Basics of Spanish pronunciation
I (Conor, from the Lirica team) remember being on vacation in Spain as a child. I had recently acquired a pocket, digital translator and would occasionally feel the need to fulfil basic communication in Spanish and so, would type in individual words and have them regurgitated to me in a language I had not yet mastered. Once, I attempted to order an orange juice (un zumo de naranja) in a Northern Irish accent, prior to having learnt the correct pronunciation of the letters and letter combinations making up the words in my order. Doing so will help you be more easily understood and likely save you some time in your Spanish adventures.
In this article and its accompanying video, we’ll look at C, G, H, J, LL and Q. ¡Vamos!
C, in Spanish, often sounds like the English k
Maluma, in this song, Marinero, sings the word corazón, in this line:
‘Mientras me dabas tu corazón’
While you were giving me your heart
Watch out for C before e or i, as in that case, it sounds like an s (or like the th in thick in many parts of Spain)
Going back to Maluma, in the same song, he sings the word sincero - sincere. Here’s the line:
‘Hablo de mis entrañas para ser sincero’
I’m speaking from my heart to be sincere
G usually is pronounced much like an English g, like in the word Gratitud - Gratitude
Dominican singer Vicente Garcia sings this word in his 2016 hit, Carmesí:
‘A llenarme de inmensa gratitud’
To fill me with immense gratitute
G before e or i, however sounds like a harsh English h
Catch C. Tangana singing the word gente - people in his song with Paloma Mami - No te debí besar. Here’s the line in question:
‘Empujo gente pa' pasar’
I push people to come by
In general H is silent in Spanish. as in 'Hola'. ‘Wait!’, I hear you cry! ‘What about Maluma’s latest hit Hawái?’. The title of this song is sung by Maluma with the H pronounced in a breathy manner - that is simply because it is a word adopted from another language. Listen to the song below and look out for the following line in the chorus in particular:
‘Hawái de vacaciones, mis felicitaciones’
Hawaii on vacation, my congratulations
J or jota is close to the English h in terms of pronunciation. In some countries, such as in Spain, it makes a harsh sound, while in others, like Colombia, it makes a softer, more harmonious sound. Let’s go back to El préstamo by Maluma, who is Colombian. In the song he sings:
‘En el juego del amor mucho he perdido’
In the game of love, I’ve lost a lot
If you listened to the song, you may have heard that the J was rather soft. Watch out though: it never sounds like the English j, such as in the word joker.
Double L or doble ele sounds like the y in yes in many countries, such as in Spain. However, it can also be pronounced like a soft j, like in jump, or in Argentina, more like the s in pleasure. Nicky Jam in his hit, Hasta el amanecer asks this question:
‘Cómo tú te llamas?’
What is your name?
Q is always followed by the letter u and sounds like k in English. Reik sing ‘Qué pasa’ in their song Si me dices que sí
‘Qué pasa si te digo…?’
What would happen if I told you…?
You can learn Spanish with all the songs mentioned in this video on the Lirica app. Watch out for our pronunciation exercises specifically!
Keep an eye on the Liri-blog for upcoming pronunciation tips and lessons!
¡Hasta la próxima!
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