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Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

By Dick Oakes

A a, B b, C c, D d, D d, E e, F f, G g,
H h, I i, J j, K k, L l, Ll ll, M m, N n, Ñ ñ, O o, P p,
Q q, R r, Rr rr, S s, T t, U u, V v,
W w, X x, Y y, Z z

Spanish (español), also known as Castilian (castellano), is the third most-spoken language in the world. Originating in Spain and spoken by most residents there, it has slightly different pronunciations from the rest of the world's Spanish speakers, as well as a few vocabulary differences.

A Western Romance language, Spanish is closely related to other romance languages to a wide extent, such as Portuguese, Catalan, French, Italian, and Romanian. English and Spanish share variants of approximately one third of their words (via Latin), although the pronunciation tends to be very different.

The Spanish verb tense system is fairly similar to English, but all six person/number combinations take different endings in the indicative. The formal "you" (usted(es)) takes a third-person verb. Spanish has genders, so a man says "encantado" and a woman says "encantada." The indirect object and the animate direct object are both marked by a.

Letters not listed below are pronounced approximately as in English.

Basic Rules of Accentuation

  1. For words ending in a vowel, or n or s, the next to last syllable is stressed.
  2. For words ending in a consonant other than n or s, stress falls on the last syllable.
  3. If the word has an accent mark, then that syllabele is stressed, ignoring the first two rules.

Syllable Division Involving Two Vowels

The vowels a, e, and o are "strong" vowels, and i and u are "weak" vowels. When two vowels are together, the following rules affect sylllable division and accentuation:

  1. A weak-plus-strong combination belongs to one syllable with the stress falling on the strong vowel.
  2. A weak-plus-weak combination belongs to one syllable with the stress falling on the second vowel.
  3. A strong-plus-strong combination is divided into two syllables.
  4. If the word has an accent mark, that syllable is stressed.

A, a   - a as in father
E, e   - e as in grey for a syllable ending in a vowel; also e as in let for a sylable ending in a consonant
I, i   - i as in machine
O, o   - o as in note for a syllable ending in a vowel; o as in pot for a syllable ending in a consonant
U, u   - u as in duke; silent after q and in ghe groups gue and gui
Y, y   - y as in fuzzy when used as a vowel
B, b   - b as in boy when found at the beginning of a word or following a consonant; bv as in obvious otherwise
C, c   - c as in cat before a consonant or a, o, or u; c as in cell before e or i
D, d   - d as in dog; th as in this between vowels and following l or n
G, g   - g as in Gila monster before e or i; g as in go otherwise
h   - silent
J, j   - as an h but stronger; silent at the end of a word
Ll, ll   - y as in you
N, n   - same as in English except m when it appears before a v
Ñ, ñ   - n as in onion
Q, q   - q as in quick (always followed by a silent u)
R, r   - strongly rolled at the beginning of a word and following l, n, or s; very little roll when at the end of a word; medium roll when in other positions
Rr, rr   - strongly rolled
S, s   - s as in silk, but z as in zwieback before b, d, g, l, m, n
V, v   - bv as in obvious
W, w   - usually as a v
X, x   - x in box when between vowels; s as in silk
Y, y   - y as in fuzzy when used as a vowel
Z, z   - z as in zwieback
ai   - ai as in Paiute
aj   - ay as in kayak
ei   - ei as in heinous
ey   - ey as in grey
eu   - eu as in feud
oi   - oi as in foible
oy   - oy as in toy
i   - i as in fiesta
u   - u as in pueblo
Y   - y as in yes

One of the biggest pronunciation differences between the Spanish of Spain and that of Mexico are in "z" and "c" before "i" or "e." This sounds like "th" in Spain but like "s" in Mexico. Additionally, Spanish from Spain tends to be more guttural, due to its Arabic influences, whereas Mexican Spanish is softer.