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Spanish Pronunciation Tips
By Lisa Goodwin-Campiglio

Having trouble with the Spanish names for Spanish Arabians?
Here are a few simple and easy hints.  It helps to remember that when speaking Spanish the tongue works much further forward in the mouth than when speaking English.


  • A -- always pronounced ah, as in father  ( Spanish example: gracias) 
  • E -- always pronounced as a short e, as in best, ten, dress  (Spanish example: inglés) 
  • I --always pronounced ee, as in feet, wheel, bee  (Spanish example si)
  • O --always pronounced as a short o, as in doctor, but with the lips a little more rounded. It is always a pure vowel with no trace of the u sound (diphthong) which is present in the English pronunciation of 'no'.  (Spanish example: doctor) 
  • U --always pronounced oo, as in fool, pool.  (Spanish example: uno) 

  • B --Similar to the English 'b' but less plosive; between vowels it is pronounced very softly so that the lips touch only slightly.   (Spanish example: bebida) 
  • C --As in English, before a, o and u it is pronounced as a K, as in can.  Before e or i the c is pronounced as an S as in cent.  In Spain the C before e and i is pronounced 'th'.  (Spanish example: ciudad) 
  • CC -- Pronounced very similar to the cc in accident  (Spanish example: accidente . In Spain ah-thee-den-tay)
  • D -- Similar to the English 'd' in 'bed' but with the tongue further forward; between vowels or as the last letter of a word it is pronounced very softly similar to the 'th' in the  (Spanish example: ciudad
  • G -- Before A, O or U it is pronounced as the G in get.  Before E or I it is pronounced like the English H but more emphatic.   (Spanish example: general) 
  • H -- Always silent in Spanish.  'Hotel' is pronounced 'otel'  (Spanish example: hotel) 
  • J Always pronounced like the English H but more emphatic (Spanish example: jalapeño) 
  • LL Always pronounced as the Y in yes.  (Spanish example: ella ) 
  • ñ -- This Spanish character is pronounced NY as in canyon  (Spanish example: español ) 
  • R -- Slightly trilled  (Spanish example: hora )  When it is the first letter of a word it is strongly trilled.   (Spanish example: Costa Rica ) 
  • RR -- Always strongly trilled.  (Spanish example: arroz)  Try imitating a cat’s purr! The tongue vibrates on the roof of the mouth right behind the teeth.
  • V --In Spain and many parts of South America there is no difference between the 'v' and the 'b'   (Spanish example: video) 
  • X -- is pronounced as a – J - ( the emphatic English H ) and is often replaced with a J.  (Spanish example: Xavier or Javier )
  • Y -pronounced as the English Y except when it stands alone (y is Spanish for and) then it is pronounced ee as in tree  (Spanish example: cinco y media [five thirty]) 
  • W – does not exist in the Spanish alphabet.
  • Z -- In South America the 'z' is pronounced as the English S; in Spain the 'z' is closer to the 'th' in the English word, 'bath'  (Spanish example: diez
  • QUE -- pronounced ke as in kept  (Spanish example: ¿Que pasa?) 
  • QUI --pronounced kee as in keep  (Spanish example: quince ) 
  • GUE -- pronounced ge as in guest, and get  (Spanish example: gueto ) 
  • GUI -- pronounced gee as in geese  (Spanish example: guitarra ) 
The remaining letters are pronounced as they are in English with only very slight variations.

Generally in a two syllable word the emphasis is on the second syllable and if more than 2 syllables the accent is on the second to last syllable.

For some familiar Spanish Arabian names:
Jalisco -- Ha-lees-ko,  Barich -- Ba-rick,  Hermoso – Ay-r-mo-so.

In Spain the names are usually in Castilian Spanish. There has been a recent movement though to use names in some of the other four recognized languages within Spain such as Galician , Basque or Euskera , Catalan and Occitan(aranès). Neither Valenciano or Mallorquin are recognized legally as a language but they are commonly used dialects of Catalan and have distinctive pronunciation and spelling. Bable in Asturias and Aragones have their own linguistic diversity. The above guide is for Castilian Spanish and if the horse’s name looks impossible to pronounce it probably is and it is probably a form of Euskera, of which there are 7 different forms, none of which seem to have their root in a romance language. 

© EG-C/11-III-05

Copyright © 2004 by the Spanish Arabian Horse Society. 
All rights reserved.  No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author. 

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