Local pronunciation differences

Just like in English, different Spanish-speaking countries and areas have different accents when they speak. The main difference is that in the Americas two sounds were lost in comparison to Spain: z sounds like s, and ll sounds like y. In Bolivia and Peru, z is lost but ll is kept. In Argentina and Uruguay ch and ll have a characteristic hard sound. In Mexico, vowels are reduced to schwa (like in English about, celestial, gorilla). In Puerto Rico and Cuba they confuse r and l. In many countries j is not hard but it's like an English h (as in hot). A Chilean is heard as saying mujier instead of mujer.

In spite of this differences, two Spanish speakers from different places will always understand each other, provided they speak the cultivated versions of their respective cities. If fast colloquial speech is used, comprehension may be impaired.


The Spanish Alphabet

The following is a list of all the Spanish letters, their names, and their pronunciations.


The Accent

In Spanish, as in English, there are two tones when pronouncing a syllable: stressed and unstressed. In the English word "thinking", "think" is pronounced at a higher tone than "ing". If both syllables are pronounced with the same stress, it sounds like "thin king". The accent in Spanish (explicit and implicit) marks the stressed syllable. It is very important to pronounce correctly the stress, as there are many words that are written with the same letters, being the only difference between them the presence of the accent. For example: esta, that has an implicit accent in the letter e , means "this (feminine)"; and está, that has an explicit accent in the letter a, means "is"; also inglés means English, but ingles means "groins". A stress in the wrong syllable will also give a hard time to the listener, as it will be difficult for him/her to understand what he/she hears. Recognizing the explicit accent is very easy, as it's written with a ´ over stressed vowel. The implicit one can be mastered when the rules are followed.


Rules for pronouncing the Implicit Accent

There are only two (or one) rules for pronouncing the implicit accent, The syllable with the high tone is in bold letters:


The Diaeresis (¨)

In the clusters gue and gui, u is not pronounced unless it has the diaeresis mark (¨). This mark is somewhat rare, however.