How to pronounce the letter X

In-depth knowledge: the pronunciation of Spanish consonants

This chapter is quite extensive, because the pronunciation of Spanish consonants is in many cases different than in German. When explaining the pronunciation in this chapter, we repeatedly have to resort to linguistic technical terms or the international phonetic alphabet (IPA for short). If you have not had frequent contact with this expertise before, this may seem daunting at first.

Please do not let this confuse you. If you find a description “Spanish”, please switch to the dictionary for your language course. Whenever you call up the word in the dictionary, you can always listen to the pronunciation there.

Let's start with the simple:

These letters are spoken as in German:
D / F / K * / L / M / N / P / T / W *

* this letter occurs only in foreign words

And now we come to the more difficult part:
These letters are (in some cases) pronounced differently than in German:

Pronunciation of the letter B.

  • At the beginning of a word, the B is pronounced as in German.
    Example:
    bueno ['bueno] - dt. good, correct (adj.) / bien [' bjɛn] - dt. good (adv.)
  • After an M or N, the B is also pronounced as in German.
    Example:
    el nombre [nombre] - dt. the name
  • In all other cases, however, the B is pronounced more like a German W. The pronunciation in Spanish is very similar to the pronunciation of V.
    Example:
    la habitación ['aβitaθion] - eng. the room / arriba [arriβa] - eng. above

Pronunciation of the letter C.

  • Before E and I, the C is lisped like the “th” in English.
    Examples:
    cero [θero] - German null / once [onθe] - German eleven / cinco [θinko] - German five / gracias [graθias] - German thank you
  • Before all other letters, the C is pronounced like a German K.
    Examples:
    con [kon] - dt. search with / buscar [buskar] - dt

Pronunciation of the letter G.

  • If the G comes before an A or O, then it is spoken like the G in German.
    Examples:
    las gafas [gafas] - dt. the glasses / algo [algo] - dt. something
  • If the G comes before an E or an I, then it is pronounced like a German “ch” - for example in the word “Buch”.
    Examples:
    la gente [xente] - dt. the people / elegir [elexir] - dt. to choose, to choose
  • When G and U meet, the result is a double letter, which you can find out more about in the chapter on the pronunciation of certain letter combinations.

Pronunciation of the letter H.

The H in Spanish is always silent. You cannot hear this letter when pronouncing it.
Examples: el hotel [el ’otel] - German the hotel / ahí [ai] - German there

Pronunciation of the letter J.

The J in Spanish is always pronounced like a German “ch” - for example in the word “book”.
Example:
el reloj [relox] - the clock / abajo [abaxo] - German below

Pronunciation of the letter Ñ

This letter is always pronounced like an “nj” sound.
Examples:
mañana [maɲana] - dt. tomorrow / la piña [piɲa] - dt. the pineapple

Pronunciation of the letter R.

The R in Spanish is rolled vibrantly. Bavarian dialect speakers may have a small advantage here. A distinction is made between a strong and a weakly rolled r. These rules will help you differentiate: The R is rolled weakly between vowels or before consonants.
Examples:
pero - dt. but / la cara - the face
The R is strongly rolled at rr, at the beginning of a word or after a consonant.
Example:
la rosa - dt. the rose / el perro - the dog / la carta - the letter

Pronunciation of the letter S.

  • The S is almost always pronounced sharply in Spanish, comparable to the ß or "ss" in German.
    Examples:
    sin [sin] - German without / la señora [seɲora] - German the woman
  • Only before soft consonants, such as B, D, G, L, M, N, or V, is the S spoken softly. But you do that right almost automatically.
    Examples:
    la isla [izla] - dt. the island / mismo [mizmo] - dt. itself

Pronunciation of the letter V.

  • At the beginning of a word and after an N, a V is pronounced like a B.
    Examples:
    el vino [bino] - dt. the wine / el tranvía [tranbia] - dt. the tram
  • In all other cases, the V is pronounced more like a German W. The pronunciation is very similar to the Spanish B.
    Examples:
    nueve [nueve] - dt. nine / vivir [bivir] - dt. to live

Pronunciation of the letter X

The letter X is pronounced softer than in German and resembles a "gs" sound.

Pronunciation of the letter Y

The Y is a very versatile letter:

  • It is spoken at the beginning of a word and before vowels, like the German J.
    Examples:
    yo [jo] - German I / ayudar [ajudar] - German to help
  • In the other cases, the Y sounds like the vowel I.
    Examples:
    y [i] - German and / hoy ['oi] - German today

Pronunciation of the letter Z

The Z in Spanish is lisped and pronounced like an English “th”. The combination ze and zi does not exist in Spanish.
Examples:
la manzana [manθana] - dt. the apple / la taza [taθa] - dt. the cup

In the following chapter you still have to learn the pronunciation of some letter combinations, then you will have finished the chapters on pronunciation.