For most English speakers, the correct pronunciation of vowels in Spanish is difficult. But it doesn’t have to be!
All too often, English speakers try to pronounce letters the way they would in English — even though they’re speaking Spanish.
For example, instead of saying Teléfono in Spanish, they are more likely to pronounce it as it sounds in English (even though they’re reading it in Spanish).
Of course, this makes sense — it’s your native language after all. You’ve been reading those letters the same way your entire life. Change is difficult!
To help you remember the difference between how vowels are pronounced in English and Spanish, here’s an introduction to Spanish vowels with examples to help you better understand how they are pronounced:
- A in Spanish sounds like “ah” in English. To pronounce this letter better, open your mouth wide to emphasize the letter’s sound. An example is “Agua” (think ah-gwuh) which means “water” in English.
- E in Spanish sounds like “ay” in English. You have to close your mouth a little bit to pronounce the word well. An example of this letter in a word is “Elote” (think ay-low-tay) which means “corncob.”
- I in Spanish sounds like the letter “e” in English. Close your mouth a little bit more from E. An example in Spanish is “iris” (sounds like ee-reese) and means the same thing as “iris” in English.
- O in Spanish sounds like “oh” in English, but more staccato and less breathy. Open your mouth a little bit bigger than E. An example is “Oso” (oh-soh) which means “bear” in English.
- U in Spanish sounds like “oo” in English. You only need to open your mouth a little bit to pronounce this letter. An example is “Uruguay” (oo-roo-guay) which is also spelled the same way in English. What differs is the pronunciation.
When pronouncing Spanish vowels, your mouth should be open for A, a little open for E and O, and a bit more closed for I and U.
When it comes to vowels, a common problem for English speakers encounter is when words have two vowels side-by-side. I know that Jim has had problems with these words in the past, such as the word “aeropuerto” (airport). The A and E back-to-back, as well as the U and E back-to-back, can be a tongue twister.
In cases like this, remember that there is a very soft transition between the first vowel and the second one. Don’t separate the two vowels completely..
Aeropuerto Spanish Pronunciation
Spanish and Go
Another example is “paisaje” (pie-sah-hey), meaning “landscape.” Merging the two vowels when you pronounce them will get you closer to the correct pronunciation.
To master Spanish vowels, first practice pronouncing words with one vowel and then increase the difficulty from there. Read them out loud or have someone who speaks the language help you correct your pronunciation.
You can also get a book and start reading it aloud. If you don’t want to do this with someone else (it can be awkward or embarrassing, we know!), you can record your voice while reading and then listen to your recording to ensure you are pronouncing the vowels correctly.
Remember, you can only master Spanish with practice. It may feel silly to keep reading the same words over and over again. You may feel clumsy trying to pronounce words with double vowels and stumble over the sounds. That’s ok! It’s all part of the process. But if you stick with it and practice the basics regularly you’ll master Spanish pronunciation and impress your friends with your deeper understanding of the language.