Learning English Forums Group Forums Learn Spanish How to Learn to Speak Spanish: Master the Basics

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    Spanish is a beautiful, historic language with over 500 million speakers worldwide. It is one of the easier languages for speakers of English to learn, due to both languages’ shared Latin roots. Although learning any new language requires time and dedication, the satisfaction you’ll feel after having your first proper conversation with a Spanish-speaker will make it totally worth the effort! Here are some great ideas on how to learn to speak Spanish – and have fun in the process!

    Part I – Master the Basics

    1. Learn the Spanish alphabet.

    Although the Spanish alphabet is almost identical to Portuguese or English in terms of the letters used, the pronunciation of each letter is significantly difficult. As correct pronunciation is one of the most difficult skills for English learners of Spanish to grasp, learning how to perfectly pronounce the letters of the alphabet is a great place to start your Spanish-speaking adventure! Once you can pronounce all of the individual letters, learning how to pronounce entire words and phrases will be a lot easier. See below for the phonetic pronunciation of each letter of the Spanish alphabet:

    • A = ah, B = beh, C = seh, D = deh, E = eh, F = eh-feh, G = heh, H = ah-cheh, I = ee

    • J = hoh-tah, K = kah, L = eh-leh, M = eh-meh, N = eh-neh, Ñ = eh-nyeh, O =oh

    • P = peh, Q = koo, R = eh-reh, S = eh-seh, T = teh, U = oo, V = -beh

    • W = oo-bleh-doubleh, X = eh-kees, Y = ee gryeh-gah and Z = theh-tah.

    • Note that the only letter in the Spanish alphabet which does not exist in English is the letter Ñ, pronounced eh-nyeh. It is a completely separate letter from the letter N. It’s closest approximation in English would be the “ny” sound in the word “canyon.”


    2. Learn to pronounce the Spanish alphabet.

    Once you learn the pronunciation rules of Spanish, you will be able to pronounce any word you see.

    • ca, co, cu = kah, koh, koo. ce, ci = theh, thee or seh, see

    • ch sounds like English ch

    • ga, go, gu = gah, goh, goo. ge, gi = heh, hee

    • h does not sound. hombre is pronounced ohmbreh

    • hua, hue, hui, huo = wah, weh, wee, woh

    • ll sounds like English y or like English j. Calle is kah-yeh or kah-jeh.

    • r at the beginning of a word and rr in the middle of a word are rolled. See How to Roll Your “R”s

    • r in the middle of a word is like tt in butter in an American accent. Loro = lohttoh.

    • que, qui = keh, kee

    • v sounds like b

    • y sounds like English y or like English j. Yo is yoh or joh.


    3. Learn to count.

    Knowing how to count is an essential skill in any language. Learning to count in Spanish is not too tricky, as the names of numbers in Spanish are pretty similar to those in English. Numbers one through ten are listed below:

    • One = Uno, Two = Dos, Three = Tres, Four = Cuatro, Five = Cinco, Six =Seis, Seven = Siete, Eight = Ocho, Nine = Nueve, Ten = Diez.

    • You should also be aware that the number one — “uno” — will change its form when it’s used in front of either a masculine or feminine noun. For example, the term “one man” is expressed as “un hombre”, while the term “one girl” is expressed as “una chica”.

    4. Memorize simple vocabulary.

    The wider the vocabulary you have at your disposal, the easier it is to speak a language fluently. Familiarize yourself with as many simple, everyday Spanish words as possible – you’ll be surprised at how quickly they build up!

    • One of the easiest ways to do this is to use cognates – these are words that share a similar meaning, spelling and pronunciation in both languages. Learning Spanish cognates of English words is a great way to rapidly increase your vocabulary, as 30%-40% of all English words have a Spanish cognate.

    • For words without cognates, try using one of the following memorization methods: When you hear a word in English, think about how you would say it in Spanish. If you don’t know what it is, jot it down and look it up later. It’s handy to keep a little notebook on you at all times for this purpose. Alternatively, try attaching little Spanish labels to items around your house, such as the mirror, the coffee table and the sugar bowl. You’ll see the words so often that you’ll learn them without realizing it!

    • It is important to learn a word or phrase from ‘Spanish to English’ as well as ‘English to Spanish.’ That way you will remember how to say it, not just recognize it when you hear it.

    5. Learn some basic conversational phrases.

    By learning the basics of polite conversation, you’ll very quickly be able to interact with Spanish-speakers on a simple level. Jot down some everyday Spanish phrases in a notebook and make a point of learning between five and ten of them each day. Here’s a few to get you started:

    • Hello! = ¡Hola!

    • Yes = Sí

    • No = No

    • Thank you! = ¡Gracias! — pronounced “grah-thyahs” or “grah-syas”

    • Please = Por favor

    • What is your name? = ¿Cómo se llama usted?

    • My name is… = Me llamo…

    • Nice to meet you = Mucho gusto

    • See you later! = ¡Hasta luego! — pronounced “ahs-tah lweh-goh

    • Goodbye = ¡Adiós! — pronounced “ah-dyohs”

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