Teaching Tip: Pronouncing Spanish Names

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Check Out the New Blog Imagine the first day of class and being able to pronounce all of your student’s names with confidence. In this section, we’ll examine the Spanish alphabet (el alfabeto or el abecedario) by focusing on pronunciation of the sounds made by each letter. It is recommended to practice repeating these sounds aloud several times.

The vowels (los vocales) in Spanish are fairly easy as each vowel has primarily one sound. The correct pronunciation of these vowel sounds is an essential element to pronouncing Spanish words properly.

As you read the following, please also practice saying these vowel sounds aloud:

Spanish WORD (English WORD)
A as in father and in this Spanish word:

bata (bat)

E as a long a in they when a syllable ends in a vowel

Try saying these Spanish words:

te (tea)
cafe (coffee)

as a short e in pet when a syllable ends in a consonant

Try saying these Spanish words:

en (in)
ven (come here)

I as a long e in machine

Notice the I sound and the A sound in this Spanish word:

rima (rhyme)

O as a long o in vote

Try saying these Spanish words (practice the A sound too):

gato (cat)
macho (male)
bota (boot)
vota (vote)

U as a long u in rule

Try saying this Spanish word:

buhu (owl)

silent after q when in the group que (pronounced kay)

Try saying this Spanish word:

que (what)

as a qu when in the group qui (pronounced quee)

Try saying this Spanish word:

quietos (quiet)

Y as a long e as in this Spanish word:

y (and)

One very nice thing about Spanish is that the vowels are all pretty clear cut.

A Always sounds like a as in father.
E Generally sounds like e as in met, let, bet, wet, etc.
I Always sounds like ee as in seen.
O Close to English o in sore, bore, more, but shorter.
U Always sounds like oo as in moon, but shorter.

Try pronouncing the vowel sounds in the following name and phrases:

Santa Barbara
Every single a in this name sounds the same.
Métete en ese.
Every single e in this phrase sounds the same.
Dividí y dividí.
Every single i in this phrase sounds the same.
Como poco coco.
Every single o in this phrase sounds the same.
Tu kudú, su kudú. Every single u in this phrase sounds the same.
From Professional Learning Board’s online continuing education course for teachers: Spanish for Educators
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5 Responses to “Teaching Tip: Pronouncing Spanish Names”
  1. Juan Pablo Varela says:

    There might be a misunderstanding in the a sound. BAT might have two meanings, to be
    1) The (generally) wodden instrument used for softball or baseball in Spanish called BATE (as battery but withot the “ry” sound).
    2) The winged mammal in Spanish called MURCIÉLAGO (tough but I´ll try: “moor + C + L + ago” without the u soun at the end of ago)
    In the U sound, OWL is really BUHO, which is “boo + O”

  2. Gracias Juan!!!

  3. James Bass says:

    Pronouncing Spanish names is troublesome for most English only speakers.To solve this problem, I wrote an Android app that pronounces Hispanic surnames. Please take a look at the program on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nahLgjCFw4

  4. Thanks James! Could be a neat little app for teachers to practice when they first get their class rosters before roll call.


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