How to PRONOUNCE the X in SPANISH (Hint: Most people do it wrong)

How to PRONOUNCE the X in SPANISH (Hint: Most people do it wrong)

Cuando Xóchitl y Xavier vinieron a México, fueron a Taxco y a Xcaret. Comieron mixiotes con salsa de xoconostle. (When Xóchitl and Xavier came to Mexico, they went to Taxco and Xcaret. They ate “mixiotes” with “xoconostle sauce”.)

This is how you pronounce the X in Spanish. Confused yet? 

In this video, I, Spring Spanish teacher Paulisima, will teach you what makes the X so challenging to pronounce and useful tricks to make sure that you always get it right! 

Empecemos! 

1. X con sonido de J 

Remember that J sounds like a H in Spanish. Ja, je, ji, jo, ju. Quite often, words with X will sound like they were written with a J. 

El ejemplo más famoso es la palabra México. (The most famous example is the word Mexico.) Recuerda que no es MeXico but México. (Remember that it’s not MeXico but México.) 

So, the original name of my beautiful and beloved nation was Meshico. The word is of Nahuatl, Aztec, origin. 

When the Spaniards invaded Mexico, they heard the name Meshico and they applied this rule made by King Alfonso the tenth, whereby the sound sh should be represented by the letter X. However, as languages evolve the Sh sound starts disappearing from the Spanish language, to the point where in the XVII century people didn’t pronounce it Meshico anymore but Mexico. 

Then the Spanish Royal Academy said it should be written “Mejico”…but we said: No, gracias. Y continuamos escribiendo Mexico con X. (No thanks. And we kept writing Mexico with X.)

Some other words where X sounds like the Spanish J: 

  • Xavier. 
  • Oaxaca. (A Mexican State)
  • Texas. 
  • Xalapa. (A Mexican city)

2. Con sonido de KS 

  • Sexy (sexy)
  • Axila (Armpit)

We get the English X sound in: Las palabras que empiezan por la sílaba ex seguida del grupo pr (Words that start with the syllable ex followed by the pr)

  • exprimir (express)
  • expresamente (expressly) 

Almost all words that begin with the syllable ex followed by the group pl: 

  • explicar (explain)
  • explanada (esplanade)

Casi (almost), because we have exceptions like: 

  • espliego (lavender) 
  • esplendor y todos sus derivados (splendor and all its derivatives)  

Words beginning with the prefix Ex. such as: 

  • excarcelar (release) 
  • extremo (extreme) 

Las palabras que empiezan por el prefijo extra (The words that start with the prefix extra)

  • extraordinario (extraordinary) 
  • extraterrestre (extraterrestral) 

3. Con sonido de la S 

  • Xochitl 
  • Xochimilco 
  • Taxco 

Estos son todos lugares en México. Excepto Xochitl que es un nombre propio! Ah y también es el nombre de una sopa! (These are all places in Mexico. Except for Xochitl which is a first name and the name of a soup!) 

Xochitl. Xochimilco. Taxco. Atlixco. Xochicalco. Xochitepec. These are all words from an indigenous Mexican language, so in this case the sound of X is completely different from the English sound. 

En las palabras que empiezan por Xeno (in words that start with xeno):

  • xenofobia (xenophobia) 
  • xenón (xenon)

4. Con sonido de SH 

  • Xcaret. 
  • Xel-Ha. 

Xcaret and Xel Ha, que son dos parques acuaticos naturales en la Riviera Maya, ampliamente recomendados (Xcaret and Xel Ha, which are two aquatic parks in the Riviera Maya, highly recommended) 

  • Xoloitzcuintle. 

Viste la pelicula Coco de Disney? (Have you seen the Disney movie Coco?) Well, the dog in it, a hairless Mexican dog breed is a xoloescuitnle. También se le dice xoloescuicle creo! (He’s also called xoloescuicle, I believe!)

5. ¿Cómo se pronuncia? 

You may learn many words and phrases, but you might still get it wrong sometimes. I’m Mexican, a native Spanish speaker, and I don’t know the right pronunciation of some words with X. 

When this happens it is most likely that the word comes from an indigenous language and as you have seen before sometimes that means it will be an SH sound or and S one. 

To make sure you are doing it right. Primero tienes que recordar que la X no siempre suena como la X. (First you have to remember that the X doesn’t always sound like an X.)This is the most common mistakes Spanish students make. They just try to force the KS sound into every word. And then, you have to learn how to ask: 

Disculpe ¿cómo se pronuncia esta palabra? (I’m sorry, how do you pronounce this word?)

6. Equis as an adjective 

I’m sure that even if you don’t know all the ways the letter x is pronounced in Spanish, tal vez sí estés familiarizado con la cerveza dos equis! Sabías que… cuando fue lanzada en 1897 el nombre original de la cerveza era “siglo 20”? (Maybe you’re familiar with the beer “dos equis”! Did you know that… when it was launched in 1897, the original name of the beer was “siglo 20” (20th century)?)

And you know that 20 is written with 2 X in Roman numbers, so people started calling it “la cervezas a de las dos equis” (beer with two exes) so they changed the name!   

Another thing you need to know is that the word “equis” means something else in Mexican Spanish. 

Let’s see: 

Hey Paulísima, ¿qué pasó con ese chico altísimo que te gustaba?  
(Hey Paulísima, what happened to that really tall guy that you liked?)

¡Tiene novia! 
(He has a girlfriend!)

¡Ay no pobrecita! 
(Oh no, poor little you!)

Ay no, equis. No pasa nada. 
(Oh! X. It’s ok.) 

Aquí equis significa que algo es irrelevante, algo que no tiene importancia. (Here X means that something is irrelevant, of little importance.) 

¿Se me ve bien este vestido?
(Does this dress look good on me?)

Sí se te ve bien, pero está muy equis.
(Yes, it looks good, but it is very plain.) 

Oye, ¿te gustó la de “Maid”?
(Hey, did you like “Maid”?)

Mmm… equis. 
(Mmm… meh.) 

Aquí equis significa que algo no es nada especial, nada que se destaque o que sea particularmente agradable. (Here equis means that something is not special at all, nothing that stands out or is particularly nice). It’s plain, simple in a good way = equis. 

Chunk alert! 

Repite después de mi: (Repeat after me:) 

Está equis. (It’s nothing special.) 

¿Cómo está el restaurante? 
(How’s the restaurant?) 

Está equis. 
(It’s nothing special.)

¿Cómo está la pelicula? 
(How’s the movie?)

Está equis. 
(It’s nothing special)

X isn’t the only tough letter and sound in Spanish. There are a few more, so let’s now have a look at the other tough sounds in Spanish. I asked Spring Spanish teacher Juan to help me out here. Click on the image on screen to continue this lesson about tough letters and sounds in Spanish! 

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