced.  It sounds just like an s!  Always!  Except:  In parts of Spain, “castellano” (Castillian Spanish) is spoken, and one characteristic of this dialect is that the z is distinct from the s – it is pronounced like the “th.”

Alternate Names for Letters

You may hear a few different names for some of the letters depending.  Here are a few letters that have some alternate ways to say them:

  • v – can be ve, uve (I like uve because otherwise you won’t be able to tell the difference between be and ve in standard Spanish)
  • w – can be doble u, doble uve, or doble ve (I like doble u because it’s closest to the English w)
  • y – can be i griega (which literally means “greek i”), or yay (kids will often learn yay and you’ll often see this in kids youtube videos)

I recommend learning uve, doble u, and i griega but being familiar with the alternates.


The Whole Alphabet!!

Yay!  (not to be confused with i griega!)  You got through the whole alphabet!  I hope that you had fun.  Here’s another audio file simply going over the letters of the alphabet if you would like to practice it through one time, spoken:


The Alphabet Song!!

Also, are you able to sing the whole alphabet song?  Give it a try, because, REPETITION!  It works 😉

Letters ——- Phonetic Spellings

a, b, c, d, e, f, g ——- a, be, ce, de, e, efe, ge

h, i, j, k, l m, n ——- hache, i, jota, ka, ele, elle, eme, ene

ñ, o, p, q, r, rr, s, t ——- eñe, o, pe, cu, ere, erre, ese, te

u, v, w, x, y z ——- u, uve, doble u, equis, i griega, seta

La canción del ABC, si la sabes cántala también


Final Review

As a final review, here’s a table to summarize the pronunciation of the alphabet letters, and giving you a couple of words to practice your Spanish pronunciation.

LetterPhonetic SpellingPronunciation NotesExample Words
aa"ah" as in father
bbe
cce"k" before a, o, u or consonant
"s" before e, i
cucaracha, crisis, color
cero, cebra
(ch)che
dde
ee
fefe
gge"gh" before a, o, u or consonant (as in goat)
"h" before e, i
guitarra, gorila
gente, gitana
hhachesilenthonor, honesta, heróico
ii"ee" as in feet
jjotalike the English "h"jirafa
kkakilómetro, kilo
lele
(ll)ellebetween "y" in yeah and "j" in jump
meme
nene
ñeñe"ny" as in canyonespañol, ñiño
oo
ppe
qcu"k"
*The English QU sound is formed in Spanish with CU (cuatro)
cheque, quesadilla
reretapped sound like the double t in "bitter", unless at the beginning of a word or after an n - then rolledtapped: tres, arból
rolled: Roberto, honrar
(rr)errerolled soundcorral
sese
tte
uu
vuvebetween English b and vviolín, vainilla
wdoble uWashington
xequis"ks" in most words
"h" in some place and nationality words, "ch" in some other names esp. indigenous words
ks: examen
h: México, mexicano
ch: Xela
yi griegaby itself or at the end of a word, "ee"
otherwise, between "y" and "j" (same as the double l)
jersey, y
yo
zsetamakes an "s" soundzapatos

 


If you are feeling good about your pronunciation of the alphabet, that’s GREAT!  I will give you some ideas to get some regular practice in the next section.  If you are struggling, I encourage you to keep practicing, and take heart that we will come back to another in detail look at pronunciation of the consonants and vowels in later lessons!  In the meantime, whether you are feeling great about being able to remember this material, or struggling, either way — it’s important to reinforce what you are learning through regular practice.  I encourage you to read through the following ideas for additional practice and pick a couple that you would like to try on another day to reinforce what you are learning about the pronunciation of Spanish.

Additional Practice / Homework

Suggestion #1.  Watch the Spanish alphabet for kids on youtube.

Alright guys, on to the BEST PART of learning the alphabet… This is a great time to listen to kid’s songs in Spanish!!

(1A) To help you with your own youtube search…

I recommend that you do some youtube searches to practice your alphabet.  You can find plenty of things by using English language search terms, “the alphabet in Spanish,” “Spanish alphabet” or “abcs in Spanish” … or you can locate some videos geared towards native speakers by using the following search terms:

  • abecedario para niños (abcs for kids)
  • el abecedario en español
  • alfabeto en español

See what you can find!

(1B) My Favorite Spanish ABCs video!

My favorite Spanish ABCs video is on the Croac Croac channel and you can find it here: Croac Croac alphabet lowercase letters.  I love this video is catchy and interactive.  It invites you to sing along!  And because I love worksheets, I made this worksheet which goes over the lyrics (which you don’t REALLY need to know, but I love that sort of thing so maybe you do too), accessible here: letra – abecedario.  (“Letra” can mean “letter” or also “lyrics” so here it means the lyrics to the alphabet song.)

Suggestion #2.  Practice spelling some different words!

You can do the spelling either just out loud, or you can take out your notebook and practice writing out the phonetic spellings for a few words, which I recommend as it will help cement the sounds into your long term memory!

  • How do you spell your name?
  • Can you spell out the different greetings we’ve learned? (hola, buenos días, buenas tardes, buenas noches)  To spell a letter with an accent mark, you say the letter and then the phrase, “con acento” … for example, días is spelled, de, i con acento, a, ese.
  • Can you spell out some of the goodbyes?  (hasta luego, hasta pronto, nos vemos, bendiciones)
  • What other words do you know in Spanish and how are they spelled?

In an upcoming lesson on “Phrases for confusion,” we’ll learn the phrases ¿Cómo se escribe? and ¿Cómo se pronuncia?  (how do you write/spell?  how do you pronounce? and get additional practice with this.

Suggestion #3.  Practice reciting your vowels and your alphabet daily for a week or so.

Try to practice the 5 vowels completely by memory, and the Spanish alphabet (as much by memory as you can at first, then working up to it) at least once every day for the next 5 days to commit it to memory.

To help hold you accountable:  What have you been doing and what will you do to remember to practice your Spanish?  (I use reminders on my phone, a bullet journal that I keep for a running to-do list, and Google keep.)  I would love to hear from you, drop me a line in the contact form!

I hope that this lesson on the alphabet has been helpful to you!  Cementing the connection between the sounds and letters of Spanish is a huge help in allowing you to learn Spanish more efficiently as an adult and I commend you for your hard work thus far!!

During the next lesson, we’ll learn how to say how you are doing and ask how others are!  Nos vemos, ¡hasta pronto! 🙂


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