5 Spanish Sounds That Don’t Exist in English & How To Pronounce Them

  • Escuincle
  • Siquisique
  • Cigarro
  • Parallel pipedo?
  • Otorrinolarin…what?  

Ever felt like that while speaking Spanish? You’re not alone! There are some Spanish sounds that simply don’t exist in English… but today, with me, Juan from Spring Spanish as your accent coach, you’re going to learn how to pronounce them, so you can have fluent Spanish words and sentences roll off the tongue in Spanish… like THIS! 

  • Moño (hair tie) 
  • Niño (child) 
  • Rojo (red) 
  • Cigarro (cigarrete) 
  • Otorrinolaringólogo (otorhinolaryngologist) 
  • Siquisique 
  • Escuincle 
  • paralelepípedo (parallelepiped)

So, are you ready to train that tongue in the delicate art of Spanish pronunciation? Then, ¡Acompáñame!

1. Spanish sounds with the letter R

Ah, the big R, the most recognizable feature of the Spanish accent in English and probably one of the most difficult sounds in Spanish, doing a perfect Erre roll sound might take you a little practice if your mother tongue doesn’t have this sound already. 

Spring Spanish teacher Paulísima has a video for you about how to roll your R’s… Practicing and mastering La erre will allow you to pronounce words like: 

  • Carrera (race) 
  • Raro (weird) and chunks like 
  • Voy corriendo a una reunión (I’m running to a meeting) 

Even though it will take you practice, here’s a very useful tip to start: 

  • For la ere you hear in words like Caro or Miriam, think about the English sound of the TT like Little. (Little – Caro) Fun fact: The word Medium stresses the d sound, so it’s very similar to the Spanish name Miriam. Funny, isn’t it?
  • For the double R, make sure to put your tongue under the palate like when you pronounce Marrow but make them closer. With practice, you’ll be able to nail it!

2. Spanish sounds with the letter Ñ

Another sound that comes with a letter you can only find in Spanish! The eñe sound can be found in other languages like French or Italian, but we were the ones who gave it a letter! La letra Ñ is used in words like: 

  • Montaña (mountain) 
  • Niñez (childhood), and chunks like 
  • ¡Feliz cumpleaños, compañero!  (Happy birthday, partner!) 

¿Cómo se pronuncia? (How do you pronounce it?) Well, do you know the word Cognac? That’s the sound! Actually, for Spanish, Cognac is written Coñac as in Me sirve un Coñac, por favor. (Can you pour me a Cognac, please.) 

3. The difference between Z and S in Spanish sounds

If you’re in Spain, you will hear a very noticeable difference when they use the Z or the S HOWEVER, quick heads up with us Latinos: ¡No nos importa la Z! (We don’t care about Z!) so for us, words like casar (to marry) or cazar (to hunt), are pronounced the same. 

Take this into account, so you don’t end up misunderstanding something like this: 

  • Oye, ¿y tus hermanos? (Hey, where are your brothers?)
  • Se han ido a cazar al bosque. (They went hunting to the forest.)
  • Oye, ¿y tus hermanos? (Hey, where are your brothers?)
  • Se fueron a casar al bosque. (They went to get married in the forest.)

That being said, here’s how to pronounce the z: Do you know that THAT sound? Yeah, that THAT one! No, no estoy tartamudeando (No, I’m not stuttering.) The English Th sounds very similar to the Spanish Z, so Zorro (fox) sounds exactly like That, or Thumb. Easy Peasy! 

4. Spanish sounds with the letter J

La Jota (the J) in Spanish is pronounced somehow differently in different parts of the Spanish-peaking world. While we Venezuelans and Colombians pronounce it very loosely:

  • Juan 
  • Jugador (Player)
  • Ajo (Garlic)
  • Jojoto (Corn)

This one is similar to the H in Hello or Halloween.

Mexicans, Argentinians and Spaniards stress the gggg sound much more: 

  • Majo (Dude)
  • Abeja (Bee)
  • Jamón de jabalí (Boar Ham)
  • Ají (Bell Pepper)

Do you know the word Loch, as in “lake” for the Scottish? Well, try that ch sound: Loch, Ají, ¡Ahí lo tienes! (There you go!)

5. Spanish sounds with the letters H and CH

Pep talk with Profe Juan: 

If you ever feel useless, powerless, like your life doesn’t have a purpose, just think about La letra H en español (the letter H in Spanish): I guarantee you’ll feel much better. 

Why? Well, because in Spanish, la H es muda (the H is silent). This means that you’ll often encounter words like: 

  • Hombre (Man)
  • Hambre (Hunger)
  • Ahogar and  (To drown)
  • Hierro (Iron)

Noticed how there’s an H in these words, but there’s no difference in their pronunciation? It’s similar to what happens to the C in Muscle or the T in Whistle. So you might think Pobre H, es tán inutil (Poor H, it’s so useless) but just wait until you put a letter C before it: It becomes La Che and you can hear it in words like: 

  • Chocolate 
  • Churros 
  • Enchiladas 
  • Chuletas (Porkchops)
  • Cachapas 
  • Carne mechada (Shredded beef)

Uh, sorry. Todavía no he almorzado… (I haven’t had lunch yet…)

The great thing is la Che is easy to master, as it’s very similar to the sound of the Ch in Chores or Chubby. Quick practice tip: Pronounce Chocolate both in Spanish and English until you master it! O quieras comerte uno. (Or you crave one.)

Ok so let’s test your pronunciation of some of these words! I have a little challenge for you, listen to these 10 words carefully y respite después de mí (and repeat after me):

  • Chocozuela (Beef sirloin)
  • Herradura (Iron horseshoe)
  • Homenajearías (To pay tribute)
  • Recalcitrante (Recalcitrant)
  • Acapulqueño (Someone from Acapulco)
  • Zarzuela (Spaniard dish)
  • Rajadura (Cut or fracture)
  • Acompañamiento (Garnish/Company)
  • Archipiélago (Archipelago)
  • Helecho (Hanging plant)

Try these difficult words and let me know in the video’s comments how you do with them! If you have any pronunciation problems, I’ll make sure to help you! Try not to pull a muscle!

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