One of the first things you come across when studying a foreign language is the alphabet, which introduces you to the world of letters and sounds.
Luckily, Spanish uses the same alphabet as English, so learning how to write in this language is going to be a piece of cake.
Comparing both languages, you’ll quickly realize that the only difference in the alphabet is the letter “Ñ” which does not appear in English.
However, knowing how to pronounce Spanish letters is often a headache. Most sounds have not much to do with the ones you make in English; some are even quite confusing.
How to learn the Spanish alphabet then? And most importantly, how to remember it?
Best Strategies to remember the Spanish Alphabet:
- make a mental picture of each letter and associate it with something
- learn the alphabet through songs or rhymes
- become a spelling bee
- focus on the letters you find the hardest
- use visual help
Complete Spanish alphabet with all the letter sounds:
|Letter||Letter’s name in Spanish||what English sound it resembles|
doble v or doble u
“be” in “bear.”
“ce” in “certainly.”
“de” in “destiny.”
“e” in “elephant.”
“effe” in “effect.”
“he” in “health.”
“a che” in “a chef.”
“ee” in “cheese.”
“hot” + “ah.”
“ca” in “camel.”
“ele” in “elementary.”
“Ame” in “American”
“ene” in “enemy.”
slightly softer than the previous one
“o” in “ocean.”
“pe” in “person.”
“qu” in “quote.”
“ere” in “ beret.”
“esse” in “essential.”
“te” in “television.”
“oo” in “loose.”
“ve” in “venture.”
“doble” + “ve” or “oo”
“ee” in “cheese” + the word “griega”
“ce” in “cement” + “ta” in “tablet.”
Learn the alphabet in Spanish by association
In my 20+ years of teaching, this technique has probably been the most successful in my students learning and retaining new vocabulary.
After all, the names of letters in the Spanish alphabet are no different than any words and can be memorized in the same way.
How to learn by association?
Let’s suppose the letters that you are struggling with are “I,” “E” – which, by the way, are read quite the opposite than in English.
From the table above, you can see that I associate the letter “I” with “cheese” and the letter “E” with “enemy.” Instead of trying to learn the individual letter sound, try to visualize a soldier made of cheese fighting against an enemy.
I bet you’ll remember it longer.
Are you struggling to remember the Spanish “P” and the “R” sound? Visualize a person wearing a beret.
Are you having a hard time with the “Z” sound? Imagine your tablet has fallen into wet cement.
Of course, all of the above are only my ideas. Feel free to come up with your associations.
Make learning the Spanish alphabet fun.
Why do you think children learn the alphabet through songs and rhymes?
The answer is simple: because it is more fun this way.
And it is scientifically proven that we learn better when we are enjoying ourselves.
Check out this simple alphabet song online. I am sure that by listening to it a few times, you’ll find it much easier to remember the whole Spanish alphabet as well as the individual letter sounds.
Do you like rhymes and little poems? They are a great way to learn new words.
Perhaps you could give these funny Spanish alphabet poems a try?
Practice spelling in Spanish
One of the main reasons to learn what Spanish letters sound like is to be able to spell words.
the name of the city you live in,
or your email address, for instance.
While some industries work with the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, not everyone is familiar with it. So, if you find yourself in a situation when you need to spell something in Spanish and want to avoid confusion, feel free to come up with any word that starts with the letter.
The kindergarten picture alphabet below contains some useful suggestions.
Focus on the most challenging letters
Another vocabulary learning technique that you can implement in your Spanish vocabulary study is crossing out letters that you already know and feel confident about and focusing only on the ones you don’t know.
Try to say the Spanish alphabet out. How many letters are you still struggling with? Try practicing only them for a while. Then, go back and repeat the whole alphabet. How many of the tricky letters did you get right this time? How many do you still need to work on?
Keep narrowing your letter list until you’ve learned them all.
If you can, get someone to help you by crossing out the “easy” letters, marking imperfections in your pronunciation, and such.
Exercise your visual memory
A great number of people have a visual memory, which means that they learn and remember things better when they see them.
Personally, I still remember where the definition of “symbiosis” was in my Biology book and what color it was.
Make a colored poster with the Spanish alphabet and the letter names and hang it in your room. Cut out the letter poems I’ve mentioned before and keep them at your sight.
Cut out flashcards (one set with the letter symbols and the other set with the letter names) and try playing the memory game, matching the letter with its name.
There really are plenty of ideas. Why don´t you try them all and see which ones work the best for you?