The Spanish Alphabet: All you need to know

Have you ever wondered how the ABCs sound in Spanish? The Spanish alphabet is quite similar to the English one, with a few unique twists. 

Let’s dive in and explore the Spanish letters together!

Table of Contents

Spanish Alphabet: The Basics

The Spanish alphabet, known as “el abecedario,” is quite similar to the English alphabet, but with a few differences. It starts with the letter A and ends with the letter Z, having 27 letters in total. 

One of the key difference is the inclusion of the letter “ñ,” which is unique to the Spanish language and follows the letter N.

 Additionally, while the English alphabet uses 26 letters, the Spanish alphabet includes all these plus the extra “ñ.”

Another interesting difference is the traditional inclusion of the letters “ch” (che) and “ll” (elle) as separate entities in the past. 

Although these are now considered digraphs (combinations of two letters representing one sound) rather than individual letters, they are still an essential part of Spanish phonetics and orthography.

Learning the Spanish alphabet is the first step towards mastering the language. Each letter has a specific pronunciation, and understanding these will help you in reading, writing, and speaking Spanish correctly. 

Ready to dive into the world of Spanish letters? Let’s get started!

The image shows an old paper where the Spanish Alphabet is written. Created by Language Blazer
The image shows an old paper where the Spanish Alphabet is written. Created by Language Blazer mobile version

The picture above shows all the official letters of the Spanish Alphabet, also known as “el Abecedario” or “el Alfabeto”

Lets dive in a bit deeper and take a look at some examples with words:

“El Abecedario” consists of 22 consonants and 5 vowels (A, E, I, O, U) which is pretty common for other languages as well. This seems pretty simple and easy, right? In general, I would say that the Spanish Alphabet is pretty straightforward, but there are some more complex parts that are not. 

There are some important things you need to know about some letters and how are they pronounced in certain situations. 

Let’s go over that in the next section.

The Tricky Letters

Although many of the letters have an easy pronunciation, there are several letters and letter combinations that are extremely important for you to learn because you will be using them on a daily basis. 

The tricky letters are the following: 

 

The pronunciation of “g” varies depending on the vowels that follow it. Before “e” and “i,” it has a guttural sound similar to the English “h” in “hot” (e.g., “gente,” “gigante”). Before “a,” “o,” and “u,” it has a hard sound like the English “g” in “go” (e.g., “gato,” “goma,” “gusto”).

The “j” is pronounced like a strong English “h” or the Scottish “loch” (e.g., “jardín,” “jugo”). This guttural sound can be tricky to master.

It was considered as a separate letter earlier, but it lost its place in the alphabet in 2010. The “ll” is pronounced differently depending on the region. It can sound like the “y” in “yes,” the “j” in “jungle,” or even the “sh” in “shoe” (e.g., “llama,” “lluvia”).

 This letter has no direct equivalent in English. It is pronounced like the “ny” in “canyon” (e.g., “niño,” “año”).

 The “r” in Spanish can be challenging because it is rolled or trilled. A single “r” at the beginning of a word or between vowels is a simple tap (e.g., “pero,” “caro”). A double “r” (rr) is a longer trill (e.g., “perro,” “carro”).

As mentioned, the “rr” requires a rolled or trilled sound, which is difficult for many English speakers to produce consistently (e.g., “carro,” “perro”). If you are Italian or German, you will not have a problem pronouncing it. 

 The pronunciation of “x” can vary. It is usually pronounced like the “x” in “box” (e.g., “examen”), but in some words of indigenous origin, especially in Mexican Spanish, it can sound like an “h” (e.g., “México”).

These letters and their pronunciations can be tricky, but with practice and exposure, they become easier to master. 

Initially, you might get confused by the sounds of the letters, and you will probably feel dumb because you don’t recognize the sound even though you know the alphabet. 

But don’t worry about it. It is not your fault, and you will get is soon enough. 

Just start listening to some Spanish podcasts, music or start watching some movies in Spanish and you will get used to it in no time. 

Now we are going to cover a couple of nice, interesting facts that are pretty cool to know right at the beginning of your Spanish language journey.

 

Other Useful Things to Know:

Here are some good facts to know about the Spanish Alphabet which will make your studies easier: 

In Spanish, letters of the alphabet are indeed treated as feminine nouns. For example, you would say “la a,” “la be,” “la ce,” and so on.

The letter “w” can be referred to as “doble ve,” “doble u,” “doble uve,” or “uve doble.” It is indeed very rare in Spanish, mainly appearing in words borrowed from other languages.

The Spanish language has many words borrowed from indigenous languages, particularly in Mexican Spanish, the “x” can be pronounced like the English “h,” as in “México.”

The letter “y” was officially named “ye” in 2010, but it is still commonly referred to as “i griega” (Greek i).

The pronunciation of “z” and “c” (when followed by “e” or “i”) varies a lot. In Spain, they are often pronounced like the English “th” (e.g., “cena” sounds like “thena”), while in Latin America, they are pronounced like the English “s” (e.g., “cena” sounds like “sena”).

In many regions of Spain, particularly in Castilian Spanish, “c” (before “e” or “i”) and “z” are pronounced like the English “th.” Thus, “Barcelona” is pronounced “Barthelona.”

Summary

Congratulations fellow language learner! You have successfully learned the Spanish Alphabet. Now you know the true basics of the Spanish language, and you are ready to expand your knowledge further. 

You know all the 27 letters that are used in the language, you also know how to pronounce the tricky letters and combinations. 

You have also learned some interesting facts about the “Abecedario” which will prove to be useful in your future learning. 

Give yourself a pat on the back, have a nice cold beer or a cocktail for a job well done and see what is next on your learning agenda. 

Why don’t you learn some new words by reading a short story about Málaga? 

Check out the story “A day in Málaga” and learn 20+ new words and some basic verbs that are pretty common in the Spanish language. 

If you are interested in learning more about some popular language learning methods which you can use on your own, check out the list of learning techniques that will improve your learning skills.

Enjoy the rest of the day and Hasta luego!