Spanish pronunciation: how to say the letter A
Podcast episode 56 – SEE ALL EPISODES
Today we’ve got another awesome pronunciation question.
Today’s question comes from Laura, one of my students. Laura asked me a few days ago whether the letter A in Spanish has different sounds, the way it does in English.
See also: Maria’s step-by-step Spanish courses.
Spanish pronunciation: the letter A
The Spanish A is often mispronounced, even by very advanced students. That’s one of the reasons why native speakers often stare blankly at you, as if you had said something unmentionable.
“What have I done wrong?”, you ask yourself. And the answer usually is: your vowels are baffling to the Spanish ear.
So, what does the letter A sound like in Spanish?
Spanish pronunciation: how to say “A”
The Spanish A has a pure unchangeable sound: A.
It always sounds that way. Whether it comes at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the word. Here are three examples:
• aire – air
• papel – paper
• fórmula – formula
Notice how the A sounds in those three words: aire, papel, fórmula. Unlike in English, the A in those 3 words is always: A. Aire, papel, fórmula.
Words that look similar in English and Spanish are particularly tricky. Because it’s so tempting to say them the way you’re used to in English.
Spanish pronunciation: difference with English
Here are a few words you may want to practice saying. For instance, the English word ‘area’ in Spanish is: área.
Another good example is the name of the student who asked this question. Her name in English is: Laura. In Spanish it’s spelt the same way, but it’s said: Laura.
And here’s another example. The English word: diagonal, in Spanish is spelt the same way, but it’s said: diagonal.
And a final example. The English word: ‘peculiar’, again in Spanish is spelt the same way, but it’s said: peculiar.
So, the letter A always has the pure unchangeable sound: A, A Remember the words: aire, papel, fórmula.
Spanish pronunciation: speaking practice
Let’s practice saying 10 words we’ve come across in previous lessons. Repeat after me:
• habitaciones – rooms
• muchas – many
• gracias – thank you
• abril – April
• mayo – May
• agosto – August
• cuatro – four
• vamos – we go
• caminar – to stroll
• martes – Tuesday
And here are 10 new words with an A. These ten words look the same in English and Spanish, but they sound quite different. Repeat after me:
• artificial – artificial
• capital – capital
• criminal – criminal
• drama – drama
• festival – festival
• invasión – invasion
• ópera – opera
• personal – personal
• plaza – plaza
• radical – radical
Let’s say those ten words again. Make sure you say them just like me.
Spanish pronunciation: another drill
Let’s do one last drill. Can you tell me these ten words in Spanish?
• August, agosto
• festiva,l festival
• Tuesday, martes
• thank you, gracias
• capital, capital
• four, cuatro
• personal, personal
• we go, vamos
• invasion, invasión
• April, abril
To recap, the Spanish A always sounds like this: A. Whether it comes at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the word. Remember: aire, papel, fórmula.
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