Lesson 0: basic pronunciation

Spelling rules

In general, Spanish spelling is highly phonetic. With the exception of loanwords that have kept foreign spellings, any word’s spelling exactly denotes its pronunciation. (The reverse is almost true but not quite: some sounds have multiple spellings.)


Five vowels: a e i o u are pronounced roughly “ah eh ee oh oo.” Important notes for avoiding the worst hallmarks of an American accent:


This guide is valid for everything except loanwords:

Remembering that j and z are etymological soft g and c will help you with a lot of spelling patterns, especially in verb conjugation.

A few other niceties:

Syllabification and accentuation

Extremely regular and simple. First, the rules for dividing a word into syllables:

For instance:

To find the accented syllable of a word:

Philological bonus section

Most Spanish words have a close relative borrowed into English from Latin or French. Knowing a few common sound changes from Latin to Spanish can help you remember English cognates and, thus, Spanish meanings.

No need to memorize these points, but they can be useful to refer to. I highly recommend you look at etymologies when you learn vocabulary!


Some standard introductory-Spanish-lesson fodder.